80

Dirty Laundry: Experiments with Homemade Laundry Detergent

in Courtney's Posts, Family, Money Basics

diylaundry

Note: This is a post by Courtney Baker, chief seller and long-time running wo-man of MvD.

It has taken me a while to come around to the idea of making my own laundry detergent.

I’ve been skeptical that it wouldn’t compare to my current detergent and that the savings would be too negligible to be worth it. But, I’ve been actively making our home more ‘natural’, so I keep thinking about it.

A couple weeks ago, a girlfriend shared that she was experimenting with a new DIY recipe that included both laundry detergent and fabric softener in one. It was saving her money, because it eliminated two laundry products instead of one.

She said it was working just as well as her previous Era and Downy combination, and she was eliminating several harsh chemicals founds in store detergents.

I decided it was time to take the plunge and see what DIY detergent was all about. Does it really get the job done, save me money, and make my home more natural?

How Well It Cleans

First off, the detergent smells incredible. It works as an air freshener for my laundry room, and I love when I catch the scent wafting through the house.

However, the incredible scent doesn’t cling to the clothes like my old detergent and fabric softener did. The clothes are coming out of the dryer soft and clean, but they aren’t a fragrant as usual.

It’s not important to me that my clothes come out smelling like Spring Flowers; but, it is important that they come out stain free. Could a natural DIY laundry detergent tackle banana and strawberry stains on Charlie’s shirt or the remnants of Milli’s preschool art project?

I put it to the test with the usual load of soiled baby clothes. I also threw in a cloth diaper for good measure. You can see for yourself that everything cleaned right up!

Untitled-1

Laundry Costs Breakdown

My laundry costs are already low. I experimented with the less expensive name brand detergents during our early debt busting days and found a combo that costs $13.00/2 months for detergent and dryer sheets. That’s $78/year for everything! Many family’s using more expensive brands spend $100+/year.

The Old Wayfulljartall

Arm and Hammer Detergent $7.99/50 loads

Downy $4.99/50 loads

Total: $12.98/50 loads (or 2 months), $78/year

*I could often times find coupons for both of these products which would lower costs even more.

The Do It Yourself Way

Total: $4.75/50 loads (or 2 months), $28/year

The Difference in Chemicals

A lot of information has come out in the last tens years regarding the toxicity of household cleaning and cosmetic products. Many of the products, which are FDA approved, contain disease inducing chemicals. Did you know that deodorant has enough traces of aluminum to lead to Alzheimer’s? Or that dryer sheets are covered in fragrant chemicals which have been proven to cause liver cancer? Or that Tide has been required to lessen the amount of the cancer causing agent 1,4-dioxane?

I’ve only just begun to learn about the political side of FDA approved products and how bad many household staples really are for our bodies. It’s a rude awakening that I childproof the cabinet full of cleaners, and then walk into the laundry room to wash their clothes in similar chemicals.

What I do know is that the majority of the negative chemicals in laundry detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheet are fragrant chemicals. There’s a constant push to have a long last scent for days after washing your clothes, so manufacturers keep adding more and more chemicals to meet the demand.

You’ll see in the recipe that I included Downy Unstoppables which is a fabric softener. Granted, I’m using a significantly smaller ratio of this softener to what I was typically using, but I’m considering eliminating it completely and using these DIY dryer balls to soften up the clothes.

I was also concerned about using OxiClean, but I’ve been reading that this product is fairly neutral and environmentally friendly.

Bit by bit, I’m sure I’ll be able to tweak it with more natural products.

DIY Recipe

This recipe will make a massive batch. You’ll only use 1-2 Tablespoons of detergent per wash, so I’ve filled up a jar to keep by the washer. I’ve stored the rest in a tub in the closet.

This yields so much, and you use so little, that I’m expecting this batch to last me the entire year. That’s right, the ENTIRE year!

Here’s what you need:

ingredients

1 (4lb 12oz) box of Borax

1 (3lb 7oz) box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

1 (3lb) container of OxyClean

2 (14.1) Bars of Zote Soap or 3 Fels Naptha

1 (4lb) box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda

1 container of Downy Unstoppables

The first step, and by far the hardest, is to grate the soap. I started grating on the larger side of my household cheese grater. I’m wondering if I would have been better to use a finer side. Be careful- the soap looks like cheese! Luckily, I caught Milli before she tried to sneak a bite.

soapgrating

 

shreddedsoap

 

The hardest part is over- now we begin mixing!

I layered each of the ingredients into the top just make it easier to mix everything later. Remember I put everything into a large bucket to stir and mix, then I scooped out a jar full to put by the washer.

Bucket

detergent

_MG_0058

 

basket

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to make the soap. It probably took me a total of 20 minutes and that was on my first try. I really enjoyed making the detergent, especially because I knew I wouldn’t need to do it again for another year!

For me, this small change in my laundry routine is well worth the $50 savings. For some families, I know the savings will be even greater.

I’m hoping to keep perfecting this recipe to make it more and more environmentally friendly. I’d love to hear feedback from you on what you’ve tried, haven’t tried, or why you haven’t tried.

Have you made homemade laundry detergent? Which ingredients do you recommend? Do you think the Downy Unstoppables and OxyClean are harmful?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

TB at BlueCollarWorkman April 9, 2013 at 9:25 AM

Oh man, I want to try this. We don’t use fabric softener stuff, so my wife and I just wouldn’t add that. Because seriously, what’s the point? Thanks for the instructions, dude!

Reply

TB at BlueCollarWorkman April 9, 2013 at 9:26 AM

Oh hey dude, forgot to ask, how much of this detergent do you use each load?

Reply

Courtney April 9, 2013 at 11:42 AM

You only have to use 1-2T per load! That’s why it lasts so long.

Reply

Maryanne April 9, 2013 at 10:10 AM

I had a different recipe for home made detergent that I used for awhile. It used the washing soda and borax and a couple of other items. I made a liquid out of it. It did a respectable job of cleaning but I didn’t like the toxicity of the borax. I moved on to soap nuts. I make a liquid with the soap nuts and add 10-12 drops of the essential oil of my choice. When it has cooled, I store it in an old liquid laundry detergent bottle.( the old laundry detergent bottle was a biodegradable product) I have zero waste, zero “new” containers to recycle and the soap nuts do a great job of cleaning. I already had the tea tree oil to use as a preservative. The soap nuts cost me 1 cent per load.

Reply

Courtney April 9, 2013 at 11:45 AM

Soap nuts, eh? I’ve had this conception that it would become more costly as I exchanged more natural products, but at 1 cent per load- it doesn’t seem so bad!

Reply

Maryanne April 9, 2013 at 12:06 PM

I had a friend who bought a 5 pound box. The box was $44.00. He gave me 1/2 of one ounce for my first batch which made 48 ounces of laundry soap. Each load takes about 2 ounces of liquid, giving me 24 loads. If a load would be heavily soiled you might want to up the amount. Also, if there is some extreme stain, you might want to use Oxy-Clean on that particular spot. In three months, I haven’t had to use an oxygen bleach at all. I’m happy because I don’t have yet another plastic container to recycle and the product is completely safe for the water supply. With 2 dogs and three cats in the house, I removed all chemicals a decade ago.

Reply

ashley June 24, 2014 at 12:03 AM

hey I was just curious what your recipe was for the soap nuts. I’m slightly confused, I went to the website and saw they were about $40 for 300 hundred loads which came out to about 12 cents a load. Is there a way to stretch this and have it still work by making it into a liquid. Very interested. We have very hard water so this seems like the only cheap and chemical free options.

Reply

Money Beagle April 9, 2013 at 10:33 AM

I might have to try that. I’m one of the few people in the world, I think, who doesn’t mind grating cheese. Whenever we have something that calls for grated cheese, my wife calls on me to get it done, so I might be up for the challenge of grating the soap!

Reply

Courtney April 9, 2013 at 11:46 AM

Sounds like you’re the perfect person for the job! It’s exactly like grating cheese; in fact, it might be easier. Cheese tends to stick, and the soap doesn’t.

Reply

~Miranda~ October 8, 2013 at 1:02 PM

I used a blender! Works just as well! :)

Reply

Hashi April 9, 2013 at 12:56 PM

If you have a food processor with a shredding attachment, it’s great (grate!) for Step 1. Feed the soap in through the feed tube. Then switch to the normal blade attachment, and shred it up even finer. If your food processor is big enough, you can even add some or all of the powders to mingle it all together well. Way easier than using a hand grater.

Reply

Courtney April 9, 2013 at 5:49 PM

Hehe, clever girl!

My friend who introduced me to this recipe also uses a food processor, but I haven’t added one to my kitchen arsenal yet.

Reply

kathy June 28, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Be careful using your food processor for the initial grating! I just broke my piece that the grater fits onto and then goes into the hole mounting it in the bowl. The Fels is very very hard and if it “hangs up” in the grater it can snap the part. This is my 4th batch I have made and I absolutely love the stuff. Have a friend who splits each batch with me and we are amazed at the old stains that come out in a wash with this! Fresh smelling laundry room but clothes just smell “clean”. My clothes are brighter and cleaner that ever and softer, too, without all the residue other detergents leave behind. Occasionally I add half a cup of white vinegar to the rinse but even if i do not use that my clothes are so much softer. I will never use fabric softeners again — they leave so much residue that it builds up. Try this and see what a difference it makes in your laundry! BTW, the Fels is THE BEST stain remover ever! If you have a spot, wet it and rub Fels into the spot before washing (I use the little leftover nub that I end up with when finished grating). I have used it on my carpeted car mats which were 6 years old and they looked like new (did them outdoors NOT in washer!! Wet them and rubbed them down well with the Fels and then used a scrub brus and water hose to rinse.) Even takes old artist’s oil paint spots out of my clothes! Can’t be beat!

Reply

kathy June 28, 2013 at 9:31 AM

Just used box grater (manual grater) to do this batch, really it takes only a few minutes to grate the Fels and you are safe from ruining your food processor! Don’t risk it! I then put the grated Fels into the processor using the blade to grind it down further….safest way and only takes a few minutes extra.

Reply

Juno April 9, 2013 at 1:11 PM

I make a version of this – one batch lasts me maybe 8 months and it cleans as well or better than any other detergent I’ve tried, without giving me a rash. I use castile soap not fels naptha, because the fels naptha makes me sneeze. I also think the fabric softer is unnecessary – i think the residue it leaves is gross feeling and it’s not really softening, just coating the fabric with something with been conditioned to think of as soft.
I’m not concerned with borax, though I am careful not to breath it in when I’m mixing. I use it to clean most of the things in my house – try it on toilet bowls, with a little liquid castile.
I use oxy clean separately on my gym clothes when they get extra stinky but leave them out of the mix. And I grate the soap in the cuisinart.

Reply

Cindy B. April 9, 2013 at 1:32 PM

Hello. I used the same ingredients to use my homemade laudry detergent and I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE it!! I am a little giddy everytime I do the laundry with my homemade detergent and it smells wonderful! I have a recipe for homemade softener as well but haven’t tried that one out yet. :)

Reply

Chris April 9, 2013 at 1:39 PM

I’ve made liquid homemade laundry detergent, and it works well. I like the idea of adding the fabric softener right into the detergent. Do you know if the powder variety is safe for an HE washer?

Reply

Courtney April 9, 2013 at 2:05 PM

I’ve read that these homemade detergents are actually better for HE washers than normal detergent, because there aren’t any suds. I’ll have to find it, but I read an article about an interesting study Proctor and Gamble hosted. It concluded that consumers felt that soaps with more suds cleaned their clothes or dishes better, so they began making their soaps suds-ier!

Reply

Michelle K April 9, 2013 at 2:20 PM

I’ll have to give it a try. PS – I LOVE LOVE LOVE my wool dryer balls. Converted after learning about all the chemicals and wax in dryer sheets. I have these… cost effective and made in Wisconsin (I use their other natural products as well): http://www.willowpads.com/products/wool-dryer-balls

Reply

Courtney April 9, 2013 at 5:54 PM

I was shocked to learn about all the chemical in dryer sheets. I used to be a fanatic about them, but I’ve learned to live without them now. I’ve been using fabric softener, but I should consider doing detergent and wool balls only.

Reply

Lorelei Jones April 9, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Thanks for the great post. I am going to try this out! I do have one silly question for you. Where did you get the jar you put your laundry soap in? It is so cute and perfect for laundry soap? Sorry….a girl’s gotta know these things! Haha. Thanks for sharing!

Reply

Courtney April 9, 2013 at 3:14 PM

I don’t remember where it came from, but it’s from a kitchen set (for flour, sugar, and coffee). I had an extra!

Reply

joy2b April 16, 2013 at 12:55 PM

If you want a similar look, it looks so much like a ball jar that I assumed it was. I’ve noticed that craft stores often have decorative lids.

Reply

Kate April 29, 2013 at 4:00 PM

It looks like a canister that I have that I purchased at Ikea for about $2.00…

Reply

Heat April 9, 2013 at 2:51 PM

OxiClean is not supposed to be put in the sewer because it is highly toxic to aquatic life, so I wouldn’t (and don’t) use it.

I am actually in the middle of a ton of research for a class I’m putting together on non-toxic household cleaning. Fabric softener and dryer sheets work the same way and have more or less the same chemicals in them. I wouldn’t use either.

We use this recipe for laundry except we leave out those two ingredients. Clothes are clean. We were gifted with soap nuts at my baby shower and really like those as well.

All homemade detergents will void your diaper warranties, so if you’re concerned about that and are within the warranty period, you’re not going to want to use homemades :(

You can add 1/4 cup of baking soda to your laundry to make them softer. I’ve never done this, so I can’t vouch for it personally. But we line dry everything, so everything is a tad crisp when we put it on. (We adapted to that very quickly and at this point, it’s not a big deal at all.) Or you can add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar instead of fabric softener. I’ve heard, though, that vinegar isn’t kind to all fabrics and colors, so test with caution.

I have a mailing list on my webpage (linked) if you’re interested in the class once it’s put together. Should be ready to roll in mid-May.

Reply

Courtney April 9, 2013 at 6:00 PM

Of all that, I’m most surprised to hear about the diaper warranties being void! I’m guessing it’s because they can’t be sure what you are putting in your homemade detergent? Or is there a specific ingredient that they don’t like?

Reply

Heat April 10, 2013 at 9:09 PM

Check with the manufacturer of the type you’re using for specifics. But we can’t use Borax, any kind of bleach, any fabric softeners, or pure soap.

Reply

Bart December 20, 2013 at 12:17 AM

This is untrue. Oxiclean is Sodium Per carbonate= hydrogen peroxide in powdered form, in a base of Sodium Carbonate=washing soda. Oxygen is needed for All living organisms.

Phosphate is what is harmful to aquatic life, Only because it feeds algae and makes it grow to giant sizes, and sucks up the oxygen in the water

Reply

Electra April 9, 2013 at 3:20 PM

Good on you for giving it a go! Do you find that you have this preconceived notion that homemade isn’t going to be as good as store-bought?

The recipe that we have started with is 125g of grated soap and 1kg of soda ash. I am going to add some tea tree essential oil to the batch I have in the food processor today, just to give it a go. Usage:1T per 6kg load.

Reply

Courtney April 9, 2013 at 6:02 PM

It was less about how well it would clean the clothes and more about how inconvenient it would be to make my own. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it hardly took any time at all!

Reply

CaughtMyEye April 9, 2013 at 3:20 PM

I make mine with soap flakes (saves on the grating), soda crystals and some chamomile essential oil. I started doing it as my husband and youngest son suffer badly from eczema and I hoped it would reduce irritation to their skin. It has helped to a degree but the main benefit is that my washing is so soft without having to use any fabric conditioner. I do miss the washing smell, especially on my clean sheets, but that’s the only downside.

Mine is made with water so it’s kind of like a solid gloop rather than a powder. It takes about 10 minutes to make a batch every 4-6 weeks.
http://thingsthathavecaughtmyeye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/homemade-laundry-soap-aka-gloop.html

Reply

Courtney April 9, 2013 at 10:42 PM

I normally use liquid detergent, but figured I’d start with the powder homemade version. The liquid versions I’ve seen though are normally thinner than standard detergents- not thinker. Do you know how your recipe might be different than theirs?

Reply

Lauren C April 9, 2013 at 5:03 PM

I’ve been using this recipe for almost 2 years now and I still love it! FYI, you can throw chopped up bars of soap into your food processor and eliminate the need for grating. Just make sure you add a pinch or two of the washing soda or borax to keep it from sticking up the blades. Works like a charm!

Reply

Kimmy @ AfterGlobe April 9, 2013 at 6:09 PM

Some things do take a bit of time, but are so worth it in the end. I was saying this same thing while making chicken stock this weekend. I will have to try this, as well.

Reply

Leah April 9, 2013 at 8:03 PM

We’ve been doing this too! While we weren’t spending all that much on laundry detergent to begin with, it’s still a savings. Originally, we would buy the giant eco-soap at Costco for about $14 I think, and it lasted about 6 months. I decided to give making our own soap a shot, b/c some friends do it, and it seemed fun. We use 1/3 of a bar of fels naptha soap, 1/2 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup of borax, and water. So, it’s a liquid, and we use 1/2 cup of the soap per load. It’s a decent savings I think, although, I haven’t done the actual math. I do like knowing that it has less crap in it than your typical detergent. :)

Reply

Maureen April 9, 2013 at 9:48 PM

I do have some questions as I am debating making my own laundry soap.

I live with a well with hard water and do the majority of my laundry in cold water in a top loading machine — does the powder disolve pretty well? I just don’t want powder clumps left on the clothes. I would try the liquid version, but I don’t have a 5 gallon bucket to make that much soap in.

And I usually don’t use my dryer, and don’t use fabric softner. Never really have cause I always forget to put it in the machine when you are supposed to. My husband is in the industrial laundry business and he says to never use dryer balls either because the constant wear and tear of the ball in the dryer wears down the material of the clothing.

Reply

Courtney April 9, 2013 at 10:46 PM

The powder dissolves really well. I think that’s one of its benefits actually. You only use 1-2 T per load which isn’t anywhere compared to the 1/4cup or more that standard powder brand recommend.

Also, there aren’t any suds, so you shouldn’t see any residue.

Reply

Darnell Jackson April 9, 2013 at 9:54 PM

This is excellent I’ve been using just 50/50 borax and arm and hammer it works great.

It’s amazing how much Tide thinks their product is worth why do we pay for fragrance?

Reply

Amy Hagerup April 9, 2013 at 9:55 PM

I am a firm believer in getting the toxins out of our homes and our laundry rooms are one of the worst places! (as well as under the kitchen sink) I personally use all of Shaklee’s Get Clean non-toxic products that save me a ton of money because they are so concentrated. The Get Clean laundry powder is only 18 cents per load! And my clothes get really clean too. My understanding is that Oxyclean is very toxic. Even borax is not really recommended. Baking Soda is okay though. Thanks for the information!

Reply

Leah McClellan April 9, 2013 at 10:00 PM

Thanks for this! I’ve been working on reducing chemicals for awhile, ever since my dog got cancer 7 years ago and I realized I was washing the kitchen floor with chemicals–and he ate treats or spilled dog food from it. The Pine-sol or whatever probably wasn’t the reason he got cancer, but still. Vinegar only now.

I stick with unscented laundry detergent (whatever is on sale) and don’t use softener or dryer sheets, but I think I’ll try this. Like another commenter said, I think I’ll skip the Oxiclean (though I have it in a spray bottle for the occasional really bad stain) and the softener and see how it goes-thanks much!

Reply

Bilgefisher April 10, 2013 at 9:23 AM

This sounds like something you could sell at your local farmers market.

Reply

Kathy April 10, 2013 at 6:01 PM

I read that washing soda is just baking soda that has been cooked. I think I found the info on Crystal Payne’s Money Saving Mom site, but I’m not sure. Anyway, washing soda is much more expensive than baking soda so you just make your own soda ash by cooking the baking soda. Saves a lot of money.

Reply

Jenny April 11, 2013 at 10:09 AM

I’ve regressed on a lot of my previous ‘green’ solutions since becoming an expat.
The extra steps can be daunting: just dealing with packages you can’t read, being a pedestrian and hauling stuff home for blocks at a time.

That said, in other ways I’m quite green. No clothes dryer, for example.
And some things I really do work hard to avoid, especially knowing they are even less regulated and even more toxic here. But other days I’m just like, this is close enough for the steps it took to accomplish it.

Reply

Jake Erickson April 11, 2013 at 1:20 PM

Wow, nice, detailed article. I haven’t ever thought of mixing my own detergent, but you make it sound so easy (and economical). This is a great idea and one that I’ll definitely try out when our current detergent gets low. Thanks for the step by step instructions!

Reply

Sharon April 12, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Does this also work in a high efficiency (HE) washer? If not, does anyone know of a homemade recipe that would? I don’t know the difference, I just know that since we got our new washer, I have to buy the “HE” detergent instead of the regular.

Thanks!

Reply

Chris Taylor April 23, 2013 at 7:23 PM

Do not need to use HE. Just a marketing ploy. Have used Costco generic unscented for years in an HE machine. No problems. Just press the button and count to seven.

I would like to try this recipe though. Tempting.

Reply

Helen April 15, 2013 at 8:36 AM

Very clever stuff, with some great ideas, i’ve never thought of mixing my own detergent/ thank you for putting in the time and researching this.

Reply

Kristine April 23, 2013 at 1:25 PM

I don’t know where you are loated, however in Arizona, you can find the Zote Soap at the $0.99 Cent only Stores. They are about $0.59/bar.

Reply

Melanie May 28, 2013 at 7:51 PM

Someone above had said that borax is toxic and to clear it up, check out http://www.crunchybetty.com/getting-to-the-bottom-of-borax-is-it-safe-or-not. Borax is a naturally occurring boron mineral that is mined. Only on a very HIGH level would borax be toxic just like salt, baking soda, and water. Borax is NOT boric acid. I had some doubts about borax at first, and tried to stay away from it. After doing my own research, I decided borax was ok to use in natural cleaners without disrupting your hormones, and your body’s natural balance. Of course, everyone will have to make this decision on their own. But for me and my family, I think borax is ok to use.

Reply

trace June 19, 2013 at 6:49 PM

it’s not necessary to grate the soap. cut a bar into chunks, spread them out on a plate, zap on high in the microwave for about two minutes. let cool. the soap will expand a huge amount and look like a pile of shaving cream. you can transfer to a bowl and rub it into bits with your hands. very easy, and a lifesaver for tired hands. i promise that it will work. note: do NOT microwave more than one bar at a time… unless you have a ginormous oven… cheers, trace

Reply

Laura July 29, 2013 at 4:55 PM

I made a small batch of powdered soap a couple of weeks ago. I used only 1/3 bar of Fels Naptha soap, and I put it in the microwave. OMG the smell that came out of it was awful! I must have inhaled it right as I was taking it out of the microwave, because that’s all I could smell for 3 days! It was awful! Now I’m really leery to try the microwave method again. Not to mention, now every time I use the microwave, the smell of Fels Naptha comes out a little bit.

However, I’ve found that I have an awesome blender! I can cut the soap into small chunks, toss them into the blender and put it on the Crumb setting. I do have to stop it a few times and push the stuff back down into the bottom because it sticks to the sides, but it’s still way faster and easier than grating it.

Reply

hannah June 22, 2013 at 4:41 PM

Good for you for cutting out nasty chemical filled store bought detergents and making your own!
I’m working my way through the last of my cheap detergent and then will be using a variation of this recipe. Definitely am not going to put the oxiclean in though, it’s not good stuff!

Reply

Lynnette July 2, 2013 at 12:44 PM

DIY laundry detergent is amazing! To answer your questions from my expierence and research (as a non professional, just a concerned mother trying to do her part)! So the ratings given on Oxi Clean Versatile Stain Remover, not the Free and Clear version on Good Guide and EWG were poor, so at first I ordered Seventh Generation oxygen bleach on Amazon and it was expensive! The two ingredients were sodium carbonate (washing soda) and sodium precarbonate (powdered hydrogen peroxide), both safe for your family, environment, and aquatic life (it breaks down to table salt). But than I found Sun Oxygen Bleach (at Walmart, Big Lots, commissaries, even Dollar Stores), and it has the same exact ingredients and is significantly cheaper than Oxyclean free and clear (which has the same ingredients and not the extra chemicals found in the Versatile Stain Remover version). As for Downy Unstoppables, they do smell heavenly, but are heavily scented and dyed (I imagine with those harsh chemicals we are avoiding)! So I use Purex Crystals, they are 87% natural and I believe are just Epsom salt (a natural water softener) and the scent (unfortunately that’s probably the 13% unnatural part). Like you said, they do not stick to clothes, so they really are not needed, but they are visually pleasing and do scent your laundry room! For those who want to stay clear of the chemicals in Fels Namptha (though that laundry bar is not kidding around- it takes out any stain!), I recommend Kirk’s Castille Soap for hard water (found in the body soap aisle for around $1 a piece), it does a great job and is the more natural alternative.

Reply

chanda July 5, 2013 at 3:05 PM

I am definitely going to try this. Will the detergent work in cold water, or should it be warm/hot?

Reply

Monie July 12, 2013 at 11:59 AM

I have made and used my liquid laundry detergent for about 10 years and have never looked back. The ingredients cost me about $5.00 per batch and one batch lasts me 6 months (I have two teenaged children to clean up after!). One batch is 5 gallons of concentrated soap that will be diluted by 50%. As far as fabric softener goes, I use one cup of white vinegar in my final rinse cycle. This takes out all the soap and leaves the clothes scent free.

Reply

Cristy July 17, 2013 at 9:49 AM

I’ve been using homemade laundry soap (powdered) for over a year now. I LOVE it! However, just recently, we’ve had some issues with smelly clothes, but not on every load. I’ve done some research and I think it may be using TOO much laundry soap. Anyone else have this issue and resolved it? What else could be causing my issue? Should I switch to something else with the clothes that are stinky, and then switch back??

Reply

Melissa July 25, 2013 at 1:43 PM

i’m curious… I just purchased the soap, had the borax from a slime project left over and thought I had the arm & hammer washing soda in my cupboards, but didn’t. do I HAVE to have the arm & hammer? I just don’t want to make another special trip to the store…. what are your thoughts? thank you.

Reply

amanda jarabek July 26, 2013 at 10:51 AM

a while back i had a woman make me homemade soap, it was a pasty type and i didnt really care for it because it wouldnt mix so i started obsessing on how to make my own. i made some a few months ago (powder kind) and it was with out the arm and hammer and oxyclean. it was okay but i didnt notice any difference in the clothes. So i found this and made it this morning. I threw my kids shower curtain in the wash because it was starting to get icky on the bottom and i am AMAZED. the icky is gone. I also washed my 1 year old nephews clothes and the food from last night is gone! love love love.
i will never buy store crap again.

Reply

Elizabeth August 8, 2013 at 1:38 PM

Can you make this into liquid detergent?

Reply

Annie December 23, 2013 at 12:21 AM

Elizabeth – there are TONS of variations on homemade liquid laundry soap out there – just google it :) I make only liquid as the powder makes me sneeze…….

Reply

Tricia September 2, 2013 at 6:24 PM

I am getting ready to make my second batch of homemade detergent. I’m a little concerned that my first batch only lasted about 2 1/2 months. I do at least 2 loads a day though and my son’s football and husband’s work clothes get very sweaty and dirty so I use a little less than 1/4 of a cup per load. My only problem is it doesn’t seem that our really dirty clothes get as clean as they should. I did add the box of oxy to my recipe but I’m curious if anyone has used biz stain and odor fighter instead of oxy? Suggestions? Opinions? Thank you in advance!

Reply

Laurie October 25, 2013 at 5:00 PM

My mom uses this recipe & really loves it. However, she used the cheaper Purex crystals instead of Downey Unstoppables, which Downey states is NOT softener. Just a scent booster. Also, she microwaved cut up pieces of the Zote. It expands and crumbles very easily. I just bought some for my house & sitting down to mix it up as an activity with my 9 yr old.

Reply

Annie December 23, 2013 at 12:17 AM

Just a quick note to all those who think fabric softener is being added: it’s not! The downy unstoppables are only a scent additive – not a fabric softener;) Love making my own laundry soap :)

Reply

Annie December 23, 2013 at 12:18 AM

oops laurie – missed your comment….great minds think alike!

Reply

Amy December 30, 2013 at 6:46 AM

Does this laundry soap work on ‘he” washers? I can’t wait to try it. My sister-in-law swears by this soap!

Reply

Jenn January 8, 2014 at 1:57 PM

I see that you can now buy zote soap flakes. I’m wondering how much of the soap flakes I would use instead of having to grate the bars?

Reply

Living like a homesteader February 28, 2014 at 6:02 PM

Is the quantity right for baking soda? The box in your picture isn’t a four pound box.

Reply

Christa knox April 8, 2014 at 1:37 PM

Have been making for years. Leave out the baking soda, all it does is counteract or neutralize the washing soda and make the washing soda less effective. So by leaving out bake soda it works ALOT better. Because the washing soda remains very strong, that’s the simplest way to explain it without going into the chemistry behind it, the pH etc…. I am a science major.

Reply

Erin April 12, 2014 at 12:33 PM

I ♡♡♡♡ homemade detergent!! This recipe is very similar to what I make. I started a natural soap business in 2009 and quickly accumulated lots of leftover soap scraps and ends. I gave a bunch away to shelters, but still had a lot. Making my own detergent has solved the problem and also saved me a lot of money. As a former Tide addict, I find that my homemade blend works even better at getting out stains and leaving behind nothing but freshness. Also, a scrap of traditionally made cold process soap is THE best stain remover ever!! If you’ve never tried making your own (or, if you dont want to make it- use someone elses), you should. The results are so worth it!

Reply

MyLittleEye May 17, 2014 at 10:24 AM

In the UK My first home made soap powder effort uses shop bought Dri-Pak pure soap flakes however I now put aside the remains of Wrights ‘Coal tar’ soap and am considering carbolic soap for future use since carbolic is mildly disinfectant/de-odourant.

My partner who is Japanese refuses to suffer my kitchen chemistry, preferring to trust in the cheapest manufactured washing powder for her own things. She also scoffs at my use of vinegar as softner/conditioner.

Interestingly her dismissal of any kind of conditioner is cultural. She assures me that crisp, hard fabrics, towels etc. are preferred in Japan since it’s indicative that they are clean and unused. Her perspective is that our need for clothes to be softened is a contrivance of western advertisers to market yet another unnecessary laundry product.
I tend to agree but at least the vinegar helps prevent limescale :-)

Reply

Kathy June 12, 2014 at 2:33 PM

My recipe is similar to everyone’s except I do not use downy unstopables due allergies and is strictly powder because I don’t like the liquid. I always make 3 to 6 batches at once and 3 batches fits nicely in a coffee can and I have a smaller container in the laundry room I refill from the cans as needed. One day I will eventually make enough to last our family a whole year if not longer but a full coffee can lasts my family 5 to 6 months. AWESOME SAVINGS!
1 bar fels-naptha
1 cup super washing soda
1 cup borax
1 cup regular baking soda (added suds/odor reducer)

I manually shred the fels, add one cup each dry ingredient and let my food processor do the rest of the work. I used to use a coffee grinder to make it an ultra fine powder but I finally overworked it and it broke …ooops. NEVER use a regular blender to mix this product I have killed 4 blenders the motor just isn’t strong enough to handle the dry ingredients.

White vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser is equal to name brand fabric softeners and eliminates the need to clean your HE washer each month; A lot of people with HE washers are very paranoid about using anything that isn’t commercially labeled as HE safe but I have had my HE washer for 2 years now and once I saw the price tag on HE detergents determined I needed to cut corners immediately.

Reply

Summer June 16, 2014 at 9:19 AM

Im a wannabe homesteader and this was my first foray into it !. I gathered all the ingredients and then got out my regular blender added alittle of the baking soda so my soap would not sitck to the blender, cut up my soap in chunks and hit pulse. That made fast work out of it and the grater became obsolete quick. I was also thinking that if you use a grater and wash in cold water that soap may not dissolve quickly or evenly. I layered the ingedients in a 5 gallon free icing bucket I got from the Kroger bakery and mixed it up. Smelled great ! So here comes the test my husband and sons dirty socks and underwear and general laundry. I used the scoop that came with the oxy clean and put 2 scoops in the bottom and then washed on warm. I’m here to tell everyone that it actually worked. My clothes were not stinky but soft, there is no smell left after I took them out of the dryer. I am not used to that so I was worried ??? Geez, they didn’t get clean because they weren’t over perfumed. I’m elated and someething so simple and cheap fills the bill. After the big success with the recipe I did find and use homemade softener, oh yeah that worked too. We have all been conditioned to think that sudsy means clean. I’m still getting used the no suds and not much smell but thanks to everyone who commented for the good tips. I might in the future buy a small box of commercial powder to add to the mix for alittle suds and smell. I love the recipe. Now go try it.

Reply

Bev June 22, 2014 at 11:45 PM

How did you decide to only use 1 Tbsp? If you look at the individual ingredients and add them up you’d use almost a cup of products. I made this using oxyclean and fels naphtha. I upped the amount to 2 Tbsp in an HE miele washer, but I really don’t think it does a very good job on my kids’ clothes they use for working on the farm. Do you have any suggestions to improve performance on mud and dirt?

Reply

salama sheyin July 24, 2014 at 2:05 PM

thanks for sharing. are you saying that the quantity of ingredients you showed in the picture above is able to last one for quite o long time as in your case a whole year? and is safe to wash your baby’s laundry too

Reply

Rachel July 30, 2014 at 2:47 PM

I just made my first batch today. I’m going to use a different soap bar, because the fels-naptha contains too many hard to pronounce words, which never sound good to me. We have sensitive skin due to fragrances, so I’m always spending more on fragrance free laundry soaps. My local store stopped carrying the cheaper brands, so now I have to buy the more expensive brands. I like the homemade recipe because it eliminates those chemical fragrances. I read if you want natural fragrance then use essential oils.

Reply

cp October 24, 2014 at 5:45 PM

The ingredients that concern me are the fabric softener and the soaps. Zote contains an optical whitener, and Fels Naptha contains all kinds of nasties. I’d use a basic soap instead if you must use soap. (I don’t usually use soap because it can leave behind residue; I use a bit of dishwashing detergent when needed instead) The baking soda only dilutes the power of the detergent. Use washing soda instead.

Reply

bianca October 30, 2014 at 6:05 PM

Hello! I really want to try this homemade detergent but i want to ask you if its good to use with whites, coloures and delicate as well? And if it is a difference can you please specify the quantity i should use for each load(whites, coloures, delicates). Many thanks!

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 3 trackbacks }