DIY: Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

A couple of years ago a friend tipped me off to a recipe for making your own laundry detergent. I'll admit, I was a total skeptic at first. Part of me thought it would never work as well as the "real" stuff, and the other part of me rolled my eyes at yet another thing that was a little too "crunchy" for my taste. But, I'll pretty much do anything in the name of saving a dollar so I can spend that dollar on more fun things like shoes, pedicures and lattes, so when I heard that it would cost about 20 bucks to make and should last a year or more, I figured what the heck, let's try it. Plus, you all know I love a good DIY and this seemed like a fun one to try.

I've now been using it for quite a while and I have to say, I LOVE it. A friend and I used the recipe from this blog, it makes a huge batch so we split it. We made it about a year ago and when I noticed I was running low last week, I figured I'd take time to take a couple pics so I could show you all how to make it too. I know it sounds extreme to make your own laundry detergent, and I thought it was a little "much" too, but I've been really pleased with it and it's so easy to do that I don't see a reason NOT to do it.

But first off a couple of notes:
  • I have an old school top-loader and it works great.  I've heard this works with HE machines, but I can't say from personal experience.
  • The detergent smells amazing after you make it, but the clothing has no smell after I take it out of the dryer. I don't mind it, but I suppose it's personal preference. I'm sure you could add something in to make it smell more.
  • This isn't safe for cloth diapers.
  • But it is safe for sensitive baby skin - I use it on all of Eli's clothes and blankets.
  • As a point of reference for how long this lasts, a half batch lasted Mike and I about 13 months and cost about ten bucks. That, my friends, is amazing. 
  • If you have other questions, you should seriously check out the blog post I linked to above, she answers pretty much everything you can think of, and the nearly 400 comments are also helpful for any questions you might have.
Alrighty, here's what you need - for the record, I did have a very pretty picture of all of this stuff (seriously, it was really good) but I some how deleted it. I have no idea how. Annoying. 

Anyway get this stuff:
  • 1 4 lb 12 oz box Borax
  • 1 4 lb box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
  • 1  box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (55 oz)
  • 3 bars of Fels-Naptha soap
  • 1 large container Oxy Clean (about 3 lbs. total) - The original recipe recommends 3.5 lbs. of Oxy Clean, but I didn't want to purchase an additional container just to get the additional .5 lb. I haven't noticed any quality issues without that .5 lb. 
I make the trek out to the 'burbs to go to Wal-Mart for all this stuff. You can find everything in the detergent aisle - it's like they know about this recipe, because it's all lined up on one shelf for you. I've tried to get this stuff at my local Super Target, but they only carry about half the items.

Here's what you do. First, grate the Fles-Naptha soap. I just throw mine in the food processor with the grater attachment on. If you don't have a food processor, you can use a hand grater, but it'll take a bit longer. With the food processor, five minutes and you're done:

Then I take a trash can lined with a garbage bag and dump in all the ingredients, the grated soap included, and mix, mix, mix with my hands. I recommend doing this outdoors, it gets a little dusty. I did it on my porch that day since it was raining out.

Once it's all mixed up, it's ready to use! I store a portion of mine in a glass container above my washing machine, and store the extra in a large container in a storage closet nearby. In the pic below you can see I have special detergent marked "baby" - which I only use for cloth diapers - and the "everything else" jar is this detergent. I was originally planning on needing to use special detergent for all of Eli's clothes, blankets, etc., but good news - this homemade detergent is just fine for baby skin! So now I need to make a new label for the jar on the right to denote it for just cloth diapers.

A pulled back shot of my setup - it's not as creepy as it looks down there, promise. And I swear the floor is level. I'm not sure what happened.

All you need to use is 1-2 Tbs. per load, depending on how large and dirty it is. I just keep cheap-o plastic tablespoons in each of my jars, so measuring is super easy.

You all should seriously try this out. As I mentioned above, I thought this was a bit overboard in the realm of DIY, but I'm happy that did it. It's probably one of the easiest DIY's that I do and it saves us tons of money - cause a penny saved is a penny earned for a new purse - that's how it goes, right?


  1. this is embarrassing, but I always thought people were putting grated cheese in their detergent (which is why I kept thinking...ya'll are crazy). But now that I know it's soap that just looks like cheese, I'm feeling more supportive.

    1. Bahaha, Emily, Emily! You must try it - lemme know if you want a cup or two to try!

  2. What do you have in your cloth diaper detergent? I have read that Borax and Naptha soap are a big no-no so we have just started this week using a recipe with just oxyclean, washing and baking soda. We just started so I don't have an opinion yet but I would love to know that you use since it works for you guys.

    1. Hey Robyn,

      I actually purchase the cloth diaper detergent - It's Rockin' Green Rage Against the Raspberries and I get it on Amazon. I didn't want to take any risk of ruining my stash! I want to hear how your homemade recipe goes once you have had time to review it!

  3. Have you found anything to use for softener? Since we had to stop using drying sheets (because of cloth diapering) I would like to try something safe. I saw this blog:
    has a great recipe for Vinegar and Lavender Softener that shouldn't leave residue behind but I am curious if you have any other suggestions!

    1. Not yet - right now I'm only air drying my CD's since I have yet to clean out my dryer. :/ Again, lemme know if you try something, I'd love to hear!