I don't really like laundry. It is not my favorite household chore. I especially loathed the feeling of dumping my money down the drain with expensive detergents. I'd feel like my clothes weren't going to get clean unless I used something pricey but who wants to spend all that money on soap?!

A few months back (I use a larger recipe now, same basic idea though) I started making my own detergent. It sounds like it would be complex and time-consuming but it is just the opposite. You're thinking that nothing will get clothes and diapers as clean as Tide or Charlies, right?


My girls are quite the rowdy little princesses at times and their clothes show it. Washing in the homemade detergent not only saves us tons of money but it is great on their clothes. It gets out every stain I've ever thrown at it with a little pretreating scrub and a spoonful of detergent. Lauren's diapers are clean and fresh. I've even washed kitchen towels used to wipe up a grease spill. Clean. I love it.

Here's how:

Shred one bar of soap. I started making detergent with Fels Naptha. But I wanted something a little less harsh with all the dry skin in this house. So I switched to Dr. Bronner's soap. It is fantastic. I think it cleans better than the Fels. It leaves our clothes very fluffy, fresh-smelling and soft.

Put the shredded bar of soap in a sauce pan. Add water - about 3/4 of the way full. Heat until soap dissolves, then add: 1 c. of washing soda and 1 c. Borax. Heat and stir until everything is dissolved and bubbly.

Fill a clean 5 gallon bucket half way with warm water. Pour in soap mixture and stir. Then fill bucket with water, cover and let sit over night.

That's it.

Use about 1/2 cup of detergent for regular washers and 1/4 cup of detergent for front loaders. It is not a sudsy soap so don't expect the frothy bubbles you get with store-bought detergent.

The Dr. Bronner's soap I found was about $4.50 for the bar. (You could use Ivory, Irish Spring or any cheap soap you like. That will change your final price. This was the most expensive load I've made.) Each box of Borax and washing soda is around $2.50-3.00 locally. There is enough to make approximately 6 batches of detergent in each box. By my crude calculations that makes a 5 gallon batch cost around $5.50. With adding in the cost of water, a bucket (which are easy to find - used and cheap) and the expense of heating the soap let's estimate the total at $7.

5 gallons of quality detergent for $7. That is one hard-to-beat deal. You should try it.


  1. I love the idea of making my own detergent. My challenge has been finding a recipe that doesn't include soap or borax, since neither is cloth diaper friendly (i.e. will leave diapers smelling a little fish-y once wet, from what I've read). Have you seen any that have diaper-safe alternatives to those ingredients?

  2. Sounds really neat, cool, earthy, fulfilling, and all those good things. I may try it -- soon!
    My hold back has been the HE stuff, but if this works for them, I'll give it a shot!

  3. @Brietta - We haven't had a stink problem with the Dr. Bronner's. At all. Wtih Fels, we did a bit. The Borax hasn't caused an issue for us so I don't know. I've read on message boards that homemade laundry soap is fine for diapers. I only use about 1/3 cup for a load with hot water, with a cold soak cycle first. (But I'm also not looking to save my diapers for future children so maybe I'm less aware of damage to PUL.) I did research it prior to making my own detergent and have found that several people say its fine. You can also use white vinegar in a Downey ball to get rid of any residue.

  4. I am going to try this. I just had to buy laundry det last night and every time I do I cringe.... SO EXPENSIVE!

    What a great alternative.

    So as soon as I run out of what I just bought I will probably then be asking more questions.

    But ones I can think of now are:

    This is ok for front loaders? Ours are new and I'd hate to ruin something? What who knows! but ours are worth more than our cars right now.

    And the soap you use do you get that on line where you linked it to? Or can you get that locally?

    And the borax and soda, locally, as in Walmart? Where would I get that?

    Thanks for sharing Jackie.

  5. I will be trying this soon. I had wanted to back when you posted the first recipe, but I could not find Fels Naptha anywhere around here, and I didn't want to "stray" from the recipe. But I am all for spending $7 on 5 gallons of detergent. Thanks for the info! Oh, and I have also heard that how well a detergent works with cloth diapers depends a lot on the water...minerals and what works (or doesn't) for one person may not be the same for everyone.

  6. @Lori - I do think the water has a lot to do with cloth diaper scents. But the Dr. Bronner's soap definitely makes a huge difference. I won't go into yucky details but Lauren's diapers very rarely smell at all, after any mess. ;-)

    @ Renee - The Dr. Bronner's is sold at Nature's StoreHouse in Canton. (They sell several scents also.) I would be willing to bet they sell it at the Co-op also. If not, I can pick up a bar for you. The washing soda and Borax are both available at P&C. I believe Walmart only sells the Borax. It will not ruin your front-loader. You would want to use about 1/4 cup of detergent. And I can give you some ideas on finding buckets with lids for $1.

  7. So, I have a totally silly question. I really love the smell of clean laundry. I like the scent of detergent. Do you get that at all with using the homemade stuff? Of course, the money savings could really trump the scent!

    I can give this baby a real test in July. Ryan's uniforms come back smelling like something died. I will let you know if it works on those!

  8. @Abby - The laundry smells clean and fresh but not scented. Does that make sense? I guess it really doesn't have a scent even though I'm using eucalyptis (sp?)soap. For awhile I was using some liquid fabric softener to add a scent to our towels but it's not something I remember to use every time. Maybe you could make a batch with Ivory or some scented soap you like and see if that works.

  9. Jackie, thanks for all the info!

  10. Thanks Jackie! You are like an encyclopedia of earth friendly, money saving ideas!


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