Four Ways to Save Money on Laundry Detergent

How do you get good deals on laundry detergent? I have found the occasional good deal, but this seems like the one product I struggle
to really save on. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you! -A reader

1) Don’t Be Brand Dependent

One of the easiest ways to save money on laundry detergent is to stop being brand dependent and start buying whatever brand you can get on a great sale with a coupon.

My target price for laundry detergent is $2 for a 48-load bottle or larger. By watching for sales on the store-brand at Dillon’s or by pairing a coupon with a great sale on a name-brand, I rarely pay more than that for a bottle of laundry detergent. Aldi and Costco also have good everyday prices on their store brands if you don’t want to mess with watching sales and clipping coupons.

If you can afford it in your grocery budget, stock up when the price is low so that you don’t ever pay retail for laundry detergent again!

2) Use Half of the Recommended Amount

I’m not sure who decided you have to use a full capful of laundy detergent in order to run a load of laundry, but I’m not buying it. In fact, I pretty much always use half the recommended amount–and I think our clothes are plenty clean.

Maybe this is going to sound over-the-top frugal, but it was a trick my mom taught me: when the bottle has almost been used up, add some water, put the lid back on, and shake it up to get the last remains of laundry detergent cleaned out of the bottle. I can usually stretch the bottle to last for another load just by doing this.

3) Only Wash Dirty Clothes

One of the best ways to cut down on your laundry detergent bill–and your water and electric bill for that matter!–is to just stop washing clothes which aren’t truly dirty. We’re not always 100% perfect about this (especially since my 2-year-old has discovered the joy of changing her clothes multiple times throughout the day!), but we try to re-wear clothes whenever we can.

I can often make a pair of jeans last for two to three days without needing to be washed. I just spot-clean them and re-wear them. (I know some people think that is terribly unsanitary, but seriously, who made up the rule that you have to wear an entirely new outfit every single day? If you’re bathing everyday, I really don’t see what’s the big deal. It works for us and it saves us time and money.)

4) Make Your Own

Truth be told, I tried making my own laundry detergent once and it was a total fail. The goopy, baby-spit-up-like solution was not only icky, it did a horrible job of getting our clothes clean. So I gave up that idea and decided to go back to buying detergent on sale with coupons.

However, I have friends who think homemade laundry detergent is the best thing ever. And when I’ve seen the cost breakdowns, I would wholeheartedly agree that it’s very inexpensive to make your own.

Tammy has a great tutorial on making your own laundry detergent. Or, if you’re a visual learner, check out The Simple Dollar’s step-by-step video below:

How do you save money on laundry detergent? I’d love to hear your ideas! (And anyone want to “fess up and tell me that you also re-wear your clothes?!)

photo credit: Pixel Drip

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  1. Lana says

    If you have a family member with allergies and skin problems then you MUST be brand loyal-switching around is not worth it. I never pay full price even then. I typically only use 1/4 the regular amount and it works just fine.

  2. Carrie says

    I read your experience about trying to make your own soap. I used the recipe you linked to when I made mine about a year or so ago. Well, I tried to, but couldn’t find washing soda anywhere, so I used oxyclean instead. I use two bars of soap, I use any kind, not even actual “soap”(I use lever 2000, something I know my sensitive skin isn’t bothered by, plus it smells nice), about a half cup of oxyclean(generic), and 1/2 cup of borax. I fill the bucket up about half full of water, and mix in the borax and oxyclean. I shred the soap into the pan(I use a big pan with about 4-6 cups of water) of warming water, I let it warm on low until soap is melted, stirring occasionally(do not let it boil), then I dump it into the five gallon bucket and fill the rest of the way with water(I do leave some room for expansion, as it may fizz for a little while). I stir it really well, then once or twice daily for a couple of days. I refill used laundry detergent bottles, and use about half a scoop per load. It works great! I am one who doesn’t like to mess with laundry at all. I rarely pretreat, and the only things this hasn’t gotten out, are things that nothing else, even strong pretreaters, does either. I also only wash in cold water. It’s good stuff!

  3. Alison says

    My mom’s appliance guy (yes, she has lived in the same neighborhood so long that she has an appliance guy!) says that you really only need to use about 1/8 to 1/4 the recommended amount of detergent. Also, liquid fabric softener is a complete waste. Our last washer needed a repair because we had been using too much detergent and there was a huge amount of soap gunk buildup, and we had only been using about 2/3 of the recommended amount! He told us this is one of the main reasons washing machines fail.

    If your clothes are really dirty or stained, go ahead and pre-treat, but for general laundry, you only need a touch of detergent.

    So, use a lot less soap, people! You’ll extend the life of your machine, you won’t get soapy buildup on your clothes, and go through a lot less soap in the process!

  4. Kelly Webster says

    Crystal, I re-wear my clothes 3-4 times a week. I do this mainly to save time. I used to work with several French people when I was working on EuroDisneyland for Walt Disney Imagineering and they wore the same clothes all week and didn’t bathe for several days (they believe it is unhealthy to put soap on your skin every day). After working with them for so long I picked up the same clothing habit. I don’t see any reason to spend time washing extra clothing when I am already doing several loads of clothes for my small children. :)

    All fessed up.

  5. says

    I make my own powdered laundry soap and I love it! I also use vinegar as a replacement for laundry softener. A couple of tbsp of vinegar iwth an equal amount of water does great and also keeps my machine clean.

      • Debbie says

        @Kimberly, I also air dry my clothes. I have two chrome racks and a wood rack. I’m looking to replace my wooden rack, but I’ll just have to wait to accumulate enough swagbucks so I can get it for free. The chrome clothes racks are excellent!

  6. Amanda Y. says

    We can only use the all free & clear or arm & hammer free & clear, so we aren’t as able to be brand-independent, but we do stock up like mad when there’s a good sale/coupon deal. We definitely wear most clothes (not underwear or socks) a few times (unless we get sweaty in them) and we use slightly less than the recommended amount of detergent too!

  7. says

    I rotate our clothes, especially in the winter time. Most of the time you can wear outfits twice a week with no side affects if you know what I mean. 😉

    I will have everyone wear one outfit on Monday then fold it in a pile for another day this week. That way A) it doesnt look like we are wearing the same outfit every day but I dont have twice as much laundry every day.

    I havent made my own laundry soap yet. I figure when I have to start paying for it, then I will, but right now, I have 6 bottles of soap that I have gotten for free and I barely use any and they last a LONG time.

    However, I am a oxy-clean fanatic. I HAVE to have a scoop of oxy clean in my laundry. We’re in the desert. We need it. I did get 2 Tide Stain and Release bags this week and they work pretty well. I dont like the smell of Tide so I’ll stick to Oxy but I do have to say, they almost work better than oxy!

    • says

      @Challice, Did you know that all Oxiclean is, is hydrogen peroxide (see their website: Oxiclean is a complete waste of money, imho, because you can either use normal hydrogen peroxide found in the first aid aisle OR go to the beauty supply store and buy hydrogen peroxide used for hair coloring and bleaching (known as DEVELOPER).

      First aid hydrogen peroxide is typically 3% and is the same as a 10 volume developer.

      10 volume = 3% hydrogen peroxide
      20 volume = 6% hydrogen peroxide
      30 volume = 9% hydrogen peroxide
      40 volume =12% hydrogen peroxide
      50 volume = 15% hydrogen peroxide
      60 volume = 18% hydrogen peroxide

      The higher the volume the more hydrogen peroxide. BE CAREFUL when handling developer because it IS caustic and CAN cause chemical burns if too much is used.

      You can pick up a bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide at a drug store for as little as 99 cents or buy a huge gallon of it as a beauty supply store for like $10 (if you do buy liquid developer and not cream).

      Depending on what kind of hydrogen peroxide you use (3% or 60 volume) that will determine how much you use in the wash. The stronger you use the less you need. With normal 3% you’ll use no more than 1/2 cup per load and with 60 volume you need to use no more than 1/4 cup per LARGE load.

      Personally, I wouldn’t waste my money on Oxiclean products because you’re spending $5 to $10 on a product that you can go to the first aid aisle and pick up for 99 cents.

  8. says

    Our whole family re-wears clothes, too, so you are not alone! And I look for deals on discontinued or overstocked laundry detergent at my local Albertson’s. I recently got several bottles of laundry detergent for $1 and $2 a bottle – not bad at all! After reading all these comments, my biggest change will be how much detergent I use per load. That will help us stretch it!

  9. says

    I only use earth-friendly detergent and have found Costco’s Kirkland brand to be the best – so inexpensive (6 cents per load) and smells wonderful.

    I’ve used others, but I like the gigantic bottle Costco offers :)

  10. Heather T says

    Totally rewear ours here not so much the kids they do get pretty dirty but my husband and I do, and washing jeans too much is bad for them. We also hang up our towels after showering, since you are supposed to be clean when you dry off. We use vinegar in place of softner its much better for your clothes and no it does not make them smell funny. In the summer we, I mean I hang out all the clothes unless its raining and in the winter I put things like the kids pajamas on hangers throughout the house at least the load dries faster when there are 6-7 less items in there. I am not brand loyal the only detergent I don’t use is Tide it makes us all itch really bad, and that works out ok since its crazy exspensive. but I buy whatever is on sale and I have a coupon for. I bought $40 worth of Purex when they had their BOGO awhile ago and Wal-mart had them for $5 great deal.

  11. Naomi says

    I have been deluting my liquid softener for years. I use half a cap and then I add water to the other half. And when the plastic bottle is empty I fill it with water and shake it. I also do the same for the liquid laundry detergent. I use the bottle up and then I add water to the whole bottle, shake it and use that. I even reuse the softener sheets a second time. I do not wear a pair of jeans only once. I usually wear them two days and then throw them in the laundry. My husband does the same. I cannot figure out why other people do not do this.

  12. Susan J says

    I’ve been making our laundry detergent for over a year now, and it’s so easy and seems to work fine! I stick with the “powder” form, however – 1 bar peppermint castile soap grated in our food processor, 1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda. I make a triple batch, and it lasts us for a few months since we have a front-loader and can get away with one tablespoonful per load.

    With that said, I do keep some All Free and Clear on hand for really tough loads…but only end up using it once or twice a month at the most!

  13. fiona says

    I have just discovered Purex 3-in-1. The have detergent,fabric softener and static control all in one sheet. I cut them in 1/3 and my clothes still come out clean and smell good. This not only saves on having to buy three seperate products but when you divide the individual sheets it’s even cheaper! I got 4 packages on sale and after the math it comes out to .03 cents per load! I don’t think I could make my own for cheaper :-)

  14. says

    I definitely wear my jeans more than once/wash! They are the most comfy the 2nd day. Things I won’t rewear – “skivvies” (underwear), socks, gym clothes. One thing I won’t even think about reusing after using, without washing – washcloths! I’m sorry, but that’s yucky!

    We bought some laundry detergent at Sam’s Club back a while ago. It has a nice Lavender scent. It’s environmentally friendly. I bought it because it was the cheapest/once, but it’s worked out well for us so far. Here’s a link –

  15. says

    Like others have said, I won’t re-wear underwear, socks, or sweaty clothes. Another thing I won’t reuse is my washcloth! That’s just plain gross!

    I’m of the mindset that jeans are worn until they practically fall off of you. They are the most comfortable that way! : )

    As far as Laundry Detergent goes, we use the Ecos® Liquid Laundry Detergent from Sams Club. It’s lavender scented. It’s earth friendly, but to be totally honest, I bought it b/c it was the cheapest/ounce. It’s really nice!

    Just my two cents!

  16. Kerry D. says

    I completely believe in re-wearing clothing, esp. jeans which are often good for several wearings. Shirts might make it a second day, sometimes not. And bath towels are good for a week, since we are clean when we come out of the shower. We wear fresh underwear/socks daily, but then again, they don’t take much room in the laundry.

    I also agree that a lot of soap products are unnecessary for bathing (an early post mentioned her French coworkers felt that too much soap on the skin was unhealthy.) With my dry skin, my doctor told me to” stop using soap all over” years ago, and just soap areas that really need it. Another opportunity to save time and money.

  17. Sharon says

    * I am going to stop filling up the cap….I’ve been wasting laundry soap! YIKES!!! Literally $ down the drain! Thanks! Ü
    * I totally agree with “@Kimberly”, I rarely dry my clothes in the dryer anymore, when it’s warm I hang them outside (I hope to get a “clothes line” this Spring) but until then I hang them on the deck bannister, deck chairs, etc. they dry in less than 2 hours (usually), then I bring them in & throw them in the dryer for about 5-10 minutes to “fluff”. If it’s cold out, I hang them from the shower curtain rod, door frames, dryer rack, etc.

    * Another way I save is, I use liquid fabric softner, I keep the bottle from the week before & pour half of the new bottle into the old & fill them with water. It’s thick enough & works just as well!

    * My favorite “trick” is…..I take an old wash cloth, sew a corner down with contrasting thread (so I can remember which one it is) then I dampen it with liquid fabric softner, and wha laa…..instant & REUSEABLE dryer sheet. When it gets “funky” I soak it in hot soapy water & it’s good as new!

  18. Denise Gee says

    We totally wear clothes more than once before washing them. If they aren’t dirty or stinky, why do they need to be washed?

  19. Tiph says

    Interesting! I have never made my own… but it’s definitely more cost effective than regular commercial brands. We use Charlies Soap, which I bought in a 5-gal bucket (1280)… it comes out to about 9.5¢ a load. Not bad… and it’s all natural! :)

  20. Sandy K says

    With all the coupons and deals available, I don’t pay for detergent or softener at all. So no need to skimp at all. In fact, just last night 7 free bottles of Snuggle were picked up. Don’t even have room for them, but they were free at KMart. Can’t beat that.

  21. Zhan says

    Our skin and clothing can not handle being washed after just one wearing. Just too sensitive (skin) and with Florida heat the detergents are reactivated with the humidity in the air. Wearing clothing 2 – 3 x over a 3 week period is fine for us. I always use the lowest line indicated on any detergent cup (never used a full cup in my life). We definitely have get dirty clothes for playing with the dogs at the park. We clean the washer monthly with vinegar. We use the cheaper detergent for all non-clothing items such as linens or towels and we save our mass sale stock of Arm & Hammer and Downy for our clothing. I bought 16 bottles of Arm and Hammer over 4 store trips when it was B1G1 long ago and used coupons and CVS dollars to pay for it all. Every two weeks I do a load of just small white wash cloths that replaced our use of paper towels for kitchen messes. Love those savings!

  22. says

    When you say “half the recommended amount” do you mean half the amount people say to use (a cap) or half the amount the bottle says to use. I always fill it to the #1 line- and that seems like so little- but it works. Could I really get away with using half of that?

  23. says

    I only use Norwex Ultra Power Plus Laundry Detergent. It’s earth friendly, I can use it for both my kids clothes and my husbands clothes who’s a mechanic. My husband also has Crohn’s, so he has very sensitive skin, and has no problem with Norwex stuff! It’s low sudsing, and a quarter of a tablespoon is all that’s needed in a front load washing machine, it’s about 3 tablespoons for a top load machine. I can get over 120 loads with 1 bag of soap with my top load machine (I also use the Norwex Magnet Ball which allows me to use less than regular since the Magnet Ball softens my water). So for $26.99 it’s worth it!

  24. Emily says

    my husband and I re-wear clothes all the time. The 3, 1 1/2, and 2 week olds don’t really rewear….they usually get filthy by the end of the day. Usually it’s peanut butter and jelly all over them, but soon it will be the sandbox. :)

  25. Julie says

    That’s so funny! I am constantly telling my kids, “don’t put that in the dirty clothes. It’s not dirty!” I will definately start using less detergent! Thanks for the info!

  26. says

    I rewear pants all the time and am not ashamed to admit it :)
    Our daughter has sensitive skin so we cant use certain brands of detergent, but anything that says “free and clear” without additives is good for us. I often buy generic products, and most of the time you cant tell the difference (except with certain cereals, ie Cheerios. Hey, you have to be picky every once in a while).

  27. liz says

    I used to make my own laundry soap when I lived down south, and it worked great. But then I moved to an area where the water has a very high mineral content, and the home made detergent didn’t seem to do a good job in that type of water.

    I line dry when I can, and just toss the clothes in the dryer for about 10 mintues to fluff them up and suck off any lint/cat hair. Everything comes out crunchy and stiff if I don’t let them rumble around in the dryer for a few minutes.

  28. Traci says

    Yes, we re-wear clothes! Especially our “around the house” clothes that we change into after school & work – we usually only wear them for a few hours per day anyway. I also hang up our bath towels so they dry out, and use them a few times. The only thing that gets on them is clean water, so what’s the point in washing after one use?

    I also use only cold water, run full loads or set the washer to the “small load” setting if I must wash something without a full load. (Sometimes necessary to have clean uniforms!)

    For the dryer, we don’t use dryer sheets at all – waste of money IMHO and they are full of chemicals I’d prefer to avoid. We clean the lint screen EVERY load so the dryer runs at peak efficiency. You can also dry clothes quicker if you throw a clean, dry towel in the load with the wet clothes. Just make sure you don’t use a white towel with a dark load or you might get everything covered in white lint.

  29. Erika says

    I couldn’t resist putting in my two cents here. I make my own detergent also, but don’t spend half the the time as the guy in the video! The key is making DRY washing detergent. There’s absolutely no need to boil anything, or add any water. Not only was I lazy, but I didn’t want buckets of dangerous stuff around for my toddler to get into and have a drowning hazard.

    Soooo, I Googled how to make the dry stuff. It is also .02 per load, but you are only supposed to use ONE Tablespoon! I just can’t seem to use that much, so I put in TWO, and it comes out to .04 per load, compared to about .30 for the cheaper brands I was buying at the store. Here’s how you make it:

    1 cup of Borax
    1 cup of Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (this is NOT baking soda- the only store I have ever found it in was Albertsons here in So. CA, and it sits right next to the Borax in the laundry section.)
    Grate 1 bar of Ivory soap (can be found for $1 for pack of 3 bars)

    I usually grate the soap on a flexible cutting mat, then just lift it up and dump it into the container. For a container, I use an old re-sealable OxyClean container. Be careful with the Borax- it is toxic if it gets into your lungs, but is perfectly safe in the laundry. So I smash up the little lumps in a measuring cup before I CAREFULLY pour that in.

    Once the lit is on, I just toss it around and around until it’s all mixed up! And I use a little 2 Tablespoon scoop I had lying around. Works as well or better than the bought stuff, and my kids don’t suffer allergies from it! Also safe for septic systems. Borax is naturally found in the ground, and is not toxic, unless ingested or breathed in. Hope this helps!

  30. Dani says

    I’m VERY brand loyal. I’ve tried the cheap detergents, and they do not get my clothes clean.

    I only buy powdered Tide detergent.

  31. Dani says

    Oh, and we don’t re-wear clothes. Kids get too messy, and I change their clothes right away. And hubs and I, wear our clothes once then they are washed. I even wash my clothes before wearing after buying them. The thought of dead skin cells from other people is just icky!

  32. Susan says

    I was thinking about your post as I rinsed out a Purex bottle and poured the suds into my laundry today. Doesn’t everyone do that?? No, I realize that everyone does NOT.

    When my husband was stationed overseas as a “geographic bachelor”, he took to looking around the barracks laundry room and picking up discarded detergent bottles and boxes. He found a lot of detergent that way! But more than that, he rinsed out the BOXES the way I do my bottles at home. I never would have thought of doing that – but it worked for him.

  33. says

    I am with you on this. I buy my detergent at Big Lots. Not sure if everyone has this store near them but I love it! They have name brand items for a lot less. I actually have found my favorite detergent there. It’s Sun brand and it’s there Free & Clear concentrated 50 load bottle. It’s $2.95 there.
    I also agree that you should definitely rewear clothes. I had to convince my daughter of this with pajamas.

  34. Chris says

    instead of pouring water in, you can reach in and pull the plastic piece out. Theres usually a slot on it that you can shove a flat screw driver into. Then just pour it into the cap. I prefer this method since it ensures theres nothing left, since that plastic piece makes it impossible to get it all out.

  35. Marsha says

    I purchase an inexpensive brand of powder detergent, like Foca, and mix it with Borax and A&H Washing Soda. I do at least a load each day,and my detergent lasts for several months!

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