Let me start by saying I was a little skeptical about the whole DIY laundry detergent thing. I don’t spend big bucks on detergent–I wait for a sale and use a coupon, and up to this point I was pretty satisfied with that. But since so many Sisters and Misters seemed interested, I was willing to do some investigating to see if I could find an effective, inexpensive detergent recipe that wasn’t a total pain in the hiney to make.
That final criteria was important to me, because my time is every bit as valuable as my money. One of the biggest complaints I heard from people who had made their own detergent was that it took too long, especially shredding the bar soap. I found a few awesome hints that took the pain out of making it yourself–it took me about 15 minutes of active prep time to make this giant batch. I made my first batch six months ago, and I’m just now ready to make a new one (that’s for my family of 6, and includes my bad habit of leaving laundry in the washer overnight and having to re-wash occasionally! )
Before you ask, this detergent can be used in front-load HE machines. It can also be used in the older top-load kind. Just be aware that it is very low-sudsing, so don’t expect tons of bubbles. I found it to clean comparably with store-bought detergents, but you use a much smaller amount because it’s all cleaning agents and no filler.
So without any further ado, I am pleased to present:
The Easiest DIY Laundry Soap Recipe Ever
Here’s what you need:
- 1 Box of Borax (72 oz)
- 1 Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (55 oz)
- 1 Container of OxiClean (3 lb) *optional–see note later
- 2 Bars of Fels-Naptha Soap (5.5 oz each)
- 2-4 lbs Baking Soda (regular sized boxes in baking dept., or big box in laundry dept.)
You can find all these in the laundry aisle at Walmart, near the stain treaters.
Here’s the super cool time & energy-saving trick that makes grating the soap tons easier: Unwrap the Fels-Naptha soap and microwave at 30-second intervals until it gets all puffy. The puffiness makes the dense soap much simpler to grate to the fine texture that’s needed for easy dissolving. Allow the soap to cool completely before grating or it’ll get clumpy.
Chop the cooled soap into chunks and place into a food processor one bar at a time. Add about 1/4 cup of the baking soda to keep the soap from clumping together. (You can also use a hand grater for this part, but it’ll take a little longer. Still easier with the puffy soap than if you had a regular bar.)
Process until it’s really finely grated, resembling the texture of cornmeal. The more finely grated the soap is, the better it’ll dissolve in your washing machine, especially in cold water.
You can mix and store this in a large (3+ gallon) air-tight container with a lid. If you plan to store it in smaller containers or want an easier way to mix it, just dump all the ingredients into a heavy-duty trash bag and shake it around. Be careful with jewelry, fingernails, or other sharp objects, and don’t use a bargain bag–you don’t want this bag breaking! If you mix in a large container, add the ingredients 1/4 of each at a time, mixing each layer before adding more of each ingredient; it’ll make for a more even distribution of all the ingredients throughout. Store it somewhere cool without a lot of moisture, as moisture in the air could cause it to cake up.…and there you have it: Easy homemade laundry soap. Store it in an airtight container, like the one above, away from moisture. I used the OxiClean container for the detergent I’ll use on a daily basis, and filled two more gallon zip-top bags to store the rest until I give it to the people I’ll be sharing with (they can find their own containers! )
Use 1-2 tablespoons per load, depending on load size and soil level. If your soap is grated finely enough, it should dissolve in any temperature of water. It will work in HE washers–just make sure you have the dispenser adjusted for powdered detergent (if yours adjusts). If you find that it doesn’t get adequately rinsed out of the dispenser, just put it in with the clothes. For regular washers, start the water first then add detergent so it can start dissolving before you add clothes.
Was it worth it?
Depending on how much baking soda you use, this should yield around 30 cups of detergent. If you use an average of 1.5 tablespoons per load, it should last you about 160 loads. If your loads are smaller/less dirty and you stick to the 1 tablespoon, you could get as many as 240 loads out of one batch! Like I said earlier, this has lasted our family of six just over 6 months. This batch cost just over $18 to make, so an average of 7.5¢ to 11¢ per load. Next time I’ll probably get the off-brand OxiClean, which would save a few bucks, and another 1¢-2¢ per load. Occasionally I’m really lucky and find store-bought detergent at around that price, but those deals are few and far-between, and aren’t usually on fragrance-free products. I didn’t spend any more time making this than I’d typically spend clipping detergent coupons and looking for deals, so for me it’s a reasonable trade-off. As long as I continue to be satisfied with the way it cleans, I’d make it again!
A few variations:
- You can substitute Zote bar soap for the Fels-Naptha if you can’t find it or you prefer the scent/color. (Zote is pink)
- If you’re making it for baby clothes or someone with very sensitive skin, you can substitute bars of Ivory soap.
- If you like more scent to your detergent, you can add a bottle of Purex Crystals or Downy Unstopables. (I didn’t because of sensitive skin in my family)
- The baking soda is optional, but helps to eliminate odors. Add as much as you’d like–you can play around with the amounts.
- The OxiClean is also optional. It’s the most expensive part of the recipe by a long shot ($7.52 at my Walmart, almost as much as the rest of the ingredients combined!) If you’ve got a household full of relatively un-messy adults, I’d just make the recipe without, and keep some OxiClean (or other laundry booster) on hand to add to the occasional messy load. But I have 4 kids ages 7 and under (3 soccer players and an independent-minded toddler who likes to feed himself) so most loads I do have messy clothes, and I don’t always catch things to pre-treat them individually. The stain-fighting insurance was worth it to me–you can decide for yourself!
Have you tried our other handy DIY home cleaning recipes? I might be a little biased, but I’m in love with them! :)
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**I searched tons of sites and Pinterest for what works best, but I found this recipe and comments from How Does She to be particularly helpful–thanks!
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