Laundry Detergent

For the record, I love convenience. But, if I can get something as good or better for less money by making it myself, I’m at least going to try it. I have to be honest – the experimentation and sense of accomplishment are pretty cool, too.

My most recent experiment was with laundry detergent. Doug and I have been talking about this for a while, and we finally decided to dig in and try it.

***Just to warn you: I am a detail-loving person, so this will be a pretty detailed post!

There are blogs and sites galore that give recipes. This post at was my favorite because it provides a variety of recipes in one place and has this awesome FAQ page as well.

I typically prefer liquid detergent, but as I looked at the recipes, I decided to start with the easier-looking powdered recipe. So, I chose recipe #9 from Tipnut’s site and reduced it so that if I didn’t like it or someone in the family had an allergy to it, I wouldn’t be wasting a ton of detergent! I’m going to post the recipe that I made – multiply it by four or follow the links above for the full recipe.

Powdered Laundry Detergent RecipeDet 4

Tightly sealing plastic storage container

Hand grater or food processor*

3 cups Borax

2 cups baking soda

2 cups washing soda

2 cups bar soap, finely grated  I used Ivory – the website gives examples of good soaps to use. Just make sure they are pure soap without fragrances or perfumes that will stain clothing.

**A tip I saw indicated that frozen soap grates better. So, I put the soap in the freezer overnight. Sure enough, it grated beautifully!

  1. Det 3Grate the soap into a fine powder. I had small bars on hand, but I think one 4.5 oz bar of Ivory will give you almost two cups of grated soap.
  2. Combine all ingredients  and mix well. (Just try to not inhale the powder! Smile)
  3. Seal for storage.
  4. Use 1/8 cup (2 Tbs) per load.

Det 2

With the grating (which I will probably delegate to the kids in the future, or try the food processor), this took 30 minutes at the most.

*If you’re using the food processor, use the grater attachment first and then use the processing blade to make a fine powder.


Doing the Laundry

  • Whites (mainly underwear) – I used the full 1/8 cup measurement even though I only had a medium load. I also added bleach, as is my custom, and washed the load in cold water. Our water tends to make whites grungy. This detergent didn’t decrease the grunginess, but I did notice that the items that were bright white stayed bright white in this load.
  • Darks (essentially anything that can’t be bleached) – I did a full load (I have a super-large capacity washer), again with 1/8 cup detergent and in cold water. I had all sorts of colors, light and dark (including reds) mixed into the load. I typically add OxyClean to my lighter darks (anything that can be easily stained) just because of our water condition. I had just soaked a few stained items in an OxyClean solution prior to washing, so I dumped that solution into the washer water. I also had a dress of Angela’s stained with red Jell-O that I had treated with Shout the day before. The load came out beautifully. No bleeding, no grunginess, and all stains removed.
  • Sheets & Towels – I typically wash in hot water with detergent and I add OxyClean to the sheets. I left out the OxyClean this time around and used 1/8 cup detergent in each load. Leaving out the OxyClean seemed to have no negative effect, and both sheets and towels came through nicely.
  • Bottom Line

    ***I typically use liquid Era for my laundry, in addition to the boosters I mentioned above. I’ve also used regular Tide in the past, and haven’t seen much cleaning power different between Tide and Era. I also use dryer sheets – a variety of brands.

    • Cleaning – I know my laundry came out at least as clean as with the Era. I’m hesitant to say they came out cleaner, but I will say this: I’m confident enough with the cleaning power of this detergent to try it for a couple of weeks without the OxyClean booster that I typically use with Era.
    • Softness – This one really, really surprised me. I love soft clothes, and I was amazed at how much softer the loads were with this detergent It was an extremely noticeable (and very unexpected)difference with everything except the towels. There was no difference in the towels. But, most of my towels are old, so there’s probably no helping them! Anyway, the softness alone had me sold on this detergent. 
    • Price – We didn’t save money, really, on this first batch because we didn’t get the best prices on ingredients. But, I know we can make it cheaper. We pay about 11 cents a load for our Era from Sam’s, and so far we have price-shopped this homemade detergent down to 8 cents a load. We are pretty sure we can get it at least a little lower. And if I can leave off the OxyClean, that will save even more!

    A few more things I want to mention:

    1. Whenever I wash with a powder detergent, I do turn the water on hot to dissolve the detergent, then switch it to cold (if I’m washing in cold) and add the clothes. I did that with this detergent and found no signs of clumping or soap stains.
    2. There are no suds with this detergent. That threw me at first – the water stayed so clear!
    3. A friend with an HE washer uses this same recipe, with the 1/8 cup measurement, and says it works wonderfully.
    4. The same friend also will add a little water to a small amount of this detergent to make a paste for stain removal purposes.
    5. This detergent leaves laundry pretty much fragrance free. If you like clothes to smell a certain way, you’ll need to follow the hints (I think they were in the FAQ’s) to add laundry-safe fragrance.

    All in all, I’m very excited that this was so easy, pleased with the cleanliness, delighted with the softness, and fully convinced that this will be an easy way to save a few more pennies!


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