Making Your Own Laundry Detergent: Adventures in Being Frugal

9 Sep

I started making my own laundry detergent a few months ago. I had found a ton of recipes online, and narrowed it down to one that works out well for my family. Keep in mind that detergent is still chemical. However, this is a lot less harsh than some commercial laundry detergent. My son and I both have sensitive skin, and I am actually very allergic to Gain. This recipe has been good for us; no breakouts or allergies.

  This is the mixture that I use:

1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

1 cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda

1/2 c. baking soda (for hard water,optional)

1 bar grated soap or 1/2 bar Fels Naptha

Essential oil for scent (optional)

Don’t confuse Boric Acid and borax, they are not the same thing.  Always make sure that you are buying 20 Mule Team.This recipe will produce about 2-3 cups of laundry powder  and will wash about 64 loads. There are liquid recipes out there, but I have not personally had any luck with them.  I use Lemongrass essential oil for just a little scent; no more than a couple of drops. Some people like the smell of Fels Naptha; I think it’s too strong. I have found that after the wash the laundry actually has no smell whatsoever, unless you add a bit of oil. If you need that “chemical” smell to feel clean, I would suggest using something along the lines of Rosemary or Clary Sage oils.

I have an ancient food processor. (Not so ancient, I guess, it’s from the 1970’s.) I prefer to use a food processor because it produces a really fine powder, but you could mix the detergent by hand as well. The first thing that you want to do is grate your soap. My food processor has a blade that shreds, so I run the soap through the machine. (It leaves part of the end un-shredded, so I just put it aside to save for another batch.) When your soap is shredded, it kind of looks like cheese. Take a look:

I prefer to use two bowls for mixing when I am making the detergent; that way I can run the mix through the machine just half a batch at a time. Right now, you can set your grated soap aside. The next thing you’ll want to do is mix the borax and washing soda. I add baking soda to my recipe because we have hard water, but baking soda can fade colors if you use too much, so it’s entirely your call. I run the mixture through the food processor to make sure there are no clumps; if making it by hand you will want to stir it well to make it smooth.

At this point, I separate the mixture by adding one part to the food processor and leaving the rest in the bowl. I add half of the grated soap and blend for about a minute.

This is also the time when you will want to add any oils that you want to use. I put a drop in each “batch”. Once you have blended this part, transfer it to the bowl that your soap was in and blend the other batch. If making by hand, you’ll want to stir very well or use a hand mixer to make sure that you have a fine powder.

Here is what the finished product looks like:

 Voila! You have laundry soap! Use a teaspoon per load, or two teaspoons if the clothes are really dirty. Make sure that you store it in an airtight container. Depending upon the size of your family, this could last you two weeks to a month. I usually have to make it about every three weeks.  Remember, though, that you only used a cup each of the borax and washing soda, so you still have ingredients on hand when you run out. A regular sized box of borax is 76 oz. and the washing soda contains 55 oz. A cup is 8 oz., so you’re getting 9.5 cups out of the borax and almost 7 cups out of the washing soda. Realistically, both boxes could last you a couple of months or more, cutting down the price even further.

I bought my materials at Wal-Mart. (I know, I know…but we live in a small town).

Here is the breakdown:

20 Mule Team Borax : $3.38

Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda:$3.24

Baking soda: 38 cents

Fels Naptha: 97 cents


$7.97 (plus tax)

A box of Tide costs around $20.32 for 95 loads. That’s $0.21 a load, so if you multiply that by, say, 20 loads a week, you are spending $2.10 a week. (I have way more laundry than that, but not everyone does.) Doesn’t sound too bad, until you figure out that you’re spending $208 on laundry soap in a year.

Let’s say that realistically, you can make several batches with your purchase above. A box of 20 Mule Team is 9.5 cups. A box of washing soda is almost 7 cups. If you leave out the baking soda and use Fels Naptha, you are paying less than a penny per load. Multiply that by 20 loads a week at a tablespoon and you are looking at a whopping 20 cents.  So, you are actually spending less in one year to use it than you are to make it.

The price isn’t the only plus. This homemade version is safe for septic tanks because it doesn’t have an phosphates or fillers. That also means that it’s non-toxic and environmentally friendly. It can also be used in High Efficiency washing machines, because it is low-sudsing.

Here is a link to a recipe for liquid detergent, if you prefer it over powder: Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

Congratulations! By choosing to make your own laundry detergent, you’re “going green” and saving almost $200 a year.  Too bad a “laundry fairy” doesn’t come with it to sweeten the deal, eh?

The next thing I need to tackle is learning how to make real soap. Some people make their own to add to this recipe, which saves them even more money.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Please join our Facebook group or send me your ideas and posts!

In Liberty,



One Response to “Making Your Own Laundry Detergent: Adventures in Being Frugal”


  1. Making Your Own Laundry Soap | MaineGreenGirl - October 23, 2012

    […] Making Your Own Laundry Detergent: Adventures in Being Frugal ( […]

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