Laundry is a never-ending chore. Whether you are using a washing machine at home, the laundromat, or hand-washing clothes, one product is essential: laundry detergent. Visit any grocery store or mass-market store, and the shelves are lined with colorful bottles and boxes. Many of the detergents work well to remove stains and clean away body soil and dirt, but you can save some money by mixing a homemade laundry detergent with just a few basic products.
The ingredients you use—borax, washing soda, soap flakes—are commonly found in commercial laundry detergents. One of the benefits of homemade laundry detergent is that you can control the amount of fragrance you add and there are no dyes that can often irritate sensitive skin. Homemade laundry detergent can be used safely in both standard and high-efficiency washing machines because of its low-sudsing formula.
Follow these simple steps to make your own powdered laundry detergent.
How Often to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent
While the average American family does about 300 loads of laundry each year, your homemade detergent production will depend on how often you do laundry. Each batch will produce about five cups of detergent or 80 loads in a high-efficiency washer or 27 loads in a standard washer.
Commercial detergents contain anti-caking ingredients to keep ingredients from hardening or clumping. Homemade laundry detergent does not. It is best to make small batches to prevent clumping and keep it in an airtight container.
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Before You Begin
While homemade laundry detergent is effective in removing everyday soil from a load of laundry, it is not always the best stain remover because there are no active enzymes to break apart specific types of stains so they can be flushed from the fabric fibers. It's a good idea to keep an all-purpose stain remover handy and pretreat stains before tossing the item in the washer.
Equipment / Tools
- 1 Box grater
- 1 Measuring cup
- 1 Rubber gloves
- 1 Sealable container (glass or plastic)
- 1 Wooden spoon
- 1 Measuring spoons
- 1 Borax
- 1 Washing soda (sodium carbonate)
- 1 Pure bar soap/castile soap or soap flakes
- 1 Label
How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent
These instructions are for making powdered laundry detergent. If you prefer liquid detergent or single-use pods, you can find the instructions here.
Grate the Bar Soap
If you are using pure bar soap like Zote, grate the bar into flakes with a box grater. You need one cup of flakes. You can also use soap flakes like Zote Flakes or Ivory Snow.
Measure and Mix the Ingredients
You must use a container with a tightly fitting lid. It can be glass or plastic and should be slightly larger than five cups so there is room for mixing.
Combine two cups of borax, two cups of washing soda, and one cup of soap flakes. Stir well with a wooden spoon to mix and promptly seal the container. Be sure to add a label and directions on how to use the detergent.
Washing soda can cause skin irritation, so wear rubber gloves when mixing your laundry detergent ingredients.
Measure Carefully When Adding to Washer
For a standard washer, use three level tablespoons of this homemade laundry detergent per wash load. Use less for small loads and one-fourth cup for extra large loads.
For both front load and top load high-efficiency washers, use one tablespoon per load. Increase to two tablespoons for large loads.
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. Add usage directions and a list of the ingredients as an added safety measure.
- The powdered laundry detergent generally will not expire or lose its effectiveness unless it is exposed to excess moisture.
- If the detergent becomes hard or develops clumps due to moisture, discard it. It will not dissolve well in the washer and can leave soap residue on your clothes.
- Borax, washing soda, soap flakes, or laundry soap bars can be found in the laundry aisle of most grocery and mass market stores.
- To increase the cleaning power of your homemade laundry detergent, you can add one cup of baking soda to the recipe.
- To create a homemade laundry detergent with fragrance, select a soap bar with essential oils.
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Russell, Jason L et al. Significant chemical burns associated with dermal exposure to laundry pod detergent. Journal of medical toxicology : official journal of the American College of Medical Toxicology vol. 10,3 (2014): 292-4. doi:10.1007/s13181-014-0387-2