The Complete {Photo} Guide to Making Your Own Homemade Laundry Detergent

homemade laundry detergentStep-by-step-by-step-by-step-by-step….

There have been a lot of questions posted lately about the whole laundry detergent-making process. Which I take as a great sign that more and more people are getting fed up with the ridiculously high-priced brand name stuff and turning to time-tested, “mother-approved” formulations that date back to before most of us were born! :-) And work JUST AS WELL, if not better than the over-priced, over-packaged stuff we are forced to lug home from the store in huge plastic bottles that chances are won’t be recycled. *deep breath*  (Stepping down off soapbox….for now).

In any case, I thought it might be helpful to post another “update”, if you will, on the Homemade Laundry Detergent project with more pictures!

Keep in mind, however, there is no “right” way to make this stuff….this is just the way it works best for me. I would suggest if you want lots more VALUABLE INPUT from other readers….visit one of the following ORIGINAL POSTS and read the comments. GREAT information there!!

Brand Name Laundry’s “Last Stand”!
Homemade Laundry Soap Revisited
My Homemade Laundry Products Line-Up

Let’s start with the basic recipe again:

Many people make this in a big, 5-gallon container, but call me lazy, cuz I don’t like to drag in a 5 gallon bucket from the garage. When it’s time to make soap, I just pull out my 4-quart saucepan like I’m cooking up a double batch of rice. :-)

homemade laundry detergent

First I add the grated bar of soap and add water to about the halfway mark.
homemade laundry detergent

I “cook” the soap soup at on medium low until all the little bits of soap are completely melted. To make sure of this…I will let it come to a boil for just a minute. That way I’m pretty sure no pieces of soap will be floating in my finished product.

homemade laundry detergent

I then add the 1 cup of Borax and the 1 cup of Washing Soda. Once again, we are only “cooking” it long enough to make sure it is all a combined and smooth texture. I try not to let it actually come to a boil because it will “boil over” very easily! (Not that I would know about that.)

When it’s all nice and combined and sorta creamy looking (if kind of reminds me of cooking pudding at this point)…it’s time to pour it into your soap containers.

homemade laundry detergent

I use (3) 1 gallon Minute Maid Orange Juice bottles.
homemade laundry detergent
I use a glass measuring cup and scoop the mixture out of the pan and pour into the bottles.
homemade laundry detergent

I THINK it ends up being about 4-5 cups in each bottle but I haven’t actually measured it. I just keep adding a little to each until they are all at the same level (and the pan is empty.)

Now I take each one to the sink and hot water until each bottle is about 1/2 full.

homemade laundry detergent

This allows for room to shake the contents after it hardens AND to add more water to aid in that process.
Then I give each bottle a good shake! Come on…get your aggressions out! Feel the burn! ;-)
homemade laundry detergent
This is what it looks like when I’m done…and this is the way it will sit overnight.
homemade laundry detergent
Then in the morning… will look like this.
homemade laundry detergent
Pretty much one big blob of goop. lol.
DON’T BE ALARMED! DO NOT PANIC! This is perfectly normal!
Everything is going to be OK! I promise.
homemade laundry detergent
What *I* do at this point is take a long handled wooden spoon and break up the goo a little bit
 then add more hot water…
homemade laundry detergent
….to just a few inches from the top
homemade laundry detergent
…and give it another vigorous shake!! Repeat with other 2 bottles.
homemade laundry detergent

They should look SOMETHING like this. But remember…this is not exact science…if they are a little thicker or runnier…don’t worry. It will still be a great laundry detergent and as you continue making and using it…you’ll figure out just what works for you.

homemade laundry detergent

TADA!! You just made your own homemade laundry detergent for PENNIES a load!!!!! Sure it might be a little lumpy…but who really cares?? It works! Pure and simple.

Honestly, I love this stuff. I don’t miss the store-bought stuff one bit! Especially since I started using just a tiny bit of fragrance booster in each load. I kind of missed the scent of the old stuff…but I’ve found most people prefer this unscented version, especially those with sensitivities to that sort of thing.

homemade laundry detergent

There you have it. I really don’t think I could have taken any MORE pictures of the whole process. I tried to cover every single step. Hopefully this is helpful for those of you who are trying this for the very first time. You “old-timers” shouldn’t even be reading this…what are you doing here anyway?  Just teasin’. :-) I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the “old-timer” comments when people have questions because I can’t always keep up AND your answers are usually better anyway! :-)

Thanks to everyone who participates in my little corner of the world wide web, and for your support of One Good Thing By Jillee!I hope it continues to be a

long and beautiful friendship!


Regarding High Efficiency (HE) Front-Load Washers:

Because they use less water, HE front-load washers require soap that is less sudsy. The good news is, this homemade detergent is VERY low suds. So it is my PERSONAL opinion that you should be able to use this in HE washers with confidence.
Also, there have been many, many HE washer owners who have commented on other posts that they use it and it works just fine.


Print Friendly
Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter11Pin on Pinterest40.9kGoogle+11

Enjoy This Post? Never Miss Another!

Subscribe to Jillee's FREE email newsletter and receive more great tips and ideas!



  1. ashleyshomemadeadventures says

    lovelylisa84- We have very hard well water and it works great for us. I also use vinegar in my homemade laundry detergent so I think that helps too.

    • Mechelle says

      How do you use the vinegar in the homemade laundry detergent? Just add it in when making the detergent substituting vinegar for some of the water?

      • says

        personally, I do not add the vinegar to my laundry soap. I use vinegar instead of fabric softener. It works wonders. No static. Use it just like you would the softener. Good luck.

  2. Anonymous says

    I've been making my own detergent for about a year. I use a kitty litter bucket and do what Amanda does with adding the water all at once. As far as my whites, I use the oxyclean. I keep thinking I am going to buy oxydol just for my whites but I will never go back to bought again for all my other laundry. This is too easy and it works great!

  3. Anonymous says

    I've heard adding vinegar as a rinse helps soften and get the soap out. I've been using it instead of fabric softener but am still finishing up a jug of commercial laundry soap. The only difference is I do have static with vinegar as softener (Ican i use some tennis balls as dryer balls)?

    • Jen says

      YES on the tennis balls! It’s funny how I learned about tennis balls. Whenever I have to wash dirty tennis shoes, I always throw them in with towels. I started noticing how much softener the towels were whenever I’d do that, so one day I asked a lady who washes clothes for a living about that. She said she keeps tennis balls on her, so when she’s drying certain items, it fluffs them up!

      • Linda says

        thanks for that! I do housekeeping and will use tennis balls there and at home.

      • Alene says

        Please don’t use tennis balls. The heat of the dryer causes the tennis balls to give of toxins. Pure wool balls are amazing. or crochet your own with either wool or cotton

      • Elizabeth says

        I learned about tennis balls when I worked at a laundromat and having been using them for years. However, the toxins are not ideal, and I am switching to wool dryer balls now that we have a baby on the way. If you can smell that plastic-y smell, then you know it is giving off gas. The wool balls can be pretty expensive, BUT I found this awesome site with instructions for making them yourself and I am planning on making bunches more than what I have now so I’ll have enough even for the biggest loads:

      • Rhonda says

        You can make your own wool dryer balls from leftover feltable yarn. Just wind it into a small ball. Felt that, and then wind more on the ball. Continue felting the layers until they are the size of tennis balls.

      • sharon says

        ok but i read where one pinner says tennis ball have a toxin that comes out when they heat up in the dryer, i am confused are they good or not i also read that a ball of tin foil takes static away is there any who have tried this

      • Tanya says

        If you don’t mind toxins and the smell your fine. Just like water bottles when plastic is heated they release toxins. Try the wool ones there easy to make, tinfoil or make your own softener from scratch.
        Good luck

    • Melissa H says

      I use the the blue nubby dryer balls, as well as a washcloth with a large safety pin pinned to each corner. I picked that tip up on some random website (wish I could remember to give credit).
      Anyway, I have zero static since using these things. :)

    • carla stroh says

      I wouldn’t use tennis balls because of the rubber in them. They are chemically laden and the smell is not so good. You can make your own wool dryer balls.

      • carla stroh says

        I use 100% wool from sweaters I find at the thrift stores. Very inexpensive. Just make sure you get the ones that are not sewn together at the seams, they don’t come apart in long strands. You can use them but they are more work.

  4. Anonymous says

    Just read all these posts.. great information folks. I made the dry version of this the other day when I ran out of my usual laundry detergent.. and used Dove bar soap.. in my HE front loading machine.But having run about 3 loads,there is still detergent in the soap dispenser (seems like the Dove).So I thought I would try adding the water and boiling it up, all together since it was already mixed. Stirred away, thought I was lifting the Dove that was getting stuck on the bottom of saucepan but when I was finished and it was creamy.. I poured it into a container and the Dove had melted and totally stuck on the bottom of my saucepan! Very difficult to scrape it off too. Wonder if it's because I added all ingredients to the water at the same time? I use the dishwasher "soap" too, but having trouble balancing so my glasses don't get filmy… Any suggestions? Thanks for the info!

    • Kathy says

      Dove gets to suddsy for the HE machines. The fels-neptha is the best to use and is a low suds soap. Perfect for the HE machines, I have tried both and the fels-nneptha is the only one I use now.

      • Stephanie says

        Kathy, what mixture do you use for HE machines. I just made the one listed here on this site and the first wash went ok, the second wash still had a big clump of the soap left in the dispenser. I did shake the container before pouring out the soap too but maybe it needs more water??

      • Tonya says

        I have an HE front loader and don’t place the soap into the dispenser. The scoop of soap goes directly onto the clothes. The clothes come out clean and my husband’s white socks have actually become whiter.

      • Linda says

        I made dry laundry soap and grated up ivory with the fine grater. It looks and acts just like store bought dry laundry detergent.

    • Kalie Dalbey says

      when cooking your soap u have to stir constantly and make sure u have the heat on med/high. Just follow this recipe on here and it comes out perfect. the dishwasher u need to put white vinegar in your spot treatment area instead of the commercial stuff. the shine and no soap scum. I also add some corn starch to mine to thicken the soap.

    • Melissa H says

      I agree with Kalie. If you follow this recipe, you will get perfect soap every time. I have an HE machine, and use fels naptha since it is low sudsing. I have also heard the Zote works well as it’s low sudsing too.

      Also, for the dishwashing / filmy glassware, use Lemi Shine as your rinse aid. It’s in the dishwashing detergent isle in Wal-mart. Others who have had the “filming” problem swear by it. Good luck. :-)

    • Letitia says

      I only use Fels Naptha, too. I did NOT like the results when I used Dove. Fels Naptha is available at Walmart in the laundry section for around $1 per bar. It works great as a laundry spot treatment, too. Wet the stain and scrub with the bar of Fels Naptha. Let it sit for a bit and then wash.

    • Tammy says

      I made this soap a while ago. I have an HE washer and I keep getting grease stains on my clothes. Does anyone have any ideas why?

    • Mandy says

      I have hard water and use homemade detergent. I usually have to add in an extra cup or so (per recipe) of Borax, which should act as a water softener. Its important to add the extra in or it all goes towards softening the water and not washing your clothes. In times I haven’t added it, my whites get a little dingy. See if it works for you!

      • ellen says

        I was wondering how this recipe would hold up to hard water! Thank you so much for sharing!

      • Cait T. says

        Adding 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar will solve any hard water problems. As an added bonus it locks in color, thus preventing fading from using too much Borox, keep your machine running longer by breaking down mineral deposits, and it will deodorize as well. I have worked in bars and restaurants for almost 20 years and nothing kills the smell of smoke and grease like a splash of vinegar!

      • Samuel Atkins says

        You cant add vinegar to your washing machine when you are using homemade soap that is made with bar soap of any kind including Fels Naptha. The vinegar well react with the soap and break it down to FFA free-fatty-acid.
        This is oily gummy trash unless you are using it to make Bio-diesel. It will stick to your clothes. A big NO NO

      • Lael says

        What about castile soap? I guess my question is what’s the big difference with adding it to natural homemade detergent as opposed to the regular store bough brand that is filled with nasty chemicals?

      • karol kinne says

        I think vinegar is a miracle ingredient for so many things/ uses. I have also worked in both bars and restaurants where vinegar was the best for everything from cleaning and getting rid of smells that linger like smoke and who knows what. I add it to regular detergent anyway so I will also add it to the homemade detergent I’m going to try. Thanks so much for the information and tips.

  5. Anonymous says

    are you able to reuse the empty large liquid bottles with the presure button on them or is it two thick to reuse these?

    • Kate says

      I keep mine in an old Tide container with the pressure button and it works fine. I will usually just give the bottle a good shake to re-blend anything that’s separated before filling the little cup. You can also adjust the top valve to control the flow, depending on how thick or thin your detergent is.

      • sarah says

        How do u adjust the flow on these? I have one still with tide in it but I am wanting to try making my own laundry detergent and I know it will be to thick to fit thru that slow flow mode…

      • Megan says

        You just loosen the cap on the bottle and it should adjust the flow. That’s why the cap is on the top when you turn it on its side :)

      • Karen says

        One possible idea for a container would be to use a “sun tea” type jar with a spicket. then you can use that to fill a measuring cup without the mess of scooping or pouring (and having it pour out super fast and spill/waste the overfill). Just a thought.

    • kitze20 says

      i have used the pressure bottles but the laundry soap can be a little clumpy so it sometimes gets clogged. but i use it.

  6. Amanda says

    I have been making my own soap for about 3 years, I won't go back to commercial detergent. I actually make mine a little different. For me its easier to dump it all in a 5 gallon kitty litter bucket and wisk it really well. I actually melt mine in about 2 quarts of water, then add 2-3 gallons of hot water to the soap/powder mixture in the bucket. I don't let the whole thing gel overnight before adding all the water. I also do use essential oils, but the cheapo walmart stuff. We love our laundry scented, so I add about half a bottle to the 3 gallons of detergent. I used to pour my soap into bottles using a funnel, but now I just scoop right from the main bucket,

    • TinaD says

      Cheapo Walmart oils are not essential oils. Essential oils are pure oils extracted from plants. I’m not saying don’t use them if it is what you enjoy. I’m just saying it probably is not pure or natural.

      • says

        you’re right. they are not essential oils. I would however, recommend people not to use them for laundry soap. those are meant to be burned so the home smells good and not to be used on clothes that will be on your body. I read somewhere, that it wasn’t good for that, I just can’t remember where I read it it’s been a while. However, I understand that if it works for some people so be it. I’m just letting people know what I have found. :)

      • Ashly says

        You’re right Jackie. I went to the aisle where they have the fragrance warming oils today stating that it contains essential oils but it wasn’t 100% essentials oil. I turned it over and it said not to let touch skin, clothes, etc… I did however go to Hobby Lobby and found Peppermint Oil for $2.99 in the aisle where you make candles and bar soap. I picked out the peppermint oil used for the soap. Smells just like a Peppermint Patty. :) YUM.

      • says

        Is that price just for store products? It’s $6.99 online. Also, how much do you use? The whole bottle is only 0.5 oz. I wonder if that’s enough for a 5 gallon bucket? I would have to put $14 just into the fragrance. The whole point is to save money. What do you suggest?

      • Deb says

        Pure essential oils will not stain clothes…test it by putting 1 drop of oil on construction paper and let it dry. If you see a ring or stain, it is not pure EO. Also it’s perfectly safe for your skin if diluted…that’s what they put in homemade soaps/scubs/butters etc.

    • Krista says

      I have been making this laundry soap for a couple of years now, and although I like the Fels Naptha, I have discovered I like the either the white or pink Zoat bar a lot better. It gives it a much better scent.

      • Whitney says

        How many drops of essential oil do you use per batch. Getting ready to buy what I need to make this and I want have never used essential oils before so I’m not sure how many it will take. Thanks!

    • Maegan Rush says

      I tried using Lemon Eucalyptus and it was horrible :( I ended up tossing out about 4 gallons of detergent because it made our clothes stink. I later found out that eucalyptus has a very medicinal smell and is not good for this. Be careful with the smells you use. Lavender, Vanilla, lemongrass, and rose are all very good for this. Or you can use a scented bar soap (like Dove or Caress) and won’t need to worry about oils.

    • Tina Mercer says

      Hi Jillee,

      I wanted to tell you that I did some research and I love your method but I do one thing differently than you do. I first put it in a mason jar and let it do it’s separation thing and then I put the blade end of my blender on the mason jar and I blend it all up smooth! Then I poor it in the containers I keep and I add the water to it. It is great! I love and live by your website. Thanks so much for making my life simpler!