How to Make Your Own Homemade Laundry Detergent

homemade laundry detergent

​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 20 - 45 mins
  • Total Time: 20 - 45 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $15

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.

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.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Box grater
  • 1 Measuring cup
  • 1 Rubber gloves
  • 1 Sealable container (glass or plastic)
  • 1 Wooden spoon
  • 1 Measuring spoons

Materials

  • 1 Borax
  • 1 Washing soda (sodium carbonate)
  • 1 Pure bar soap/castile soap or soap flakes
  • 1 Label

Instructions

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.

ingredients to make laundry detergent
The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  1. 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.

    Tip

    If you like scented laundry detergent, use one like Humble that uses botanically-sourced fragrances to make soap flakes.

    grating a bar of soap
    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 
  2. 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.

    mixing ingedients together for homemade detergent
    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

    Warning

    Washing soda can cause skin irritation, so wear rubber gloves when mixing your laundry detergent ingredients.

  3. 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.

    Tip

    Add the detergent directly to the washer drum before loading the dirty laundry. Do not use it in an automatic dispenser because the soap flakes may cause clumping that clogs the dispenser.

    using the appropriate amount of homemade detergent
    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  4. Store Properly

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

    detergent in an airtight container
    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

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. 
Originally written by
Erin Huffstetler
Erin Huffstetler is a frugal living expert who has been writing for over 10 years about easy ways to save money at home. She's covered money-saving advice and tricks for numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Forbes, among others. She is the owner of "My Frugal Home," a money-saving, frugal living how-to guide.
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