Homemade laundry detergent

I remember learning that I could make laundry soap myself and how empowered I felt for having one less item to get at Wal-Mart, which at that time, about 16 years ago, was the only option other than the grocery store in our small town.  Of course after I tracked down the items to make it, I quickly realized that I still had to purchase the ingredients, but after making it over and over, I am happy with how long a batch lasts so it relieves me from adding laundry soap to my shopping list frequently.

When I first started making this, I made the liquid kind and kept it in a big 5-gallon bucket by the washer.  Eventually I tried the powder version, and I prefer it now because it’s super quick and easy to make and can stay in a smaller container but still lasts a long time.

Yesterday, Anna and I made another batch and remembered to take some pictures, so without further ado, here is our homemade laundry detergent tutorial!



Ingredients and amounts:

  • Bar soap — 1 bar  (Fels Naptha, Zote, any kind you like.  Find the cleaning bars in the laundry detergent and/or cleaning aisle.  I really like Zote but the only kind I had on hand at the time was Tone body soap, so I used that.  Worked fine before so I’m using it again.  It really depends on your preference.)
  • Washing soda — 1 cup  (Also in laundry and/or cleaning aisle.  Only kind I’ve ever seen is Arm & Hammer.)
  • Borax — 1 cup  (Find next to washing soda.  The only brand I’ve found is 20 Mule Team.)
  • Baking soda — up to 1 small box  (Generic is fine, and this is an optional ingredient.)
  • Essential oil of your choice — a few drops  (Also an optional ingredient for a nice aroma.  Sometimes I put it in if I remember to but usually I don’t.)


  • Container with lid
  • Spoon for stirring
  • Knife for cutting up bar of soap
  • Grater or food processor
  • Measuring cup

**Note:  All of the tools I use are used exclusively for soap-making, as it’s a real pain to wash them good enough to be put back in the kitchen again.  I keep all of it stashed in an empty cat litter bucket in the laundry room and just pull out the bucket when it’s time to make some.



First, I cut up the bars of soap.  I use an old knife that is so old I can’t remember where it came from.  I was blessed with a secondhand mini food processor, so I roughly cut up the bars of soap and toss them into the bowl of the processor.


You can also grate the soap, which I used to do and hated.  You want it as fine as possible, which is another reason the processor is so handy.  I toss in a little of the washing soda with the soap so the soap doesn’t gum up in the processor.  It helps make it into a fine powder.



Once it’s finely chopped, toss it into your container and continue until all of the soap is chopped/grated.  This is what it looks like in the food processor bowl:


Now it’s time to add the other ingredients.  Add the 1 cup of washing soda,



the 1 cup of borax,



a small box of baking soda (if desired), and enlist the help of the photographer to do the stirring.


This is what the final product looks like, a finely ground mixture.



If you choose to add an essential oil, now is the time.  I used lavender this time.  Just add a few drops (however strong smelling you like) and stir.


You are now ready to do some laundry!



So let’s do something fun….calculate the cost!  Yep, I’m nerdy like that.  Obviously your cost will differ at least slightly from mine unless you live in my exact area and shop at the exact same places as I do.  It will also vary depending on what brand of bar soap you use.

Bar soap     .50 each

Washing soda     .41 per cup

Borax     .42 per cup

Baking soda     .40 per box

Total for 1 batch = 1.73 (I always make a double batch so this would be $3.46 for a double.)

I have a 2-tablespoon scoop that I keep on top of the container to use for measuring.  I use half of the scoop ( 1 tablespoon) for almost all loads and a full scoop (2 tablespoons) for really dirty stuff like my husband’s work clothes and the dog’s blanket.  A double batch makes 37 scoops, which is 74 tablespoons.  Theoretically, I could get 74 loads from this double batch, but more likely I will get about 55 loads.

Cost of laundry soap for my double batch is $3.46 divided by 55 loads = .06 per load.

What a great deal!