Laundry Detergent

I mentioned that, in my prolonged absence back in Feb/March, I’d been up to a few things. Well, one of those things was the never-ending search for ways to save money in our household. While inwardly (and perhaps outwardly) complaining of the cost of laundry detergent, a necessary staple, somewhere in my internet travels I came upon the idea of homemade laundry detergent. I did some research and found the recipe I liked and have been using it for at least a couple of months–that’s a lot of laundry in our home! Our clothes smell good, seem to be clean, and don’t appear to have faded. Our front-loader HE washer of 10+ years seems to be doing fine and we have most definitely saved money! (The cost of the 3 ingredients was probably about the cost of one box/jug of detergent (less than $15 if I remember correctly), and I’m on my 4th batch using the same boxes of Borax and washing soda. The bar soap is $0.99/each and I’ve used 4 of them so far.)

So for those who read my Facebook post about making laundry detergent and requested more info, here you go:

You will need to go to the laundry section of Walmart (where I go) or wherever you can find the following ingredients:

  • 1 box of WASHING soda (NOT baking soda, there’s a difference)
  • 1 box of Borax
  • 1 bar of Fels-Naptha soap

You will mix one cup of each of the powders with the whole bar of soap, which you will have grated as finely as possible.

First, grate the entire bar of soap, using a cheese grater. I had been putting it into a food processor after grating it, but yesterday I put it in our “Magic Bullet” after grating it, instead. If you don’t have a Magic Bullet (thanks, Mom!) then you can probably just use a blender. I did this to see if it would end up finer than if I’d just grated it, then gone straight to the food processor and it seemed to do the trick.

After the soap is finished, put it in the food processor and add the one cup of washing soda and one cup of Borax. Hit the button and let it all mix together really well, pour it into an air-tight container and that’s it!

You will use 1-2 tablespoons of this powder, depending on how dirty your clothes are or how large the load is. I generally go with the 2 tbsp, unless I’m doing a really small load or gentles. Because there will be some settling of the powders and the grated soap, be sure to stir it up a little before you scoop.

Just some FYI: I have not had any issues and did lots of research to see if anyone else did. Since we have an HE front-loader, I had some concerns, but this is a low-sudsing detergent and, in all the research I did, only one person complained of a problem with their washer function and I don’t know that it was directly related to the detergent. I figured the odds were in my favor.

There are variations, including a liquid version, but that was more work (boiling water, stirring, etc…. ugh!) than what I wanted, plus I prefer to use a powder. If you can’t find the Fels-Naptha soap, there is also Zote soap or you can simply use a bar of Ivory. Other people have used other bars, as well, but since I haven’t used anything but the Fels-Naptha, if you want to try the others, I’d do some homework first. I have read that they should be vegetable-based soaps and as “pure” as possible, hence the Ivory soap suggestion. One person suggested using goats milk soap…which is not vegetable-based, so again, do your homework.

I’ve read that you should NOT use chlorine bleach with this detergent; non-chlorine is okay, but with the Borax, you really shouldn’t need bleach, as it is a substitute for it. If you have very tough stains, I suggest doing a pre-soak and/or a pre-treatment.

Also in my research, I came across a few people who were very much against the use of these products. My opinion is this: although I try to be “green” and like to shield my family and myself from chemicals and so on, there are probably far more chemicals in store-bought detergent than in this version. These ingredients, while they can be caustic, are no more caustic than what you are probably already using and far less expensive. Also, my Southern Man, who has been known to break out in a rash or itch with certain detergents, has had no problems since we starting using homemade detergent.

Obviously, do NOT breathe in the powders. Do NOT ingest the powders. Clean up any spills. Do NOT use this to take a bath. Or bathe your dog. This is just a basic recipe that, for us, is working. Down the road, I may look into Castille soap, which is supposed to be “less caustic”, but, after all the research I’ve done, I feel that this recipe for homemade laundry detergent, the ingredients of which have been around for a long, long time, is good enough and safe enough for my family, our clothes and our machine.

Bottom line: I use it, like it and recommend it, but always do your own research if you have any concerns.

Finally, I’ve been reading that using only white vinegar, 1/4 to 1/2 cup, makes a great fabric softener. The vinegar scent disappears after the clothes have dried. Also, it does double-duty by deodorizing your washer and killing off mildew. Worth a try! I’ll let you know how it goes. Here are some more laundry ideas using vinegar: Vinegar Tips.

And now, off to do more laundry!


About rebelwife

New England wife of a Southern man relocated back to Alabama.
This entry was posted in Family, house & home, Hygiene, Life, Recipes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Laundry Detergent

  1. garden2day says:

    I remember my family using more simple things like this when I was young but as new items came on the market the more we jumped on the bandwagon. I will have to try this. I am allergic to more of the strong-scented ones–Gain is one I cannot use. Thanks for the tips!


    • rebelwife says:

      You’re very welcome! Gain is too overpowering for me, too! I just don’t like my clothes having strong perfume smells.

      It is something, isn’t it, how many choices we have for everything from laundry detergent to bread to toothpaste, toothbrushes and the list goes on! Sometimes, it’s good to go back to simplicity. 🙂


      • garden2day says:

        I agree about using more simple things. I used Gain one time; washed my sheets in it and then woke up with a swollen face — could not breathe or open my eyes. That was back in college and have not touched it again.


  2. KW25 says:

    I tried one time making the liquid kind you mentioned and, as you said, lots of work, and VERY messy! Wally World didn’t have the washing soda at the time so Oxy-Clean was the suggested substitute (I think it has it in there). To top it off, it it didn’t do much of anything for cleaning my laundry! I ended up mixing it with store-bought detergent just to stretch that out. Never again, but I’ll give this one a try.


  3. rebelwife says:

    Yes, give it a shot. I was leery at first, but it seems to be doing the trick. With the front-loader, I found that if we do too large of a load, it doesn’t all dissolve, but that is the case with any powder that we use. The true test of how good it is will be this summer with softball pants stained with red Alabama clay! I’ll use a pre-treatment, of course, so we’ll see how it goes. Now that my kids are older, I don’t have nearly the amount of stained clothing that I did when they were little. I’m sure it’ll be fine, though, based on the reviews of others. 🙂


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