How To Make Homemade Laundry Detergents

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Opt for homemade laundry detergents to save your pennies and the environment.

If you want to save money and be kinder to the environment, try making homemade laundry detergent. There are many benefits to making your own detergent.

First, it’s kinder on the environment. You reduce plastic packaging, as well as the release of chemicals into the atmosphere. A University of Washington study found that top-selling laundry detergents contain hazardous chemicals, including acetone, the active ingredient in paint thinner and nail-polish remover (1). If you find yourself getting headaches from your laundry detergent, this could be why.

The next benefit is that you save money. We’ll breakdown the costs in this article so you can see exactly how much money you’ll save. Saving money doesn’t mean sacrificing the effectiveness of your current detergent.

These homemade recipes work just as well as your regular detergent to clean your clothes. The ingredients we’ve chosen are great cleaning agents, so we’re sure you’ll be happy with these homemade laundry detergent recipes!

Make Powder Homemade Laundry Detergent

Grate one bar of organic soap and mix it with 14 ounces of Borax and 14 ounces of washing soda, until you have a fine powder. Store in an airtight container. On laundry day, use one tablespoon per load. This recipe is enough for 62 loads of laundry and only costs $2.80 to make.


How To Make Homemade Powder Laundry Detergent

If you like using powder detergent, it can stay that way. You don’t have to switch to a liquid formula when making your own. Making powder laundry detergent is easy and cheap.

What You Need:

Instructions:

  1. Grate the soap: Use a cheese grater to grate the soap chunks.
  2. Mix the ingredients: In a bucket that’s suitable for storage, mix together the soap, Borax, and washing soda. For a finer mixture that dissolves easily in water, toss the ingredients in the food processor. If using a food processor, let the dust settle before taking off the lid so you don’t breathe in the particles.
  3. Store it: Keep it in an airtight container to preserve it well. Keep a tablespoon in or near the bucket for measuring.

Cost Savings Breakdown For Powder Detergent

An awesome reason to make homemade laundry detergent is to save money. But exactly how much money are you going to save? Knowing that will help you determine if it’s worth your time.

First, let’s talk about how many loads of laundry this recipe can clean. One batch will be about 32 ounces. If you’re using about one tablespoon of detergent per load, you could wash up to 62 loads with this recipe.

Depending upon how dirty your laundry gets, you may use more detergent per load. If you used double the amount of detergent per load, you’d still get 31 loads of laundry clean with this recipe.

Compared to store-bought laundry detergents, let’s break down the cost.

For an eco-friendly brand, we took three laundry detergents, calculated the cost per load for each one, and took an average of the three costs. The results were that store-bought eco-friendly brands averaged out to cost 23 cents per load.

With the homemade laundry detergent recipe, the cost breakdown is this:

IngredientsAmountCost
Borax14 oz$0.96
Washing Soap14 oz$1.05
Ivory soap4 oz (1 bar)$0.79
Total per recipe32 oz (62 loads)$2.80
Cost per load = $0.05

Cost Savings

With your homemade powder laundry detergent, you could save approximately 18 cents per load of laundry compared to a store-bought brand. If you do five loads of laundry per week, you could save just over $46 per year. Plus, you’re watching out for your health and the environment.

How To Make Liquid Laundry Detergent

If you prefer liquid detergent to powder, it’s time to get cooking. This is a bit more of a science experiment, so if you want to play the part, you could get a fun lab coat for this.

Ingredients And Equipment:

  • Hot water.
  • 1 cup Borax.
  • 1 cup washing soda.
  • ½ cup baking soda.
  • 1 cup of lye-based bar soap (unless you’re cleaning cloth diapers).
  • 10-20 drops of essential oil (recommended: tea tree, lemon, eucalyptus, and lavender).
  • Dust mask.
  • Protective gloves.
  • 5-gallon bucket with lid.

Instructions

  1. Cut the bar soap: Using a knife, cut the bar soap into large chunks.
  2. Wear your protective gear: Put on your dust mask now so as not to inhale the fine powder. Wear your gloves, too, for extra measure. Because of the high alkaline levels, baking soda, washing soda, and Borax can irritate skin, so it’s best to stay covered (2).
  3. Grate the soap: Use a cheese grater or food processor to grate the soap into a fine powder. Let the dust settle before taking the lid off the food processor.
  4. Melt the soap: Put the grated soap into a pot. Pour in enough water to cover the soap and simmer on medium heat until all soap has melted. Stir occasionally.
  5. Pour the soup: Pour the melted soap into your large bucket.
  6. Mix the ingredients: Add the Borax, washing soda, and baking soda to the bucket and mix it up, until the ingredients are combined.
  7. Add hot water: Fill the bucket with hot water, leaving only 5 inches at the top. Keep mixing the ingredients. You can use a ruler or another long household item for this part.
  8. Let it cool: Let the mixture cool all the way down.
  9. Add essential oils: If you’re scenting your homemade laundry detergent with oils, add them once the mixture has cooled completely. Add 10 to 20 drops depending on your preference.
  10. Leave overnight: The mixture needs to transform into a gel-like consistency, so leave it overnight to do so. The gel will be thin and gloopy, a bit like store-bought liquid detergent.
  11. Transport into bottles: You can leave the detergent in the bucket, if you have the space, or you can funnel it into smaller bottles. This is a great use of your old laundry detergent bottles so you aren’t wasting any plastic. Make sure to keep the detergent out of reach of children and pets.
  12. Use it on laundry day: Give it a good shake or stir before using it. Use ½ cup to one cup per load, depending on your machine.

Cost Savings Breakdown For Liquid Detergent

It’s important to see how much money you’re saving to decide whether to use liquid or powder homemade laundry detergent.

Let’s analyze the costs of store-bought liquid detergent compared to this homemade recipe.

We took three eco-friendly liquid laundry detergents and averaged the cost per load. The results averaged out to 20 cents per load.

With this homemade laundry detergent recipe, you make up to 640 ounces of detergent, which is up to 160 loads of laundry if you use ½ cup every time.

Detailed breakdown:

IngredientsAmountCost
Borax8 oz (1 cup)$0.53
Washing Soap8 oz (1 cup)$0.60
Baking Soda4 oz (0.5 cup)$0.15
Lye-based soap4 oz (1 bar)$4.66
Essential oil10 drops$0.05
WaterFill up to the brim (about 615 oz)
Total per recipe640 oz = 5 gal (160 loads)5.99
Cost per load = $0.04

We did not include the cost of the mask, gloves, or bucket as you can reuse these items.

Cost Savings

With your homemade liquid laundry detergent, you could save approximately 16 cents per load of laundry. If you did five loads of laundry a week, you’d save over $41 a year.

Additional Tips

We’ll share some additional tips about washing with homemade laundry detergent so you aren’t left in the dark on this new journey.

  • Label, label, label: You might think this is a silly tip, but it’s easy to forget the ingredients you put in your detergent. Label your detergents so remember what’s in there. Plus, this makes it easier for making the recipe again.
  • Watch for the ingredients in the store: Although all of these items can be bought on Amazon, look in your local grocery store for the ingredients. Try an international grocery store if you can’t find them.
  • Wash hot or cold: This homemade laundry detergent is amazing because it can clean your clothes at a hot or cold temperature. If you’re aiming to be as eco-friendly as possible, use cold water on laundry day.
  • Add homemade fabric softener: There’s no point in making your own laundry detergent only to use store-bought fabric softener. Simply add ½ cup of distilled white vinegar to the final rinse of your load as a non-toxic softener for your clothes.
  • Low on storage space: If you live in an apartment, you might be low on storage space. You could opt for powder detergent over liquid as it takes up a lot less space.

Homemade Laundry Detergent FAQs

Still not convinced? We’ll answer the most commonly asked questions about homemade laundry detergent.

Is Liquid Better than Powder Detergent?

Store-bought liquid detergent might be better than powder because of its stain removal power, convenience, and ability to dissolve in water (3). However, when it comes to homemade laundry detergent, powder or liquid, there are fewer drawbacks to both types.

Store-bought liquid detergent might be better at getting out oily stains than powder detergent because of the alcohol ethoxylates. Your homemade laundry detergent doesn’t have this as an ingredient.

The main difference between liquid and powder detergent is that the liquid kind will dissolve better in the machine, since it’s already diluted with water.

However, your homemade powder detergent will dissolve fine, as well. Sometimes, store-bought powder detergent contains an ingredient called sodium sulphate which can clump up and damage washing machines. Our recipe does not contain this, so the powder can easily dissolve.

When deciding whether to make powder or liquid detergent, it comes down to convenience, storage, and cost.

How Do You Make Homemade Laundry Detergent Smell Good?

Essential oils will do the trick. Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that retain the smell of its source (4). They have many benefits, including their function in the laundry room.

Essential oils to use in your laundry detergent:

  • Lemon: Lemon oil smells lovely, plus it has the ability to disinfect.
  • Eucalyptus: If someone in the family has been sick, add 10 to 20 drops of eucalyptus oil to remove germs (5).
  • Tea tree: Tea tree oil is an antiseptic so it’s great for washing sheets, or rags that you use to clean your home (6).
  • Lavender: Lavender is a calming scent, so it’s great for washing clothes, especially sheets (7). There’s no better way to end the day than wrapped up in lavender scented bedding.

Pro Tip

Add 10 to 20 drops of essential oils into your bucket of liquid laundry detergent, or add a few drops to the fabric softener dispenser when using powder detergent. A little goes a long way.

What Does Baking Soda Do To Laundry?

So, you want to know the science behind baking soda. Baking soda is an alkaline, meaning it can neutralize acids (8).

If you have an item of clothing stained with vomit or urine, baking soda is alkaline enough to neutralize those acids and remove odor. The alkaline quality of baking soda also allows it to break up and remove stains in an all-natural way.

Is Borax In Homemade Laundry Detergent Toxic?

You may have heard rumors that Borax might be toxic. In the wrong context, Borax can be toxic.

This might surprise you since Borax is a natural product, also known as sodium tetraborate. However, just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s 100 percent safe.

Studies have found that Borax can be damaging if inhaled or ingested. This has led to irritation, hormone problems, organ damage, and even death (9).

However, Borax can be awesome and completely safe if used appropriately.

Follow these safety tips to use Borax in laundry detergent without consequences:

  • Don’t inhale: Always wear your dust mask when dealing with Borax.
  • Don’t eat it: It might seem obvious, but do not eat Borax.
  • Wear gloves: Always wear gloves when handling Borax to avoid skin irritation.
  • Clean up: After you’ve made and used your laundry detergent, make sure to clean up your area.
  • Wash your hands: Even though you wore gloves, wash your hands after being in contact with Borax.
  • Fully rinse and dry clothes: When using homemade laundry detergent with Borax, fully rinse and dry the clothes before wearing them.
  • Keep away from pets and children: Swallowing between five and ten grams of Borax can be fatal for children. Please keep away from them. Don’t use on the ground for fear of pets ingesting Borax.
  • Keep away from your face: When using Borax, don’t wipe your face with your hands. You want to keep Borax as far away as possible from your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover any wounds: Borax can get absorbed into open wounds, so keep those wounds covered to avoid any side effects from using Borax.

If you closely follow this advice, you won’t need to worry when whipping up your homemade laundry detergent.

Monitor Your Reaction

If you find your skin is irritated or you have any other symptoms, stop using Borax immediately.

How Do You Make HE Laundry Detergent?

If you have a high-efficiency washer, you use HE laundry detergent. However, these homemade laundry detergent recipes will work perfectly with your HE washing machine.

Why? Because they don’t have any sudsing agents which aren’t good for HE washers (10).

All you have to change is the amount you put into your washing machine. For larger machines, simply double the amount of detergent you use.

If you have a top loading washer, add the detergent to the drum before adding the clothes. For a front loading HE washer, you can add the liquid detergent to the dispenser. If you choose to use powdered detergent, add it to the drum before putting in your laundry.

Quick Tip

Dissolve the powder detergent with one cup of warm water before adding it to the drum if you notice your HE washer is unable to fully dissolve your powder detergent.

Get Clean With Homemade Laundry Detergents

These recipes for homemade laundry detergent are easy, eco-friendly, and better for your health. Be sure to follow the safety instructions and wear your protective, yet somewhat unflattering, gear.

Once you’ve made your detergent, you’ll be saving lots of money in the long run, which is always a bonus. Plus, your clothes will be just as clean as they were with store-bought detergent.

Headshot of Beth

About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a 20-something freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!
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