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!


18 Responses to Homemade Laundry Detergent

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. Jerry says:

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

    • MaryJane says:

      You could certainly start with that, Jerry, although I would tend to start smaller and add more if you don’t think your clothes are getting clean. Maybe 2 Tbs.?

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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!!) :-)

  9. 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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