A Year’s Worth of Homemade Laundry Detergent for Under $20 – Here’s How!


If you’re looking to save money on laundry detergent, and use earth friendly compounds in the process, consider making your laundry detergent at home. The mainstream laundry detergent sold in stores is laden with chemicals—artificial fragrances, phosphates (which can contaminate nearby watersheds), sulfates, and even petroleum byproducts.

Petroleum distillates have been cited as carcinogens, and fake fragrances are made from many harmful chemicals; people with sensitive skin often experience rashes and other unpleasantness from using fragrant mass consumer laundry detergent.

Ready to make your own? Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Borax
  2. A bar of unscented, all natural soap (we like Dr. Bronner’s, it’s fair trade and organic)
  3. Washing soda (this is also known as sodium carbonate or soda ash)
  4. Baking soda (optional but recommended, for its deep cleaning capability)

These ingredients will make either liquid or powdered laundry detergent, depending on how you combine them. You can find borax and washing soda in the laundry aisle at the grocery store. Dr. Bronner’s is usually in the health and beauty area of stores (and on the internet). Borax is a basic mineral (as opposed to acidic), composed of boron, sodium, oxygen, and water, and it’s naturally occurring. Washing soda is just sodium and limestone, an abrasive and effective cleaning compound.

Powdered laundry soap is easy to make.

  1. Using a handheld grater or a food processor, grate the bar of soap until it’s finely ground up. Another benefit of Dr. Bronner’s Castille soaps are their gentle natural scents. If Dr. Bronner’s isn’t your favorite, ivory soap is another good choice.
  2. Mix together two parts borax, two parts washing soda, one part grated soap, and two teaspoons of baking soda, in a big bowl. Use the grated bar soap as the base measurement. Transfer the laundry soap to a sealed container. 1/8 to ¼ cup of this soap per load of laundry works very well.

Liquid laundry soap requires all the same ingredients, plus water and heat. It’s an even better deal, pennywise.

  1. Grate the bar of soap, then put it in a saucepan with two quarts of water. Heat it gradually, stirring all the time, until the soap is completely dissolved.
  2. While that’s cooling, take a five gallon bucket with a lid (which you can get for free at a grocery story bakery, or reuse an old food container, like a coconut oil bucket), fill it with four and a half gallons of hot tap water, and stir in a cup of borax and a cup of washing soda, until they’re totally dissolved.
  3. Transfer the soap juice in the pan into the bucket and stir it thoroughly.
  4. Cover the bucket (if you couldn’t find one with a lid, a piece of an old sheet and a big rubber band will work okay), and let it stand overnight.
  5. Stir the bucket until the liquid is smooth, and pour it into smaller containers if you like (old coffee cans work great). Use a half a cup for every load of laundry.

A five-gallon bucket of liquid detergent yields eighty loads or more—that’s roughly six loads a month, or about how much laundry a family of five generates. Although the price of the ingredients changes somewhat, all can be purchased for under twenty dollars. Borax runs around five bucks, and it’s the most expensive item on the list.

>>NEXT: How To Make A Kind and Gentle Shampoo


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