DIY Homemade Cleaners: Laundry Detergent

Making your own cleaners can be fun and economical.  This series is all about must-have ingredients, recipes {free printable}labels {free printable}, and how to make homemade cleaners. I hope it’s giving you some ideas for how you can simply make your own cleaners at home!  Moving down the list, today I’m sharing how to make a GREAT powdered laundry detergent!

I’ve experimented quite a bit over the last few years with different homemade recipes for laundry detergent.  To be honest, I’ve never been happy enough with a detergent to switch to a homemade version – until now.  I still use liquid detergent occasionally but I love this recipe – it fully dissolves (huge plus) in an HE machine, softens without fabric softener (you can add about a quarter of a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle or fabric softener dispenser if you feel like it needs a little softening), whitens, smells divine, and CLEANS!  Ready for the recipe and easy step by step?

Powdered Laundry Detergent

  • 1 bar castile soap (grated) – I like Dr. Bronner’s Citrus bar soap (great scent)
  • 2 cups Borax
  • 2 cups super washing soda
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 30 drops essential oils (equal parts lemon and clove essential oils)

Mix all ingredients and put in a air-tight container – I use an Anchor Hocking glass container from the big box stores – love them for all types of storage.  Use 1 Tablespoon per load.  This recipe fully dissolves at all temperatures.

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Comments

  1. Any thoughts on how much to use in a non-HE washer?

    • Hi Ginny!
      About 2 Tablespoons in a non-HE – hope this helps!
      xo, Becky

      • Nan Green says:

        I have used a similar home made soap in my HE washer for some time now but please put this in the drum. Do not attempt to use the dispenser cups.

  2. Amy L. says:

    I am really excited to try this! I’ve been making my own laundry detergent using Borax, washing soda, and grated Fels Naptha and Ivory soaps for some time now and have loved how it cleaned, but had a hard time getting it to dissolve.

  3. We use straight liquid Castile soap in our HE washing machine. 3 tablespoons per wash, I figured it out and it is about $0.44 a wash. I love how our cloths come out. Also, my grandfather was a applicance repair man, he said if you want your machines to last longer (washing and dish washer) always use liquid soap. So I have always used liquids when I do anything!

  4. Liz E. says:

    Great recipe! Similar to one I use (except with Fels Naptha. And I’ve never tried essential oils in it.). Question: how does the scent do, even after washing and drying? I was curious especially about the scent of the soap. My recipe gives us “fresh” laundry, which is nice, but I do miss that hint of fragrance. Also, do you have a DIY dryer sheet remedy? I’m gathering ideas for that as well. Thanks!

    • I can still smell the essential oil and soap combo when the clothes are dry, but it’s faint. My favorite sheet remedy is to soak a rag in fabric softener and let it air dry. Then put it in the dryer with each load – it should last at least 40 loads.
      xo, Becky

    • Lisa Foster says:

      I dont have a dryer sheet remedy but I have found that when you buy a bottle of liquid fabric softner and add the same amount of what to that vut those colorful sponges in half throw them in the mix take one each time you dry ring it out and put it in the dryer when done add back to mix works great and smells great and the softner last longer!

  5. Hi, I love this idea. How many loads does this do about? Any idea?

  6. Nicole says:

    Are the essential oils just for scent? We use mostly scent free products due to allergies in our house. Just mixed up a batch without the oils and with scent-free Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap to try.

    • Yes – the essential oil is for scent. Let me know how the scent-free version works for your family!
      xo, Becky

  7. Arielle says:

    This recipe is safe for HE washers, right? The washer is not mine so I have to double check.

  8. Stephanie says:

    In a front load washer would you put this in the hopper or directly in the washer drum?

    • My new HE front loader manual says to put the powder directly into the washer drum. I just add detergent into the washer and pile my clothes on top. Works great for me. If you are worried about the powder falling through the holes I have also read about people putting clothes in first and then the powder on top of the clothes.

  9. I made this. I love it but it hardens together in the container. Am I doing something wrong?

    • Make sure you are using an airtight container and storing it in a dry environment 🙂

    • I live in a high humidity area and have learned to keep those silica packs that come in so many things we buy these days! Since they are in a sealed package, you can toss as many as you need into the soap without affecting it. they should pull the moisture out of the soap. I haven’t tried them in soap yet, but they work for other stuff!

  10. What is HE???

  11. Hi! I’m a little late to the detergent party, but I was curious if this is safe to use with colors, too? I’m hoping it’s safe for all types and not just whites because it sounds awesome! Thanks for your help!

  12. Heather says:

    After I grate my soap I layer some of the powder then the grated soap Iin an old blender and blend it…turns the soap into really fine pieces. The powder helps the soap from gumming up in blender. Just start with small batches.

  13. Is Fels Naptha considered a castile soap or should I purchase a different kind? I love that this is a powder!

    • Fels Naptha isn’t castile soap – you can definitely use it in the recipe but I prefer castile 🙂
      xo, Becky

  14. Do you put this in the drum or into the dispenser in your HE washer? Thank You!

  15. Laura M says:

    What size anchor hocking container do you store this in and do you make a single batch?

  16. I’m going to try this! It only takes 1 tablespoon for a full load of towels or sheets?

  17. If the oils are for scent, i would use lavender and\or tea tree as they are both anti bacterial. Great if anyone has a sickness bug or children have headlice as tea tree oil kills them off!

  18. I use a similar recipe, 1/4 cup for non HE and 2 TBS for HE and have had best luck with warm water.

  19. Hi Becky,
    Love your site, and all the info!
    I too, have been making my own powdered detergent, for about a year now. Only difference between our recipes, is that I don’t use the baking soda. I feel like it cleans fine without, but am wondering what I’m missing without adding it?
    When I first started, I tracked how many loads and my cost. For us, I mostly use 1 tbsp/load, with great results. I got 170 loads from one batch, which made each load .04!!!
    Can’t believe how much LESS I spend on detergent now! And it only takes 10 minutes to make a batch, every few months! Such a time and money saver!!

  20. What is super washing sofa and where do you find it?

  21. My kids have very sensitive skin. I am thinking that this would be great to try.

  22. Hi Becky I love making my own soap but Ive noticed that my whites are turning gray?? Did i do something wrong?

    • Most detergents contain optical brighteners – add a scoop of OxiClean to each load – that should do the trick 🙂

    • Lisa Siegmann says:

      Hard water can also gray whites which I have a problem with on some of my whites and I’ve been using this detergent for 2 years and add the OxiClean to my whites about a year ago. I’ve been reading about water softeners or conditioners as being something you can add to hard water with each load. Calgon, Raindrops, Affresh are listed as water softener products. But I’m concerned about some of the ingredients like Raindrops has “fabric protection agent” and “colorant” listed according to one amazon.com reviewer. I am trying to stay away from things like that and they sound like optical brighteners. Becky can you speak to this and give recommendations for what to use when trying to soften the water. I would like to avoid having to put in a water softener and then be subject to drinking water with higher levels of sodium in it. Thanks!

  23. Any idea if this recipe is considered “baby friendly?” Thanks!

  24. Hi Becky– Before I had all the ingredients to make the laundry soap, I used 1/4 cup of Dr. Bronners as my detergent. As I was putting my clothes away I noticed what looked like oil stains on my white linen duvet cover. I thought it was the fabric. I finally got a chance to make a DIY laundry recipe (1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda, 4.5 ounces of liquid castille soap, 1/2 cup baking soda). As I was folding clothes I noticed an oily looking stain on a grey t-shirt. I fear the detergent is the culprit. Have you ever had this happen to you? I live in Brooklyn NY and use a laundromat. I washed both loads on “warm.” I would love to keep using my homemade detergent but not if it will leave oily stains on clothes.
    Thanks so much for your site!

    • HI Denise!
      I haven’t had this happen to me – I don’t think that the oily stain would be the detergent….sorry! I would wonder if there’s a residue in the washer/dryer because the soap and recipe isn’t an oil-based surfactant, it’s vegetable based.
      xo, Becky

    • Hi Denis, I’ve had it happen where residue from the machine got on some of my laundry. Might be time for them to clean their machines. Good luck.

    • Carol Schofield says:

      I had the same thing happen to me. I did a little digging and learned that it is transmission oil coming out from the machine. It needs to be repaired.
      Thank you for all the help you give us all the time…

  25. Can any essential oils be used? I am new to using them and not even sure where to find them.

  26. I am looking forward to trying this and saving some money. However I am having a difficult time finding washing soda…Is there anything else that can be used?

  27. AnIssa Dodick says:

    For the dryer, I put a few drops of essential oil (rose geranium is my favorite) on my Woolzies (look on Amazon)

  28. I make mine with Fels-Naptha and make a 20lb bucket at a time. Use 2 tablespoons per load in the hopper of my front loader. Takes 10 minutes to make and lasts at least 6 months! I store it in a used laundry powder bucket with a lid. Having a lid is key so it doesn’t absorb moisture. This saves a ton of money as I do laundry for myself and 3-4 kids a week.

  29. I have 2 adult sons with severe atopic eczema so extremely sensitive skin. Has anyone with similar health issues used this laundry mix? I’m nervous to upset the balance. We use sensitive skin laundry liquid at present, but maybe home made is even better for skin???

  30. Becky,
    I love this formula and have been using it for about 3 months. I’m noticing more ring-around-the-collar for my husband’s shirts. Any suggestions? Want to make the DIY formula work.

    • P. J. Varner says:

      I wet a Fels Naptha bar and rub it directly on my hubby’s shirt collars. Boil some water and pour it over the collars and soak. If necessary, rub on more Fels Naptha, add more boiling water and wash as usual. I have “resurrected” numerous shirts that we thought were lost for good with this formula.

  31. Jocelyne says:

    This is a tad off-topic, but am desperate to learn how to dry sheets in a dryer without them twisting into one big ball resulting with the middle being still damp and everything wrinkled tight. Thank you!

  32. Love that you promote doTERRA! Their oils are the best. 🙂

  33. Dharlyn joy ladiana says:

    Do I have to put the essential oils or is it fine without it ?

  34. I am wondering what is best way to clean dingy bras and remove the body sweat from the bra. Also is there something to remove dirt around cuffs like on a coat if anything that rests on the wrist? Thank you.

    • A baking soda paste can help – mix up the paste and apply with a small laundry brush or clean/but not being used anymore toothbrush. Scrub and launder as usual.

  35. I read that Dr. Bronner bar soaps are superfatted, extra oil added after saponification (oils processed into soap). I also read where one soap maker recommended not to use superfatted soap for laundry use; but didn’t say why. Do you ever notice any “mystery spotting” with your recipe? Do you usually use warm or cold water? I love Dr Bronner soaps and am anxious to try your recipe. Thanks

  36. Is this cloth diaper safe?

  37. Margarita says:

    I’ve heard mixed reviews about the safety of Borax. Could I substitue OxyClean Free for the borax in this recipe?

  38. Lisa Siegmann says:

    Hard water can also gray whites which I have a problem with on some of my whites and I’ve been using this detergent for 2 years and add the OxiClean to my whites about a year ago. I’ve been reading about water softeners or conditioners as being something you can add to hard water with each load. Calgon, Raindrops, Affresh are listed as water softener products. But I’m concerned about some of the ingredients like Raindrops has “fabric protection agent” and “colorant” listed according to one amazon.com reviewer. I am trying to stay away from things like that and they sound like optical brighteners. Becky can you speak to this and give recommendations for what to use when trying to soften the water. I would like to avoid having to put in a water softener and then be subject to drinking water with higher levels of sodium in it. Thanks!

  39. Is this good for all HE washers?

  40. Hi Becky, Can you please respond to Lisa’s comment/question. I have hard water as well & am trying to trying to go as natural as possible… thanks!!!
    Here’s her post:
    “Lisa Siegmann says:
    June 21, 2016 at 5:23 pm
    Hard water can also gray whites which I have a problem with on some of my whites and I’ve been using this detergent for 2 years and add the OxiClean to my whites about a year ago. I’ve been reading about water softeners or conditioners as being something you can add to hard water with each load. Calgon, Raindrops, Affresh are listed as water softener products. But I’m concerned about some of the ingredients like Raindrops has “fabric protection agent” and “colorant” listed according to one amazon.com reviewer. I am trying to stay away from things like that and they sound like optical brighteners. Becky can you speak to this and give recommendations for what to use when trying to soften the water. I would like to avoid having to put in a water softener and then be subject to drinking water with higher levels of sodium in it. Thanks!”

  41. Patricia D says:

    I am loving your site and ideas! I have kept house for over 52 years but frankly I want a clean, sanitary house with very little effort now that I am retired! You have just what I want! I have ordered some of your “helpers” and now I am just wondering what WHITE towels do you prefer to use? Thank You for your time!

  42. I have a question about the Dr. Bronner’s soap. I’ve been making my own household cleaners for several years and really enjoy doing it. I used to make my own laundry detergent but haven’t in a long time (just got too lazy). Anyway, I have the liquid castille soap. Will that work just as well as the bar soap? If it does, how much will I need to make a batch from the recipe above?
    Thanks 🙂

  43. Kimberly LaBelle says:

    I’ve made this DIY laundry detergent and love it…so for any load from extra small to extra large load you only need one tablespoon to put in…I’ve been doing extra small-small load 2 tbsp…medium load 3 tbsp and large -extra large 4 tbsp?…Am I not doing it right?…

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