Whole Home Detox: Easiest Ever DIY Laundry Detergent

At first I thought DIY laundry soap was just a cutesy idea. When I saw the recipes for homemade detergent all over my Pinterest feed,  I was like “awww.”  So sweet.  Cute for some day when I feel like tracking down exotic ingredients. Repin. Repin. And so on.  Then one day, I actually clicked on one and read it.

The moment I realized how much money I could be saving making my own detergent, I had a total Napoleon Dynamite flash (“Yesssssss!). DIY laundry soap is amazing!  It’s effective, inexpensive, and easier to mix up than a 60 second chocolate chip cookie.

Here are some factoids about DIY laundry detergent that you need to know first:

  • All DIY laundry soap recipes contain the exact same three ingredients: 20 Mule Team Borax, Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda, and a bar soap.  These ingredients deodorize, cut grease, and remove stains.  They have been around forever and are surprisingly common.  My local Ace Hardware and Wal-Mart had all of them in stock.  Each recipe has slight variations in ratios and optional add-ons, such as regular baking soda, Oxy Clean or essential oils.
  • You can make a powdered or liquid detergent. Like choosing a detergent at the grocery store,  it is a matter of preference.  Powder and liquid DIY detergent contain the exact same ingredients. The ingredients in liquid have simply been pre-dissolved in water first.   That is why liquid recipes make something like 5-10 gallons.  It looks like it will do more laundry than powdered, but it’s not necessarily true.  You will use more of the liquid soap per load.  (Liquid: 1/2 cup, Powder: 1 Tablespoon). It’s just a question of whether you like your soap ingredients pre-dissolved or not.  Liquid detergent takes more space to store, but if you are concerned about soap ingredients fully dissolving you might like it better.
  • The soap works! Almost every review I read praised DIY detergent for its effectiveness.  Ratio tweaking may be necessary depending on the type of water you have, and how dirty your clothes get (your husband is a mechanic versus a computer nerd).  My bloggy friends Audra and Katie who use their own homemade detergents have raved about it.  Personally, my gym socks came out of the dryer fluffy and white!
  • Both front and top loader friendly: DIY laundry soap is non-sudsing, which according to the reviews I read, makes it safe for all kinds of washers.  If you have an HE washer, I advise first contacting the manufacturer.  Sometimes manufacturers will not honor your warranty if you use any soap but the HE brands they recommend.
  • DIY laundry detergent saves money! In fact, did you know the Duggar family makes their own detergent?  This is a family with nineteen children.  They are debt and mortgage-free.  Their clothes are also clean enough for national television.  Dave Ramsey says if you want to be rich people, you have to do what rich people do.  Okay then.

And now, my adventure in:


DIY Laundry Soap in Jar 1

Pick a Recipe: This was the hardest part!  Did I want to go liquid or powder?  Did I want to add Oxy Clean or go with the bare necessities?  The deciding factor for me ended up being cuteness of container  Yes.  I chose detergents by determining which could be stored in a prettier container.  Do not ever expect anything less from me.  Since a cute jar with a little scoop is more Pinterest-approved than a recycled Ecos container or a five gallon bucket, powdered it was.  Plus, it will take up less space, which as you know, is a big deal in my house.  I chose this super easy recipe from Yellow Brick Home.  It was the simplest of all those on my Pinterest board.  (I added OxyClean, which was not in the recipe.)

Gather Your Stuff: Next, I went shopping for my container.  My first order of business was to comb my favorite thrift store for a clear cookie jar with a lid.

Thrifted Cookie Jar

I started at Ace Hardware but ended up finding everything I needed for far less at Wal-Mart.  The shelves that hold the Fels-Naptha, Borax, and Washing Soda were almost totally picked over. Pinners have been there, I know it.  It was at this time I had a brief internal debate about whether or not I should add Oxy Clean to my detergent.  The clean freak in me was saying “yeah, get it!” So I did.

Make Your Soap: Once cup of each ingredient and a bar of soap.

DIY Laundry Soap Ingredients


Washing Soda

Oxi Clean for DIY Laundry Soap

Grated Fels Naptha

Mixing DIY Laundry Soap

123(4) DIY Laundry Soap

  1. 1 Cup Borax
  2. 1 Cup Super Washing Soda
  3. 1 Bar grated Fels-Naptha Soap
  4. 1 Cup Oxy Clean, optional
  5. Grate bar of Fels-Naptha (just a regular cheese grater is all you need).  Mix together in a bowl, and transfer to a cute container of your choosing.  Yield: 45 loads at 1 Tablespoon per load

DIY Laundry Soap in Jar 1

My batch of DIY laundry soap breaks down to about $.06 per load vs. $.19 when compare to Ecos.  (Without Oxyclean, $.04 per load!)

DIY Laundry Soap in Jar

Is it Green?

All ingredients except the the Fels-Naptha soap is 100% crunchy approved.  If I wanted to go totally natural, I could use Dr. Bronner’s bar soap.  It will cost me more ($4.50 a bar), but it is a fair trade, organic soap.  Note: I would NOT use this soap on my cloth diapers!  I only use soap specifically formulated for cloth diapers.

So, has anyone out there been making their own laundry soap?  What did you think of it?  Is there anyone, who after reading this post, would consider making your own DIY detergent?  If so, would you make the liquid or the powder?

Update as of 10/31/12:  In the process of my whole home detox, I eliminated the Fels-Naptha soap from this recipe and have replaced it with Dr. Bronner’s castile bar soap.  I found bars for under $4 at my local Trader Joe’s.  This does increase the price of the detergent, but the soap is 100% organic and free-trade with no chemicals.  I just did four loads of laundry and it works great.   Right now I am using the mint scent, and it smells awesome. Also, I use an extra scoop of my homemade detergent for my towels.  I think it has to something to do with them sitting in the laundry basket damp.