Homemade Laundry Detergent

Posted by idawrites on January 9, 2009 in Chores, DIY, Frugal, homemade |

Several weeks ago, I highlighted a series of articles about homemade laundry detergent from my friends Kris and Whit. Since they raved about the fabulous results, I decided to give it a try myself. I’ve always been fascinated by being a “do it yourselfer”. In the past, I’ve thought “wow, it would be so great to be able to do that” and then went about my business… blissfully and ignorantly buying what I could be making for a fraction of the cost.

Over the last year or so, I’ve learned that a lot of the things I’ve always considered Too Much Work to try doing myself aren’t really much work at all. Picking blueberries and using them in recipes… making homemade chowder… cooking great Thai food… saving money using coupons… Now I find myself looking for ways to do things myself, the most recent of these things being Homemade Laundry Detergent.

Here’s what I bought:

  1. 1 Bar Zote Soap – $.89 at the Cobb International Farmer’s Market (but Wal-Mart has it for $.97)
  2. 1 box of 20 Mule Team Borax – $3.19 (I think)
  3. 1 box of Arm & Hammer WASHING Soda**Found next to the Borax in the laundry detergent aisle. (Do not get baking soda. It won’t work.)

Here’s what I did:

  1. I cut the HUGE bar of Zote in half. I could probably have done 1/3 and had plenty.
  2. I shredded the soap using a cheese grater into a large pot on the stove.
  3. I added 6 cups of water, per the instructions provided by Kris & Whit, turned on the stove, and let the soap melt.
  4. Put in 1 1/2 cup of Borax
  5. Put in 1 cup of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda … (because I mis-read the article! It said 1 ½ cups. L )
  6. Stirred until everything was dissolved, then turned off the heat.
  7. Since I planned to keep the detergent in the same pot, I just added 4 cups of hot water and stirred it up, instead of putting it into the bucket to add.
  8. Then I put in the 1 gallon 6 cups (22 cups) of cold water and stirred it up.

After letting it sit until the next afternoon, I noticed that the mixture separated, with a thick grainy gel on top and really watery liquid on the bottom. I’m fairly certain that this was because 1) I didn’t put enough Washing Soda into the mixture and 2) because I didn’t let it dissolve long enough before removing it from the stove.

I am using the little plastic cup that comes on top of the store bought laundry detergent dispensers as a measuring cup. I stir up the detergent really well before scooping it out each time and put one full scoop into the washer. I am using plain white vinegar instead of fabric softener. Mark was VERY pleasantly surprised that our laundry is not coming out smelling like vinegar. It has a fresh clean smell.

What I like most about it is that the clothes come out of the dryer feeling like “new material”. The jeans feel just like they did the day we bought them. The dinginess is coming out of our whites, the bottoms of our socks, and out of my footie pajamas! The drip stains that are all over our kids old t-shirts are even coming out. This impresses me a great deal because those t-shirts are years old with stains that have been set in forever.. with dozens of washes and tumbles through the drier each… even the white ones!

Next time, I plan to make sure I get the Washing Soda amount correct… and heat the detergent mixture a bit longer. Maybe this will resolve my issues with the consistency. Even if it doesn’t, it’s cheap… easy to make, and does a GREAT job on my family’s clothes. 5 Stars from Ida (and Mark.. who was REALLY not sure about this whole homemade laundry detergent thing.


  • So glad you’ve crossed over the the lighter side! LOL We’ve now made our recipe four times and tried a few variations.

    The texture of the final product does seem to be determined byhe heating process, make sure it is nice and hot and fully melted (not boiling) before beginning to dilute. We’ve also discovered you need an EQUAL amount of soda and borax, whether you use 1 cup or 2.

    Also, I purchased a nylon paddle style whisk at the Dollar Store and use it after the 24 hour gel process is complete, this makes the solution consistant.

    And one more tidbit… Now we are using an entire bar of soap and 1.5 cups of each powder to make a five gal bucket. Takes the same amount of time to make, just a larger quantity.

    As we’ve been researching since then, we’ve discovered you can use a new bar of soap just like a stain stick. Dampen the bar and rub it into the stain before laundering. It is fine if the soap stays on the clothes a day or two before laundering!

  • Jules says:

    votes for wine making 🙂

    I love this! I hate the chemical smell my laundry detergent creates. Even the stuff that’s supposed to be free of dyes and scents.
    I will try this, but I’m wondering where I’ll find the bar soap.

  • Alicia says:

    I vote for wine making too! Please, no bees. 😀

    Alicia’s last blog post..Tardis in Shadowbox

  • Michelle says:

    I vote that you make home-made soda…like root beer or cola…whatever your favorite is. Instead of soda being a bad habit, why not make it a homemade, special treat? I’m pretty sure you can buy the supplies anywhere that they sell beermaking or winemaking kits.

  • Mother Hen says:

    This is super! I’m gonna do it. You should come visit at Ship Full O’ Pirates. I’m starting a Mister Linky this Thursday called Mother Hen’s Homemade Thursday. A link to this post would be most welcome. 😀

    Mother Hen’s last blog post..Homemade Yogurt

  • Parish says:

    Home made soda does sound intriguing.

  • Laura says:

    I found your blog through another blog and I can’t wait to try this!! Maybe you should tackle deodorant or dishwasher detergent. I’ve tried a couple times but it doesn’t seem to turn out right.

  • Anita says:

    I’m going to try this recipe – hate buying laundry detergent and seeing all that money go down the drain. But, does this work in top loaders AND front loading machines?

    For your next experiment, I vote for homemade root beer!! My mom used to make it when I was a kid (she was born & raised Amish, so did a lot of stuff “from scratch”), and we loved it. The stuff you can buy didn’t hold a candle to hers!

  • J says:

    Why not just grate the Zote add the Borax and Washing Soda and use dry?

    • Momma says:

      For one, I think it would be incredibly difficult to keep the ratio correct, as the soap shavings are larger than Borax and Washing Soda, so they’d just fall to the bottom.

      For another, it stretches much further in liquid form.

      I’m sure it’s possible, but I much prefer liquid … and it takes such a short time, I don’t see a reason to skimp on the process.

      Has anyone else done this? Keep the ingredients dry?

  • TK says:

    Yes! I keep the ingredients dry. I grate the soap with a microplane grater because I wash everything in cold water and larger soap flakes won’t dissolve properly in a cold load. I already owned a microplane grater, I wouldn’t have gone out and bought one for this. I haven’t had a problem with the soap flakes settling to the bottom, but if I did, I would just shake the detergent jar before using it. I just like the dry way because it is less messy for me.

  • Andrea says:

    I have made this as the Liquid and the dry. For the dry I used my blender like a food processor to chop up the soap smaller and then blended the Borax and the washing soda all together. I also added baking soda to this mixure. Then I use scented vinegar in one of those downy balls all I have to do is throw it in when I start the wash. To make the Powder I use one bar soap to 1 cup each of borax and washing soda also use 1/4 cup baking soda.

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