DIY Laundry Detergent

Laundry products can be a costly portion of your monthly grocery budget. Save money by making your own detergent at home.

by Dani Yokhna
For a cheaper laundry detergent, make it yourself with these simple ingredients. Photo by Rachael Brugger (
Photo by Rachael Brugger

Making your own laundry detergent is easier than mixing up a batch of cookies and costs only pennies per load. Follow the steps below to make your own.

Detergent Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup washing soda
  • 1/2 cup borax
  • 1 bar high-quality soap
  • 15 to 20 drops essential oil of your choice (optional)

Chop soap bar into small pieces and place in food processor, along with the washing soda, borax and essential oil. Process mixture into fine powder. 

Store detergent in air-tight container and use 2 to 4 tablespoons per load in hot or cold water. You can also add 1/4 to 1/2 cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle to increase softness, remove odors and prevent build-up.

Q: What type of bar soap should I use?
A: I recommend using soaps made with coconut oil, olive oil, tallow or lard. Avoid cheaper “bath bars” that contain fillers and synthetic ingredients. These can sometimes leave your clothes dingy and produce grimy build-up in your washing machine.

Q: Is this recipe safe for high-efficiency machines?
A: It depends. Many people report using homemade laundry soap in their HE machine with no problem because most homemade versions are low-sudsing, which is a quality HE machines require. However, I would consult the manufacturer of your machine to ensure using a homemade detergent won’t affect your warranty. If you plan to use homemade detergent in your HE machine, use all-natural bar soap that doesn’t contain fillers, as they can cause more residue.

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Q: Where do I find these ingredients?
A: Due to the popularity of DIY detergents, many grocery stores are now carrying washing soda and borax in their laundry aisles. Please note that washing soda (sodium carbonate) is not the same as baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)—they are not interchangeable in this recipe. However, you can make washing soda by placing baking soda in a 400-degree-F oven for 30 to 60 minutes. (Washing soda is recommended for areas with hard water.)

Q: What essential oils work best for homemade detergent?
A: Personally, my favorite additions to homemade detergent are lemon or lavender essential oils. Lemon is especially helpful because it cuts grease and deodorizes, while lavender imparts a soothing scent that works well alone or in combination with other oils. The sky’s the limit, so mix and match to create your favorite scents.

Try making these other DIY farmhouse staples:

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Hobby Farm Home.


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