*UPDATED* Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

I have been making my own laundry detergent for more than a year.  I started with a basic “recipe” I found online, but discovered that I kept altering to it to get it to be really effective.  After a year of tinkering, I finally have a concoction with which I’m really happy;  it gets clothes clean, and makes them smell fresh (fresh-clean, not fresh-like-a-fake-air-freshener).

More information is found here, in my original post from April ’09:  ingredients, cost, etc.

I find that this recipe lasts my family of seven for two months, give or take a week, which is approximately 65 loads.  My recipe uses significantly more detergent than many homemade recipes — a number of them call for a minuscule 1 Tbsp per load!  I tried this, though, and have concluded that those who can effectively use 1 Tbsp per load do not have five children who actually get clothes dirty.  We do have soft water;  if yours is hard, you may have to increase the amount used per load.


  • You must dissolve this soap in a bit of hot water first.  Either start each load with hot water, and add the soap, mix to dissolve, then switch to cold (or the appropriate temperature) and add the clothes.  OR, fill the washer with water and clothes, and dissolve the soap in a separate container of 2-4 cups of very hot water, and add to the wash.
  • This laundry detergent will not take out deep stains, just normal, daily dirt.  For stains, I wet the area in question, and rub it with a bar of Fels Naptha laundry soap, then let it set until laundered — a few minutes to a few days.  For particularly greasy stains, I dissolve 1/2 cup washing soda in a gallon or so of hot water, and let the item soak overnight (this effectively removed a HUGE amount of Vaseline from jeans and a red cotton shirt, which belong to my rascally toddler).
  • I strongly suggest letting your whites soak overnight every month or so:  Simply fill the washer, dissolve the detergent, and add the clothes, but don’t let it go through the cycle.  In the morning, let the cycle continue.  This will keep your whites bright.
  • I also strongly suggest that you separate colors, and use appropriate temps.  Personally, I do darks (cold), lights (hot), reds (cold), and whites (chot).  This may seem self-evident, but I am consistently surprised by the number of people who do not do either.
  • Lastly, I very strongly suggest running an extra rinse when your wash cycle is done, adding 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the rinse water.  The acid of the vinegar removes the traces of alkaline soap (and other detergent ingredients, which are ALL alkaline — alkalinity increases the “wetness” of water, helping it dissolve dirt and grease).

Printable PDF of Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade Laundry Detergent

  • 6 cups finely grated castile soap
    • I use Kirk’s Original Coco Castile, which is $3.39 for three bars at my local grocery store — each bar makes 2 cups of grated soap.  You must use real, traditional, pure soap made of saponified fat, not the detergent-based “soap” that is prevalent on today’s market.  Other fairly inexpensive soap is found at Trader Joe’s.  You will need four bars, possibly more, of their house-branded bar bathsoap, like Oatmeal & Honey, $1.99 for two bars.  You can also use Fels Naptha laundry soap, but I find it too expensive and too highly-scented.
    • The most time-consuming portion of this recipe is grating the soap I have heard that some people use a food processor to do this portion, but I don’t have one.  My 11yo son actually likes the job of grating the soap!
  • 6 cups Twenty Mule Team Borax
  • 6 cups washing soda
    • a.k.a. pure sodium carbonate — either Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, or find sodium carbonate with pool care chemicals, as an alkalizer — check the ingredients
  • 12 cups baking soda
    • I buy mine at Costco, which is about $3.50 for a large, 14-pound bag of Arm & Hammer.

Mix carefully but thoroughly.  Store in an air-tight container, especially if you live in a humid climate.  (Borax loses its effectiveness if it is exposed to water in humid air.)  I use a 2 gallon, lidded pail.

Use 1/3 cup per large load, dissolved in hot water first.  (See note above.)

About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on August 24, 2010, in Budget, Housework. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. So… I just use your old recipe as a laundry booster. I’m not sure if it works or not, b/c I’m not that picky about laundry and I can’t get my hubby to separate the colors, so our whites tend to end up dingy anyway. 🙂 It just feel like it’s more clean to use it. 🙂

  2. Do you know if it is possible to use this recipe in high efficiency machines? (They’re usually front-loading and use less water and tell you that you have to use special high efficiency stuff that doesn’t foam as much…)

  3. Excellent. I really should consider doing this at some point when we run out of detergent… We loaded up last time we were in a city with a Costco. I live in a seriously tiny town that is truly in the middle of nowhere, so I don’t think I can any of these things here.

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