Unlike most of my other ridiculously frugal friends, I’ve been slow to join the latest “make-your-own-laundry-detergent” craze. After all, I can usually buy the leading brand on sale. Add in some coupons, and it hardly seems worth the effort to make my own detergent. Seriously, who wants to grate a bar of soap every month?

Then came the day when I had more laundry and month than I had money in my household-cleaning budget. I’m super committed to staying within budget, so while I couldn’t afford the leading detergent, I did have enough money to buy the Borax, Washing Soda, and Fels Naptha soap I needed to make my own. (I already had a box of Oxi Clean on my laundry room shelf.)

Homemade laundry detergent ingredients

Reluctantly, I brought my ingredients home and began mixing up my first batch of homemade laundry detergent. At first, I wasn’t super impressed with the results. It took a little while to grate the soap in my old blender. (Since then, I’ve found that—for me—it’s much more effective to grate the soap by hand. This takes me about 3 minutes, much less time than I thought it would.)

The first few loads came out fine. Occasionally, I noticed a stain that didn’t come out, but no detergent is fool-proof, so I kept using the homemade variety.

It was after a few weeks of using this recipe that I discovered a big difference in my clothes. As I was pulling my towels out of the dryer, I noticed that they were extra soft. Same for the kids’ soccer uniforms, all of our jeans, and my husband’s T-shirts.

I’m not sure if the leading brand of detergent leaves a residue, or if the washing soda actually softens the water while it cleans, but I’m really happy with the outcome. Add in the fact that it costs me about $.05 a load, as compared to the $.25 per load I was spending when I bought the national brand, and I have to say, “I’m sold!”

If you’d like to start saving a ton of money on laundry detergent—and get softer clothes in the process—here’s my recipe:

Homemade Laundry Detergent


1 cup Borax
1 cup Super Washing Soda
1 bar Fels Naptha soap
¼ cup Oxi Clean (optional)


A hand-held grater like this one is perfect for grating the Fels Naptha soap.

Grate the Fels Naptha soap into a bowl.

Add the Borax, Super Washing Soda, and Oxi Clean. Stir.

The final product will look like this.

Pour the mixture into a blender (about a cup at a time) and blend until all the ingredients mix together.

Store in an airtight container.

Note: I use 1 Tablespoon of laundry detergent per load. (I own a high-efficiency washing machine, so you might have to experiment a little to determine the right amount of detergent for you.) For heavily soiled loads, I add a little Borax and Super Washing Soda to the soak cycle. That’s really all it takes to get a whole load clean!


24 Responses to Homemade Laundry Detergent

  1. pkrause7 says:

    I make my own stain treatment which beats the big brands all to heck!!! Put it into a spray bottle and pre-treat spots and stains before washing. It’s best to spray the stained area, then scrub it a bit to loosen the stain. It’s removed stains that had been washed and dried into the fabric many times. You may need to use it a couple of times for really stubborn stains, but it’s taken out ball-point pen ink and chocolate, as well as lots of other tough stains.

    2/3 c. Dawn dish soap
    2/3 c. Ammonia
    6 Tbsp. Baking soda
    2 c. very warm water

    Mix well. I recommend adding the baking soda to the warm water first so that it dissolves, then add the soap and ammonia. If it separates on standing, just shake before using.

    • MaryJane says:

      Thanks for sharing. I have some super-muddy jeans that just might get this treatment later today. Thanks!

      • pkrause7 says:

        Thanks! I’ve been making this for over a year. I gave the recipe to a friend of mine who has 3 sons. One had 2 expensive shirts (from a “cool” store) that had food down the front and had sat in the bottom of a closet for several weeks. She’d washed them, but the stains didn’t come out, and he wouldn’t wear the shirts, even tho they were his favorites. She used this spot treatment and the stains came totally out! Her son was so happy to have his shirts back.

        Mud is difficult to get out. It may take several washings…if you can avoid drying them in a dryer until the stains come out, I would do so. Dryers seem to set stains worse than line drying. If you can, after you wash them the first time, look to see if the stains are still there. If they are, while the pants are still wet, re-treat them and let them sit for a while and then wash them again before they dry out. If I need to do this and am not going to get to them right away, I’ll put the wet clothes in a plastic bag with the stain treatment on the stains, and rewash later or the next day.

        Good luck!!!

  2. Debbie Black says:

    I have made this with Zote and Nels Naptha, I prefer the Zote and I have also added a powder water softener and the Oxyclean to my batch. Love it!

  3. Jill Schroeder says:

    Do you have to use a blender to combine it all or can you just mix really well by hand? If you have to use a blender, can I use the same one I use for food (I only have one blender) and just wash it up really well after I mix it up? (Will it make my food taste “soapy”?)

    • MaryJane says:

      Hi, Jill. You can certainly try mixing the detergent really well by hand. I did this on one of my batches, but I found that mixing it in the blender works better for me, since the hand-mixed batch left some larger bits of detergent which in turn left some residue on my clothes. I have been mixing mine in my blender, which I also use for food prep, and I have never noticed a soapy taste. I usually wash all the blender components in the dishwasher, which effectively removes any soap residue. Hope that helps.

  4. Josh says:

    We like to use a color safe bleach detergent for our towels. Can you add a powder color safe bleach to this. Our towels come out much nicer smelling when we do this.

    • Mary Jane says:

      Hi, Josh. I’m sure you could add a powder color-safe bleach to this recipe if that is what you like with your laundry. I personally added the OxiClean because I’ve had great success with it over the years. I’ve also read that you can wash your towels with 1 cup of vinegar on hot, then again with 1/2 cup baking soda on hot to remove built-up smells and grime. If you add the color-safe bleach to the recipe, I’d love to hear how you like it. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Cindy says:

        isn’t that being useless with precious water?

      • I use the vinegar and soda tip (without the color-safe bleach), it is amazing for taking out smells and softening. I also use the homemade laundry detergent. I have tried the dry and liquid, I now make a gel type using the same ingredients, much faster.

  5. Jerry says:

    how much to use in a 20 yr old top loader? 1/4 cup?

  6. B says:

    I use a bar of Ivory soap instead of the Naptha because you don’t have to grate it – you can microwave the Ivory! I cut it in quarters and do one chunk at a time. Let is puff up, let it cool, then just stir – it turns into a powder. Add it to the rest of the ingredients and “poof” you’re done. Sooooo easy!

    • Susan mcginnis says:

      What can you use to grate the soap if you don’t have a grater like that, and what about fabric softener ? Can you add fragrance ?

      • MaryJane says:

        Hi, Susan. I started out using a large, old-fashioned cheese grater to grate the soap. You can also blend it in a food processor. (I don’t own one.) I have even heard of people putting the entire bar in a bowl in the microwave, melting it to a foam, and then crushing it up and adding it to the food processor. As for the fabric softener, I have heard of people adding scented Purex crystals to the laundry detergent itself. Good luck!

  7. Sarah says:

    Do you dissolve this in water at all before you put it in your HE machine? Just curious. I think I am going to make this! Also, where did you buy the soap? I have not heard of this brand and am not sure if it would be hard to find. Thanks, Mary Jane!

    • MaryJane says:

      Hi, Sarah. I don’t dissolve the detergent in water. Just add it in as you would any other powdered detergent. You can get Fels Naptha soap at any major retailer. I have purchased mine at Kroger, Meijer, and Walmart. Plan to spend a little more than a dollar per bar. You’ll find it in the laundry aisle near the other laundry boosters, like the Borax and Super Washing Soda. (I had to ask a sales associate the first time, and even she had a hard time finding it! Once you know where to look, you should locate it pretty easily in any store!) 🙂 Now that I know that I like it, I always double the batch to save time later. Good luck!

  8. Kathy Anne says:

    Here all this time I was adding water to this mix, it was VERY time consuming, it made about 2 gallons and you put 1/2c in per load. Your method took me 10 minutes, I can’t wait to try it. I hate buying laundry soap, thanks for the tip.

  9. MaryJane says:

    Hi, Jodi. I haven’t tried the recipe without the OxiClean, so I’m not sure what kind of difference it makes. LOL! I guess I was nervous as to how the homemade laundry detergent would perform and thought I would give it all the help it could get. (Plus, I’m not one for spending a lot of time in front of the washing machine to get out stains, as my kids will tell you. I don’t even check pockets, much to my chagrin when I pull clothes out of the dryer with dried-on chocolate or red candy attached!!) 🙂

  10. Jodi Gannon says:

    Hey Mary Jane! I just had to comment because I have made my own laundry soap before and LOVED it! Although, I have never added Oxi Clean to my recipe–did it make a difference for your clothes? You made mention that there were some stains leftover on your clothes. In regards to that, just take the same Fels Naptha bar, with a little water, and rub the soap on the stain. Just let it sit for about 5 minutes and then throw it in the wash. I have “fixed” so many clothes stains and I won’t use anything else! Best stain remover ever! Thanks for the post!

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