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How To Make Homemade Laundry Detergents

Updated
Homemade laundry detergent will 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.

Not only will you reduce plastic packaging, but it could minimize symptoms like headaches or irritated skin. Homemade laundry detergent is also more cost-effective. We’ll break down costs to show you how much money you’ll save.

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

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, 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:

  • 14 ounces of Borax.
  • 14 ounces of washing soda.
  • 1 bar of organic soap, such as Ivory bar soap.

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. Toss the ingredients in the food processor for a finer mixture that dissolves easily in water. If using a food processor, let the mixture 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

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.

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 20 cents per load.

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

Ingredients Amount Cost
Borax 14 oz $3.01
Washing Soap 14 oz $1.26
Ivory soap 4 oz (1 bar) $0.96
Total per recipe 32 oz (62 loads) $5.23
Cost per load = $0.08

Cost Savings

With your homemade powder laundry detergent, you could save approximately 12 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 $31 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: Cut the bar soap into large chunks using a knife.
  2. Wear your protective gear: Put on your dust mask now to avoid inhaling the fine powder. Wear your gloves, too. Because of the high alkaline levels, baking soda, washing soda, and Borax can irritate the skin, so it’s best to stay covered (1).
  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 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 five 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. The gel will be thin and gloopy, 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 an excellent 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 28 cents per load.

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

Detailed breakdown:

Ingredients Amount Cost
Borax 8 oz (1 cup) $1.76
Washing Soda 8 oz (1 cup) $0.72
Baking Soda 4 oz (0.5 cups) $0.24
Lye-based soap 4 oz (1 bar) $5.24
Essential oil 10 drops $0.15
Water Fill up to the brim (about 615 oz)
Total per recipe 640 oz = 5 gal (160 loads) 8.11
Cost per load = $0.05

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 23 cents per load of laundry. If you did five loads of laundry a week, you’d save about $60 a year.

Additional Tips

Here are 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 to make 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 fantastic because it can clean your clothes at a hot or cold temperature. If you aim 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 much less space.

Homemade Laundry Detergent FAQs

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 (2). 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. Sometimes, store-bought powder detergent contains an ingredient called sodium sulfate which can clump up and damage washing machines. Our recipe does not contain this, so the powder can easily dissolve.

Choosing whether to make powder or liquid detergent comes down to convenience, storage, and cost.

How Do You Make Homemade Laundry Detergent Smell Good?

Essential oils will do the trick. They are concentrated plant extracts that retain the smell of their source (3). 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 can disinfect.
  • Eucalyptus: If someone in the family has been sick, add 10 to 20 drops of eucalyptus oil to remove germs (4).
  • Tea tree: Tea tree oil is an antiseptic, so it’s great for washing sheets or cleaning cloths (5).
  • Lavender: Lavender is a calming scent, so it’s great for washing clothes, especially sheets (6). 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?

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 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 (7).

However, Borax can be excellent 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 the 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, thoroughly 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. Don’t use it 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

Stop using Borax immediately if you find your skin is irritated or you have any other symptoms.

How Do You Make HE Laundry Detergent?

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

Why? Because they don’t have any sudsing agents, which aren’t good for HE washers (8).

Quick Tip

Dissolve the powder detergent with one cup of warm water before adding it to the drum if you notice your HE washer cannot fully dissolve your powder detergent.

Does Homemade Laundry Soap Clog Drains?

Homemade laundry soap will clog drains if you fail to keep up with your normal maintenance regime. Soap scum builds-up over time, causing drains and pipes to become blocked.


Get Clean

These homemade laundry detergent recipes 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 save 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.

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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!