After my son was born, I became more concerned about the chemicals we use in our home (you can read out my Clean Sweep journey in this post.) Laundry detergent was the first product that got my attention, so I started using a “baby safe” version because it was hypoallergenic, dye-free and safe-r for my baby’s sensitive skin. I cringed every time I put that jumbo size jug in my cart, because it was just so darn expensive. We easily do 6-10 loads of laundry each week and my store bought “baby safe” detergent was costing me more than $0.50 a load. My aunt mentioned that she had switched to homemade dry detergent and gave me some to try. Her recipe worked nicely but I still preferred liquid laundry detergent over powder. In my experience, powdered detergent doesn’t dissolve well unless you’re using warm water and you remember to put it in before you load the washer with dirty clothes (which I always forget to do!).
So, I set out to find a cheaper, more natural alternative to my liquid laundry soap. I tried a few recipes and with a little experimentation I found that the following recipe works best for my family’s laundry. Two babies and 8 years later, and I’m still using it!
Homemade Laundry Soap Recipe
- 1 cup of Borax
- 1 cup of Arm and Hammer Laundry Booster (aka Washing Soda)
- 1 bar of Fels Naptha Soap
- 15-20 drops of essential oil of your choice
You’ll also need a clean 5 gallon bucket with a lid and I’d recommend a funnel so you can easily transfer your homemade detergent to pretty containers when you’re finished.
- Using a cheese grater, grate the entire bar of soap into a large bowl. I recommend using the finest grater possible, so that the soap will dissolve more quickly. Be careful not to grate your fingers when you get to the end of the bar of soap!
- Next, add a cup of borax and a cup of Arm and Hammer Laundry Booster to the grated soap.
- Stir the dry ingredients until they are evenly distributed.
- Transfer the ingredients to a large pot and add hot water. I added about 10 cups of water to the mixture. Put the pan on the stove and set the burner to Medium heat.
- Slowly and continuously, stir the mixture until all the ingredients dissolve. The hot water will melt the soap and dissolve the borax and washing soda. The water should be hot but not boiling.
- Once everything has dissolved, carefully pour the mixture into your clean five gallon bucket.
- Now, you can add your favorite essential oil or if you prefer you can skip this step. I love the smell of lavender so that’s what I typically use. 20 drops may sound like a lot but when you dilute that in 5 gallons, that’s only 3 to 5 drops per gallon so it’s not going to be an overly strong scent.
- Slowly fill your 5 gallon bucket with water so you don’t get too many bubbles. I recommend adding a gallon or so at a time and stirring in between to make sure your detergent is mixed evenly.
- Put the lid on your bucket and let it thicken overnight.
- After you’ve let your laundry soap thicken, remove the lid and give it a good stir. Your five gallon bucket is pretty deep so while a wooden spoon will work, it’s not quite long enough. If you use a spoon, like I did with my latest batch, be prepared to get your hand soapy as you want to make sure the entire bucket is evenly mixed. If you have one, the best thing to use is a paint mixer attachment for your cordless drill like this one. I normally use my mixer attachment and it makes the final product so much smoother, more evenly distributed than stirring by hand. My mixer attachment is in storage somewhere so I had to make do with my spoon.
- Finally, you can transfer your homemade detergent from your 5 gallon bucket into smaller more manageable containers. Clean milk or juice jugs are practical containers for your detergent or if you want to get fancy, a cute drink dispenser is a fun option. To transfer from the bucket, I used my glass measuring cup and a funnel to avoid spilling.
I have a traditional top load washer and I add 1/2 cup of this detergent to each wash. For HE washers I would recommend using only a 1/4 cup of the detergent. Note, this detergent may separate after sitting on the self so, you may need to give it a good shake just before use.
Cost Comparison (compared to prices on walmart.com)
- Dreft (stage 2) – $0.21 per load
- $20.19 for 100 oz for 96 loads
- Tide – $0.19 per load
- $17.97 for 150 oz for 96 loads
- all Free and Clear – $0.14 per load
- $23.63 for 250 oz for 166 loads
- Homemade Laundry Detergent – $0.02 per load
- Borax – $3.97 or $0.061 per oz – ($0.49 for 1 cup of borax)
- Arm & Hammer Washing Soda – $3.97 or $ 0.072 per oz – ($0.58 for 1 cup)
- Fels Naptha Bar Soap – $1.58 for 1 bar
- Essential Oil $12.00 per oz* 1 ounce equals about 500 drops ($0.024 per drop or $0.48 for 20 drops)
- This recipe makes 5 gallons or 640 oz which equates to 160 loads at a total cost of $3.13 or $0.02 per load
I just love this recipe, my family’s laundry is clean, smells great and I love knowing exactly what is in my laundry detergent!
P.S. If you try this recipe, please comment and tell me how you like it.