Brand Name Laundry Detergent’s "Last Stand"!


So a couple of weeks ago I had HAD it!

I was FED UP!

I could not bring myself to buy ONE MORE bottle of over-priced, wastefully-packaged laundry detergent.

I just couldn’t do it!  

Now, I’m no eco-nazi (far from it), but buying those big bottles of laundry detergent, lugging them home and then turning around and throwing them away was definitely starting to get to me.  I mean seriously….what a monumental waste! Not to mention the COST!  $15 for a bottle of Brand Name Laundry Detergent that’s smaller than my fountain Diet Coke??  I won’t do it!

It was about this same time that I just happened to come across a picture someone posted on Pinterest of their “Homemade” laundry detergent!  Call me naive, but it had never even occurred to me that you could MAKE your own detergent!  I did a little research online and decided to give it at try.  It turns out it’s actually quite easy.

The first batch I made…I followed this recipe from The Rachel Berry Blog.

Liquid Laundry Soap-Family Sized Batch

I use approximately 1/2 – 1 cup per large load (depending on how dirty the clothes are!) 
For those of you with HIGH EFFICIENCY washing machines…this should work just fine in it. (There are dozens of comments below from people who have been using it in their HE machines with no problems.)

Worked out great. I’ve been very happy with it!  The main thing you have to get used to is it hardly make any suds at all.  At first this is a bit unnerving (especially for my husband!)…but the more I read about it online…I realized that “suds” are not what gets our clothes CLEAN.  As a matter of fact, as with dishwashing liquid, the suds are totally cosmetic and add no cleaning value. Less suds is actually better for our clothes. Today I realized we were getting close to the end of the first batch…so I decided to make some more. This time I followed a slightly different recipe I found online at Why Not Sew?

  • 1 bar of soap (any kind you want)
  • 1 cup of Borax
  • 1 cup of washing soda
  • a big pot ( that holds more than 2 gallons)
  • a grater
  • a funnel
  • a long spoon
  • 2 empty gallon jugs/containers

I use approximately 1/2 – 1 cup per large load (depending on how dirty the clothes are!) The main difference is that it makes a more manageable 2 gallons (instead of 5 gallons) and you can make it in one big pot on the stove, instead of having to use a 5 gallon bucket. Here are the two gallons I made today. homemade laundry soap

UPDATE: (10/2/11)

After months of making this laundry soap now….I have started dividing it into THREE gallon jugs instead of TWO.  I was always adding water anyway because it gets very thick! So I just decided to add a 3rd jug and now it seems to be just about right. :-)   Just an FYI!  STILL LOVIN this stuff!


homemade laundry soap


If you are a powdered detergent fan…you can also make a DRY version of the exact same soap.  Here is a recipe I found at

Powdered Laundry Soap:

  • 2 cups finely grated soap (Ivory, Fels Naptha, Zote, homemade, or a combination)
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda

Mix and store in a coffee can or what have you. Use 1-2 T per load.

Since there is no water added…it is very concentrated and you hardly use any per load!


So….if you have reached the end of your “soap rope” when it comes to the high price of laundry detergent…I would whole-heartedly suggest giving this a try! I’m no math wiz…but from everything I’ve read online…this homemade stuff costs roughly .01-.03 cents a load!

I think I’m safe in saying I will never go back to lugging those big plastic bottles home from the store again.



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  1. Jill Nystul says

    Elizabeth…I think, Yes. :-)

    Ruth…not dumb at all! I grate the soap using my cheese grater. :-) I use the Fels Naptha soap you can find in the laundry soap aisle of the store…but I've read that many people just use a bar of ivory soap. I actually think whatever kind of soap you have on hand would work.

    Danielle…my hubby is ALWAYS unsure about the "crazy" (like a fox!) stuff I come up with…but he always comes around too! :-)

    Cori…i wouldn't worry about it at all. The first several batches I made were in just 2 bottles. It's just a LOT thicker, making it a little more difficult to "pour" out of the bottle. I would just keep adding water to the bottle each time you use some of the thicker stuff until it's about the consistency you like it. But I really wouldn't worry about diluting it before using. Just use a little less. With it divided into 3 bottles…I tend to use a little MORE each time. Hope this helps!

    Jane….that is awesome! It's nice when the husband gets on board with these things. :-)

    • Tamsyn says

      I have been making my own liquid laundry soap for a couple of years and I use the Sunlight bar because I have yet to find Fels-Naptha (I’m in Canada). I just grate it up with a cheese grater like Jill and make around 15 L at a time. I find it does need a shake before using so I use old laundry soap containers like Jill :)

      I have been told by other DIY-ers that you can use glycerin soap as well but don’t use Dove because of the lotions added to it. They leave white marks on your clothing.

      • Demaroge says

        Hi Tamysn ~

        You can order Fels-Naptha online if you really want it. It has a nice smell. It has maybe tea tree or eucalyptus oil?… not sure but just a touch of it. I have read that it is not a completely “natural” product so if that is important to you then don’t worry your pretty little head about it, eh. ;)

      • says

        I use my own pure castile soap ( It works fine. However, I made the liquid version here & it separates with the powders becoming relatively hard & all the shaking in the world doesn’t help. I even brought it all to a boil a second time, but it still separated in a couple of days. I used to make liquid laundry soap with just grated soap & rain water (for softness) & that works fine, so it’s the powders that cause the problem. I can always add washing soda to especially dirty loads.

  2. Anonymous says

    I made my first batch of the dry formula and my husband was the one that said "Wow they smell so clean" Easy to make and I love it!!
    Jane Tew

  3. Cori says

    I followed the directions on your other post (with all of the pictures) and it still said 2 gallon jars so that's what I did. Is it going to be fine or should I somehow change it to 3? I do have an HE front loader so maybe I could just dilute as I put in (except since I don't have a sink near-by it might be a pain. Any suggestions?



  5. Jill Nystul says

    Hi Anony….I have read up on this a LOT…and while there is no clear YES from any manufacturer saying it's just fine to use homemade laundry soap in HE appliances (I suspect they don't want to upset the soap manufacturers)….I have read dozens of comments from people who have HE washers and have been using this stuff for years with no problems. This soap have virtually no suds…(which takes some getting used to at first) so it's actually perfect for HE washers because they require low-sudsing detergent. Bottom line…if I HAD a high efficiency washer…*I* personally would not hesitate to use this. :-) Hope this helps!

    • Ashley Mac says

      Would you recommend using the dry detergent or the liquid detergent in the HE washers? Not sure if it matters really but I think some recommend only using liquid.

      • Kelly says

        I originally made the liquid recipe using fels naphtha. Now I use the powder recipe because my husband comes home with grease and diesel on his clothes. I needed to be able to use more detergent. The liquid wasn’t concentrated enough for his clothes. I use 3 Tbsp with his work clothes.

      • leigh says

        I was told to add the dry detergent to the bottom of the tub instead of putting it in the cup. My washer says to only use the liquid in the cup. So I sprinkle the bottom of my tub with the dry before adding my clothes.

  6. Anonymous says

    Do you know if this formula is okay for HE (high-efficiency) washers and how much one should use per load?


    • tina says

      i have an HE washer and i think it is better for them because if you notice, the HE washing powders and liquid are low suds. since this recipe has hardly any suds at all, it has to be better. i have been using it since February and i love it!!! plus it made the musty smell in my washer go away.

      • Michelle says

        I want to give this a try, but my husband is hesitant with the HE machines. I’d hate to hear “I told you so.” =) Still no ill effects on the HE machine?

      • Jenn says

        Michelle, I use it in my HE machine and it has not done a thing. In fact, I find the mildew smell is gone so I am not cleaning my washer all of the time. I don’t know why but my HE front loader was just getting stinky and was making me clean it after every load, probably the rubber around the door seal.

      • Susan says

        Water gets trapped in the rubber gasket of the front loaders plus under the tub. man. recommends leaving the door open for a while to dry the inside. No more musty smell.
        Putting vinegar about a cup into a load also works to get ride of the smell.
        So glad to have come across a make it yourself great laundry det.

      • Laura says

        I have an HE machine I LOVE but the best way to keep the mildew smell away is 1) keep the door open all the time, 2) occasionally take an old towel and wipe out the insides of the rubber seal (it can be pretty nasty if you wait too long to do this and so I just throw it in with a load of dirty jeans) , 3) use a Q-tip to clean out the 3 drain holes at the bottom inside part of the rubber gasket so the water can drain out of the seal, and 4) lastly, get the tablets to rinse out the entire machine and be sure and select the Cotton cycle with Hot water, Extra Rinse Tub Clean. My repairman told me about #3 & #4! The first time I used the tablets I had to do it twice to clean out the washer and get rid of the smell, but it is all worth it for benefits of an upright machine.

      • Lynn Holom says

        I’ve been using it in my HE machines for over a year and I do not see any reason why it would be bad for the machine. You can also throw it in the door with the clothes if your worried about putting it in the slot. Try it you’ll like the soap and the savings.

      • leigh says

        I have been using the dry version in my he machine and since it does not sud it works great!. Just sprinkle it in the bottom of your tub before adding your clothes.

  7. Jill Nystul says

    Anony…well that is cool! I want to try it just to see how it works. lol. I usually use Fels Naptha…but I'm always willing to try something new! Thanks for sharing!

    • Tina says

      want to try this but can’t find arm & hammer washing soda?? Couldn’t find the fels naptha but you have already answered that with the idea of using any kind of bar soap.

      • Bonnie says

        Tina-Fel naptha is at available at Kroger and walmart in the laundry detergent isle. I also found A&H super washing soda in laundry detergent isle at walmart.

      • says

        i found fels naptha and washing soda at my local hardware store. i have also tried zote soap (found at mexican grocery stores or 99 cent only stores in CA). target carried borax when i bought it about a year ago. i am sure that walmart would carry it as well! =)

      • Lisa says

        I found all 3 ingredients in my WalMart in the laundry detergent aisle by the sign that says “Stain Removers”. Hope that helps!!!

      • Susan says

        Just made some over the weekend and it works GREAT, the only issue I have is that it almost turned solid after I put into the gallon containers. I originally made 3 gallons with the recipe above BUT now I am diluting each gallon container into 2. You really have to shake it up once you start to dilute it but it works great and doesnt smell bad once clothes are washed and dried.
        Less than 6.00 total and will end up with a ton of laundry soap.

      • Lana says

        I’ve been making and using the “dry” version of this recipe for about six months now and I love it. I just made another batch on Monday and broke the cost down per load and found out it is only costing about .06 per load!!!

      • BeezeyD says

        Hi, When making the dry version, is it 1-2 tsp per load or 1-2 Tablespoons per load? I really want to try this as I feel I am constantly buying detergent. Also, I use Free & Clear, so does that mean I need to use a certain bar of soap or something over the other? Thanks for any info!

      • BeezeyD says

        Okay, so after I posted this comment I kept reading and now know it’s Tablespoons per load for the dry detergent and that yes, it should be fine for sensitive skin. Thanks!

      • g says

        I don’t mix anything beforehand. At the beginning of the wash cycle, I add 1 tsp of washing soda, 1 tsp of borax, and 1 tsp of Dawn dish detergent (or 1 heaping tsp of grated Zote or other bar soap) to my extra large capacity top loading machine. I’ve been doing this for several months, and it works very well. Storing jugs of mostly water isn’t an option for me.

      • kristin says

        I am going to try the powered method. It also calls for the purex fabric enhancer. Haven’t tried it yet. I hope it works seeing the $$ I have spent on the products.

      • Shelley says

        Mine did not turn out. It didn’t thicken up. How long are you supposed to boil it? I boiled it a very long time but it never coagulated. Any suggestions??

      • Timberly says

        You can find zote(same as fels naphtha) at family dollars store, I also add the generic oxy clean for that added stain cleaning power.

      • leigh says

        I make the dry version and we loveeeee it! I have used both the fels naphtha and the zote. My family like the smell of the fels naphtha better. I also add 2 large bottles of purex crystals as well. I have used the lavender scent and my sister uses the blue one. They both make your laundry smell FANTASTIC!! I even put a little in a zip-lock baggie and put it under the seat in my suv. My car even smells wonderful! Love it!!

      • Alicia says

        I Love the Purex Crystals! I used them before separately but then added them to my homemade liquid laundry soap after it thickened and it gave it the perfect scent!
        I also took new dryer sheets, put a Tbsp of the crystals in the middle and tied it with a small rubber band. I put one in each dresser drawer in the house! Keeps all the clothes smelling so fresh! I hadn’t thought about doing it for the car!

      • Tracy R says

        What is the recipe for dry soap with crystals? Do you grind the crystals with the soap recipe or add them separate?

      • Annie says

        I get my fels naptha at Wal Mart and my borax and Arm & Hammer there also – In fact – at the Wal Mart I go to – they are right next to each other in the laundy soap aisle.

      • jean says

        I find the arm and hammer, fels napha and borax at krogers. I wasn’t crazy about the Fels smell, so this time when I melted the soap I added Gain crystals made to make your clothes smell fresh. It worked out very well and gives your laundry that fresh clean smell!

  8. Anonymous says

    FYI – If you are using Ivory soap – the easiest way to make powdered soap – put the bar of soap in the microwave for 1 minute and then take out the "glob" and place in a large bowl and place the remaining "core" back in the microwace for an additional minute and repeat – once cooled crushed in your hands and it will make a finr powder – you might want to do this outside and wear a mask – but it is the easiest way to make the powder.

    • Sheri says

      Using this method right now. It’s taking 3-4 minutes for each Ivory bar at minute intervals. I opted to put the “glob” into a gallon size zipper bag. You can then easily turn it into powder with limited mess this way. Each bar yields approximately 2 cups of powder. Careful–the glob does get fairly warm.

      • Tanya says

        I haven’t tried Naptha but I made the powdered version with the pink Zote… Along with the Zote, the washing soda and borax I also added regular baking soda and oxyclean….this works great!!!. And I made my own softner with vinegar, water and hair conditioner…smells great and the clothes are soft!!!

      • mtty says

        I have used this recipe for a couple of years since my husband became allergic to commercial fabric softeners.
        I cut an old towel into approx 8″ squares and s-o-a-k them in this softener, dry on the clothesline. They make perfect dryer sheets that each last 5-8 loads before needing to be “recharged.”

      • Karen says

        Fels Naptha works well in the microwave too – only thing I do different is to cut it up into 1 inch chunks – keeps from having to put the core back in the microwave. I also use the zip bags for crushing – keeps it neater and easier to work with. I like both Ivory and the Fels Naptha soaps.

      • Debbie says

        I haven’t tried this yet, but I want to. I have used Fels Napha soap though. It is great for removing stains. When I make this, I will probably use the napha soap for that reason.

      • Suzanne Conrad says

        It works great with Fels Naptha. I did 1/2 bar at a time for a total of 90 seconds on 80% power. I flipped it half way through. My very first bar burned in the center on high.No problems since. I put the soap into a zipper bag when it cooled and mainly worked it with my fingers through the bag. Turned into a beautiful powder.

      • Mary says

        Cn anyone tell me how well this home made detergent works on whites? My kids’ socks get dingy after a while and I just hate using bleach.

      • Erin says

        This works great on whites! My husband was skeptical, but loves how clean his clothes are now. Also, we love how my HE front loader doesn’t smell yucky!

      • Annie says

        I used 6 bars of fels naptha grated, 3 cups ea of borax and arm & hammer laundry soap.
        The total cost was about $15.00. I use 1-2 tbsp depending on the size of the load. My clothes smell cleaner and feel better. I also use 1 cup white vinegar for my fabric softener. I use wadded up aluminum foil in my dryer instead of dryer sheets. I have already talked my cousin into using the homemade soap and her husband really like it. I probably have enough homemade laundry soap to last a year.

      • Shelbie Belcher says

        Allie. Ive tried it with the Naptha soap and it works perfectly but it smells kinda old fashion (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve smelled it before lol) I like using the pink Zote soap. It smells waay better and a little bit stronger so you actually smell it on your clothes but its not over powering and it works great! Its in the laundry section at walmart where the Naptha soap would be too.

      • sue says

        my sis uses sit i used it when i stayed at her house—it is ok but, it does not get out stains, even with shout and or spray and wash

      • Jane S says

        I always use Fels Naptha soap. I tried Ivory a couple of times, but my clothes didn’t have as clean a scent when I used that version. My grandmother used it when I was a child in the 1950s, and always swore by it. Great stuff–and very inexpensive!!

    • says

      We started using the dry detergent method a few months ago, and love it! I was so busy one Saturday, that DH offered to help by grating the Ivory soap. He cleverly put the bar in the freezer before grating and found that it worked great. So, you will find bars of Ivory soap in our freezer for that reason. I will have to try the microwave method next.

    • KFox says

      If you take a knife and cut the bar into about 4-6 strips then put it in the microwave it will all puff up really nice then dump into a bag to break it appart. you can then use it for laundry soap or just add water and make homemade soft hand soap for your bathroom or body wash….. the possibilities are endless :)