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Washed Up? Not Even Close! Homemade Laundry Detergent

Guess what we’re going to do together? We are going to save the big bucks by manufacturing our own liquid laundry detergent. Imagine strolling right past that aisle in the supermarket. You could even cackle to yourself as you pass those silly shoppers paying those crazy-high prices for designer detergents (trust me: it will never get old). Why? Because we get several gallons of laundry detergent for about a buck and some change. Here’s how:

You will need the following:

  • 2 cups or 1 grated bar of unscented, organic soap (Fels Naptha, Sunshine, Octagon, or homemade lye soap)
  • 6 cups water (to be added cup at a time)
  • 3/4 cup Borax Natural Laundry Booster
  • 3/4 cup all natural washing soda
  • 1 quart HOT tap water
  • 1 gallon tap water

Grate the soap (or totally cheat and throw it in the food processor — whatever makes you happy makes me happy).

Using an old kettle, heat soap and two cups of water (add the other four cups one at a time, stirring constantly). Don’t let it boil even if you are really enjoying yourself and have begun to quote Macbeth.

Measure & mix the Borax and washing soda. Pour the mixture into your bubbling brew. Stir.

Stir until dissolved and then remove from heat. Resist the urge to stick your feet in even though it does look totally inviting.

Add 1 quart of HOT tap water to the bottom of a large tub.

Pour the soapy mixture (which should be thickening slightly) into the tub and stir. Pour in that gallon of tap water now. Stir some more. Your arms will hate me.

While stirring, you have my permission to add scent to your goop. I like lemon or lavender or cucumber — something refreshing. I think apple scent would be pretty nifty, too.

Now you can refill your detergent bottles and enjoy some more cackling. You savvy thing, you.

Let the mixture cool before pouring it into the bottles and don’t be surprised if it separates a little bit. That’s normal. Really. Use 1/2 cup per load. It works like a dream.

Special thanks to Heidi, Under the Pines, who unknowingly inspired this post with a recipe for laundry powder that I would love to use were it not for our wicked septic tank. Another HUGE thank you goes to Dirkey for reminding me what day it was (I never know) and prompting me to pen a Frugal Friday-ish post. If for some strange reason you, my bestest bud, haven’t visited these two blogs — then now is the time. You’ll be hooked faster than long hair on fly paper.

  • Christine - We do use a “special” all natural, scent-free, blah blah detergent now because of my youngest kids skin allergies. In fact it was because of my 3 year old’s needs that set me on the road to becoming more naturally minded throughout the house! We’re not 100% natural yet but we’re getting there! 😀

    One thing to note is that borax could cause skin reactions and it is toxic. As little as .5 grams can be lethal to a child or pet. Just a FYI to be safe when using it!ReplyCancel

  • Sandy (Momisodes) - Wow! You are awesome for doing this and posting all the steps and pics 🙂 Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Simple Livin' Gal - A lot of folks have issues using soap, too. If you don’t want to use Borax — you can still make the laundry detergent — just leave it out.

    Yes, Borax can be nasty stuff if used improperly (as with most things). Boric acid, sodium borate, and sodium perborate are estimated to have a lethal dose from 5 to 20 grams for humans (not .5). Borax is not flammable and is not reactive. It can be mixed with most other cleaning agents, including chlorine bleach. Borax is natural, but that does not mean it is automatically safer for you or for ‘the environment’ than man-made chemicals. Although plants need boron, too much of it will kill them, so borax can be used as an herbicide. Borax may also be used to kill roaches, ants, and fleas.

    Now, none of these risks mean that you shouldn’t use borax. If you do a bit of research, you will find risks associated with all cleaning products, natural or man-made. However, you do need to be aware of product risks so that you can use those products properly. Don’t use Borax around food, keep it out of reach of children and pets, and make sure you rinse Borax out of clothes (the rinse cycle on your washer takes care of this) and off of surfaces before use.

    20 Mule Team® Borax is non-toxic, but if ingested in large quantities, it has the potential to cause negative effects. If ingested, contact a doctor immediately.

    Consuming large quantities of any cleaning agent will cause you, your child, or your pet harm. Not long ago, a man nearly died because he ate quite a bit of baking soda in order to soothe his dyspepsia.

    You can find out more about 20 Mule Team® Borax by visiting their website and clicking on their FAQ section.

    I promise to be more thorough next time. Thank you, Christine! I appreciate you pointing out the drawbacks to using Borax and other cleaning agents. Please continue to do so because I am forgetful but well-meaning!


  • Robin - Hey Miss Lacy! I should be in bed, I ache from head to toe. Blah. Head cold, maybe? We all have it. Blah again.

    But, you see, this is much more interesting than staring at my ceiling and sniffling. Vicks will be my friend tonight.

    We want to make this. I’ve wanted to for a really long time. I will have to look for those ingredients next time we are out and my body does not feel like a giant bruise. 😆

    YOU rock like KISS yourself, m’dear. :mrgreen: Did I tell you that KISS is my brother’s all time favorITE group? Well, it is. 🙂 One of their songs is one of my top three favorite songs of ALL time. (see blog)

    Have an awesome Friday!! Hugs, RobinReplyCancel

  • Hallie - How cool. I don’t think I’ve heard of half of the items you listed but I still think this is a fantastic idea!


  • Christina - Good post! I may have to try that one! Glad you liked the coop post!ReplyCancel

  • Marky - Thanks, I have always wondered about doing this. I am not sure where to find some of those items, but will begin my search! Thanks again.


  • CrossView - One of these days… LOL!
    I’ve been saying for years that I’m going to try and make my own.


  • Jessica - Did I miss where you add the last gallon of water?

    I am really thinking about trying this.


  • Valarie Lea - I’ll have to show this to my sister she likes doing this kind of stuff. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Leah - I’m going to have to try your homemade laundry detergent sometime. Even the cheap stuff is getting expensive!

    And as for a born naturalist – sounds like my Pap. And I myself seem to have inherited his gift for having a way with animals. He was one of those people that all animals loved, even those that didn’t like anybody. I have a picture of him feeding a wild turkey that had wandered onto the picnic grounds at a family reunion many many years ago; it was taken by someone else of course because this happened when I was just a tiny thing. (I think… I may not have even been around yet at the time. lol) But the turkey just went right up to him and was eating out of his hands! Granted I have never had anything so extraordinary happen (yet) but I do seem to be able to get closer to many wild animals that run as soon as anyone else comes around. (Like birds, squirrels, bunnies…) Though I think my real gift is that dogs LOVE me. My uncle used to have a german shepherd that was supposedly the meanest thing – he didn’t like anybody and bit everyone who got too close including the uncle who owned him. They eventually put him down because he was just so mean and couldn’t be handled. But I only have the fondest memories of that dog! I was only about three years old at the time. But that dog adored me and I adored him. He would give me kisses and let me snuggle up to him – never even growled at me. More recently, we were visiting a family friend and his neighbor’s dog – who, again, didn’t like anybody even her owner – came wandering down the road. She came straight to me and sat by my feet, gave me some kisses and let me scratch her ears and rolled over to let me rub her belly. She stayed by me till we left; which was about 40 minutes. The friend was amazed; according to him not even the owner could get near her.

    Anyway I hope you’re having a great day and that you have a lovely weekend!


  • Jessica - I must have because I see it now. 😉ReplyCancel

  • rhonda jean - Hi Lacy, this is a winner. I’ve been making and using this same recipe for years and it’s always been great. I use a front loader, it’s helpful to know it doesn’t make a lot of lather, but that’s good! The lather in commercial laundry detergent comes from the degreaser they put in. Yuck.

    I was so sorry to read that your lost your chicken. Any sign of her today? We lost three recently and it’s heartbreaking. Take care love. I hope you find your chook.ReplyCancel

  • Robbyn - What a great recipe, Lacy! It’s good with septic systems? (we’re on septic)
    It’s nice you posted pictures…makes it easy to see how easy it is 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Hayden - very cool & interesting post! Maybe I’ll try a half batch….ReplyCancel

  • Michelle aka Applie - We have a septic system and it didn’t bother it when I used this soap. I didn’t care for it because it did not clean our clothes as much as I like. My kids get really dirty. LOLReplyCancel

  • Kim - Great idea, I’ve never even given that a thought. Thanks for sharing the step by step process!ReplyCancel

  • Meg - Oh, that’s terrific! Soap and cleaning stuff is one place where we stay all-natural and organic when we can, but we could definitely kick it up a bit and start making some of our own. Thanks for the how-to!ReplyCancel

  • Minnesotamom - You know what was most helpful for me? Your later comment about Borax! I’ve been on the fence about making my own detergent because of Borax, but seeing as the 20 Mule Team is non-toxic, I may just have to start! After purchasing a huge pail, of course…ReplyCancel

  • Terri - I made the detergent a few days ago, and used it today for the first time. It had congealed in the bucket very similar to jello, and did not create a single sud in the washer. Did I do something wrong? Is this normal?

    This is completely normal and you did everything right! The only reason that commercial detergents suds is because they contain added chemicals to do so. We are programmed to think that the suds is what’s getting our skin and clothing clean. And the Jello-ish texture is just like mine! Depending on what kind of bar soap you use, the gel will vary in firmness and it will change over time. Thank you for giving it a try! Blessings and thanks! -LacyReplyCancel

  • Lisa - We have the supposed more energy- and water-efficient, front-loading washer labeled “HE,” and you’re supposed to use detergent specifically formulated for lower-sudsing machines. Have you had any feedback about this? I would like to try making my own detergent but I don’t want to hose my machine either.
    The homemade detergent will not create any suds (this is disappointing to many people who associate cleaning power with sudsy froth). I agree with you on wanting to be careful adding detergents that might wreck your brand spanking new, glorious machine (which I am totally jealous, just so you know). Having consulted with a dear friend, who is blessed to own one of these fantastic front-loading, super-efficient wonder-washers, I can tell you that she has used the homemade detergent without any trouble. She said that she experimented with amounts but found that if she used half the amount the book/commercial brand said to use — it worked out great. She uses vinegar as a fabric softener and in her vinegar she drops some scent. Blessings and thanks! -LacyReplyCancel

  • Debbie - Hi there, my sister (bitchypoo.com) posted your “recipe” for laundry detergent. Is it ok if I give folks your site so they can check it out too? I am a freecycle fanatic here in maine and gave a couple of folks this link-then realized I really should ask before I hand it out anymore. I am SO psyched to make this myself.ReplyCancel

  • Cream of Tartar — household Cleaning to Make You Swoon : Razor Family Farms - […] contact Tide.  We need answers!  Actually, we don’t need answers.  We can scent our own homemade detergent (I haven’t bothered but that’s not to say that you couldn’t… after all, you […]ReplyCancel

  • Stacey - What a great idea!
    My husband has very sensitive skin, so I have to be carefull what kind I buy, plus it is so expensive!ReplyCancel

  • Rinse Cycle : Razor Family Farms - […] your own laundry detergent.  Whether you are on septic and must use liquid laundry detergent (like me) or you prefer powdered laundry soap, the recipes are straightforward and easy to do.  […]ReplyCancel

  • Linda Sue - OK now I’m curious – I buy a store brand no scent no color liquid detergent and have a front loader (thank you kind and considerate husband!!) The one lady commented it didn’t get her clothes clean enough – do you find that Lacy? I mean I would guess your Ranger hubby gets at least as dirty as my welding, woodworker, fence builder, automotive mechanicing hubby – so what’s the verdict – does this get blue jeans with black crud on ’em clean? I’m SOOOO tempted to try this – we are seriously working on frugality and I was shamed this week to read a blog where a family of four lived on $50/food – I spend their monthly budget on just two of us in a week!ReplyCancel

  • Simple Livin' gal - My Ranger gets absolutely FILTHY. For tough stains, I scrub them with some bar soap or soak them before sticking them in the wash. I don’t have any complaints with the homemade laundry detergent. NONE. I advise keeping it in a container with a lid — I don’t refill my laundry jugs any longer but use a huge yard sale Tupperware tub so I can scoop out the goop easily.ReplyCancel

  • amyb - hey lacy,
    i just wanted to let you know i finally made laundry detergent…and i am so happy with the results. i left a link from my blog to yours so anyone that reads mine (all 5 of them) can get your recipe if they want to try it. hope you don’t mind! it worked fantastically!

    hope you all are doing well!

  • A Tour : Razor Family Farms - […] section is a testiment to that passion!  Be it mixing up a batch of homemade soap, a bucket of all-natural laundry detergent, creating gifts for any holiday, or darning socks — my life is full of crafting and […]ReplyCancel

  • Laura’s Laundry Tips — Save Water and Money! : Razor Family Farms - […] worst!!  Our clothes felt stiff and the washer had a greasy film.  I’ve recently made the laundry soap on this site, with the personal attention of Lacy and her kitchen, and I have fallen in LOVE!!!  My clothes are […]ReplyCancel

  • Toni Smith - Have you ever made the powder kind of homemade laundry soap? It calls for the same ingredients. I have been making the powder for about 6 months now but am finding it to not clean very well when it comes to my husbands dirty clothes from outside. Any sugestions? Do you think your lliquid kind would clean better/

  • Katy - do you know if you can use this on cloth dipers. I dont know anything about borox?ReplyCancel

  • Simple Livin' gal - You absolutely can use it on cloth diapers and baby clothing! I used it on all the laundry for my foster baby and he never had a rash — not even once. 🙂

    Friends of mine have also used it and found it to be an excellent money-saver.


  • Back to Basics: Wash Day Simplicity | Small Town Living - […] your own laundry detergent.  Whether you are on septic and must use liquid laundry detergent (like me) or you prefer powdered laundry soap, the recipes are straightforward and easy to do.  […]ReplyCancel

  • glenda ramee - just found your web site; wondering how long will this soap last? would it ever go bad? basically the laundry I do is only my husband and I. sometimes grandkids arrive etc. In the past I have made a dry detergent and was please–do you have a recipe for that? We are on a septic tank as well.
    Hope to read more of your blog.ReplyCancel

  • Wanda - Love your blog. I make this detergent only I use the powdered kind.ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca - How does this work with HE washers?ReplyCancel

  • Darla - I am really interested I making this. Thank you for posting this but I have a few questions. How many bottles does this recipie make? Also how’s my drops if oil (for frangrance) do you use? Where could I find these ingridients? Are the ingridients expensive? How much does it cost to make the laundry detergent after purchasing all ingridients? Please please please email me the a swers to darlajandel@hotmail.comReplyCancel

  • first paper towels - Hey! I understand this is sort of off-topic but I needed
    to ask. Does managing a well-established blog such as yours require a massive amount work?
    I’m brand new to running a blog but I do write in my diary every day. I’d like to start
    a blog so I can easily share my own experience and
    views online. Please let me know if you have any kind of ideas
    or tips for brand new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!ReplyCancel

  • Cream of Tartar — The Cleaner | Lunch Break - […] contact Tide.  We need answers!  Actually, we don’t need answers.  We can scent our own homemade detergent (I haven’t bothered but that’s not to say that you couldn’t… after all, you knew about […]ReplyCancel

  • Trish - I lost a recipe for cleaning vintage lace. It had cream of tarter and some other things. You boiled it in water, then dropped in the lace and it whiten it up just like that. Anyone know what that recipe was???ReplyCancel

  • Dorothy - I make my own laundry detergent using the same products you have here but add OxyClean to the mix. I prefer using all of these ingredients in the dry form and having a dry detergent. I only use 1/3 cup in my laundry and use white vinegar as a rinsing agent. My laundry has never looked or smelled better.ReplyCancel

  • PJ - Will this detergent mix work in an HE washer?ReplyCancel

  • DIY: Spring Cleaning — Laundry! – Bath and Body - […] basics are more or less the same, so to get you started here is a nice step by step tutorial (from Razor Family Farms), here is a green “organic” […]ReplyCancel

  • Tatiana - I’m using Wintree laundry dnegrteet right now and I like it better than traditional brands. All of the 7th Gen and Method products are comparable to mid or upper level traditional brands in effectiveness and mid level in price. I’ve never tried Ecover. So far the only green product I’ve used that I didn’t like is Tom’s toothpaste. I also use baking powder and vinegar like whs mentioned. To clean the microwave I micky a teaspoon baking powder in a cup of water then wipe down with a damp cloth.ReplyCancel

  • Jaffar - Most of it is just a trick.. One of there favorite is veanegr and baking soda. Mix together and it will foam and release CO2 ,but what do U think U have now. There is every thing is acid,basic and salt. If u got a good balance the it is salt. Mother nature does this all the time. If U have some very strong HCL which is a bad thing. Mix it with Caustic soda to a PH of 7 . How cam we dispose of it. U can dump it in the river as it is table aslt and water.Know what U are working with and what it taks to neutralize it.ReplyCancel

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