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Save Hundreds on Laundry with this Do it Yourself Detergent


Let me take you back to a time before I started couponing. Both my husband and I were suffering from itchy skin all year round. We searched high and low for the cause, only to discover it was our laundry detergent. We switched to the ‘Free’ or ‘Clear’ versions of different brand name detergents, but the relief was minimal. I knew there was a way to make my own detergent that would be gentle on our skin without breaking the bank. I searched, and I searched some more. Sifting through hundreds of articles summoned to my screen by Google was headache inducing. All I wanted was a simple, easy to make, chemical free detergent that was cheap. I kept at it until I found the recipe I desired. I then tweaked the amounts of ingredients until I had the perfect laundry detergent for our skin and our budget.

The best part of using this detergent: it will cost you less than 3 cents a load! Our clothes always smell clean and fresh. I also like the fact that this detergent is completely chemical free, which makes me feel comfortable washing even the most delicate clothes with my homemade laundry soap.

I’ve condensed my research and trial and error into a simple, quick recipe to follow:

Ingredients and Cost

  • 1 bar Ivory soap (Castile soap will work too): $1 for three bars.
  • 1 small box of baking soda: $0.48 for generic brand.
  • 1 cup Borax: $2 for 1 box.
  • 2 gallons water: Free!
  • Container(s)


  • Boil one gallon of water.
  • Grate the Ivory soap and add to water.
  • When soap is dissolved remove from heat. Slowly add baking soda and borax.
  • Mix well.
  • Add 1 gallon of cold water.
  • Store in the container of your choice. I like to use empty 2 liter soda bottles, they are easy to hold and take up less space than milk cartons. Before each use, you will need to shake the detergent up, so make sure you choose a storage method that can accommodate this. Use ½ cup of detergent per load. This detergent is low to no suds, so it also works great in HE machines.

This has been a guest post by Lesley from Sacramento, CA
Find out more about the KCL Contributor NetworkPhoto credit

80 thoughts on “Save Hundreds on Laundry with this Do it Yourself Detergent”

  1. I have a very similar recipe, but it says WASHING Soda.  Is this the same as baking soda?

    1. Washing soda is not the same as baking soda.  The recipe I use calls for both washing soda and baking soda.

      1. You’re right, you need to use WASHING soda, not baking soda. But both, hmmm never thought of that! :) I might have to toss in some baking soda as well :)

      2.  I’am sorry hope this doesnt sound stupid but here i go where do u get washing soda i can find the rest tyvm

      3. I got some at Kroger’s before and I’ve seen Walmart in my town carry it now, too. It’s near the Borax.

      4.  thanks i will check

  2. Is this safe to use on baby’s clothes? 

    1. Yes, absolutely!! Works great on little clothes. I have just found that if you have a tough stain you will still need to pre-treat, but the detergent is wonderful.

  3. I am curious as to how this fares on babyfood and dirty diaper stains? Also what about whites? I find if I don’t use enough detergent my whites look dingy!  I guess I need to use the 20 some od bottles I stockpiled first anyways!

    1. Whites actually look whiter, you will just need to pre-treat the baby stains but it works really well. I also toss in a 1/4 cup of white vinegar during the final rinse and that helps make your clothes whiter as well. And no once your clothes dry they will not smell like vinegar.

    2. I mix OxyClean or something similar into my mix…and don’t have to pretreat stains..I don’t have a baby but it gets grass stains out of the kids’ blue jeans without pretreating

  4. I’d actually leave out the water lol. You can also add essential oils to it if you want a specific scent. (It doesn’t cost that much more either) 

    1. Anonymous

       Where do you buy the essential oils?  I was stocked up on Purex Crystals when I made my first homemade batch but would like to try the essential oils…

      1. Anonymous

        You can buy essential oils at craft stores, such as Michael’s.  You will find them in the section with the soap-making supplies.

  5. Yes. 

  6. Anonymous

    Can a scent be added to this??

    1. Tameran Yes you can add scents to it. It doesn’t matter if you make it liquid or dry. However a little goes along way so just start out small and then go from there if it’s not enough.

    2. Mine has a clean scent to it already from the bar soap. But I REALLY like scents. I don’t add any to my homemade laundry soap but I use scented dryer sheets and the clothes smell very good.

  7. Well, darn. I’m allergic to Ivory soap (yes, i know it’s supposed to be the most hypoallergenic soap out there, but I break out in hives with every use). Is there any other soap (besides Castile) that you would recommend? 

    1. Suzanne I have a friend with the same issue. She actually leaves it out completely and just adds oxy clean in it’s place.

    2.  you can use any soap you like, its fine

    3. You can also use Fels-Naptha soap or Zote bar.  I’ve only used the Zote so far.

    4. I have a homemade recipe for powder detergent that uses Fels-Naptha soap. It’s 3 bars of the fels-naptha grated, 1 large box borax, 1 large box baking soda, 1 large box washing soda, and 1 3lb box Oxi-clean. Use 1 TB. per load or 2 for dirty loads. You just mix it all together, no stirring before each use. I keep it in ice cream buckets. Search pinterest if you want the exact sizes of the boxes.

      1. Can you please share how you “grate” the soap?  Thanks!

      2. You grate the soap with a cheese grater. If you don’t want to use the one you use for food, you could try looking at garage sales or resale shops for one.

      3. wear garden gloves!! I nearly grated off a knuckle!  It grates like cheese grates though. Just scrub your cheese grater  when you are done to make sure all of the soap is off (easy to clean).

      4. I use my Bullet to grate the Fels Naptha.  It works great!!  The dry recipe I use is:
        2 cups Fels Naptha (about 1 3/4 bars)
        2 cups baking soda
        2 cups washing soda
        3 cups Borax. 
        Even found a coupon for Arm/Hammer washing items last month!!

      5. I bought a cheap grater at Wal-Mart I think it was like 3 bucks.

      6. watch out for that fels-naptha. it is actually very caustic and even flammable. :o

    5. There are several other soaps that you can use that cost little to nothing. If you google homemade detergent it will brink up a lot of sites that give you different options.

    6.  Me too!  I break out in hives, it’s the weirdest thing!

  8. Anonymous

    I am so excited to try this!  I LOVE saving money!!

  9. Anonymous

    I have made my own detergent with the Borax, Washing Soda, Fels Naptha and water, but both my husband and son work on engines and their clothes are very greasy and it doesn’t remove the grease really well.  Does anyone know what I can do to help this?

    1. I’m not sure but maybe white vinegar?

      1. Anonymous

         Thank you.

    2. Shoshana McCrimmon

      There are a couple things you can try, the cheapest of which is spraying vodka (or other ethyl alcohol) onto the stains and rubbing gently before washing, and adding 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the washing machine once it’s full.  You can also rub liquid dish soap (dilute if the soap is colored) into the stain, and add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the machine once it’s full.  Either of these methods is good for grass stains, too, btw, if you have kids doing sports.  The other thing would be to rub eucalyptus oil into the stains.  I know this works well, but if they work on engines daily and their clothes always have oil deposits, one of the other methods makes more sense economically. 

      1. Anonymous

         Thank you.

      2. Anonymous

        What about trying Dawn since it has degreasing power? Never had to try it, but it might work.

      3. Goop, works the best, just pre-treat the stains.

    3. Anonymous

      My husband is the same way and I have used Dawn on his clothes and it always comes out

      1. Anonymous

         Thank you.

    4. i add washing soda to my partner’s greasy work clothes, about a cup per load. helps tons.

      1. Anonymous

         Thank you.

    5. I would add some dawn dishsoap to the load on the greasy stuff. Bakers use dawn because it gets rid of super greasy stuff. And they scrub those little oil-covered sea creatures with Dawn too.

    6. Try putting Dirty Jobs OxyClean in your detergent..My boyfriend works on a drilling rig and it works wonders

    7. Diana Stone

      I’ve heard Dawn Dishing Washing Liquid works wonders for greasy clothes. I’ve even heard a few local chefs say they use it when washing their table cloths, or cloth napkins.

  10. I also make my own laundry detergent.. but mine isn’t a liquid.  :)  I find it takes up to much space.  Mine is 1 bar soap, (I use Ivory)  grated fine, 1 cup borax, 1 cup WASHING soda.  Mix them all together well.. and there you have it.. you could even add the little downy sprinkly things if you wanted to.  add 1 tbsp to your wash.

    ***  I find that the WHITES are WHITER with this than ready made detergent. ***
    Its die and allergin free if you use pure white soap.
    I do still pretreat Clay stains on baseball pants and grass stains but it works really well. 

    1. How do you grate the soap?  Thanks!

      1. You can buy a cheap cheese grater at Wal-Mart, I paid like $3 for mine.

    2. How much do you use per wash?

      1. Anonymous

         I only use 1 tablespoon in mine which is really similar to a lot of the powder recipes on here…it really lasts a long time!

  11. Anonymous

    I’m gonna start making this when I use up all of the detergent I already have. I think I’ll save a few empty bottles. I already make my own softener with vinegar and hair conditioner.

  12. Great article! I’m going to try this.  I love the fact that it’s chemical free.  Also, great comments from everyone and their own recipe.  

  13. Anonymous

    I have an HE washer and dryer and use a dry detergent.  1 cup Borax, 1 Cup WASHING Soda, and one bar of NON-MOISTURIZING soap.  I grate the soap (I like Felz Naptha which is a laundry bar soap) with the hard cheese grater.  This will produce almost a dust.  Mix the ingredience and done.  With harder water, add more Borax.  A friend of mine said her kids no longer had little bumps on their skin when she switched and I have found that the little grease spots on my shirts are gone.  I will never go back to store bought.

    1. I also have a HE washer and am interested in using this recipe.  How much do you add to a load of laundry?

      1. Anonymous

        I use 1-2 tbsp per load depending on the size and how dirty.  If I am doing whites I also had a couple Tbsp extra borax and about 1/4 cup white vinager

      2. Do you add the vinegar in the soap holder or directly to the laundry?  Thanks for answering:)

      3. Anonymous

        I use the dispenser on the machine, the nonchlorine bleach section.

      4. Thanks so much!!!

  14. i make my own too! i just use dr. bronner’s liquid castile, and it is fantastic.

  15. oh, and i use washing soda, not baking soda. :)

  16. I have been doing this for years but I use:
    1 box Borax
    1 box WASHING soda
    1 box baking soda
    1 tub generic oxyclean
    1 large bottle Purex crystals (mostly for scent)
    6 bars of my favorite Dial soap
    I just grate the soap in my food processer and toss all the ingredients into one of those XXL zip lock bags and mix. I store it on old ice cream buckets.  I keep an extra bucket in my bathroom with some of the solution dissolved in it.  After I rinse the “whatever” out of the baby’s clothing I just stick it in the bucket of solution until I do her load of laundry.  They always come out sparkling.  Even with super deals you can’t get better (or cheaper) than you can make.

  17. I use WASHING soda, borax, 2 bars fels naptha shredded, 1 tub oxi clean. I don’t make into liquid. It works excellent. If I have super stained clothes I toss in a squirt of dawn dish soap. And for whites that I want WHITE I still add bleach to the wash. I tried the liquid and it didn’t work any better so I just stick with the dry version. The fels naptha even disolves in cold water. Great stuff. It makes a LOT. It won’t suds so don’t expect it to – this doesn’t mean it’s not working. It’s working. Mine cost about $9 (I didn’t look for coupons the day I bought it so with q’s it might be cheaper) and made a huge bucket full. I’ve probably had it for over a month and haven’t even made a dent in the bucket full. And I do a LOT of laundry! It’s great stuff.

    1. I like using the oxi clean in the soap recipe.  Do you have the amounts of the washing soda and borax that you use? 

  18. I noticed one thing with a lot of store bought laundry soaps these days: they leave a ring of scum in my washing machine. The homemade (I make the dry kind, see my post below) kind doesn’t do this – so happy about that! Because if the store soaps are leaving a ring in my washer what are they doing to my clothes?

    1. Anonymous

       What detergents are you buying that are leaving a ring and how are you not having soap build up in your machine with homemade soap, and one more question, how do you prevent them from feeling crusty and weird after the wash? Maybe I’m missing something but I don’t get the benefit (besides money) or how to keep the machine from smelling like vinegar after trying to wash the soap out so it doesn’t build up!

  19. Anonymous

    This is a money saver, but make sure you load up on vinegar or a washing machine cleaner. The soap in this won’t hurt your machine, as long as you’re able to wash the soap out. Also it should be noted that this may or may not work. In my family my kids are sensitive to almost every detergent, I even tried home made and though it worked to clean, it made our clothes feel really weird. Just a warning for those of you considering this. Also you can use washing soda instead of baking soda…. or make your own recipe.

    1. Anonymous

      This soap sucks. Left my clothes dingy. They smelled. I am in TX so it might be the lake water. Once I switched to store bought clean clean nice smelling clothes.

      1. Anonymous

         I agree, and if you don’t clean out your machine it will do more harm then good, to bad the article didn’t warn about the soap build up since body soap isn’t meant to be in your washing machine but different strokes for different folks. =P Atleast the people that like the homemade kind can enjoy it, we use it as a last resort if there is NOTHING else to use.

        I live in TN and to me, the water taste really, really disgusting so maybe it does depend on the water in your area. I’m from Florida and miss the water down there. I’ve even started buying Fiji water again because TN water is just not good AT all. =(

  20. Julie Arbuckle

    I, too, have been making my own washing detergent.  I’m going to try the powdered mix this time around.  I have 3 things to suggest: 

    1)  I found that my laundry smelled fresher when I used the WASHING SODA…not the BAKING SODA by Arm and Hammer. They’re definitely different ingredients. You can ingest baking soda (cookies….etc.) but you can’t ingest the Washing Soda!!  (I use Fels Naptha soap, Borax and Washing Soda as my ingredients for the liquid detergent).

     2) If your recipe calls for the washing soda, be sure to not get any on your hands…use gloves or just be careful when mixing and when adding to your wash. It is very strong and harsh on skin.  This warning’s listed on the box and the web site of Arm and Hammer.

     3)  My first attempt at homemade detergent was the liquid detergent. The first batch I used baking soda instead of the washing soda. The second time I used the washing soda and put them back in the milk jugs. Big mistake….three of the jugs sprung leaks. I’m not sure why….I might have dinged them while they were being stored empty and got holes in them.  But I really think the washing soda is so much stronger than the baking soda that it might have done something to the softer plastic of a milk jug. I also put some in the heavier weight plastic bottles (like apple juice comes in…with the handle) and they did not leak.

    I am a make it yourself convert! What I think’s funny, is that there are a bunch of empty spots where the ingredients for the homemade stuff are at my Walmart!  I think the secret’s out!!  With laundry soap costing $17-18 for the kind I used that’s about 20 cents per load compared to 2 cents!

  21. Julie Arbuckle

    I also have a question….if you put Dawn dishwashing liquid for greasy loads, will it work ok in an HE washer?

  22. I use soapnuts. You can find them on Amazon. I just put them in a little bag and throw them in the washer or you can boil them and make a liquid. They are the nuts of a tree so absolutely no chemicals. Very low suds but things do come clean. I do add Oxy to my whites. They are very cheap too. 

  23. Tracy Malik

    I have been making cold processed soap for 9 years from scratch using lye and fats/oils and distilled water.I don’t see the problem with grating a soap that has already been saponified(ivory is a finished soap product) and mixing to make your own laundry soap.There is no free lye left in the product after the saponification process is finished.The acids are Fatty acids.That is not a recipe but a fatty acid profile of the soap.Fatty acids are found in the oils used in this particular soap recipe.Each oil used has a specific fatty acid profile that adds something to the soap.Example Stearic acid is a white waxy natural fatty acid derived from vegetable fats and used as a hardener for the soap and also as a stiffener and stabilizer in lotions and creams. Most commercial soaps are made using palm or tallow as the main ingredient.

  24. if you call 888-468-6673 you can get borax coupons mailed to you and the arm and hammer site lets you print coupons for baking soda too

  25. Anonymous

    I have also been making my own Laundy detergent and also my own fabric softener and it costs me 5 cent to do a load of laundry

  26. The only thing I would say is that, in urban and suburban areas, water is not quite free.  But that is nitpicking.  Excellent recipe!

  27. Anonymous

    If you go to the website. Duggarfamilyreceipescom .She has a great receipe for laundry soap. I have been using it now for about three weeks. It is great. And it really smells good.

  28. Anonymous

    There is a great website were you can get a really good homemade laundry soap.
    I have made this laundry soap and it really works great. And it smells really good. Only cost me about $7.00 to make and I have a 5 gallon bucket of it.

  29. S Drake

    Thanks, Lesley and other KCL’s!  I’m in Sacramento as well!  Is there an expiration on the laundry soap once it’s made?   Your post and comments are extremely informative!  Thanks!

  30. I use 1 bar of Ivory Soap (grated), 1/2 cup of Borax & 1/2 cup of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda. Mix together & store in a tight lidded container. I use 1 scoop coffee measure (or less) per load in my front loading washer. I also use white vinegar as my rinse. I chose this type of soap due to the fact that we travel & it’s easy to make on the road & to store. I use the borax & white vinegar as a household cleaners, so I’m getting double duty! Plus my facial skin needed something pure/gentle to use so the Ivory Soap is another bonus!!!

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