homemade laundry detergent

I did it … finally.

I have been wanting to make my own homemade laundry detergent for a few years now. I was all ready to take the plunge earlier this month. But, as happens now and again when living on an island, I couldn’t find all of the ingredients.

Yes, it is true, there are only 3 necessary ingredients.  And I couldn’t find Borax or washing soda.  Such is island life, it was a fun scavenger hunt for a few days, though.

Update:  We’ve moved back to the US and you can easily find Borax here and washing soda here.

Lucky for me, I’m at least smart enough to have smart friends.  Smart friends who, when they find Borax they know it’s not always available so they buy what they consider to be a ’5 year supply’ and are happy to sacrifice a box for the greater good. Thank you Anita!!!

And, still without washing soda, I looked into it a bit and learned that the difference between washing soda and baking soda is that baking soda is almost half the pH of washing soda, rendering it a gentler product while reducing a little bit of the cleaning ability.

Update:  I do know that it is super easy to making washing soda out of baking soda.  But it converts back to baking soda when it is exposed to air so that wouldn’t work for this recipe. One of the best parts of making your own laundry detergent is how long it lasts!!

But, I just so happened to have some Oxy Clean on hand, so I thought that would add back in an appropriate amount of cleaning power.

Seems logical, right?!?

For everyone who has been asking, that little beauty of ours, Mico, is doing amazingly well … and keeping a closer eye on me than ever.  Just how we both like it.  Thank you for all the kind thoughts.

My ingredients of choice for homemade laundry detergent:

1 cup Ivory Soap grated (you could use any natural soap, ie. Kirk’s Castile, Dr. Bonners, Fels Naptha or Zote)
1/2 cup Borax (there are alternatives using a pure glycerin soap if you prefer to not use Borax)
1/4 cup Baking Soda*
1/4 cup Oxy Clean*

*if you have washing soda you can substitute 1/2 cup for the 1/4 baking soda and 1/4 Oxy Clean.

Here’s my understanding of the purpose for each ingredient in homemade laundry detergent:

Ivory Soap – main cleaning ingredient
Borax – whitener and deodorizer
Baking Soda – stain and odor remover
Oxy Clean –  additional cleaning umph

And, the two best parts of this project in my opinion, you ask?!?!

Unless you live on an island and have trouble sourcing ingredients, this is a super simple project.

Grate the soap and combine all ingredients.  Easy peasy.  Feel free to multiply the recipe as desired.  My three 3.1 oz bars of soap were about 3 cups total and I combined the other ingredients accordingly.

And, use 1 tablespoon of the concoction for regular loads and up to 2 tablespoons for your nasty laundry heavily soiled loads.

And the other best part … the cost breakdown vs. store-bought powdered laundry detergent.

No, I don’t have a mathy breakdown because I didn’t actually buy all of the ingredients and yes, my comparison would be a Curacao cost breakdown. But, word on the street is this is cheaper.  :)

And, it is low suds so can be used in HE, front loading units.  Bonus!

Update:  You can make a diy desiccant to prevent your homemade laundry detergent from clumping, the recipe is here.

Tell me … have you ever made your own laundry detergent?  Anything else homemade that I should give a try?  Wish I actually had a mathy cost breakdown?  I do.  :)

And … the winners for the Homezada.com giveaway were picked, find out if it’s you here.
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About Karah

I'm Karah and I'm so glad you're here! I'm a small town girl from the North East who finds myself moving around with my husband and pups every few years and constantly on a journey to make the most of every space we find ourselves in. That little space between what has been and what will be. It'd be so cool if you'd like to join us for the ride.
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68 Responses to homemade laundry detergent

  1. Meg says:

    i have been really wanting to make my own laundry detergent. where did you find the borax?? i am almost out of my current laundry soap so maybe this would be a good time to try out my homemade soap

  2. I’ve been making my own detergent for awhile now. Same ingredients just done a little bit different and uses water so I have a liquid detergent. Just about the same amount of ingredients that you used (up the powdered ingredients by about a half a cup) and it yields 10 GALLONS of liquid detergent!!! I supply detergent now for all the kids and their significant others! Little moochers!

    On another note – I have tried at least a dozen times to take off the no-reply blogger thing and the box is definitely check marked where it says show email like all the tutorials I’ve been reading so I’m not sure what’s up. Could you attempt a reply and let me know? My next step is contacting Google!

  3. Thistle says:

    I have a jar of this sitting in my laundry room right now! And I just washed my sheets with it! It’s so great!

    Have a blessed day!

  4. Kristy Rohm says:

    Must Try!

  5. Julie Shaw says:

    Hi Karah – I was one of those who thought making my own laundry detergent was a good idea…someday. Well that day came about a month ago. I am allergic to almost every laundry detergent on the market. The no-name one I used was the only one I could use and they stopped making it! I tried some expensive natural hypo-allergenic ones – nothing worked so I made my own. I’ve been using it for 3 weeks now and it’s great! Takes a few minutes to make, gets my clothes clean with no fragrance left and I’m not allergic! The fact that it is much cheaper is a bonus. I will always make my own from now on. J

    • Karah says:

      It’s one of those things I can’t believe I’ve waited so long to do it, you know!! So encouraging to hear the positive outcomes. I’ve been thrilled so far. :)

  6. Marilyn says:

    Karah, how well does the ivory soap work? I usually use fels naptha in my laundry soap but ivory would be cheaper!

  7. I might just have to try this to put it to the smelly-teenage-boy-athlete test. :) I’ll let you know if I do!!
    xo Heidi

  8. I’ve been itching to try this… definitely need to check it out!

  9. I’ve been seeing this, and it seems like such a money saver! Thanks for sharing!!

  10. This is good to know! I’ve been kinda wanting to try this. Though i will say I draw the line at homemade deodorant… have you seen that on pinterest? I mean really???

  11. My laundry room is in a closet – literally! So there’s no room for cute jars in there! I just hide my big ugly orange tub of detergent but I wish I could sit this on a shelf in my light filled laundry room – some day!!

  12. Karah, I have seen a couple of homemade laundry detergent “recipes”…I love that this one has Ivory soap…love that smell !!
    Love that Mico is doing well…Such a cutie!!!

  13. Janet says:

    I get your posts by email and thought you’d like to know that at the end of your post was a LOT of gibberish I presume was code. It said it was a clipped version. I clicked to see the whole post and got to the comment area. Just a glitch I would want to know of if it were mine, that’s all. Isn’t this homemade stuff awesome?!?!?!?

  14. I’ve been dying to try this too! How does it work compared to the store-bought stuff?

  15. Lisa Conforto says:

    I love the idea of Home made laundry soap, what could be added for a great smell?

  16. Debbie says:

    OK, I’m really going to make some! I’ve been saying it for months! Thanks for the reminder :)

  17. I’ve pinned like 3 of these recipes, but have yet to try one. Aaaaaaand now I’ll pin yours. :)

  18. sherry says:

    Yep, I’ve done this before and it worked. I didn;t have washing soda but I doubled up on baking soda, still worked out well.

    • heidim says:

      Research the exact instructions, but from what I have read, you can turn regular baking soda into washing soda by heating it in the oven. Apparently, the added heat converts the chemical make up a bit and makes the necessary changes. Just a thought for those not finding it readily available.

      • Karah says:

        Hi Heidi!! Thank you so much for visiting. I have heard about that, but it converts back to baking soda when exposed to the air so it wouldn’t work for the long term use of the laundry detergent. But still super cool!!

  19. You just need one or two tablespoons of the homemade detergent?! Wow! I use at least a cup of the bought stuff – maybe I’m overdoing it?! I hate that laundry detergent makes me choke when I breathe it in – really makes me wonder what it’s doing to the environment. I’m going to give this detergent recipe a try.

    I haven’t made any homemade cleaning products, but I’m going to try making homemade deodorant. The store bought stuff can’t be good for you, with aluminium being one of the ingredients. Who knows what it does to your body after it gets absorbed…. here’s a recipe that I came across:


  20. This is totally something that is on my “if I ever have time” list. But then I’d have to make my laundry room all pretty to go with it too:)

    Tried to +1, but got an error, hmmm….


  21. Kimberly says:

    This is so funny because we both must of been on this kick this week to make our own detergent. I am not on an island as you are and had the most difficult time finding Borax and washing soda. Nobody carries it anymore. Did find several online sites who will ship these items to your home.

  22. Michelle says:

    I too make my laundry soap. I’ve read you can make your own washing soda by baking/cooking regular baking soda in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. It said you can feel the difference in the before baked and after baked soda. It’s more coarse. I’ve also seen recipes that use Zote and Fels Naptha. Some claim your water hardness can affect your results, so try the different soaps and adjusting the amount of soda more or less.

    • Karah says:

      Hi Michelle – I read that too about the baking soda to washing soda … but the article I read said that after exposure to the air it turns back to baking soda so it had to be sealed in an air tight container. But I might try that next time. :0

  23. Beth says:

    I just made my laundry soap this past week. I intentionally ran out before we left for holiday so I would be forced to get going on this. Now I did not find any cost savings as it cost me about $11 to get all the supplies at Walmart. We can get washing soda locally although I have ordered it online in the past. I am going to do a more accurate analysis the next go around. I would add one other ingredient and that is essential oils of your choice. That is the main reason I even wanted to do this- I love all the fun smells, like rosemary. Thanks for your great post and photos, especially of sleepy puppy.

  24. theboldabode says:

    My MIL has been using Borax for years… I’m just too dern lazy to do this, but it looks amazing and I LOVE Ivory soap! You go.

  25. Jill says:

    I just found the my new hometown grocery store has the washing soda – yay! I’ve been using borax for a few years as a laundry additive, but now I’m going to make my own powdered stuff. Quick question – any thoughts on adding vinegar for de-stinkifying work out clothes? Will it still work with this formula?

    • Karah says:

      YES!! I would add it directly to a load of super stinky clothes! AND, vinegar is a great washing machine cleaner. I run my washing machine empty every few months and just put 1/2 cup of vinegar in the soap dispenser. Works like a charm. :)

  26. This is the same recipe I use…it works so well. The only place I can find washing powder other than online is at Ace/ Do you have Ace Hardware where you live?

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  30. vondia says:

    this looks so much easier than what i made. when its all gone im trying your idea. thanks. do you have a recipe for dishwasher soap. i tried one and my clear glass looked awful.

    • Karah says:

      I LOVE this laundry detergent, but unfortunately I haven’t tried a dishwasher soap since we were living without one the last 3 years … I’ll have to work on one when we get moved into our house! I’ll let you know if I come up with something good. :)

  31. Barbara says:

    I pinned this Karah, I need to make this!! Thank you for sharing:)

  32. Heather says:

    Looks totally doable Karah! Thanks for sharing with awesome pics!

  33. Donna Trull says:

    I’m about to make my 3rd batch. The first lasted 9 months! And costs under $20. I too have used Ivory when I couldn’t fine the Naphatha. (sp?) The ingredients are easier and easier to find the more popular Pinterest becomes. Literally, every grocery store in my town has the ingredients. It really only takes about 15 minutes to make this to save a lot of money. For a nice smell I use the new fragrance crystals for laundry but only a couple of tablespoons per load, not 1/4 cup the manufacturer recommends.

  34. Heat says:

    Just curious can scented dial soap be used.

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  36. karen Klein Schaffer says:

    Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve been making my own liquid laundry detergent for about 8 months or so. The recipe I make is for liquid detergent. The original recipes I used calls for Borax, Washing Powder, and a few tablespoons of liquid dish detergent for the fragrance.( I substitute a 1/8 purchased liquid laundry detergent for added “umph” and a bit of fragrance). All ingredients are mixed in a large container and then 3 cups of boiling water get added. When it cools, just fill the rest of the container to the top with cold water.
    It lasts forever and has saved me so much money. Works just as well as store bought.

  37. Dina says:

    you can make your own washing soda from baking soda. just google “how to make washing soda from baking soda” it isn’t very hard. you need a cookie sheet, baking soda and an oven.

    • Karah says:

      Yes, it is very easy to make washing soda, but it converts back to baking soda when it is exposed to air over time. The best part of making your own laundry detergent is how long it lasts!! If only the converted washing soda could keep up. :)

  38. Stacy says:

    I’ve made our own liquid laundry detergent for several years, and recently my husband started showing signs of a reaction. After trying different soaps, and detergents, and a little research, we came to conclusion that it is what ever is in the fels-naptha laundry soap I had been grating up in our batches. I am glad to see you are using Ivory soap, as that is the only soap that doesn’t break him out in hives. We had started buying perfume and color free detergent and with us plus 5 kids at home, that get expensive. I will be giving your recipe a try this week! Thank you for sharing!

  39. ackermari says:

    Left my laundry dingy gray and the film that built up in the washing machine is very hard to get rid of. Had to scrub with abrasive cleanser to loosen it. Ruined some expensive clothing too.

    • Karah says:

      Are you saying that was the result from this exact recipe? Have you ever tried running your washing machine empty with just a cup of white vinegar. It is an amazing machine cleaner. And I’ve been using this recipe since I posted about it and have been nothing but happy with it. Sorry to hear your experience was difference.

  40. vickie gibbs says:

    Ok ive bought these ingredients but I want to make liquid instead of powdered, what is the correct amount of water to use to do it?

    • Karah says:

      Hi Vickie – I looked into it and it looks like a liquid concentrate can be made with these ingredients and one liter of water. You should be able to wash about 30 loads with that amount. I haven’t tried it so I’d love to hear how it works for you if you try it.

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  42. Kelly says:

    Have you ever tried making your own fabric softener? Equally as easy- requires Vinegar, Water & Conditioner! Also, just found your blog- hooray! And also also, please tell me you’ve been to El Siboney down there?!

  43. Karen says:

    Good to see you use the same recipe I have. The only difference is I microwave the Ivory for a couple of minutes – my kids love the “cloud” – and then use my mini food processor instead of grating it. Quick and easy and when I make a double batch it lasts 3 months!

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