This quick and easy Homemade Laundry Detergent recipe makes 10 gallons of liquid laundry detergent and can be used in both top-loading and front-loading washing machines. It gets clothes clean, is great for sensitive skin and allergies, and will save you hundreds of dollars per year.
In this post, I’ll teach you everything you need to know about making your own laundry detergent.
- how to make liquid laundry detergent with Borax, washing soda, and Ivory soap
- cost comparison of homemade laundry detergent vs. brand detergent
- cost per load
- how to add scent to your homemade detergent
- frequently asked questions about DIY laundry detergent
I’ll also share an inexpensive, healthy alternative to fabric softener and dryer sheets and a link to a powdered version of this laundry detergent.
How many loads does this detergent make?
For front loaders, you use 1/4 cup per load = 640 loads
For top loaders, you use 1/2 cup per load = 320 loads
Cost per load for this homemade laundrydetergent:
Front loaders = less than 1/2 a cent per load (.4¢/load)
Top loaders = less than 1 cent per load (.8¢/load)
Wash 5000 loads of laundry for $20
I spend a total of about $20.00 to buy the ingredients to make this detergent. With those ingredients, I can make eight x 10-gallon batches of laundry detergent (or 80 gallons of detergent). That equates to over 5000 loads of laundry for $20.00!
Do that math. That means I could do 13 loads of laundry every day for a year before my $20 investment ran out.
How much do you spend on brand laundry detergent now? Probably at least $10.00 per month right? If you have a large family, you’re likely spending more. Think of the money you could save!
Cost of brand detergent vs. homemade laundry detergent
Lets compare the cost of brand laundry detergent with the cost of this homemade laundry detergent.
Let’s say a 64-load jug of Tide costs about $13.00 including tax. That’s 20 cents per load or .20¢/load.
Less than 1¢ per load
64 loads of laundry with this homemade detergent costs a fraction of that:
In a top loader 64 loads of laundry will cost you a grand total of 51 cents; less than 1¢ per load.
In a front loader, 64 loads of laundry will cost you a grand total of 25 cents; less than 1/2¢ per load.
Homemade laundry detergent is an easy way to save significantly if you’re a student or a young family on a budget, or anyone just looking to reduce your living expenses.
By the way, I have an inexpensive, natural alternative for fabric softener which will slash your laundry costs even further. I’ve shared it further down in this post.
Is it laundry detergent or laundry soap?
Some people argue that homemade laundry detergent is not actually detergent but laundry soap. If you want to know what the technical difference is between detergent and soap, you can read about it here.
Honestly, you can call it whatever you like. I won’t be offended, and neither will your laundry. But you know what your laundry will be?
Clean and fresh, and free of the toxins that take their toll on our health, our planet, and our pocketbooks.
Will it get my clothes clean?
Yes, this homemade laundry detergent will absolutely get your clothes clean. I’ve been using this recipe for 10 years and I absolutely love it. I’ve also supplied several daycare families with my DIY detergent for years as well.
Clothes washed in this detergent come out just as clean as when they’re washed with brand name detergent. Clothes washed in this homemade detergent come out of the dryer or off the line much softer than they do when washed in brand detergent.
It’s a gentle but powerful detergent. So much so that I use it to wash my sons’ hockey gear because it’s gentle on the fabric and materials but it takes the stink right out of it. You can see how to wash your hockey gear at home here.
What does homemade laundry detergent smell like?
In the jug, this homemade laundry detergent smells just like Ivory soap but it will not leave a lingering scent on your clothes which is one reason it’s great for those with allergies.
Your clothing will smell fresh and fragrance-free. They will not be coated in chemicals designed to make your laundry smell like a mountain spring or a summer breeze.
The factory-made scents that brand detergents contain have nothing to do with the cleaning power of the detergent. Those scents are made from a concoction of chemicals used to mask the offensive odour of the chemicals in the detergent.
You can add essential oils for scent
If you don’t think you can give up the scent of laundry detergent, you can add 15-20 drops of essential oils when you dispense a working supply of your detergent into a jug. I’ve never done it, as I am sensitive to scents (would that be scent-sitive?), so I can’t give you first-hand advice on the amount to use.
A safer, healthier laundry detergent
The ingredients used to make commercial laundry detergents and softeners are frightening. Many have been linked to cancer, nerve damage and organ damage, and are responsible for immeasurable environmental damage as well.
Why on earth would would we expose ourselves and our children to those chemicals 24 hours a day?
As parents, we are so careful to avoid substances and materials that can potentially harm our children, and yet:
Consider that you and your children are clothed day and night, and all night long, your faces pressed up against pillow cases and sheets. If you use brand detergents and softeners, you are inhaling harmful toxins 24 hours a day. Not to mention, our skin is our largest organ and an absorbent one, so the toxic chemical residue that coats your clothing and bedding (yes, if you can smell it, it’s there), is in contact with your skin 24 hours a day as well.
Learn more about the harmful toxins in your laundry products here.
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Ingredients for Homemade Laundry Detergent
Note: The following measurements will make one 5 gallon batch of concentrated liquid laundry detergent but it actually yields 10 gallons of liquid detergent because you’ll add an equal amount of water to the concentrate before using it.
You’ll also need:
Prepare your bucket:
You’ll need a 5-gallon bucket to mix and store your homemade laundry detergent in. You can find 5-gallon buckets at most bulk food stores or hardware stores. As you’ll see in the next photo, I just re-used a bucket my husband brought home from work.
If your bucket isn’t already marked, use a permanent marker to make a line at the 5-gallon point.
How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent
Reminder: This recipe is going to make one 5-gallon batch of concentrated liquid laundry detergent. When you dispense it into a jug before using, you’ll add an equal amount of water, meaning you’ll actually get 10 gallons of laundry detergent from this batch.
To make your detergent:
- Grate the Ivory soap and add to a large pot with 4 cups hot water. Heat on the stove, stirring until completely melted
- Pour this hot mixture to a 5 gallon bucket
- Add Borax and washing soda, and stir until powders have completely dissolved
- Fill the bucket to the 5 gallon mark with tap water (*see bucket-filling tip below)
- Stir well, cover, and let sit for 12 hours (it may thicken during this time)
- When cool, whisk or stir detergent well to break up lumps/gel
- Dispense into an old laundry jug, filling just to the half-way mark. Fill the rest of the way with tap water
Shake well before using as ingredients may separate.
Note: your detergent may be thin, thick or lumpy depending on the hardness of your water, room temperature etc. It’s fine no matter how it turns out. If it’s thick or lumpy when cooled, just make sure you whisk it well to break up the lumps.
*BUCKET-FILLING TIP: If you have a retractable hose at your kitchen sink, just place your bucket on the floor in front of the sink, and stretch the hose over to fill the bucket.
How much homemade laundry detergent to use per load:
For front-loading/HE washing machines, use1/4 cup per load.
For top-loading washing machines: use 1/2 cup per load.
A healthy, inexpensive alternative to fabric softener:
To cut laundry costs even more, use white vinegar as a fabric softener and rinse agent.
Fabric softeners are one of the most toxic household products in your home.
I’ve been using vinegar to soften my clothes for 10 years. I switched from liquid softeners and dryer sheets vinegar because every brand gave me headaches and irritated my throat. It’s no real surprise when you read up on the toxicity of fabric softeners. They’re actually one of the most hazardous products in our homes.
I LOVE using vinegar as a rinse agent because it softens clothes beautifully, it’s a fraction of the cost of commercial softeners, and it’s chemical free. It also removes and prevents the build up of residues in my washing machine and on our clothing.
Using vinegar as a fabric softener will not leave your clothes smelling like vinegar. The odour dissipates when it dries.
Frequently asked questions about homemade laundry detergent:
- Does homemade laundry soap clean as well as store brands? Yes, this homemade laundry detergent cleans as well as commercial laundry detergents.
- Can I use homemade laundry detergent in my HE washing machine? Yes, you can use this homemade laundry soap in all washing machines.
- Where can I find Borax and Washing Soda? Both products can be found in the laundry aisle of your grocery store or purchased through Amazon with the link above.
- Is Washing Soda the same as baking soda? No, the two are not the same, but you can make your washing soda with this easy tutorial: How to turn baking soda into washing soda.
- Where can I get Borax in the UK?. In the UK, you can buy Borax online here.
- Where can I find Borax in Australia? In Australia, Borax and washing soda are known by different brand names. I believe they are available at Cole’s.
- Is Borax highly toxic? No, you are likely confusing it with Boric Acid. Learn more about Borax here.
- Do I use an entire box of Borax and Washing Soda to make the detergent? No, you use ONE CUP of each plus one bar of ivory soap to make 1 10 gallon batch of this homemade detergent. Your boxes will make many 10 gallon batches of detergent in the months to come.
- My detergent looks too lumpy/solid/watery. That’s ok. Your detergent may look different every time you make it. Sometimes mine is watery and pulpy. Sometimes it thickens to a gel which breaks up once whisked. Don’t worry about what it looks like. The key ingredients are in there so it will work.
- How long is homemade laundry detergent good for/does it go bad? Your homemade detergent and ingredients will keep indefinitely.
- Can I make homemade laundry detergent in a powdered form? Yes, you can make homemade powdered laundry detergent, but the liquid version is more economical.
- I like the smell that brand name detergent gives my clothes. You may miss the smell of your old detergent but that scent wasn’t exactly “mountain fresh”. It was copious amounts of fragrance added to mask the smell of the toxic chemicals in your detergent.
- Can I add essential oils to scent my homemade detergent? Yes, but I haven’t tried it, so I can’t recommend how much to add.
- I don’t see any suds. How can this detergent be cleaning my clothes? This is very low sudsing detergent. Suds don’t actually clean your clothes. They’re the result of a bunch of chemicals added to your store-brand detergent to make you feel good about the product.
- I can’t get Ivory soap. What other kind of bar soap works for homemade laundry detergent? A bar of Fels Naptha, Zote (pink) or Castile bar soap can be substituted.
- Will this detergent work on a really grimy/dirty load of laundry? Yes, I have sweaty, hockey-playing boys and a husband who works construction. Trust me, it will. If necessary, just as you boost your commercial detergent, you can boost the cleaning power of homemade detergent by adding a half cup of Borax and/or washing soda to a heavily soiled load.
- Will this detergent work if I have allergies and sensitive skin? Yes, unless you are allergic to Ivory soap, this detergent is excellent for those with allergies/sensitivities.
- Will making this detergent ruin or transfer a soapy taste to my cooking pot and utensils? No, silly! It’s soap. You wash and soak your pots and utensils in dish soap all the time, right? 🙂
I hope you love this homemade laundry detergent recipe as much as I do! Making my own laundry soap makes me feel good about what I’m doing for the earth and for my family, and it saves me big bucks too.
Believe it or not, using my own detergent makes doing laundry a little more enjoyable for me.
Now, I need to make some of these awesome storage containers for my laundry room, and I may just LOVE laundry day!
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Jackie is a mom, wife, home daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind Happy Hooligans. She specializes in kids’ crafts and activities, easy recipes, and parenting. In 1997, Jackie stepped out of the corporate world to start a family and to open her own home daycare. She began blogging in 2011, and today, Happy Hooligans inspires more than 2 million parents, caregivers and Early Years Professionals all over the globe.