Money-saving homemade laundry detergent

Inspired by several friends, I decided to investigate how to make homemade detergent.

When I googled it, lots of different methods returned.  I looked at them all, and this recipe is an amalgamation of them, but it mostly resembles The Duggars (yes, the weirdos with 20 kids that have the reality show) recipe found here. We’ve gone through an entire batch, and our clothes are clean and didn’t fall apart.  I can’t say it performs better than the store bought stuff, but it certainly doesn’t perform worse.  It’s what you expect: laundry soap, except it costs pennies on the dollar.  I estimate the total investment is about $1.75 + about 4-5 gallons of water + about 90 minutes of your time (working slowly, spread out over two days) .  It yields approximately 8-10 gallons of laundry detergent, depending on how much you want to stretch it by diluting it.  It pays for itself even after the initial investment of equipment and ingredients, and after that it almost seems free.


10-12 used detergent bottles.  Save ’em, beg your family and friends for ’em, swipe ’em from your neighbors recycling bins (just kidding, ask first!)

5 gallon bucket, clean, really clean.

A stick to stir with

A cheese grater (I bought one at the dollar store to use just for this so I won’t have soapy nachos)

A pot to melt soap in (again, I picked up a beat up old pot from Value Village)


INGREDIENTS:  (note: these all were found on the laundry aisle at the grocery store, I would think they are widely available)

4 cups hot tap water

1 bar of Fels Naptha Laundry Soap (some of the recipes called for any old bar soap, others suggested saving soap slivers and using those, although I can’t vouch for the effectiveness)

A bunch more water

1 Cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

1/2 Cup Borax

(optional) Essential Oils for scent, lavender or Tea Tree Oil (I didn’t do this, the natural soap scent was fine with me)


Grate the Fels Naptha and slowly add to the 4 cups hot tap water in a pot over medium heat.  Stir constantly until soap is melted.  Fill bucket half full of tap water and add melted soap.  Mix well.  Add Washing Soda and Borax and mix until granules are dissolved.  Fill the bucket with water and stir, stir, stir until well blended.

Cover and let sit 24 hours.  This will gel it up.

Next day, stir, stir, stir.  It will be difficult at first since it gelled, but soon will be smooth and have detergent consistency.

Use the funnel and fill each bottle 5/8 full. (All of the recipes ranged from 1/2 to 3/4 full, so I declare a 5/8ths rule!  Fill it 5/8ths! Or dilute it more to make it last longer, or less to make it stronger.) Fill bottles the rest of the way with water and shake, shake, shake until well blended.

You’re done.  You just saved a bunch of money and you have a bunch of laundry detergent.  And except for the Fels Naptha, enough ingredients for several more batches.


Shake, shake, shake the bottle before every use.  Homemade detergent tends to gel and separate in storage.  That’s OK! It’s fun to shake it up!

Use 5/8 cup per load.  (Again, I follow the 5/8ths Rule I created.  It just works for me. It’s the right amount.  But use more if you want, it’s cheap. Or, Maybe you’re cheap, so use less.  Whatever.  I don’t care.  I’ll use 5/8 cup.)

This soap is not real sudsy.  That’s OK.  Suds are marketing.  Suds don’t clean.  The chemical make up of the soap, Borax, and washing soda clean.  Trust me.


Enjoy your new soap.  Get creative and make labels for your new soap.  Give it as a gift.  Use it as underarm deodorant. Why not?  It’s cheap.  With the money you are saving, you should buy me a beer.

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