DIY Laundry Detergent

An upscale laundry room.
What You'll Need
Baking soda
Washing soda
Bar soap (grated)
Recycled laundry detergent containers, jars, or milk jugs
Oxyclean (optional)

Clothes get dirty. Therefore laundry is a necessity in every home. Whether it’s a chore near the top or the bottom of your to-do list, it requires laundry detergent to complete. Sure you could run to the supermarket for some suds, but why not make them yourself? After all, laundry detergent is super easy to make and it’s cheap too. You’ll be amazed at how much money you save by making your own laundry detergent with just a few ingredients. You can make a liquid or powder variety and most are environmentally friendly.

Collect Ingredients

Laundry detergents all contain basically the same ingredients. First, there is a washing agent such as Arm & Hammer Washing Soda. This can be found in your grocery store laundry aisle. You will also want to grab a large box of Borax soap. This is also regularly found in the laundry aisle.

Most recipes also call for bar soap. You can choose from Fels-Naptha, Dr. Bronner’s, Castile, Zote, Ivory, or another favorite brand. Although these are still available at retail locations with other laundry products, they are a little harder to track down sometimes. So next time you’re placing an online order, throw some in. If you enjoy scents, you can add essentials oils to your laundry detergent too. There are dozens of recipes across the internet, all with similar ingredients and techniques, but here are a few of our favorites to get you started.

Powdered Laundry Detergent

Powdered laundry detergent scooped with a pink handle.

When you make powdered laundry detergent, you can just throw it in with your clothing or add it to the appropriate dispenser. You will want to use warm or hot water so that the bar soap melts completely. It’s really just a precaution though. We’ve used cold water with acceptable results. Try it and see what works for you.


  • 6 cups borax
  • 4 cups baking soda
  • 4 cups washing soda
  • 4 cups bar soap (grated)

Start by grating your bars of soap. This is easily done with a normal cheese grater or you can use a food processor. Place the grated soap into a blender and pulse several times so that it is finely chopped. Then dump the soap, borax, baking soda, and washing soda into a bucket and stir well. Store with the lid on in one large container or several smaller ones. It seems to store indefinitely. Use ⅛ to ¼ cup of powder for each full load of laundry.

Liquid Laundry Detergent

Liquid laundry detergent.

Even though it takes basically the same ingredients, the liquid version also takes a lot of water upfront. We once made 10 gallons in one batch which lasted us more than six months, but required a giant container for mixing as well as a collection of storage jugs such as milk cartons or empty laundry detergent containers. This is a much smaller version of the recipe, so try it out before making a 6-month commitment.


  • 1-quart water (boiling)
  • 2 cups bar soap (grated)
  • 2 cups borax
  • 2 cups washing soda

Start by adding the grated soap to the boiling water in a large pot. Turn to low and stir until all of the soap has melted. Then add your borax and washing soda to the pot and stir well until they dissolve. Next, add two gallons of water and mix well. If you don’t have a large enough stove-top pot you can add the soap and water mixture to a 5-gallon bucket and then continue adding other ingredients.

You can store the detergent in the bucket with a lid, but we recommend funneling it into smaller, easier-to-handle container such as recycled laundry detergent containers, jars, or milk jugs. At this point, all of the ingredients will be in liquid form, but as the mixture sits, it will gel a bit so give your mixture a shake before each wash. Use ¼ cup of detergent for each load.

If you would like to add essential oils, wait for the mixture to cool. Add 5 or 6 drops per gallon of liquid detergent.

For an added boost, try adding ¼ cup of Oxyclean to each load as well.

These DIY laundry detergents are a cheap and useful alternative to store-bought detergents.