I have tried a few recipes for do-it-yourself homemade laundry detergent. It sure saves a lot of money and can get your cost down to pennies per load!
The first recipe I tried was for liquid detergent. I experimented and modified the Family Homestead recipe to my liking by using different quantities of ingredients. I used this recipe for a couple of years, but noticed after a while, it gunked up my washer. If you like liquid soap, try this recipe, but keep up on the gunk… Add vinegar on a regular basis and scrub the “wring-around-the-tub” often. If you keep up with it, you won’t end up with the ring of gunk that took all my strength to scrub away. I didn’t notice until it was too late! After that debacle, I took a break from making detergent. A few months later, I noticed some spots of irritated skin, and my pajamas were often itchy, so I found another recipe…
The second recipe is for a powder detergent. I found this recipe on Pinterest, and modified the ingredients, and made my own softener crystals. I’ve been using this version for a month or so, and will report back with thoughts as I have them. Right now, I am really liking recipe 2 because it took much less time to make at the outset.
DIY Liquid Laundry Detergent
(makes approx. 72 cups)
- 5 gallon bucket with lid
- 1 bar Fels Naptha or other type of solid laundry bar soap
- 2 cups washing soda
- 2 cups Borax powder
- Essential oil to fragrance (optional)
Grate the solid laundry bar soap — This is the hardest part! If you have an appliance with a grating attachment, please use it to spare your hands this repetitive stress! Whew, it’s a workout. I have a cheap electric grater, and it really taxes the motor, but I use it anyway. Use the fine grate because it helps with the next step…
Melt the grated soap — In a large saucepan, add 6 cups water and the grated soap. Heat until the soap shreds melt completely. Stir frequently and keep your eye on it because if it boils over, it makes a huge sticky mess.
Add the powder ingredients to the melted soap — Measure two cups of the washing soda and two cups of the Borax into the saucepan and stir until it is dissolved.
Remove from heat, add hot water, pour into bucket — Pour 4 cups hot water into your bucket, then add the soap mixture and stir. Next, add hot water 1 gallon at a time, taking time to stir and incorporate, until you reach around 4″ from top of 5-gallon bucket .
Let the soap cool — Stir the soap mixture in the bucket periodically while it cools. Your liquid laundry soap will be ready to use in 24 hours. When cool, it resembles a gel. I used around 1 cup per load.
The breakdown: $1.22 (solid laundry soap bar) + $0.92 (washing soda) + $0.71 (borax) = $2.85 + Idaho sales tax = $3.02 / 72 cups (approx.) = $0.04 per load
DIY Powdered Laundry Detergent
(makes approx. 254 ounces)
- Large container with lid (needs to hold about 17 pounds of powder, which filled my 5-gallon bucket about 5/8 of the way to the top)
- 2 bars Fels Naptha (5.5 oz. each), or similar solid laundry bar soap
- 1 box Borax (4 lbs. 12 oz.)
- 1 box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (3 lbs. 7 oz.)
- 1 box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (4 lbs.)
- 1 tub OxiClean (3 lbs.)
- Fabric Softener Crystals (optional)
Grate the solid laundry bar soap — As with recipe 1, this is the hardest part! Use your electric grater, the grater/slicer attachment for your KitchenAid, or food processor, etc. It will save you much repetitive stress on your hands. If you have arthritis, you know that even the simplest tasks in the kitchen can be a chore when your fingers don’t work quite right! Use a fine grater to help the shreds dissolve easily in the laundry tub.
Next, I decided to make my own softener crystals, to moderate success. I don’t know if you look at ingredients lists like I do, but the commercial softener crystals that are hitting the market are loaded with toxic, cancer-causing junk; synthetic fragrance is just the tip of the iceberg!
To make my crystals, I used one cup Epsom salt and one cup course sea salt. Salt is good at softening water. I layered the salt on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, then poured about one cup of lavender extract over the crystals. I just happened to have a pint of lavender extract made up in my cold storage pantry, but you can use essential oils, or just add the salts to your mixture. You can keep these crystals separate to add to each load, or just add them to the entire mix, which is what I decided to do.
Heat crystals in the oven on low (my oven’s low temp is 170˚) until the lavender extract dries with the salt. I know that is pretty vague, but set the timer in 10-minute increments, and stir the crystals around when you check. It’s a little like dehydrating in your oven.
[Side note: It's really easy to make extract; there's no reason to buy it ever again! I make mine in quart Mason jars, and add about half jar of dry ingredients (in this case, organic lavender buds, but you could use vanilla beans, lemon zest, coffee beans, sky is the limit, etc.), then cover by at least 2 inches with 100 proof Vodka. Here is a more in-depth instructional on making your own extracts and tinctures.]
In a 5-gallon bucket, or other large container with lid, pour the ingredients of all your boxes, tubs, grated soap shreds, and softening crystals. Please try to avoid breathing the fine dust that will be floating around as a product of this step. Use a face mask, or at the very least, hold a clean dish towel over your mouth. Your lungs are precious! Protect them!
If you are wearing a mask and feel confident, you can layer the ingredients like a lasagna over and over, until incorporated; this will save some mixing labor. Then, I put the lid on securely and shook the bucket like a maniac for a minute or so, and VOILA! your powdered laundry detergent is ready to use!
I keep a smaller container handy on my laundry shelf, and store the bulk in my 5-gallon bucket. You can use as little as 2 tablespoons (1/8 cup) per load, but most of the time, I use 1/4 cup. The powders and grated soap dissolve very well. I have only had one incident over dozens of loads where I noticed any remnants of powder and grated soap, and that was when I overloaded my washer with a burlap table skirt which I made, and let me tell you, that was a disaster! If you used a fine grater, the bits that don’t dissolve, go out with the dirty tub water.
The breakdown: $2.44 (2 qty. solid laundry bar soap) + $3.38 (borax) + $3.17 (washing soda) + $2.12 (baking soda) + $7.47 (oxiclean) = $18.58 + Idaho sales tax = $19.69 / approximately 254 ounces = $0.078 per ounce = $0.078 per load if you use 2 tablespoons, or 1/8 cup
Thank you for reading! Please let me know your thoughts and experiences so we can all improve our DIY projects! Best wishes, —Betty