Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

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I’ve seen lots of recipes for homemade laundry detergent, especially on Pinterest. And then a friend of mine told me she had made some herself and really liked it. Making your own is supposed to be much cheaper than buying it, and I’m always looking for ways to save money…so I told myself that as soon as I used up the laundry detergent I had on hand, I would try making my own. I decided I would do powdered detergent because it seemed a little easier and less messy to make. I looked at quite a few “recipes” and many were very similar. Most of them had these ingredients–Borax, Super Washing Soda, and Fels-Naptha. I decided to add some baking soda to mine because that’s such a good cleaner. I also decided to use a bar of Ivory Soap along with the Fels-Naptha–I’ve read that you could use either, so I thought I’d try one bar of each (I forgot to add the Ivory soap to the photo below!).

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You start out by grating the soap bars, which you can either do by hand or in your food processor. I grated mine by hand–I bought a separate grater just to use for soap, and the Ivory soap grated easily…the Fels-Naptha takes a little longer if you’re grating it by hand. One of my readers, Barbara, mentioned in a comment that she found it much easier to use her long Microplane grater that she normally uses for Parmesan cheese–so that’s another option, too. Here’s what the soaps look like when they’re grated–I used the smaller grating side of my hand  grater:

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Then you just mix the grated soap with the other powdered ingredients, and you have your very own homemade laundry detergent! You don’t even need to scent this with anything because it has such a wonderful fresh-smelling scent of its’ own! This is a low-sudsing detergent, so don’t expect a lot of suds! But I thought it did a good job of cleaning.

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You can store your detergent in a container with a tight-fitting lid–I used this glass jar I bought at Wal-Mart and made a tag for it, which I attached with a ribbon at the neck of the jar. You can also use a plastic container, which may be a safer option.

Here’s the “recipe” for my homemade detergent…

HOMEMADE POWDERED LAUNDRY DETERGENT by NancyCreative

  • 1 (5.5-oz.) Fels-Naptha soap bar (or you can substitute similar sizes of Kirk’s Hardwater Castile or Zote bars*)
  • 1 (4.5-oz.) Ivory soap bar
  • 2 cups Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda
  • 1 1/2 cups Borax
  • 1 cup Baking Soda

Grate soap with a hand-held grater or break into pieces and process in a food processor until powdered (if you grate by hand, your soap will be coarser, but that’s okay–the soap can be either finely or coarsely grated; I grated mine by hand using the smaller grating side).

Put grated soap in a large bowl or small bucket (you can line the bucket with a plastic bag if you like) and add the washing soda, borax, and baking soda, mixing everything together well. Store in an airtight container.

This makes about 7 1/2 cups of powdered detergent (this detergent is low-sudsing, but it still works great). For a light load, use 1 1/2 Tablespoons of detergent; for a heavy load or heavily soiled load, use 2 or 2 1/2 Tablespoons of detergent. Depending on what size loads you have, this makes enough for about 60-80 loads. I’m estimating that the cost for making this comes to about $4.20 per batch, which is pretty good for that many loads!

Some of you have asked if this detergent can be used with HE washers, and I don’t know the answer to that–it’s best if you check directly with the manufacturer of your washer.

*Note on soap bars: It’s best to stick with the brands listed; do not use heavily perfumed or moisturizing soaps–the oils in these kinds of soaps can create spots on your clothes.

For a lemon scent to your laundry, add 1/2 to 1 cup of lemon juice to each load. The lemon juice will not only give your laundry a light lemony scent, it also adds extra whitening power!

Have you tried making homemade laundry detergent yet? What did you think of it?

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35 thoughts on “Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

  1. How clever and economical! It’s always been my concept of removing chemicals we don’t need in our lives. Thanks for the “recipe.” XOXO

  2. I’ve been wanting to try making my own for a long time now and you’ve given me the push. I will try your “recipe”! :) Thanks so much! And the jar looks so cute–I’ll have to do that, too!

  3. I made this yesterday. Was taking toooo loooong to grate the bars of soap on the box grater so I got out the food processor. The soap was chunkier. Use it already on some really dirty mats I keep at the doors to wipe our feet on. They are now as clean as a whistle.Thanks for the recipe

    • Glad the food processor worked out for you! Grating by hand, the Fels-Naptha does take a little time, but the Ivory soap grated really easily for me. Thanks for letting me know this worked out well cleaning your mats–it’s been working great on my regular laundry!

  4. That is a fantastic idea. I guess this would also be great if you have allergies to soaps and such as you can put in only what you want and not any extra perfumes, etc.

      • My daughter and I have both been using this recipe in HE front-load washers, different brands, and have never had any problems. I have a 2T. scoop in my container. For lightly soiled, dress clothes etc., I use a not quite full scoop. For heavier soiled items I use a full to heaping scoop. By the way, the only thing I put in my softener dispenser is white vinegar and I do not use dryer sheets. No, I do not smell like a pickle!

  5. I love this powdered detergent! I added some oxiclean and purex crystals and used 2 bars of fels-naphtha instead of ivory. I think it cleans better than any store purchased brand I have ever used. Thank you for getting me started!

    • I’m glad this worked out well for you, Terri! I will have to try it with the oxiclean and purex crystals sometime! I really like this homemade detergent, too–now that I’ve started making my own, I think I’m hooked! :)

      • I haven’t tried it yet with the Purex crystals–I made a big batch of this before hearing about it, so I’ll be set for awhile before I need to make more!

      • Just a thought….we’ve had this conversation at work, too. Whether you are making your own laundry soap for a more natural, chemical free product or to save money it seems adding OxyClean and/or Purex Crystals seems counterproductive. I also was using Fels Naptha and then in further investigations was educated to the actual not-so-natural ingredients it contains. For my next batch I will use Ivory, Dr. Bronners Castile or other more pure soap.

        • That’s a good point, and thanks for the info, J! I do like using Ivory in this recipe because it’s easy to grate, so using 2 bars of Ivory sounds like a good option for those who want to use pure, natural ingredients.

  6. I gave some of my Home-made laundry detergent to one of my friends. She loves it and is going to make some herself. Good idea about adding purex crystals to it.

  7. Just made another batch and found a much easier way to grate the bars of soap. I used my long skinny Microplane that I usually have at the table to grate the parmesan cheese. Much easier and Quicker. Hope every one reads this.

  8. We are a family of 6 and we’ve gone through an entire batch. It took us about 2 months, maybe a little longer. I absolutely love how clean our clothes come out. We used to use ALL Sensitive and it NEVER got sweat smells or urine smells out but this concoction does! It is also great for getting stains out of our antique white linens (that and sunshine). We have an HE washer and it has caused no problems!

  9. How does it do with dark clothing? Does it lighten your dark colors? I’ve always used Tide because we wear a lot of dark clothing and so it doesnt lighten our dark clothing. We have changed all our other cleaning products to homemade products would really love to switch our laundry detergent over also.

    • I can only say from my experience that I haven’t noticed my darker colored clothes turn lighter (I’ve been using this detergent for about 6 months now)–it could depend, too, on the type of material and dyes your clothes are made from. So, I can’t say for sure that it would not lighten your dark colors. That’s a great question though–maybe another reader who knows will add a reply to this!

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