How to make your own laundry detergent

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 By Joey Greenwell


This past weekend, I made a fresh batch of homemade laundry detergent from a recipe my mom Leslie gave us. I enjoyed the process –

I got to make a giant bucket of slime in the kitchen and my kids and wife had a blast. Let’s see what we can learn from the process that might save us some cash.

Making the Laundry Detergent
The only ingredients you actually need for homemade laundry detergent are as follows:

The Cost Breakdown
Here’s what I paid for the ingredients…
a single batch makes 52 loads’ worth of detergent.

The box of Borax, which contains enough Borax for at least twelve batches of detergent, cost $2.89. The box of washing soda, which contains enough soda for six batches of detergent, cost $1.89. The soap, which came in packs of three (as pictured above), cost $0.89 per pack – I bought two, to ensure I had enough for six batches. The Iowa sales tax on this stuff was $0.39, giving me a total bill of $6.95 for the ingredients – enough for six batches. I also used perhaps a penny’s worth of water and a penny’s worth of heat to heat it – a total cost of $6.97.

Each batch of detergent contains 52 cups of the solution – 48 from the three gallons in the bucket, and four more cups of water with the dissolved soap. Since I use one cup per load, this means

Let’s say, hypothetically, that I make six batches of the stuff and use the other half of the box of Borax for something else. That means

Let’s look up Tide with Bleach Alternative, the Consumer Reports recommended detergent. You can buy four bottles of the 150 ounce Tide with Bleach Alternative from Amazon for $62.60. We’ll assume free shipping and no taxes here to help Tide’s case out. Each of those Tide bottles has enough detergent for 78 loads of laundry, meaning the case will cover 312 loads of laundry. Thus,

I can assure you that we have been using this detergent for awhile now and love it! Whatever soap you use is the smell the detergent will take on. So all you hunters out there, use a bar of scent free body soap and you won’t have to buy the outrageously price scent free detergent!


I’ve made enough detergent for 312 loads of laundry for a total cost of $6.97. That’s roughly two and a quarter cents per load of laundry.each load of laundry using Tide with Bleach Alternative costs almost exactly twenty cents($.20)

1 cup washing soda (I use Arm & Hammer)
1/2 cup borax (I use 20 Mule Team)
1 bar soap (I used dove, but I we used scent free hunters soap it would save $ on scent free detergent)
Approximately 3 gallons water

You’ll also need a container of some sort to store this in (I use a five gallon bucket with a lid), something to stir it (I use a large wooden spoon), another pot to boil soapy water in (I use one big enough to hold about ten cups), and something to cut up the soap (I use a cheese grater).

First thing, put about four cups of water into the pan and put it on the stove on high until it’s at boiling, then lower the heat until it’s simmering.

While it’s heating up, take a bar of soap and cut it up into little bits. I found a lot of success using our box grater, which resulted in a ton of little soap curls.

When the water is boiling, start throwing in the soap. I recommend just doing a bit at a time, then stirring it until it’s dissolved.

Stir the soapy water with a spoon until all of the soap is dissolved. Eventually, the water will take on the color of the soap you added, albeit paler. I used Dove soap for this, which was a white soap that looked a lot like a bar of Ivory.

In the end, you’ll have some very warm soap soup:

Next, get out your large container and add three gallons of warm tap water to it. I’m using a bright orange five gallon bucket that I had lying around:

To this bucket add a cup of the washing soda and the soap solution you made and stir. The borax is optional – some people say that it’s too harsh, but I’ve always found that it did a good job getting clothes clean and fresh smelling, so I recommend adding a half cup of borax to the mix.

After stirring, you’ll have a bucket full of vaguely soapy water:

Don’t worry about the color – it varies depending on what kind of soap you use. I made a batch with Lever 2000 in the past and it had a greenish tint to it, and I’ve heard reports of all kinds of different colors from other people who have tried this.

At this point, let the soap sit for 24 hours, preferably with a lid on it. I just took our bucket to the laundry room.

When you take off the lid, you’ll find any number of things, depending on the type of soap you used and the water you used. It might be firm, like Jello; it might be very watery; it might even be like liquid laundry detergent. Just stir it up a bit and it’s ready to be used.

My batch wound up being rather slimy. It had some slimy-feeling water with various sized pieces of white gelatinous stuff floating in it. Here’s what it looked like – I’m using a video here because images don’t really capture it.

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