Saturday, June 8, 2013

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

Before I get started, let me say that I know that this is a cooking and canning blog, but more goes on around here than just cooking and canning.  Life happens, and with life comes laundry.  With only two people, we don't have nearly as much laundry as some people I know, and yet I still find it to be costly when I'm trying to purchase detergents that don't contain lots of perfumes or dyes which can often be irritating to sensitive skin.  

So, I decided to make my own using a recipe I had heard worked well.  It has been one of those things hanging out on the back burner (and on one of my Pinterest boards) for awhile.  When the time came to purchase yet another bottle of expensive laundry detergent, I headed for the cleaning aisle instead and picked up a bar of Fels-Naptha soap (you can also use Ivory), baking soda, washing soda, and borax.  The ingredients cost me about ten dollars total.  

All ingredients except the Fels-Naptha bar

I began by grating the bar of soap (actually my husband did this because he is the official "grater" in the house), and I heated it in a pot on medium heat along with 4 cups of water until the soap was completely dissolved.  

Fels Naptha mixture before and after the soap melted

I then poured the mixture into a large bucket (I used an old five gallon bucket I had around).  To the soap mixture, I added 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup borax, and 2 more gallons hot water.  I stirred the mixture to dissolve the ingredients and I allowed it to sit until the next day at which point I stirred it again before storing it in the closet.  

My five gallon bucket filled about halfway with detergent concentrate.

To make it easier to use, I filled an old laundry detergent bottle halfway with detergent concentrate, and the other half was filled with water.  Now when I am ready to do laundry, I just pour the detergent from the bottle right into the cup in my front loader washing machine.  

If you didn't want to dilute the mixture, you could just add 2 tablespoons of detergent concentrate into your machine (if it is diluted, you are adding about 1/4 cup).  

So far, I find the detergent to be excellent.  It gets the clothes clean and smells nice but not strong like detergents that contain overpowering perfumes.  It has not been irritating to my skin either.  The only thing I don't like about it is that it is a little lumpy which could have been due to something I did while mixing it.  The small lumps have not interfered with the effectiveness of the detergent in my machine though, and they seem to melt quickly even in cold water. You could also make this as a powder detergent by simply omitting the melting of the soap.  

I am storing the excess detergent in my large bucket, and diluting it in the laundry detergent bottle as needed.  The recipe makes enough to fill my laundry detergent bottle at least three times (maybe more), and I have enough baking soda, washing soda, and borax to make at least 3 more batches.  Essentially that means I am spending about ten dollars on what amounts to at least 12 bottles of laundry detergent.  Now, that's what I call a deal!   


  1. Hooray for homemade detergent! I make my own too--the simple soap & borax & washing soda version--but I leave it powdered. Maybe I should try a liquid batch sometime...

  2. I make this as well and add my own fragrance. It doesn't irritate my skin and I like to have my own signature smell to my clothes. It does lump, but I just give my jug a good shake before I pour. Others have told me that after a while their clothes become dingy. Upon closer observation, I have learned that many people do not sort their clothes the old fashioned way. If it is white, no other colors, no matter how light, should be in the load. Commercial detergents have an additive that keeps colors from bleeding onto another garment. Most people have become so accustomed to that convenience that they have forgotten how to sort their laundry. I hope this info can be of use to others.

  3. So glad to hear that it does get a little lumpy when other people make it too! I do shake it a little before using, and it seems to work well. It all dissolves in the wash. I also agree with you about sorting. I am a bit of a stickler about sorting which usually results in more laundry loads, but loads that are sorted correctly. I think that makes a difference. I have heard of people using vinegar in the whites periodically to keep them bright. Have you heard of or tried this?