Homemade Laundry Detergent

I started making my own laundry detergent last year when I came across a recipe online. It seemed simple enough and was very inexpensive so I thought I’d give it a try! Well, I’m hooked. After making a few tiny tweaks, I’ve come up with a process that works for me. When I tell people that I make my own detergent they always ask me how. So here we are! A little laundry detergent tutorial!

Here’s what you’ll need:

One 55 oz box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

One 4 lb box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda

One 76 oz box of Borax

Two 400g bars of Zote Soap

2.5 – 3 lbs of OxiClean (or any generic oxygen cleaner)
{I’ve used two 1.3 lb containers of OxiClean here but I think they make a 3 lb container as well and you can use that if you wish}

You’ll also need a container to put the detergent in! This recipe makes 2 gallons of powder detergent so I would recommend a nice 2 gallon glass jar. I got this one from Walmart for only $9.97!

And don’t forget a little scoop for your detergent!

Both of these scoops were found at Walmart. The one on the left is the smallest scoop of a set of three. I can’t remember the exact price of the set but it wasn’t more than a few bucks (I use the other scoops from the set for my flours). That scoop holds a little over 2 Tbsp (non-heaping). The scoop on the right is sold as a “Coffee Scoop” and holds exactly 2 Tbsp. The Coffee Scoop was only $1.67. You only need to use 1-2 Tbsp of this detergent per load so either of these scoops would be perfect! {also, the OxiClean comes with a small plastic scoop that can certainly be used as well!}

For mixing up the detergent I recommend picking up a 5 gallon bucket at your local home improvement store along with a screw top lid for it.

I got this bucket at Home Depot for $2.60. The screw top lid was slightly more expensive at $6.97 but it creates a leakproof seal and the screw top lid is much easier to get on and off than the snap-on ones. Designate this your “Detergent Making Bucket” and keep it clean! Don’t go mixing any grout or paint in it!

You’ll also need a food processor (or box grater) and a large bowl to hold some of the ingredients.

Directions

1. Set aside the Zote Soap and the baking soda

2. Pour the remaining ingredients (Super Washing Soda, Borax, and OxiClean) into the bucket

3. Cut the Zote Soap in half lengthwise so that it will fit through the feed tube of your food processor. {If you are using a box grater you may skip this step}

4. Using the shredding disc on your food processor, grate the Zote Soap and transfer the grated soap to a large bowl. {If you are using a box grater, use the smallest possible grate. You’ll want to get the Zote Soap as small as you can since you won’t be using a food processor to take it to a powder consistency.}

5. Change out the shredding blade in your food processor and put in the regular blade. Working in batches, place about two handfuls of the shredded soap into the processor along with about 1.5 cups of the baking soda (just eyeball it).

6. Pulse the soap and baking soda until it forms a powder. The purpose of incorporating the baking soda in this step is to help prevent the Zote Soap from clumping. The baking soda should coat the soap so that it doesn’t stick to itself. If the mixture still looks a bit clumpy just add more baking soda until it looks like a powder. {If you are using a box grater, I would just add the baking soda to the soap in the large mixing bowl and stir it up so that the shredded soap gets coated with the baking soda. I would start with about 3 cups and add more as you need it}

7. As you process the Zote Soap and baking soda just add each batch to the bucket with the rest of the ingredients. And don’t forget to add any baking soda left in the box!

8. Screw the lid on tight and shake, rattle and roll until everything is mixed well! This is a bit of a workout so you can skip the gym on detergent making days. Also, husbands are good detergent shakers.

9. Once the ingredients are all mixed, you are ready to transfer it to your pretty container! To avoid making a big mess, I recommend scooping it out with a large cup until there isn’t much left in the bucket. Then you can safely dump the rest of it into your container.

10. Enjoy!

You just need 1-2 Tbsp of detergent per load. Many people say to add it directly to the washing drum but I put mine in the dry detergent dispenser. If you used a box grater for the Zote Soap, you may want to add the detergent directly to the drum so that the larger pieces don’t get caught in your dispenser. I wash most of my loads with cold water and have no problems with this detergent dissolving. I also have an HE washer and have no problems using this detergent.

Notes

  • You should be able to find Zote Soap at Home Depot (Update: I’ve seen it at Walmart now, too! For cheaper!). If you can’t find Zote Soap, you may use Fels Naptha instead (use 3 bars instead of 2!). Fels Naptha can be found at Walmart and many other stores. I’ve used both and both work great. I prefer the Zote Soap because it’s got a softer consistency for easier grating. I also prefer the smell of it to the Fels Naptha. Oh, and it’s PINK! But, seriously, the Fels Naptha is good stuff, too (it’s yellow, in case that matters to you).
  • My last batch of detergent lasted 10 months! Now I know that we don’t have kids so we probably aren’t doing as many loads as the average family but I do wash our running clothes after every run (that’s four loads a week right there) and with our regular loads added I would say we probably do 6-7 loads per week. And I use 2 Tbsp for most loads.
  • For my running friends: This detergent works wonders on our stinky running clothes (maybe it’s all the baking soda?). Any of you who exercise regularly and wear workout clothing made of special moisture-wicking material know how smelly those items can get! And they would still smell awful even after washing them! I’ve discovered a system that keeps our running clothes smelling fresh all the time and this detergent really helps! First of all, I wash all of our running clothes right after our runs (ok, maybe I shower first). I wash all of the items in COLD water with 2 Tbsp of my homemade detergent. I have an LG steam washer that gives me the option of choosing the soil level of the clothing so I set the soil level on high (I think that lengthens the wash cycle). When the cycle is finished I remove the clothes immediately and hang them to dry. I think this makes the most difference. The longer they sit in the washer, the more stink they develop. I’d read that you should wash your running clothes in cold water because heat can set in the stinky smells. This is also one of the reasons to hang dry your running clothes. That material dries so quickly that even if I need something for a run again the next morning, they’ll be dry and good to go.

Let’s talk cost…

One-time purchases:

  • Glass container: $9.97 at Walmart
  • 5 gallon bucket: $2.60 at Home Depot
  • Screw top lid for bucket: $6.97 at Home Depot
  • Coffee Scoop: $1.67 at Walmart

Total cost for one-time purchases: $21.21

Detergent ingredients:

  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda: $3.24 at Walmart
  • Arm & Hammer Baking Soda: $2.12 at Walmart
  • Borax: $3.38 at Walmart
  • OxiClean: $3.86 each at Walmart
  • Zote Soap: $1.67 each at Home Depot (you may find it cheaper at Walmart!)

Total cost for the ingredients: $19.80 (not bad for almost a year’s worth of detergent!)

58 thoughts on “Homemade Laundry Detergent

  1. Thanks for the tips! I’m going to buy all the ingredients tomorrow and attempt to make my first batch of home made laundry detergent. This recipe looks the most appealing of all the recipes I have researched thusfar and it’s affordable, the bet part! I’ll let you know how it turns out!
    Thanks, again!

  2. I bought all the ingredients and made the detergent today! It came out just like your picture which made me really happy :) It smells and looks absolutely wonderful! Thanks so much for posting this!!

  3. I’m not sure how much Fels Naptha to use in place of the zote. The FN bars are 155g each so I used almost 6 to equal the total of the 800g that two 400g zote bars are. But in your notes you said to use three FN bars. Can you please clarify? I don’t want my detergent to be too strong! Thanks!

    • Three bars of Fels Naptha is all you will need! I’m not sure why they aren’t gram for gram substitutes (maybe the Fels Naptha is more concentrated?) but three bars is plenty! That’s the amount I used with this same recipe and it worked great! Let me know if you have any more questions!

  4. I posted this recipe for homemade laundry soap last summer and promptly made it. I having been using the same batch since August 15th and still have 1/3 of it to go. It cost me just under $20 to make it. I have to admit it, I use 2 tablespoons instead of one tablespoon – I just can’t get my head around using so little. Here’s the skinny: this stuff works well! My Hubby is a hydromechanic and he comes home with grease, dirt and oils on his clothes. My kitchen towels are coming out clean and I use those hard! My whites are just perfect (I always add a lil bleach to whites). I can’t say enough about how well this works for me! We’ve been conditioned to laundry soaps that create a lot of smell and suds. Neither are necessary for really clean clothes. Once you get your mind around that, you’ll fall in love with this. I do about 10-12 loads per week and based on the cost of detergent, I’m calculating that I’ve saved about $100-$125 on laundry detergent in the last 5 months.

    • It’s so great, isn’t it? I use 2 Tbsp, too, for the same reason. Even 2 Tbsp seems like such a small amount but it works great even with my larger loads (and I have a high capacity washer!). And I agree about the money saved. That’s my favorite part! I’d rather spend my money on FUN things rather than BORING things like detergent! :)

  5. Sounds like a great soap to try, I do a load of towels every other day my kids rr grown but I have dogs that also get baths.im going to go get the stuff to make it this weekend…thanks..

  6. I just made this laundry detergent. Wow! How easy and affordable. Why did I not have this recipe when all 6 children were still at home? Oh the money I have spent! A small, no MEDIUM fortune! Thanks for sharing.

    Beth

  7. I’ve been using this recipe for a while and love it! One way I found to grate the Zote and make sure it doesn’t clump, the microwave! If you heat the soap in a bowl for 4 minutes it will get very puffy. Take it out and let it cool. After it has cooled you will be able it to crumble it to the consistency of baking soda just by rubbing it through your hands. It works wonders and saves me time with grating and I don’t have to use a food processor or blender!

    • Hi Diane! I know that the Zote soap says it’s approved for baby clothes (which to me makes it sound like it’s ok for sensitive skin?). I think the OxiClean comes in a dye-free, fragrance-free version so that would help as well. I hope this info helps a bit. I’m just not sure exactly how this detergent would be with sensitive skin and don’t want to say one way or another without being 100% sure.

  8. I have had a few of the ingredients for a while and finally made the soap yesterday, so glad I found your recipe. I like it much better than the one I was going to use. I have to go and get the Oxi-clean, which I really think will add a little somethin somethin, once added the recipe will be complete. Thanks so much for posting this, I can’t wait to use it. I am using a homemade soap, so I’m hoping it works as well as the Zote, although it’s not pink. :( I do love that your detergent has pink in it!!

    • I hope your soap works out well! I do love the pink but really, as long as it works I don’t care what color it is! And I just saw online that Zote makes a blue bar as well. Hmmm… I may have to switch things up next time. ;)

    • You know, Lisa, I never really thought about that! The original recipe I used had baking soda in it so I just kept using it. But I’ve seen many many detergent recipes that don’t use the baking soda so I think you would be fine leaving it out (or using less of it). We don’t have soft water here so it’s never given me any problems and since my husband and I are both runners, we can use the extra odor removal qualities! :D

    • Thanks, Patty! I don’t use a fabric softener with this detergent and don’t have any issues. But I’ve never really used fabric softener to begin with so you may be more used to the feel of fabric washed with fabric softener. You should be able to continue using your favorite fabric softener with this detergent or you can make your own! I’ve seen a lot of recipes for homemade fabric softener out there! Just Google it! I’ve also heard that vinegar works great as a natural fabric softener and I do add a cup of white vinegar to my towel loads (mostly to prevent that musty smell that towels can get!). I’ve had no problems using the vinegar with this detergent (I put it in my liquid bleach dispenser). I hope this helps!

  9. I made this in April of 2012 and I still have about 1/3 of it left. This past week I went and bought the ingredients to make my next batch. I also use the Purex Crystals in mine to give it more scent. I found a bottle of Pink Purex Crystals that are made for baby clothes and it smells divine! Plus the Purex Crystals are cheaper than the Downy or Gain brands, but its whatever you like! I love this version of laundry detergent and will never buy the other stuff again.

  10. Do you know how well this would work using a genuine glycerin soap? If so, how much would I use? I want to use something that will not irritate my sensitive skin or that of my newborn but is still a powerful cleaner.

    • Most of the homemade detergent recipes I’ve seen using glycerin soap are the liquid kind but I HAVE seen a few that use the glycerin bar soaps in the powder version! As for how much to use with this recipe, I really do not know. But I would assume that if your bars are of similar size to the Zote or Fels Naptha, you could just estimate the amount you’d need (either the equivalent size to 2 bars of Zote or to 3 bars of Fels Naptha). I hope that helps!

      Also, just a side note – Zote soap is made with coconut oil, tallow and citronella oil (for fragrance) and according to their website “people use it to wash the clothes of people with sensitive skin or baby’s clothes.”

    • I’m so glad that you tried it! Sorry I wasn’t able to respond to your first comment earlier. I was hoping to find more info about it. I would love to hear your experience with the Yardley soap after you’ve used the detergent. I love the smell of lavender!

  11. I love the recipe and plan to make it soon, but I was wondering how well it does for darks. My husband works in Lighting and Sound. This means he wears a lot of black; so I use Woolite dark for this. What is your take on this??

  12. I found this recipe on another website, except it called for the fels-naptha soap, it works really good. the clothes smell great and are very soft, but i was wondering what the zote soap smells like because the fels-naptha is REALLY strong smelling and gave me an awful headache while i was making it.

  13. Has anyone with sensitive skin used this recipe? What was the outcome? The detergent that I presently use is scent free and dye free. I would like to make this detergent recipe but I don’t want to go through the expense and then find out that I’m allergic to it. Thank you for your help.

    • I have two in our family that do have sensitive skin. We’ve had no issues with this recipe, but I also use vinegar in the rinse cycle that eliminates any soap residue. I made a second batch using Ivory soap for my mother-in-law who has sensitive skin and she’s reported no issues (but she also uses vinegar in the rinse cycle). Hope this helps.

  14. This makes no sense.
    OxiClean IS Borax powder! Sodium Tetraborate…same thing.

    Both Oxi-clean and Borax recommend 1/2 cup per load……so somehow, you get-away with using 1 teaspoon per load?

    It sounds to me, nothing is needed here except the Borax.
    The Zote is nothing more than scent, and the Oxi-Clean is STB at a ridiculously inflated price.

    • Hi Mal,

      I’m not sure where you’re getting that info but all of my research (and the tub of OxiClean itself) says that it is made up of Sodium Percarbonate and Sodium Carbonate (which I think forms oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, and soda ash when mixed with water). So it is not the same thing as Borax.

      Also, my OxiClean tub says you can use 1 scoop per load of laundry which is about 2 Tbsp. And yes, this recipe means you are using LESS than that per load but it’s not meant to be a full-strength OxiClean detergent. It’s just a homemade detergent with OxiClean “built in” to it. If your laundry requires the use of more OxiClean, you can certainly add extra to each load.

      Also, the Zote Soap is more than just scent. It’s ingredients are: Sodium tallowate, Sodium Cocoate (coconut oil), Fragrance (citronella oil),Optical Brighteners, and Dye (Pink and Blue Bars only). These are the same ingredients found in most soaps. The sodium tallowate and sodium cocoate are what does much of the cleaning!

      So anyway, this detergent works for me and saves my family money and it seems to work for many many other people, too. But I see it may not be for everyone! So, I do appreciate your comment and hope that you’ll keep an open mind and try it sometime. It may surprise you!

    • I’ve never had a problem using bleach with this detergent. I put the detergent in the soap dispenser and the bleach in the bleach dispenser and they’ve both played very nicely together! :)

    • It wasn’t difficult to clean at all! I did hand wash it first to get as much soap out of it as possible. Then I just ran it through my dishwasher like normal!

  15. I made a batch of this in December of 2012 and made my second batch this June. I am very pleased with the way my clothes come out when washed. I will have to admit that I am a scent junkie so I did add to bottles of Gain Scent Booster to this second batch and I like it even better than the first batch. Definitely appreciate the amount of time the detergent lasts. Now I get more bang (and clean clothes) for my bucks!!

  16. Save yourself the step of grating with food processor … My husband walked into the room and asks why I’m grating the soap. I tell him because it says to …. He says that’s why you have a food processor and proceeds to cut up the soap in smaller cubes and throw it into the food processor with the baking soda and it turns out perfect. So if you have a food processor you need not grate the soap at all, just cut into smaller pieces and proceed. By the way I like this soap … I’ve tired the homemade liquid slightly different version and threw it out but this seems to work quite well. I also gave a front load machine.

  17. I’ve been really happy with this recipe! I’ve tried the liquid kind of homemade detergent (basically just water, Dawn, Borax, and Washing Soda) and found that to be the *easiest* to make, but I didn’t feel like it cleaned as well. I’ve also done the concentrate (Borax, Washing Soda, Fels Naptha, boiled and pureed) and liked that just as well but it’s more time consuming to make. (Takes two days) So this is my favorite recipe! Thanks! For those of you adding scent crystals, how much are you adding? I’m interested in trying that…

  18. I buy my Zote soap at Walmart for .97 a bar. It is in the same aisle as the other detergents but not with the washing soda, fels naptha, and borax. I love the smell of Zote and I like having the option of white or pink. I’m getting ready to try your recipe and thanks for all of the great hints.

    • Thanks, Glenda! I recently noticed it at my Walmart, too! I’m glad they are carrying it so that I don’t have to drive all over town for ingredients! I think I’ll update the post to reflect that! I hope you enjoy the detergent!

  19. Can I just say I am NOT a DIY-er … I barely even know how to cook :/ so normally this kind of stuff is intimidating. But I found your post and just love how you wrote this with such great directions and I am inspired!! I think I’m going to give this a try!!! I do love that the detergent is PINK, that was the final push to say go for it!!! :) thank you!!!!!

  20. I made this soap and gave it as gifts for Christmas and it was such a HIT! Has anyone else tried heating up the zote soap in the microwave? I’m curious if it works!

  21. Hi! I’m just curious, why two bars of Zote? When the Fels Naphtha recipes call for two small bars that are half the size of the Zote bar. I only had one Zote bar so that’s how I made it but I’m wondering if I should add another. Will it not clean as well? Also, some people say that their laundry starts smelling after a while. Have you had that experience?

    • I have been using this recipe for a long time now and have no residual odor problems with my laundry. I do add the purex crystals because I like a little scent though. If you only have one zote bar then make half a recipe.

    • Hi Jenny! Sorry for the tardy reply. I use two bars of Zote because that was part of the original recipe I used. I noticed that when I used the Fels-Naptha, the bar is smaller but seems much more concentrated so less is needed. The Zote bars are larger but they seem milder to me. This is why two bars probably works best. I think of them as cheeses… the Fels-Naptha is super hard and strong like a parmesan and a little goes a long way. The Zote soap is like a cheddar! It’s softer and easier to grate but you need more of it. And to answer your second question, I have never noticed my laundry smelling after a while so I’m not sure where that comes from.

  22. In an he washer, do you sprinkle the detergent before or after adding clothes? I normally use ride liquid and add to my dispenser. I just want to make sure the homemade dtetgent cleans like it should.

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