How to Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

laundry detergent powder in a cup on top of a basket filled with laundry
Michelle Patrick / EyeEm / Getty Images
Overview
  • Total Time: 15 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $15

The bigger your family is, the more laundry you probably have to do. And the cost of laundry detergent for all those loads of whites, darks, delicates, sheets, and towels can really add up. That's why many people turn to homemade laundry detergent. It requires just a few ingredients that are much less expensive to purchase separately, rather than buying a premixed solution. Plus, DIY laundry detergent is quick and easy to put together, and it cleans just as efficiently as the store brands. Follow these simple steps to make your own powdered laundry detergent. This detergent is safe for both standard and high-efficiency washing machines, as it's a low-sudsing formula.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Box grater
  • Measuring cup
  • Rubber gloves

Materials

  • Borax
  • Washing soda (sodium carbonate)
  • Pure bar soap/castile soap or soap flakes
  • Container with a secure lid

Instructions

  1. Grate the Bar Soap

    If you are using pure bar soap, grate the bar into flakes with a box grater. You might need more than one bar, depending on how much detergent you wish to make.

  2. Mix the Ingredients

    In your container with a tightly fitting lid, mix together 2 parts borax, 2 parts washing soda, and 1 part soap flakes to create the laundry detergent. You can make as much as you'd like at once; just keep the ingredients in this proportion.

    Warning

    Washing soda on its own can irritate the skin, so wear rubber gloves when mixing your laundry detergent ingredients.

  3. Use the Right Amount

    Use up to 3 level tablespoons of this homemade laundry detergent per wash load. Use 1 tablespoon if you have a high-efficiency washing machine.

  4. Store the Laundry Soap

    Keep the laundry detergent in an airtight container out of the reach of children and pets.

Tips for Making Homemade Laundry Detergent

  • Be sure to label your laundry detergent container, so others will know what's inside. Also, include a list of the ingredients as an added safety measure. The powdered laundry detergent generally will not expire or lose its effectiveness, as long as it hasn't been exposed to moisture.
  • If your detergent turns hard or cakes up, it's best to discard it. The hard pieces likely won't dissolve well in the wash, and they could potentially leave soap residue on your clothes. This sometimes happens with DIY laundry detergents because they don't contain the anti-caking agents that the store brands have. A container with an airtight seal can help to prevent caking. But it is also ideal to experiment with making only the amount you'll use before the detergent starts to harden.
  • Borax can be found in the laundry aisle of many grocery stores, along with the washing soda and the bar soap or soap flakes. If you have trouble locating the soap in the laundry aisle, check in the personal care aisle where other bar soap is sold.
  • To increase the cleaning power of your homemade laundry detergent, you can slightly increase the amount of borax in it. But don’t stray too far from the proportions outlined in the recipe. 
  • An easy and natural way to create a homemade laundry detergent with fragrance is simply to select a soap bar with essential oils already mixed in it.