Saturday, December 10, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Trying to save money? Trying to remove harmful chemicals from your home?

One way to do both is to make your own laundry detergent. It took me only 45 minutes the first time I made it. I made 5 gallons of laundry detergent a lot cheaper than store bought detergents.

This is just a rough detail sketch of the way I did it, I will post pictures and a instruction guide later this weekend.


1 Bar Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap: GRATED (bought at Wal-Mart)
Approx 1 cup Pure Glycerin Soap: GRATED (1 small bar from the bag I purchased-see below)
1 Cup Borax
1 Cup Washing Soda
12 Drops Essential Oil (I use 10 drops of Lavender for a light scent.)

  • Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap (0.97)
$0.97 each at Wal-Mart

  • 5lbs Pure Glycerin Soap ($0.24)
Hobby Lobby $18.50 (w/ tax) Regular Price however with the 40% off coupon it's $11.09 w/ tax. I used the coupon to buy this today. Inside this large 5lb bag are small bars of soap. I counted 46 bars in my bag. I used 1 bar grated. Using the cost per bag above each little bar either costs $0.40 each ($18.50) OR $0.24 each ($11.09).

  • Borax ($0.30)
I'm estimating the cost I paid for the borax at the commissary on post. I'm thinking it was about $3.00 a box. Each box contains about 10 cups. Approximately $0.30 per cup.

  • Washing Soda ($0.30)
Again, I'm estimating the cost I paid for the washing soda at the commissary on post. I'm thinking it was about $3.00 a box. Each box contains about 10 cups. Approximately $0.30 per cup.

  • Essential Oils ($0.18)
The costs for essential oils will vary GREATLY depending upon where you buy it and they scent you buy. Vanilla is more costly than most other scents. I use lavender because it's soothing and relaxing. I paid $8.99 for a 1 ounce (30ml) bottle. This bottle contains approximately 600 drops with each drop costing about $0.015 each. 12 drops = $0.18

  • Water.
Well, I don't know how much that is going to cost but I just use what comes out of the tap.

Approximate total costs of 5 gallons of laundry detergent: $1.99

Cheap pot
5 gallon bucket

My 1 time costs are for the bucket and the pan to melt the soap it. I didn't want to use my good pans for this. 5 gallon bucket with lid about $4.00 at Wal-Mart and the 1 time costs of a CHEAP pot at the Goodwill ($2.50).

Grated Fels Naptha
Grated Glycerin Soap

  1. Grate Glycerin Soap
  2. Grate Fels-Naptha Soap
  3. Measure 1 cup borax and 1 cup washing soda. Set aside.
  4. Place 1 cup cool water in a bowl, add your essential oils to this water, set aside.
  5. Add 4 cups water to boil for a small pan or 8 cups for a medium pan.
  6. If available run several containers of HOT water. I use old clean tea jugs, clean milk jugs, my mixer bowl, and various size pitchers around my kitchen. Enough to have about 4.5-4.75 gallons ready to pour into the bucket.
  7. When water is boiling, reduce heat and slowly add about half the amount of Fels-Naptha to the water. Stir until dissolved.
  8. Pour off some of the water into the bucket. Then add more fresh water to the pan and add the rest of the Fels-Naptha to the water. (I had to do this because I have a smaller pan, if you have a larger pan increase the water amount to 8 cups and dissolve at once.) Once it has dissolved add the Glycerin Soap to the water. It will only take a minute or so to dissolve.
  9. Add about half (2.5 gallons estimated) of your reserved water to the bucket. Stir.
  10. VERY QUICKLY add your borax, washing soda, and your dissolved soap mixture to the bucket. Don't burn your hand with the soap mixture. You may need a second person's help to mix everything quickly.
  11. Stir to combine, then quickly add the rest of the reserved water & ESSENTIAL OILS WATER (about 2 gallons water). Stir quickly! It will start to gel within seconds of combining it with water and cooling. Don't fill it all the way to the top. Leave room for the gelling to happen.
  12. Cover bucket with lid. I cover it with a blanket as well. Let set overnight to 24 hours.

Water in pan
Before sitting for 24 hrs
Melting Soap

My Tips and Oops:
  • Don't boil soapy water too much. Soap=bubbles; boiling water=lots of bubbles.
  • Don't add essential oils to hot water. Always add it to cool water, then add it to the detergent mixture at the very end.
  • I added the soap mixture to the bucket before adding anything else. It gelled so fast I had to use a stick blender to get the clumps out. So add about half the water first and work fast.
  • Have everything measured out and in an area where you can quickly add it to the bucket.
  • Several people have said their detergent separates. I'm trying to see of letting the cooling happen slowly will prevent the separation, like in making lye soap.


Larger chunks of gelled soap
Smaller gelled soap
It's like a watery gel, kinda like egg drop soup. It works GREAT on our clothes and it smells amazing.


  1. Nice tutorial! I've been making our laundry detergent for years--what a great, frugal way to clean the laundry! I haven't added the glycerin soap to mine.... but I have tried other kinds of soap.

    Thanks for such a lovely and informative post!

  2. Thank you. I added the glycerin because it is a good solvent.

    Thank you for your kind words.

  3. Hi! Thanks for the tutorial! I have been making dry detergent for awhile now. Tried making liquid a few times but the borax just chrystalized in the jar I put it in. If you shook it for a few minutes and ran it under warm water it would turn liquid again and be ready to use. This was a huge pain as you can imagine! LOL I think the glycerin you have added may be the solution to this problem. I wonder if liquid glycerin would be just as helpful? I have that here. ( I add it to my shampoos, conditioners and bodywash. Helps with the hard water.) I think I will try it out! Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. I'm not sure what causes the crystallization of the borax, but I've used the glycerin in my detergent because it's better for hard water. Liquid glycerin will work just as well as glycerin soap.