Make this homemade laundry detergent with just three simple ingredients that’s gentle on sensitive skin while still cleaning the dirt and grime from your clothes!
Part of our homesteading journey is about making things ourselves. Granted we may always need some outside input, but by and far we’re trying to be more self-reliant and self-sufficient in every way.
One of the things we’re making is our own laundry soap. It only takes three simple ingredients, and it’s just as economical as the store-bought detergent, but without all the dyes and added chemicals.
With two children that seem to wear every stitch of clothing they have in their closet each week, laundry often seems like an on-going chore. That means we’re going through endless amounts of laundry detergent every single month!
How to Make Your Homemade Laundry Detergent
About 10 years ago, when I first started making my own laundry soap, it was about half the cost of store-bought commercial brand laundry detergent. Nowadays, it’s about the same price, but there’s still a few good reasons to make your own from home.
- You can control the amount of fragrance (if any) you put into your mix.
- There are no dyes in the soap that might irritate sensitive skin.
- It’s low-sudsing, so you can use it in any machine (even High Efficiency / HE washers).
This simple yet effective homemade laundry powder uses only three ingredients, but you can add additional ingredients for a pop of fragrance, if you like. The basic formula works just fine for us, though.
What You Need to Make Your Homemade Laundry Soap
1 (5.5 oz) bar Fels Naptha - Alternatively, you can use Zote, Ivory, Kirk's Castile, Dr. Bronner's, or soap flakes.
Wooden Spoon (optional)
Rubber Gloves (optional)
Shred the Soap
Shred up the Fels Naptha bar (or whatever bar soap you choose) on a cheese grater. Take care not to grate your fingers or knuckles. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could attempt to grate the soap with the cheese grater attachment in your food processor, but I wasn’t trying to risk it.
Once your bar soap is grated, you can pulse it in the food processor to make smaller bits of soap. Pulse it, but do not put it on high to try and make it into dust. This may cause the food processor to get warm, warm up the soap, and gum it all up.
Mix Up the Ingredients
Mix the grated soap with the other ingredients in an air-tight container. You can use a wooden spoon or a wire whisk to try and mix it all up, but the best way I found was just to shake it. Be sure your lid is on your container tightly and shake well.
Using the Homemade Laundry Detergent
Because the mix is concentrated, you only need 1 to 2 tablespoons for each load. Don’t be tempted to add more because “it’ll do a better job.” If anything, using too much will start to leave soap buildup on your clothes and in your machine.
Add the homemade 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.
This homemade laundry detergent is perfectly safe for your High Efficiency machines. We’ve been using it for a while now, and we have yet to have an issue.
Storing Your Homemade Laundry Soap
Keep the laundry detergent in an airtight container out of the reach of children and pets.
Homemade Laundry Detergent
- Box Grater
- Food processor (optional)
- Storage Container
- 1 bar Fels Naptha 5.5 oz
- 2 cups Borax
- 2 cups Washing Soda
- Grate the Fels Naptha bar on a cheese grater.
- If you want smaller bits of the soap (and I did) you can pulse it in the food processor.
- Mix the grated soap with the other ingredients.
- Use 1-2 Tablespoons of detergent per load.
- 1 Tbsp for normal loads
- 2 Tbsp for heavily soiled or larger loads
- Add in 1/2 cup of Purex Crystals In-Wash Fragrance and Scent Booster (or similar product) for added scent to your laundry.
- Add in 1 cup OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Powder for added stain fighting.
Why Should I Make Homemade Laundry Detergent?
You can get all of these ingredients just about anywhere. They’re available on Amazon, but they’re actually cheaper at your local Wal-Mart (which is where I got my stuff).
- Borax: 65 oz box for $5.47 – $0.08 per oz – 16 oz used in recipe – cost for recipe = $1.28 – (Wal-Mart | Amazon)
- Washing Soda: 55 oz box for $4.76 – $0.09 per oz – 16 oz used in recipe – cost for recipe = $1.44 – (Wal-Mart | Amazon)
- Fels-Naptha: 5.5 oz bar for $1.20 – 1 bar used in recipe – cost for recipe = $1.20 – (Wal-Mart | Amazon)
- Total cost for the recipe = $3.92
This recipe makes roughly 6 cups of detergent (16 Tablespoons per cup = 96 Tablespoons). If you use 1 Tablespoon per load, that’s it comes out to $0.04 per load. If you use 2 Tablespoons per load, that’s it comes out to $0.08 per load. You’ll probably have some of each, so your average cost per load will be between 4 and 8 cents!
Most conventional laundry detergent is around $0.15 or more per load, so that’s a pretty big cost difference!
Aside from the cost difference, this homemade laundry detergent is MUCH safer than the stuff on the shelves at the store. Regular detergent has lots of harmful chemicals including petroleum distillates (linked to cancer and lung disease), phenols (corrosive and toxic), and sulfates (skin and lung irritants). I’d rather make my own detergent than run the risk of long-term health problems.
How It Works
The ingredients may be natural, but we have learned sometimes natural is powerful!
Fels-Naptha helps eliminate residual stains and works as a stain remover for tough stains. For really tough stains, rub the stain with a wet bar of Fels-Naptha soap and let it sit for a few minutes before adding it to the wash.
Borax, a natural mineral compound, has been used as a laundry booster for decades. Its superb ability to clean and bleach is because it converts some of the water molecules to hydrogen peroxide. This also makes it a great disinfectant! It is an ingredient found in most conventional natural detergents available today.
Because of its high alkalinity, washing soda acts as a solvent to remove a range of stains. Unlike bleach, it doesn’t bleach color out of fabric. Washing soda also binds to the minerals in hard water, which allows clothing to come out cleaner and without any residue.
Questions About Homemade Laundry Detergent
There have already been some questions about this recipe, so I have decided to answer them as they come in and update the post as I do. If you have a question that’s not listed, ask in the comments!
Is this homemade laundry detergent safe for a HE (High Efficiency) washer?
Yes! Many people use this recipe (or something very similar) in their HE washers with absolutely no problem! We’ve not had a problem in ours, either.
Is this homemade laundry detergent safe for sensitive skin?
My daughter has extremely sensitive skin, and she tolerates it fine; however, I would recommend making 1 batch and testing it with your family just to be safe.
- Label your laundry detergent container so you don’t mix it up with your other homemade cleaners.
- Keep the lid on tightly to avoid exposure to excess moisture. Toss a few silica gel packets into the detergent for good measure to help absorb any moisture.
- Borax, washing soda, and laundry soap bars can be found in the laundry aisle of your local grocery and big box super stores (like Wal-Mart).
- Want a little more cleaning power out of your homemade laundry detergent? Add one cup of baking soda to the recipe.
- Want some fragrance in your homemade laundry detergent? Either select a soap bar that contains essential oils, add 30 drops of your favorite essential oil to the recipe, or add 1 cup of Purex Crystals In-Wash Fragrance Booster to the mix.
- Washing soda may cause minor skin irritation when handled directly. Wear rubber gloves when mixing your laundry detergent ingredients.
Patrick & Jessie homestead in Middle Georgia with two of their four children and their three dogs. They love gardening, food preservation, and keeping their family prepared for any disaster that may come.