Loving the Laundry!

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Detergent IngredientsShe looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. (Proverbs 31:27)

Some of the ladies on the forums I frequent have long been singing the praises of homemade laundry detergent. The ladies claim their detergent is much more cost effective and works just as well, if not better than, supermarket detergent.

The cost of laundry detergent and fabric softener continues to rise and even with coupons and sales I’m still spending more than I want to spend on laundry supplies. Yesterday I decided to make my own detergent and see if all the hype was worth believing.

I found recipes for both liquid and powdered detergents but opted to create a powder because I didn’t feel like boiling soap and water on my stovetop. Before yesterday, I couldn’t remember the last time I used powdered detergent, but from now on I’ll definitely be using my own. The ladies were right. It works well, is easy to make, and is cost effective.

Because I wanted to make a large batch of detergent (15 quarts!), it took me a couple of hours to make the detergent. You can make much less in a much shorter amount of time. I found all of my ingredients in local stores, though I couldn’t find everything in one store.

Homemade Laundry Detergent
2 bars soap, finely grated (Fels Naptha)
1 cup washing soda (Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda)
1 cup borax (20 Mule Team Borax)
1 cup Oxyclean (my own personal addition)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Store in an airtight container. Use 2 tablespoons for a regular load of laundry and 3 tablespoons for a heavily soiled load of laundry.

While shopping for ingredients, creating the detergent, and using it I learned a few things that may help should you wish to make your own detergent.

    1. You may need to stop at a few different stores to find the ingredients. I found 20 Mule Team Borax at WalMart in the detergent aisle ($2.98 for a huge 4 lb 12 oz box) and also picked up a generic version of Oxyclean called Sun Oxygen Cleaner ($1.96 for a 30 ounce tub). I purchased the Fels Naptha soap ($1.09 per bar) and Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda ($3.98 for a 3 lb 7 oz box) at Wegman’s. Both were in the detergent aisle.
    2. Grating soap can be challenging.  I began by using the box grating method others recommended but quickly ended up with a clogged and useless grater. I abandoned the box grater, cut the soap into smaller chunks, and grated it in my food processor.
    3. Some soaps grate more easily than others. It all depends on the hardness of the soap. Harder soaps are easier to grate than soft soaps. Fels Naptha soap and the Zest Ocean Spray are hard and grated much more easily than the Dial soap I first tried. I ended up using them all so as not to waste, but in the future, I’ll stick with hard soaps.
    4. Choose a soap you like. Most recipes recommend Fels Naptha (I didn’t care for its strong odor), but you can use any type of soap you like. Just stay away from  soaps with oils or extra moisturizers (such as Dove) because they may leave stains or residue on clothes. Some ladies even save soap slivers and later grate them for use in detergent.


  1. Don’t worry if all of the soap isn’t finely grated. Grate it as best as you can. Even after whizzing through the food processor, my soap still had a few stubborn lumps. This wasn’t a problem as the soap completely dissolved even in cold water washing.
  2. Clothes won’t be heavily scented, but they’ll be clean. Since there aren’t lots of perfumes and dyes in this recipe (aside from what’s in the soap), your freshly laundered clothes won’t have the heavy perfume odor you may be used to. You’ll be able to look at the clothes and see that they’re clean and they’ll smell fresh too. They’ll just be lacking the familiar and heavy laundry scent.

My Downy Dependency was starting to pack a punch in my purse, so I also made homemade fabric softener. This was extremely easy to make and worked well too. The recipe does call for vinegar, but don’t worry. Your clothes will not smell like vinegar. In fact, the only person who’ll know it’s there is you!

When I use 1  1/2 times the recipe, it makes nearly 64 ounces of softener which is enough to fit in my old Downy bottle. When mixing the ingredients be sure to add the vinegar to the baking powder slowly. It will fizz (remember those grade school volcano experiments?) and may overflow if you don’t pour slowly. The essential oil is optional but lavender, rose, or grapefruit would be wonderful additions to the softener.


Homemade Fabric Softener
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups baking soda
4 cups water
5-10 drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)

Combine slowly and carefully pour into a plastic bottle. Place a lid on the bottle and shake. Shake well before each use.

If you’re looking for a homemaking challenge or want to save a few dollars, give these recipes a try. Your clothes and your wallet will thank you!

© 2009 – 2013, Andrea Thorpe. All rights reserved.


  1. Andrea says

    Tammie, I’d been considering it for a while myself. If you do try it, email me and let me know how it works for you. I’ve done 5 loads of laundry with this new detergent and I love it!

    Thanks for being such a faithful visitor. You always make me smile!

  2. Andrea says

    I used it just like I used the Downy. I added a capful of fabric softener to the washing machine’s softener dispenser.

  3. says

    Hey I’ve been thinking about trying this. I’ve tried Soap Nuts, which I love. But I’d also love to try this kind of laundry detergent because it’s probably a little cheaper than the Soap Nuts.

    One question though, do you know of any substitutions for Borax?


  4. Andrea says

    Shaina, thanks for visiting. Though I’ve never tried Soap Nuts, I’ve heard other ladies mention how great it is for sensitive skin.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know enough to offer any information about a borax substitute. All the detergent recipes I’ve ever seen include borax.

  5. says

    My Downy dependency is getting to my wallet also! May attempt the fabric softener recipe first, and then venture on to the detergent. Thanks for sharing these!

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