Homemade laundry detergent is something that catches everyone’s attention– even if they aren’t yet completely sold out to this whole homesteading thing…
Things like rendering tallow or making homemade marshmallows can seem a little bit hardcore to the uninitiated, but once you switch the conversation over to homemade laundry soap and explain how much money you can save by making homemade detergent, people are usually all ears.
I’ve also been pleased with the effectiveness of this soap so far. It seems to clean our clothes (and even cloth diapers) just as well as the store-bought detergent I was purchasing before. Plus, it doesn’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate, phosphates, and all that jazz.
Homemade Laundry Detergent
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- 1 bar of soap *see note
- 1/2 cup borax (where to buy)
- 1 cup washing soda (where to buy) (this is different than BAKING soda! Look for it in the laundry aisle (might even be near the Borax) of your local grocery store)
- Essential oils for scent/extra cleaning power – optional (buy wholesale essential oils)
- 5 gallon bucket (here’s my trick for finding cheap 5 gallon buckets)
Coarsely grate the bar of soap with a cheese grater. Place the shreds in a medium saucepan with several cups of water. Heat and stir until the soap pieces are dissolved.
Add the borax and washing soda. Stir until thoroughly incorporated and dissolved.
Pour into a 5-gallon bucket. Fill 3/4 full with hot water. Give it a good stir, then allow it to sit undisturbed overnight.
Your finished homemade detergent will be a chunky gel. Yield = 3-4 gallons, depending on how much water you add.
How to Store Your Homemade Laundry Soap
I like to store the majority of the laundry soap in the 5-gallon bucket in the basement. I then use a smaller plastic bucket or jug in my laundry room.
I love the idea of using a drink dispenser (like this one) to store my laundry detergent, since it is much more elegant than scooping it out of a bucket. However, if you do decide to use a dispenser of some sort, make sure it is glass, not plastic. I made the mistake of using a plastic one, and the detergent degraded the nozzle, causing it to leak all over my laundry room and ruin the paint. It as a disaster! Next time, I’ll be sure to use a glass model with sturdier pieces. 😉
Use 1/4-1/2 cup of homemade laundry soap per load of laundry (less for cloth diapers).
Homemade Laundry Detergent Price Breakdown
This stuff is dirt cheap! Here is the cost per load–you won’t believe this:
Bar Soap = $3.25 (I used the more expensive Dr. Bronner’s soap. Fels-Naptha would be cheaper)
Washing Soda = $8.49/55 oz box
Borax = $3.97/72 oz box
To make four gallons of laundry soap:
1 bar of soap = $3.25
1/2 cup of borax = $0.06
1 cup of washing soda = $0.15
Grand Total = $4.65 for for gallons of homemade detergent or $1.16 for one gallon of homemade detergent
If I use roughly 1/2 cup of homemade detergent per load, the cost is about $0.04 per load. Amazing, eh?
- There are a lot of different soap options you can use for this recipe, (even Ivory will work in a pinch), but I recommend either a laundry bar like Fels-Naptha (where to buy) or a natural bar like Dr. Bronners (where to buy).
- I suggest trying to source these ingredients from your local grocery store–you can probably find them for the best prices there. I just included the online purchasing links if you can’t find the products locally.
- I don’t have an HE machine, but after talking to some readers, it appears this homemade laundry detergent is safe for both HE machines and septic systems. However, there is some question as to whether it causes build-up when used with hard water. I plan to continue to research this!
- I am aware of some controversy over the safeness of borax. It seems to me that some of the issues were caused by confusing boric acid (NOT safe) and borax (different than boric acid). Personally, as long as we aren’t eating it by the cupful or anything, I am comfortable using it in my laundry room, and for some cleaning purposes.
- If you’re looking for extra stain-busting power, I’ve had really good luck with this DIY laundry spot remover recipe.
- My favorite essential oils to use in my homemade laundry soap are lemon (deodorizing), melaleuca (cleansing), and lavender (because it just smells pretty!)
- Grate soap with a cheese grater
- Place shreds in medium saucepan with several cups water
- Heat and stir until soap pieces are dissolved
- Add Borax and Washing Soda and stir until dissolved
- Pour in a 5 gallon bucket, filling ¾ full with hot water
- Give it a good stir, and let sit undisturbed overnight
- The finished product will be a gloppy chunky gel
- I store it in bulk in a 5 gallon bucket and use a smaller container for my laundry room
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