Easiest DIY Laundry Soap Recipe Ever!

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:

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! :)


Wrinkle release

Homemade Wrinkle Release Spray

Vinegar & Dawn: Soap Scum cleaner, Carpet spot treater, and much more!

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Versatile Vinegar: tons of uses for vinegar all over the house, plus a recipe for great-smelling Orange Infused vinegar

Make your own Washing Soda from Baking Soda!


Pin this post so you’ll have it handy for later use, and don’t forget to Follow Sisters Shopping on a Shoestring on Pinterest to see all our best tips & tricks, along with the things we love from around the web!

**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!


Coupons procured by Savings.com

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  1. Melissa says

    love it!! will definitely try this! my friend found the BEST tub cleaner on Pinterest…… works better on soap scum than any store bought i have ever tried: put equal parts warm white vinegar and blue dawn ( i used the ultra) in a spray bottle and spray in tub. If your soap scum build up is REALLY bad you may need to wait up to an hour, other wise let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes, then i use a (generic) mr. clean eraser and its gone! after the initial cleaning, i now just use about 75% vinegar and 25% dawn for the weekly cleaning. the vinegar only needs to be warm when you first mix up the batch. we have an older plastic tub and i have tried everything….. they always seem to work good the first time and then after that it would be a half hour ordeal and 2 mr. clean erasers to clean the thing. plus, so much safer since its vinegar and blue dawn, which we all know they use to clean the ducks up!!! lol!

    • Megan says

      Thanks for sharing, Melissa! I think Sara uses a vinegar/Dawn mix to mop her floors too :) I read an interesting ebook about minimalist cleaning (I’ll keep an eye out for when it’s a Kindle Freebie again and post it!)…but basically the author had about 6-7 simple ingredients that could pretty much clean everything in the whole wide world. They included vinegar, borax, ammonia, and Magic Erasers. I’ll probably be sharing some of those simple recipes as I continue to post more DIY stuff!

      • Sheila says

        I love the Dawn and vinegar cleaner. It easily removes soap scum and leaves the tub looking and feeling so clean. The homemade detergent is the most awesome product ever! Finally, we have clothes that do not smell bad after being washed in our HE washing machine. I use more than 2 tablespoons. I use the oxyclean scoop and use either a full or half scoop depending on the load. It’s fantastic!

  2. Emily says

    The vinegar/dawn cleaning combo has revolutionized my bathroom cleaning!! Spray it on, catch up on a DVR show, wipe/rinse it off, sit back and enjoy the sparkle!

    Can anyone tell me if clothes are more prone to fading with the homemade laundry detergent? I want to try it but I wear a lot of washable dress clothes and quite a bit of my wardrobe is black and I would hate to have to replace clothes faster because of fading . . . it would defeat the purpose of saving $ on the homemade detergent.

    THANKS for the great recipe!

    • Megan says

      I didn’t see many complaints about fading as I checked out several different homemade recipes, but I haven’t used this long enough to comment from personal experience. Anyone else?? I agree that if it made clothes fade faster, it would defeat the purpose!

    • Sheila says

      I haven’t noticed any fading with my clothes. Our clothes haven’t smelled this clean in a long time. I do believe it is the baking soda that eliminates the odors.

  3. Shell says

    I havent made this version with the baking soda and oxyclean. My clothes looked dingy with the other recipe and it didn’t take out BO. I hope it wasn’t the reason my HE washer drain pump stopped working. Make sure you run a clean washer load once a week to remove the soap buildup from the bar soap. It is a nice soap in a pinch. I guess I’ll give this new recipe a spin and see if its better than my version.

    • Megan says

      The baking soda is supposed to be an odor-eliminator, so hopefully that will help. Like I said in the post, the Oxiclean is optional, but it seems to be a good cleaning booster–to me it seems convenient to have it all mixed in and not have an extra step. I’ll keep an eye on the soap buildup–that didn’t seem to be an issue as I read through the comments on other sites, although people did mention that the more finely the soap is grated, the better it dissolves.

    • syndi says

      If you have hard water, the bar soap may buid up and make your clothes dingy. Add to the mix 1/3 – 1/2 the amount of one of the main ingredients of Epsom Salts (ie. if you use 55oz of washing soda, then add about 18 to 27 oz of salt) I would start with less rather than more.
      Megan – microwaving the bar soap?! I don’t know how you figured that one out, but it is GENIUS!!!

      • Megan says

        Thanks for the Epsom salt trick! My water isn’t particularly hard, but that’s a good tip for those who have hard water. I can’t really take too much credit for the microwaving tip–as I researched all the different recipes out there, that was one of the tricks I stumbled across, and it made a HUGE difference in grating the soap (which is usually the most laborious part of the process). Microwaving and using the food processor made it easy peasy (and it looks cool too!)

  4. Rachael says

    I started trying to make homemade cleaning supplies and laundry detergent due to my daughter’s bad asthma. I use the same exact laundry detergent and I love the smell of the fels naptha. My house smells so wonderfful when I make it. I also use the dawn and vinegar daily. I do not scrub, I just shower with it and it cleans like a dream. I use murphy’s oil, water and lavander oil to clean my appliances. Vinegar that has orange peels in it to clean my counters works wonderful. I use olive oil water and orange oil to dust and vinegar, water and orange oil to clean my windows and mirrors. I am not one of those people that insist on everything being all natural. I will tell you though, my house smells wonderful and is cleaner than ever and I have pretty mush eliminated the indoor pollution for my kids and I am very happy about that. Also, my bank accoiunt is happy too since this way is a lot cheaper and lasts longer.

  5. Kristie says

    I just tried this recipe over the weekend. My family LOVES it! I have a family of 6 and this will save on my budget. I will be trying the dishwasher detergent next.

    • Megan says

      Glad it works for you, Kristie! My family of 6 has been using it for over a month, and I think we’ve used around 1/6 of the big batch. So I’m thinking two batches will last me almost a year–I’m pretty happy with that!

    • Megan says

      Tammy, the ingredients are pretty simple, and with the option of leaving out fragrances, you can control some of the “extras” that might be found in store-bought detergents. Plus using the small amount I think helps because even if something might irritate sensitive skin, it’s in a pretty small quantity. I’ve seen plenty of people say they used this detergent on baby clothes and with people with sensitive skin with good results. If your kiddos have super sensitive skin, it might be worth making a smaller batch just to start, or even try testing their tolerance for the individual ingredients. Overall, I think your chances are pretty good on this, but it may vary by person. Hope this helps! :)

      • Tammy R says

        Thanks for the info. Also I wanted to share the awsome so totally shoe string worthy deal I got yesterday on laundry soap. Is there a section I can share that?

        • Megan says

          A good place might be in the comments of the weekly matchup for the store you shopped, so that other people looking for deals at that store would see it in the comments. Thanks for sharing! :)

      • Elizabeth W. says

        My daughter has very sensitive skin and couldn’t tolerate the Fels Napthe soap so I use Dove unscented which doesn’t bother her at all! I have been making our own laundry soap for 4 years now and we LOVE it!

        • Megan says

          I’ve heard of people having a lot of luck with both Dove and Ivory soap for super sensitive skin. Definitely nice to have options!

        • Linda Bolt says

          I think it’s better to try another soap other than Fels Naphtha. I have read that Fels Naphtha’s ingredients include a known carcinogen. It’s not something I would want to use on a regular basis.

    • Trish says

      Didn’t read all the comments but I get the “oxy” from the Dollar Store. Works great, costs much less, if cost is an issue.

  6. Nickole says

    I made this yesterday. I’m in love already. The only thing I did different was to add some of the purex smell crystal things, (I don’t know the proper name)

    • Megan says

      Those or the Downy Unstoppables are great to add some fragrance to it if you prefer more of a scented detergent. We have some sensitive skin here, so we skip that, but I also think it makes it look prettier too! (not that that’s really important, but still… ;) )

  7. Kate says

    Try buying the oxy clean at sams club it cost $16 for 11.7 pounds compared to 7.56 for 3 pounds at Walmart making the same amount at sams club cost around $4 per three pounds. If you have friends wanting to use this recipe you can split it between 4 recipes.

  8. says

    Hi Megan! I like trying recipes for natural cleaners and I am currently using some homemade bathroom scrubs and all-purpose cleaners but I am pretty skeptical about using a homemade laundry detergent. I am happy to find your post and read about what is your experience with cleaning with a homemade detergent! I am willing to try the recipe myself and see if it will work good for me too! Thank you for sharing! Greetings!

  9. Penny Roche says

    One thing everyone needs to be aware of is that OxyClean type cleaners literally EAT real silk & wool….it does not say so on the containers, but I called the company when I had a wool rug I needed to clean & they explained that this stuff ‘sees’ silk & wool as a a protein stain & dissolves them…sure glad I called 1st….got this laundry soap recipe from my daughter & have used it ever since, love how it cleans my DH farming/ranch clothes, toddlers, teenagers, everybody’s clothes & dirt cheap (hehehe) hate to spend money on cleaning supplies instead of fun stuff & vinegar, ammonia, baking soda, etc. work better anyway. BTW, if you can train your family to rub off the bathtub ring as the water goes down while they are still sitting in the tub, it will completely eliminate the ring & it is quick and easy to do…just has to be done while the water drains so it doesn’t have time to stick to the tub.

    • Megan says

      I didn’t know that about OxiClean–I don’t have much wool or silk to worry about though. :) Thanks for sharing!

  10. Brenda Cooper says

    I love homemade laundry soap! Just started making it over the summer. I use 1 grated bar of Kirks, 1 cup washing soda, 1 cup borax…can I add a 1/2 cup of baking soda, and a 1/2 a cup of oxy clean?
    This is a great website…can’t wait to try some more of your cleaning recipes :-)


  1. […] Borax is such a key ingredient for “recipes” around the house. Grab some of that, some more washing soda, kosher salt and lemonade mix for this mixture. It couldn’t be any easier to get you dishes clean! All you really have to do is shake everything up! Make sure you label the bottles so you don’t mix them up with the laundry detergent!{found on sistersshoppingonashoestring}. […]

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