Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

Laundry detergent recipe

Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

Reader Heather shared her great frugal idea…how to make Homemade Laundry Detergent

I try to be super frugal while remaining as earth conscience as possible. Coming from a public health background, I try to avoid phosphate-based laundry detergent due to the detrimental effects on ground water. Buying earth friendly cleaning products (with the exception of white vinegar) is all but out of the question on my budget.

So, in an effort to save money and feel good about the impact on the environment and my family’s health I decided to make my own laundry detergent.

Here’s the recipe Heather uses:


  • 1/2 cup 20 mule Borax ($3.59 for 4lbs @ shoprite)
  • 1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing soda (sodium carbonate) ($4.29 for2lbs @ shoprite)
  • 1 grated bar of soap or left over scraps (free)


  1. Add grated soap to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.
  2. Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved.
  3. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.
  4. Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use.

Makes 10 gallons of detergent for less than a buck! Low sudsing detergent: good for front-loading HE washing machines. I use a ~ 1/2 cup of detergent per large load. If you have a top-loading washer use 1 cup per wash. *I supplement with 1 cup of white vinegar which is a natural disinfectant & fabric softener

Printable verison (check the box to be able to print the recipe):

Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

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With a cloth diapered baby & half a dozen pets I have high standards but I am very happy with this detergent. In the future I will cut this recipe in half – 10 gallons is A LOT of detergent! Also, I might add a couple drops of essential oil.

Be sure to check out the other great frugal recipes for Homemade Handsoap and Homemade Baby Wipes

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  • Jenny

    I’ve seen this recipe b4 but another ingredient called “suds” What’s that?

  • R Marie

    I use this in the dry format and have for years. I’ve found the best soap to use is Fels-Naptha (.99cents at local food store). This is the only soap that gets my husbands barn clothes smelling very fresh.

  • Heather

    We use this recipe with Fels-Naptha also. It works perfectly!

  • Christina Williams

    That is so cheap to make and good laundry have detergent is expensive. Imight have to try this!

  • cat

    I saw this on TLC 19 Kids And Counting show. They make their own also.

  • James

    LOL 10 gallons is not a lot, our family (of 6) uses 30 to 60 gallons a year depending on how many repair jobs I have (washing drop cloths).

    • Laura

      Thanks! Do you happen also to have the homemade recipe for Soft Scrub…I heard that works very well.

      • James

        No, sorry.

      • heather

        This is what I do for soft scrub:

        In a bowl mix baking soda with a squirt of dish soap a squeeze of lemon (optional) to make a paste – you want a frothy mixture. Scrub and let sit 10-15 minutes. Rinse/wipe with hot water or a 1:1 vinegar spray followed by hot water.

  • Anne Trozzo

    Since the Super Washing Soda & Borax are sold as “laundry boosters”, can you add additional of one of these if the detergent isn’t enough? (i.e. My son still has accidents at night and I know using Borax or the Super Washing Soday helps neutralize the smell.)

  • amber

    how does it make 10 gallons of washing detergent when you are using a 5 gallon bucket?

    • heather

      You fill the containers half with detergent & half with water (step 4)

  • I also make my own laundry soap, but I use a powder instead of messing with the liquid. Here’s the recipe:


    • I should mention that I have a front loading HE machine and a septic system and haven’t had any problems in the year + that I’ve been using this. I use 1 Tablespoon for smaller or less soiled loads and 2 Tablespoons for larger or heavily soiled loads. 🙂

  • Amy W.

    So does it really work well for diapers? I cloth diaper and have thought about using this recipe in the past but am concerned about my diapers. I have semi-hard water and between that and not being able to find a good match for detergent I am stripping all the time… right now in fact.

    • Amy W.

      I guess it probably can’t be worse than it is now.

      • heather

        The reason I started using this recipe was because I had read that borax is great for cloth diapers because it is so gentle on the skin.

        What I do is fill the washer with a cup of vinegar & a small scoop of borax. I throw the diapers into soak throughout the day. When it’s time to do a load I spin & rinse the diapers, add whatever else & then wash with 1/2 cup of the liquid plus 1 cup vinegar.

        My baby is 7 months old & I have been doing this since day one. Both he & his diapers are holding up nicely 🙂

  • Amy W.

    Does anyone know if this coupon would work for the washing soda? Arm & Hammer Laundry Product $1/2 SS 09/18/11

  • Stephanni

    I make my own liquid detergent and then add in some store-bought stuff as well for extra cleaning power.

  • JoAnn C

    I have made my own soap for years, this sort of soap works fine in a top loading machine, but I would not recommend it if you have a front loader. Also, if you are going to make your own, save your old bottles for awhile before you switch and then ladle the soap into those bottles. You really need to do this because the soap can get a little gunky if you don’t shake the bottle or mix the tub before using. I worked out the math on this though and one 5 gallon bucket of soap is about 6 cents a load. Very thrifty.

    • Janelle S

      JoAnn C
      Question, Why isn’t this good for front load machines?????…..I am in the process of buying a washing machine as mine broke and I am going to a laundry mat where all they have is front load machines……

      • heather

        I have used this detergent with both & it has worked great – I just have to use more with the top loading because it uses twice as much water/load as the HE front loaders.

      • JoAnn C.

        My understanding is that there is a buildup in front loaders that top loaders do not usually get that this soap may aggravate. I paid quite a bit for my washers, so I felt that I would coupon my way through only HE detergent to preserve the machine.

        • Vanessa

          Couldn’t agree more. I will ONLY us a detergent specifically designed for HE machines. I wouldn’t want to chance it. Especially when you can get HE laundry detergent for around $1 per 50-oz botle.

          • Anonymous

            $1 per 50 oz bottle?? Would you mind sharing that source?:))
            thank you!

            • Vanessa

              When 50 oz. bottles go on sale for something like 2.99, I use a $0.75 mfc (fully doubles to $1.50) stacked with digital coupon for $ 0.30 – $0.60, making it close to $1, if not less.

              ( 2.99 – .75 – .75 – .50 = .99 )

              I can’t seem to find Tide that way, it’s always Dynamo (sp?) or Ajax or Wisk or something like that. But with three growing sons, I NEVER seem to stop doing laundry so brand doesn’t matter as long as it all gets clean.

              Now if potty training my youngest were that easy… 🙂

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  • Rachel

    I was given a 5 gallon bucket of homemade laundry soap (very similar to this) at my wedding (over a year ago) and I just passed the half way mark. I use it diluted strength for most things, and 2x for my husband’s greasy car repair/fishing clothes. I have a top loading HE washer and use about 1/4 cup per load.

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  • Elizabeth

    I don’t have Borax and neither does the two major stores in my town. I have seen the generic version of Oxyclean at the local dollar store you get like 16 oz for a dollar. So i got some of that. Would it be OK too use that instead of Borax? I know if i did ever get borax I would get more for my $$. I also dont have a bucket and can’t get one anywhere 🙁 Would a small thick plastic tote work?