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homemade laundry detergent

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making laundry detergent

This post is selfish. I mean, it's not that I don't want to help you all out by telling you how to make your own laundry detergent for super cheap. But the main reason I'm posting it is because for some strange reason, every time I go to make this, I've forgotten how much of everything goes in it. And when you see what goes into it…well…you'll laugh. How could I forget something so simple?

(Truthfully, I think it's because I tend to confuse it with the homemade dishwasher detergent I used to make – almost the same ingredients but different amounts.)

What you see up there is everything that goes into it – borax, baking soda, washing soda and fels naptha soap. There's a big gallon-sized glass jar back there that I store it in, and my trusty food processor to speed up the process. (Not necessary, but helpful.) You can probably find all of these ingredients at your local grocery store or perhaps Target. They generally live in the laundry aisle, except, obviously, the baking soda, which is in the baking aisle. If you think you don't see them, look again – they tend to be either on the top shelf or the very bottom, sometimes hiding toward the back. Not big money-makers, these.

making laundry detergent

Fels naptha soap! The smell takes some getting used to but I'm accustomed to it now. It's a very hard soap, which is one reason I use my food processor to grate it. You could always use a handheld grater, it'll just take some muscles and a bit of time. I've heard of people using castile soap bars as well, but have never tried it myself.

making laundry detergent

First step – grate the soap. One bar per batch. Not cheese. Don't eat it… Because my food processor is not that large, I then dump the grated soap out into a bowl to hang out for a bit while I mix the rest of the ingredients.

making laundry detergent

See that big lump? That's why I always dump the rest of the ingredients in the food processor and pulse a couple times. I invariably end up with lumps in my raw ingredients, probably because I store them under the kitchen sink and they end up getting damp. So, what's in here? One cup each of borax, baking soda and washing soda. (See? I told you you'd laugh. It's so easy!)

making laundry detergent

After I've pulsed the white powders, I slowly add back in the grated fels naptha soap. It processes the grated soap into a fine powder and distributes everything (relatively) evenly into a pale yellow powder.

making laundry detergent

Voila! Laundry detergent! This jar is currently holding three batches. I usually make multiple batches at the same time, since I've got everything out already. But I do mix them up separately, due to the size of my food processor. To use, I keep a small coffee scoop that has, I believe, a 2 tablespoon capacity, right in the jar with the detergent. For each load I use less than one scoop of detergent. Smaller loads get a little less, but our usual load of laundry is pretty large.

laundry detergent

  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 bar fels naptha soap

To make – Grate the soap. Combine the powders, either in a food processor or large bowl. Add in the grated soap and process or stir to combine.

To use – Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons into your laundry, depending on the size of the load and how dirty it is, and wash as usual.


Yes, the fels naptha soap has a strong smell. It dissipates slightly once combined with the other ingredients and frankly, I just got used to it.

How long does it take me to make this? I made three batches in under ten minutes. It's super quick.

How long does it last? I generally make multiple batches, so I can't say exactly. Also, it will be highly dependent on how much laundry you do. We do a LOT of laundry and I don't make it more than once every couple months, if I remember correctly…

How much does it cost? The powdered ingredients cost a few dollars each at my local store. I don't believe any one of them costs more than $4 or so, probably less, and they last for a good long while. The fels naptha soap is about $1/bar. A note about the cost of ingredients – in my experience, they will cost much, much less if you can get them locally. When I couldn't find borax in our usual grocery store, I looked online and it was more than twice as much. The fels naptha soap is almost 4 times as expensive if you have to get it online. So how much does a load cost me? Not much. That's about as far as I can narrow it down!

Baking soda? I've seen people say that the baking soda is unnecessary. It might very well be. I figure, as cheap as it is, I might as well add it. It certainly isn't hurting anything!

Whiter whites? Nope, sorry. One thing this homemade detergent does not have is what they call "optical brighteners." These are chemicals added to laundry detergents that don't actual make your clothes cleaner, they just make them look like they are. I have noticed some of our lighter colors tending to look a little dingier than they used to. This doesn't bother me immensely, as most of our clothes are dark anyway.

Happy laundering!

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