Homemade Laundry Detergent (Original Recipe)

Well I finally did it!!! Did what you ask??? Well make my own Homemade Laundry Detergent. I know this is not food related in any way, but it definitely is a frugal idea. So I really wanted to make sure to post it.

I've seen this recipe floating around the Internet and a lot of different frugal blogger's have been making their own laundry soap for years. I guess curiosity finally got to me. I really wanted to know if it cleaned as well as the leading brands on the market.

If you ask me some brands which I wont mention are ridiculously overpriced. Plus I have noticed the price has been increasing and the product size has been decreasing. I don't know why I didn't get around to doing this lot sooner.

I think it was because I thought it would be impossible to find all the products needed to make the detergent. I mean I had never seen the Fels Naptha Soap, well that's only because I haven't been looking for it. It has been right there all along it is just something I don't normally shop for.

A lot of the people have stated that it would be really hard to find all three products needed at one store, so I was prepared to make trips to two different stores. Well surprisingly I found all three products at my local grocery store. Walmart carries the Zote Soap which can be used in place of Fels Naptha. 

You will need the following items to make you own laundry detergent. Mule Team Borax, Arm & Hammer Washing Soda & Fels Naptha or Zote Bar Soap also essential oils if you want the detergent scented. I recommend buying 4 bars of the Fels Naptha Soap, that way you can pretty much use all of the products without having anything left over.

The Borax cleans, disinfects and softens the water. Arm & Hammer Washing Soda works on grease and neutralizes odors. The Fels Naptha Soap is a heavy duty laundry soap bar & stain remover. If you follow the recipe below you will have enough laundry soap to wash 160 loads of laundry. Total price to purchase all the items to make my own detergent came to $11.24.

I thought this was a great deal. When buying and making your own laundry soap there a few things to keep in mind. Do not buy Arm & Hammer Baking Soda in place of Washing soda. They are two different products that are not interchangeable and results will vary if substituting one for the other. Also, grate the soap first this is so it dissolves better in the wash. The finer it is, the quicker it dissolves. Keep in mind this is the most time consuming part of the whole thing after that its a breeze.

Homemade detergents are low sudsing, you won’t see many suds in the wash. No worries, this is normal and your clothes will still come out clean. You only need 2 Tablespoons of laundry soap per load. This roughly comes out to about 1/8 cup. I just store a measuring cup inside with the soap container.

One thing I have noticed is that sometime when using commercial laundry detergents they will leave a residue on my clothes when they come out of the washer. I line dry a few items and that is where I notice this problem. Well, since I started using the homemade detergent I have yet to see any residue.

The washing soda and the borax are usually the easiest to find at your local grocery store you can locate them in the laundry isle. You might have a bit of a problem finding the Fels Naptha Bar Soap. Fels Naptha is a Dial product, so I have included a link to the dial store locator listed at their website, Store Locator for Fels Naptha Soap.  

This should help you find a store in your area that sells the soap. If you still cannot locate the soap you can substitute by using Zote, Sunlight or Ivory Bar Soap. I have seen the Zote Soap at Walmart.

Making you own laundry soap is really a personal preference, some might think its just really going to far or a big hassle to make it yourself. I don't think so, a lot of the commercial laundry soaps have so many harsh chemicals, dies and perfumes that is is really sensitive for some people. This is just your basic plain Jane laundry soap. I do hope you give it a try, I am loving this stuff. And even loving it more that it cost me only 7 cents per load. Lets get started........

To begin the soap will need to be grated.

you can use a cheese grater or a food processor. (If using a food processor make sure to wash the blades really well after) I am using a old grater that will only be used for soap.

Add washing soda then


stir well.

Place in sealed container or tub and measure out two tablespoons (or 1/8 cup) for each load. I just leave my measuring cup inside the tub so it is always handy.

Store in a air tight container with a good sealing lid.

I have also started to line dry my clothes to help cut the cost of our electric bill. We have a electric dryer so with 5 people it really runs through the week. If I don't do laundry at least every other day it will pile up. I have noticed that with the homemade laundry soap my clothes are not stiff at all. Plus here in Texas they take no time to dry. I haven't took the plunge into homemade laundry softener but you never know that might be next. Here is a break down of the total cost of the products. 

Cost Break Down: 
Mule Team Borax Laundry Booster - $3.69
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda - $2.79
4 - Bars Fels Naptha Soap - $1.19 each bar = $4.76
Total Price - $11.24
Price Per Load - 7 cents

Homemade (DIY) Laundry Detergent

Large Batch Recipe
4 - Bars Fels Naptha or Zote Laundry Soap
6 - Cups Mule Team Borax
(this is roughly one box I had about 2 cups left over from box)
6 - Cups Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (this is roughly one box)

15 - 20 drops essential oil for scent

Grate soap using cheese grater. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Place in sealed container or tub and measure out two tablespoons (or 1/8 cup) for each load.

HE Front Loader Washing Machines: Dissolve 2 tablespoons of detergent to 1 cup hot water to make a liquid, then add to the machine.

Small Batch Recipe
2 - Cups Laundry Soap Shavings
(you can get this easily from one bar)
1 - Cup Mule Team Borax
1 - Cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

Follow instructions for above recipe.


I made laundry detergent 2 weeks ago to try to save money and add to my blog, but my results weren't as good as yours. I added baking soda and soda wash...may have messed something up. It takes 2 huge cups of soap for a medium load. I made liquid soap instead of dry, I still have all of the indredients so I may try your recipe this time. The liquid soap is also easy to make.
Tina Butler said…
I havent attempted the liquid soap yet. I thought I would go the powder route. Ya know I really like the powder and it dissolves in the wash super well. I might stick to this only because I know it works. But who knows I might venture out and try the liquid recipe as well. I think this is just the coolest idea I am loving the idea of line drying as well. I did not think I would like it but, I have gone without turning the dryer on and I love that.
Melody said…
Thank you so much for this post. It would be a smart idea to learn to make it and have the supplies on hand just in case....
Lisa said…
This is great to know. TFS
brokeintrovert said…
I do want to try this very soon. I use FelsNapa already for stain treatment. I know this sounds crazy, but I really want a scrub board to use with it. Best thing for white socks I heard.
What's next said…
is it ok for front load washers that need the HE type?
Jess said…
I'm glad to see you are line drying too! lol
I feel like I receive free cooking and baking classes every time I visit this blog. You sure do share a wealth of knowlege and I am learning so much. Thank you!
Heidi said…
I have been making my laundry soap in this way for about 6 months. I would love to try the liquid version because they say it is easier on your washing machine.
Tina Butler said…
Whats next, this is the information I found on tipnut.com.
Can You Safely Use Homemade Laundry Detergents With A High Efficiency Washer (HE Machine)?

I have no experience with this but there are lots of comments that say it’s fine to use. Be aware that using anything other than what your machine manufacturer recommends may void your warranty.
Homemade detergent is low sudsing which is important for HE machines.

Can You Use Homemade Detergent In a Front Loading Machine?

I have no experience with this but there are lots of comments that say it’s fine to use. Be aware that using anything other than what your machine manufacturer recommends may void your warranty.

Jess now that I know the dog wont chew at the hanging laundry its a go for us Yeah!!!!!

Judy I am so glad that you are learning new things. Looks like I am learning new things myself. I am so loving it.
I've been using this same recipe for about 6-8 months in my HE front-loader washer, and it's working great. I could never find Fels Naptha soap, so I use Ivory, and it works just fine (plus, Ivory is quite cheap- about .25c/bar). I just use about 1 rounded Tbsp in my washer, as it uses less water and therefore needs less soap. As far as fabric softener goes, plain white vinegar is a natural fabric softener, and removes smells and residue from your clothing. I put a few Tbsp in the liquid fabric softener slot, and it rinses clean and never leaves any vinegar-y scent.
Tina Butler said…
Blakemore Family thank you so much for adding your input regarding the HE Front Loader. I dont have one so I was not a help on that. I might have to try the softner recipe.
Krystal said…
If you don't want to grate the soap up, a food processor works great too :)
I have front loaders and I use the homemade liquid soap with the Fels Naptha. My hard ingredient to find was the washing soda(found it at Cub Foods). The Fels Naptha was actually in my grocery store's HBA department(at Cash Wise foods), so maybe look there if anyone is having trouble finding it.

I made a half batch of the liquid soap as posted on www.duggarfamily.com and find it works pretty well. The liquid is more economical also, I think (but who cares when its so cheap!) For how much the Fels Naptha made my eyes water from the soapy smell when I grated it, you really can't smell the detergent on the clothes after they are washed. I did not add any essential oils.

I've been using the liquid version for about 6 months now and have noticed very minor fading on brown screen printing and green dye. Not enough for me to stop using it, though. Even if you just use it for whites and towels, etc, its worth it to try. You may even be able to get someone to share some of their borax or washing soda thru freecycle.org or craigslist.

On a side note, I have also tried home made dishwasher detergent (1 T. borax with 1 T. baking soda - I used my old fridge pack stuff for this)... didn't work very well getting the peanut butter off knives and more stuck-on food...
Nice posting....very informative site.
Anonymous said…
I made this, the dry version. I used it for a month and found things were dingy. Since it is just myself, I am going back to the commercial stuff.
Ingrid_3Bs said…
Hi, the FelsNaptha while a bar soap is not a body soap. It has been around for years and is a stain remover. It works very well and is safe for most fabric and clothes (read clothing labels carefully)!
Anonymous said…
Thanks for posting your experience with this. Just yesterday I was looking for the ingredients to make the powder recipe, but couldn't find anything, the borax was out of stock and couldn't find the washing soda or soap. I'll keep trying and having the picture of what the fels naptha soap looks like is a huge help!
Porters said…
I am excited that you posted this because it is something I have been wanting to try as well! Thank you!
Unknown said…
I make the liquid version of this and since I started making it a few months back I've never gone back... also to save money on fabric softener I bottle of good fabric softener empty it into a bucket, fill that bottle up twice with water to dilute it then I use sponges and keep them down in the softener and when I put my clothes in the dryer I squeeze a sponge out and throw it in with the wet clothes to dry.. works great!
Anonymous said…
Everytime I read one of your posts, I get more and more excited. I had decided that I wanted to start making my own cleaners, including washing powders and here you are with the recipe!! So timely!! Thanks for expanding your site to include other items for the household. Can't wait to try this.
Tina Butler said…
Your welcome, I have really been trying to do a lot more frugal things. I also want to expand and work on some household cleaners as well. I need to get some spray bottles and start getting some recipes togehter. I will post them as i find them.
A few other things that I've tried in my quest to be cheap...er...frugal:

Dishwasher soap- Mix 1cup borax + 1 cup washing soda. Add 1Tbsp to each load. Occasionally (about a few times a month), I add a few Tbsp white vinegar to the jet dry compartment and it shines up the glasses really well. I use this solely as my dishwasher soap.

Windex substitute- In an old Windex bottle, Pour in 2 cups water, 2 Tbsp white vinegar, 1 tsp dish soap (I used Palmolive pure and clear). Love this! Works GREAT!

Dryer sheets- I tried the above-mentioned substitute of using diluted liquid fabric softener on a sponge then tossing in the dryer, but I bought the blue-colored fabric softener and found that it was leaving blue spots on my clothes (spots that would NOT come out, as they had been dried in). Now I just buy regular dryer sheets and cut them all in half. Half a sheet works just as well as a whole. Next box, I'm going to try to go down the 1/3 sheet. :-)

My next quest is to find an all-purpose cleaner substitute to replace my Formula 409...
Paula Cloat said…
I make the liquid laundry soap and love it!! In these times we need all the frugal information we can get!! I for one like the old ways and saving money where I can.. Looking forward to more "frugal" info on your site.
Katie said…
Thank you for this post I havebeen trying to trim my budget down alot and I know that this will help me.
Anonymous said…
I'm hunting down the ingredients for the detergent today. Also, i have been using the vinager for softner in my front load washer. I love it, and my front loader doesnt smell like mold anymore. thanks for all your info.
Nick said…
It's unfortunate that people got out of the habit of using clotheslines. They save so much energy, and it is kind of peaceful to hang the clothes.

Even apartment dwellers can air dry their clothes by using a laundry drying rack like this one. Being round it works really nice under a ceiling fan!
Rita T. said…
I make my own soap with the same ingredients - except only one bar of Fels Naptha. Is there a reason for using 4 bars? I make my own softener but it usually isn't needed because the Borax and Washing Soda get the clothes soft enough.
Anonymous said…
I tried the homemade detergent and LOVE it! I was using Tide and Melaluca. There is a nice fresh scent on my clothes, my lint catcher in the dryer barely needs cleaned,it helped with some lint on my clothes and I found no use for fabric softner when I used a little more than the 2 tbsp of detergent. The clothes were incredibly soft:) My clothes rinsed clean without all the residue. Thanks Angela
Aida said…
i have just tried this out and i love it. my clothes smell so fresh and clean. thank you for posting this recipe!
Anonymous said…
I am very interested in trying this receipe out. I am allergic to all commercial soaps that I have tried besides Dreft for babies. Do you think this detergent would work for me? I’m tempted to try it anyways just to find out. Dreft is sooo expensive it could be worth the gamble??
J said…
I have not tried the powder version of this. I made the liquid version and I like it. But I like the idea of having a smaller container and using less of the product when using the powder. I may try that the next time. Thanks for sharing!
Anonymous said…
First let me say I love your blog, check it almost daily. I found a recipe for stain remover about 7 years from an Amish cookbook. Use equal parts Ammonia, Wisk laundry detergent and water in a spray bottle. Spray directly on the stain and let it sit for awhile before washing. This is strong because of the ammonia but it works on almost everything. We have 3 kids, 2 of them boys and we havent found much that it doesnt get out.
Great posting on Laundry detergent and great way to save money!

We've been using homemade laundry detergent for 1 1/2 yrs. We've been able to find the Fels at our local Ace Hardware Store if our local grocery store is out. There are a few things that help our detergent work more for us.

1. After mixing the 3 ingredients together, it helps to put it in a food processor or blender to make it more of a fine powder. I use my food processor to grate and mix this.

2. I use an old plastic gallon ice cream container to store my detergent in. I like to mix up a large batch (about a gallon dry)) and I mark on the outside of the container when I make each batch. This helps me keep track of when I make it and how often. I only make detergent 4 times per year. I also use Ivory for dedicates, making up a separate batch and store in a smaller container.

3. If you want a scent, try adding some essential oils (a drop or two), we've used lavender

In the end, I usually only have to use 1/8 c. of detergent per load and love the results and savings. I don't have room to store a 5 gallon container for the liquid, that's why we do the dry stuff.
Anonymous said…
Sorry for my bad english. I would like to get updated with you new posts as I love to read your blog. Add me to your mailing list if you have any.
Anonymous said…
I was wondering if you were still using your powdered detergent recipe? We're going into 2011 and my hopes for this New Year are to find little ways to save big! I'm going to try your detergent recipe and hope that it's a keeper for me. Btw, I'm a transplanted Texan living in the UK and almost everyone here line dries! I find it sort of odd cause we don't have the sun and heat of Texas but it's how they do things here. Thanks for such a homey, practical website and I can't wait to try your edible recipes too (I've got my eye on that chicken fried chicken recipe). My love to the Lone Star State! -Nora
Anonymous said…
I have been using the homemade laundry soap for about three years love it. I have allergies to most soaps and this doesn't both me at all. Plus it works great and last such a long time.
ButtaRumCake said…
I'm going to try this! I'm an unemployed single mom (and full-time student). My income is limited and it's difficult affording some of the more basic needs for my household. I really like this idea. Thank you for sharing this!

Brooke said…
There are so many comments on here but I don't know if anyone has mentioned this. I've been doing this forever!!!

For liquid add all ingriedients to boiling water until it all melts down then add that to 3-5 gallons of water, stir and cover overnight and it will gel.

For fabric softner add 1/4 cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle. Its a fabric softner :)

I pay $10 for 2 years of laundry soap and fabric softner (just me and my teenager)!!!
WiJoyMom said…
I also use vinegar instead of liquid fabric softener. I learned on a blog, to help with static elasticity, use safety pins. I place a few safety pins on an old sock & toss it in the dryer with the wet clothes.
Neveyleigh said…
I got this recipe from my best friend. Her family has been using this for year. Our husband were both working construction before the economy went down and their clothes STUNK, after her husbands were washed they looked good as new, and my poor husband looked grungy. So I made her soap, I bought a blender just for it and chop the naptha up as small as possible then put in blender with the other ingredients to mix it up. Now we use this for all our laundry needs, baby clothes, diapers, our clothes. Nothing gets the smell out like this stuff. It even gets our dog blankets to not stink. We also use scented vinegar in a downy ball so that helps as well. For the things we dry we use dryer balls and drying time is less. It is good stuff and good on the environment.
Bambi Hartman said…
My friends and I got together and made a double batch of liquid laundry soap, by the time it was done we had 4 1/2 - 5 gallon buckets of soap. My daughter works at a fast food restaurant and her clothes are covered in grease when she gets home, she absolutely loves this soap because it gets the grease out. Other name brand soaps haven't worked that well. Not to mention it is cost effective.
Giggimom said…
I found a recipe for laminate/pergo floor cleaner (strangely on food. com site): 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup white vinegar, 1/3 cup alcohol, 3 drops liquid dishwashing soap and 4-10 drops of lemon essential oil (optional). Combine all ingredients in a clean spray bottle, spray sparingly on laminate floors and mop up. The rubbing alcohol helps speed up the drying process. One user commented that she doubled the amount of water and it was still effective and another said she accidentally sprayed it on her windows, mistaking it for window cleaner and it worked great. Thanks for this 'recipe' for laundry detergent - washing my first load right now!
Rosemary said…
I too found that this homemade laundry detergent made my whites very dingy. So I went back to Tide for the whites. I still use the homemade but only on the dark loads.
The Merri Mum said…
Just made this and loved it. So quick and easy. I wrote about it and linked your page from my blog.

Saving on Laundry Detergent: Making it Myself (Adventures in Laundry)

Thank you- I spent awhile looking for a dry recipe and was very happy to find this.
sheywillow said…
I found another that was close to yours posted. It's:

3 bars Fels Naptha, grated or powdered in processor
1 box Borax
1 box Washing Soda
2 cups of baking soda
2 containers of Dollar Tree Oxyclean
1 container of Purex fabric softener crystals (optional)

Using just 2 tablespoon per load

It works great & I like the cheap Oxyclean to give it a boost. I like that we are all trying to save on overpriced laundry soap and that we know what's in the soap too!
Sarah said…
I add a container of Purex Crystals to mine and my clothes come out smelling wonderful! As a single college student, I made my first batch in September of 2012 and I am just now getting to the half way mark of that same batch! All my friends give me weird faces when I say I make my own laundry detergent, but when I tell them how much I have saved, they look impressed! YAY FOR HOMEMADE CLEANERS!
Fran said…
We have been washing our clothes in cold water. Will this soap disslove in cold water?
Unknown said…
I have been using the dry version of this laundry soap for over a month now and have been amazed out how it handles the odors. I have several dogs in my home and they pretty much run the home and the sofa is their sleeping grounds. I cover it with a blanket and the blanket does absorb the odors from the dogs. This detergent surprisingly does a great job. I use the ZOTE flakes which comes in a box and is equal to 2 bars. It has a lemony smell but doesn't linger on the clothes after washing. I am a single mom and have to cut corners whenever I can and the fact this works is helping. I got all my ingredients at WalMart.
Mary Ann Holliday said…
I have made and used this recipe for dishwasher detergent and it works really well and it's CHEAP!!! Dishwashing Detergent -> Simple Homebrew
Instead of using liquid or powder dishwashing detergent (and paying a stiff premium for it), just take an old milk jug, put two teaspoons of liquid dish detergent and four teaspoons of baking powder in it, then slowly fill the jug with warm water, sloshing it while you do it (even better, just slowly add the soap as you’re adding the water). Then put that jug under the sink. Each time you do a load, fill up the cup with the homebrew. It works like a charm. The jug will provide enough for eight to ten loads of dishes for about a penny each, compared to about thirteen cents per load for ordinary detergent.
Anonymous said…
I have made several different types of liquid & powder laundry soaps. I've have friends & acquaintances be my test subjects. ALL of them have loved everything I've made with the exception of 1 out of 35.

I think I can still find the basic guidelines for liquid & powder laundry soaps for both regular & HE washers-IF I can would you like for me to post it ?

And for those couple people that posted their clothes were dingy...that is often (not always) one of the signs that you've been using too much laundry soap or way too much fabric softener.

The way to find out if you are using too much laundry soap-run a load without anything but items & 2 cups of white vinegar-to see some suds in the drain water is fine--but if you're seeing bubbles it means thats extra soap that's been building up in your clothes.

I have one friend who I had her bring over one load-there were so many bubbles we ended up washing them 4 times with 2 cup vinegar each time, the 4th time we saw nothing but water. She thought the dirtier your clothes the more soap you needed ! She also could hardly believe how bright & vibrant her clothes had become-like new from the store I think were her words.

So as the saying goes, there can be too much of a good thing.
Anonymous said…
Here's a rough guide for powder & liquid laundry soap for both regular & HE washers.



1 T. 1 t. EXTRA SMALL. 2 T. 1 T

2 T. 2 t. SMALL. 4 T. 2 T

3 T. 3 t. MEDIUM. 6 T. 3 T

4 T. 4 t. LARGE. 8 T. 4 T

5 T. 5 t. X-LARGE. 10 T. 5 T


I wish I could give credit to the person/book/people that came up with this...BUT all I can tell you is its a book that came from Amazon & is readable on KINDLE E-READERS & KINDLE FIRES & ZTE ANDROID PHONES - I have some 6000 books on my e-reader & about 10,000-12,000 books in the cloud....so trying to remember which book exactly I read that in 3 years ago would be a bit difficult-I read 3-7 books (full novels) a day everyday and rarely bother to learn the titles. I know I didn't give much information about where I got my information but its all I can remember & I'm not trying claim the information I read in a book.
Hope this helps again its guidelines-adjust to your own recipes.
Anonymous said…
Where do you get the purex crytals and do you add them in blender with rest of ingredients . Or just add after soap is made so crystals are whole
Anonymous said…
On my washer the hot doesn't work so have to use cold water for everything do you think the dry laundry soap will dissolve in cold water. And not stick to clothes.
Ebony Bush said…
Amazing recipe! Thank you for explaining everything so simple. Photos were very useful. It was my first time making home detergent. It was not scary at all . Thank you for sharing your tip. Best regards!