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2011 Do-It-Yourself Experiment #4: Homemade Powdered Laundry Soap

A few years ago, I attempted making liquid laundry detergent. The entire recipe bombed and I ended up throwing it out.

Ever since then, I’ve been leery of trying homemade laundry detergent again. But, after all the rave reviews many of you have emailed in, I worked up my courage to try again. And I’m so glad I did because I had a much better experience this time!

I used the recipe I found from DIY Natural. It only takes three ingredients and seemed pretty fail-proof!

Homemade Powdered Laundry Soap

Shave or grate the bar of soap.

Mix the rest of the ingredients together. Thoroughly stir together for about five minutes.

Yields 32-64 loads, depending upon whether you use one or two Tablespoons per load. I’ll report back soon to let you know if I think this would work for our family long-term. It seems promising!

In case you missed it, here’s the list of the 12 Do-It-Yourself Projects I Plan to Try in 2011:

January: Make From-Scratch Chai Tea

February: Make Homemade Dishwashing Detergent

March: Make Homemade Hamburger Buns

April: Make Homemade Laundry Soap (I did attempt this one time before, but it was with a pre-made mix someone gave me. So I’m going to try again — this time completely from scratch!)

May: Make Appliqued Flower Tee

June: Make Homemade Hummus

July: Make Freezer Jam

August: Make Homemade Soap

September: Sew a Rag Quilt

October: Make Homemade Apple Butter

November: Make Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

December: Make Homemade Marshmallows

Have you attempted any new do-it-yourself projects recently? I’d love to hear how they went!

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  • No Debt MBA says:

    I haven’t tried DIY laundry detergent – there are only two of us so we go through a big jug of whatever detergent is on super sale so slowly it doesn’t seem worth it. However, we make tons of homemade hummus at my house. In about five minutes you can make a healthier batch of hummus at home that costs a fraction of the price of store bought tubs. We swap in a little peanut butter and sesame oil instead of tahini since tahini goes bad quicker and is pricey. I can’t taste the difference.

  • Kelly says:

    I have used homemade powdered laundry soap in the past and had the same problem with it not dissolving. But then I read to start your washer with hot water and add your powder to dissolve. As soon as it looks dissolve switch it back to cold. That worked great! I also found a natural oxi powder that I added to my soap mix to help brighten up the clothes.

    • Andrea says:

      I have been using my own homemade laundry detergent with my own homemade bar soap for about a year. After I grate my soap I put the chopping blade into my food processor and chop it up more fine with the borax. The borax seems to be the part of this recipe that is not dissolving right at first. But if you run it through the food processor it becomes very very fine. And I don’t have any problems with this recipe dissolving even in very cold water.
      After making my own laundry detergent I would not go back to buying it again. It is so inexpensive and works even on my husband’s very greasy jeans and shirts.
      I do add a cup of baking soda to this recipe also since it helps with the body odors left in clothing. And you can make your own washing soda by simply baking the baking soda on a cookie sheet in an oven for about 40 minutes at 350 to 400 degrees. All washing soda is is baking soda with the moisture removed. You can find the recipe for that on Pinterest also.

  • Ania says:

    When my daughter was born, spending $10 on dreft left her clothes ruined, as it stripped a lot of her clothes from color and they look worn down (I even air dryed them) so I decided to make my own laundry soap. I used the same exact recipe and it worked wonders.
    To pretreat stains – I bought an ultra big box of Oxy clean at Sams – $12.00 (and its been about 16 months and we are still at half) and I use a teaspoon of that per load and let it pre-soak for about 20 minutes.
    It takes off grass stains, juice stains and any other things you can think off with an active toddler.
    I have also stopped buying store detergent and use this recipe for all of our laundry since its a more green way to go.

  • April says:

    I’ve been making this for about 4 years now and love it! Here are a couple of suggestions based on my experience:

    – I would not recommend using Ivory soap. I use either Fels Naptha or Octagon, another laundry bar.
    -The soap can be easily grated in a food processor rather than hand-grating. I grate my soap & then add powdered ingredients right in the bowl and pulse. I love cleaning my food processor afterward because it’s so soapy and slippery!
    -I often add 1/2 cup of Oxy-clean to the mix when I make detergent. It doesn’t add much cost but I think it increases stain-removing power.

  • Jennifer B says:

    I made the liquid version (where you melt down the shaved bar of soap) that I found on the 19 kids and counting site:

    But I used Hardwater Castille soap, because it is supposed to work well with well water, which we have. In combo with that, I add about 1/2 cup of vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser on my washer. My clothes have really come out clean and I’ve noticed smells are gone (like the funky underarm odor that still used to remain on my hubby’s shirts). I think the vinegar in the rinse cycle is the key!

  • Deb says:

    (side note) Tried the homemade dishwasher soap and it is fabulous, cost effective, etc !
    Question about the homemade powdered laundry soap — does anyone have information on the “safety” of using this with a septic tank system (for us farm folks) ???? Thank you !1

    • Courtney says:

      Homemade detergent is fine to use with a septic tank. We’ve been making our own detergent for the past 2 1/2 years, wash at least 2-3 loads per day, and have had absolutely no trouble with our septic system.

  • Katie says:

    I used this recipe (with fels naptha bar soap) for over a year. At first it was great, but I noticed that our clothes gradually looked more dingy and grey. We’re back to the drawing board!

  • michelle says:

    I have made the powdered and found it useless unless I used hot water. The faintest of spots on our clothes didn’t come out at all, so not only was it leaving us looking filthy, I would have to run up my electric bill far beyond the cost savings of this vs a cheap detergent from the store. I have it on my to do list to try a liquid and see if that solves the problem of soap not dissolving in cold water (I’m assuming that is the problem). I’m going to follow the recipe from the Duggars since it has such good reviews.

  • I’ve been using homemade washing detergent for years, and love it! To avoid your clothes getting dingy, add vinegar to your load. It helps on tough stains and keeps your whites brighter!

  • Deb says:

    after thought on dingy clothes — commercially produced powdered laundry soaps list the ingredient “enzymes.” Maybe this could be added to the recipe ????? Finding them ??????

  • jj says:

    I have been making and using homemade laundry soap for about 4 years now. I have had the most success using the liquid version made with fels naptha and octagon soap. After is has gelled, I stir in a couple bottles of store bought laundry detergent. I feel I am getting the best of both worlds then- very inexpensive laundry soap and whatever detergents/cleaning chemical there are in the store bought stuff. I store it in old detergent bottles and just give it a shake prior to opening a new bottle because it does solidify after sitting for months. I use this in our HE front loader.

  • Lorea says:

    This is the exact recipe that I use and I love it. However, I switched to fels naptha. Try using a food processor if you make a bigger batch. It’s quite easy to just throw it in the food processor and mix away and it saves your arm strength. lol. One thing I can suggest is putting a few drops of lavender essential oil in the mix. It makes it smell great. I also use vinegar as a fabric softener and it seems to make the clothes a little brighter. (especially the whites)

  • Jodi says:

    Here is another laundry recipe you might like – I love it! 🙂

    You can also use vinegar for fabric softener. It works wonderfully!!!


  • Lisa says:

    I’ve been making my own laundry detergent since the beginning of the year with GREAT results. I have well water, an HE washer, four children (4-12), and a husband who works in construction. I wash nearly all loads with cold water and the soap dissolves just fine and leaves no residue. Our clothes are clean, bright, and smell simply heavenly. I’ve been so convinced by the results that I’ve given a ton of it away to the naysayers and even they were floored by the results. This is the recipe that I use:

    1 cup Borax
    1 cup washing soda
    1 cup baking soda
    1 bar of soap, finely grated (I use Yardley’s soap)

    mix everything together and store in an air-tight jar (glass mason jars works well). use 1 tablespoon per load, or 2 for bigger loads.

    the total cost ran me $2.38 per batch and each batch yields a full quart of powder. for lighter loads it will yield 64 loads, and heavier ones will yield 32 loads, so 4¢ per light load and 7¢ per heavy load. 🙂

  • Angie says:

    i tried this diy laundry detergent 6 years ago when our ds was born.. I thought it worked well, but 3 years later when his little brother was born, I pulled out the baby clothes, and many of them had yellow spit up stains on them. 🙁 I retried it again just recently, and I can often see visible stains after they come out of the wash. I really really wanted this to work, but it just doesn’t for us. We have really hard water, and I generally have trouble with stains anyhow. I have 3 boys, and want as many clothes to last as I can pass down! Glad it works for some people though.

  • Julie says:

    I love to make my own cultured buttermilk. All that you need is a little buttermilk from the store to get started(one of those 1/2 pints from the store for 50 cents works great). I fill a mason jar with the half pint of cultured buttermilk and then fill the rest of the way with regular milk or mixed up powered milk. Set it on the counter overnight with the lid on and in the morning you have buttermilk ready for making pancakes or biscuits or salad dressing!

  • Judy says:

    I started making my own detergent last year using Fels Naptha, but I’m so glad to see that you’ve been able to use much cheaper soap and still had good results…I was feeling a little ripped off spending so much on the bar of soap 🙂

  • Casey says:

    Crystal, I love your Do-It-Yourself Project plan for the year. I have a list of new recipes to try and other DIY things I want to try, but it’s hard to find time for them. Or I get all excited and want to try everything at once. Your blog inspires me to try new things (which is great!) but I can’t do everything I want. I want to try this homemade laundry detergent, but it would be silly to do it now because I have 6 bottles of laundry detergent right now (that I bought SUPER cheap w/ coupons + sales) that will take me several months to go through. Perhaps I should create a similar plan with 1 DIY project/month and add home made laundry soap for next year May!! 🙂 Thanks for the great idea!

    Same thing with the recipes. I keep coming across recipes I want to try, but thanks to this blog (and others) I have a decent stockpile of shelf stable and fridge/freezer food and we need to eat what I have, not make recipes out of things I need to go buy. So trying to use the recipes I come across as inspiration for putting together ingrediants I already have on hand. I’m sure we have severals meals worth, but just not sure how to put it all together.

    I know you have posted about the pantry challenge (think that was what it was called) where you eat from your pantry and fridge/freezer instead of buying tons of new groceries. I love this concept, but HOW exactly do I go about it? I have tons of random things, but not sure how to make meals out of them. Also, during a pantry challenge, you still go buy fresh produce and milk/eggs etc regularly, right? Or use up the frozen veggies? I do have a lot of frozen veggies (from that Target deal a while back). What can I do with the frozen bags of mixed veggies? Other than just steam them and eat as a side dish? Ideas anyone?

    • Crystal says:

      You can check out more details of the pantry challenge here:

      I recommend the ingredient search feature on to find recipes that only use items you have on hand.

    • Sarah says:

      Chicken Pot Pie is a favorite at our house with those frozen veggies! Just put in whatever you have! Mmmmmm…… 🙂

      You can also mix some in with your spaghetti sauce – great way to add nutrition and variety!

    • You can use your frozen vegetables in stir fry. How did you plan on serving them when you bought them?

      We often go long stretches without shopping. I haven’t been shopping this month at all, but I am going to pick up some freebies at Target this week 🙂 That will probably be the extent of my shopping this month (I love that the resusable bags help cover some of the tax!)

      You can buy enough milk for 2 weeks at a time, and enough eggs for 4-6 weeks at a time (I buy 13 dozen when they are on sale for .99 and I am able to get them). I also keep powdered and eveaporated milk, and powdered eggs in my pantry, because I don’t always know how long it will be until we get to go shopping. I do have fresh eggs right now, since I am trading things in my garden that have gone to seed for eggs.

      I have 4 months of seasonal menus, using pantry items, on my site, if you want to get some ideas of how to put things together using what you have.

      Right now we are harvesting something fresh from the garden every day (artichokes, peaches, swiss chard, lettuce, green onions, turnips, and all manner of herbs). That helps us with fresh food. We have lots of home-canned fruits, and other canned vegetables for the winter.

      If you want to go shopping every couple of weeks, try buying apples and oranges to eat the second week, along with canned and frozen fruits and vegetables. The fresher things get eaten the first week.

  • Stacy says:

    Would love to know if anyone has a homeade dishwashing detergent recipe.

    • Andrea says:

      I have tried numerous recipes for dishwasher soap and have not found anything that works reliably. Most of them either leave white film on the dishes or don’t get them clean enough even in extremely hot water.
      I found a very good plant based dishwasher gel at Target. It is made by 7th generation and it is ultra power plus. I have been using it for probably 6 or 7 months and have not had any problems. My wine glasses come out clear my pants usually come out 99% clean and my flatware and dishes all come out very clean.

  • anon says:

    Can you use any bar of soap you have on hand (ex. Coast, Zest, etc.) or should it specifically be Ivory or one of the laundry soaps?

    • Alea says:

      I think it has to be a more “pure” soap. Ivory soap says 94% pure or something like that on the package.

  • Deb H. in Wisconsin says:

    Where do I find washing soda? I have looked and looked at Wal-mart and Pick n Save and I simply don’t see it!

  • Sarah says:

    Hey Crystal! You mentioned other DIY projects? On Saturday, I made my first-ever attempt at homemade hot dog buns. They were GREAT – A big hit with my husband and the company we had over. I may be spoiled for life 🙂 🙂 🙂 I used this recipe:

    What’s great is that it makes 16 hot dog buns OR 12 hamburger buns. And I think it would be an easy freeze for later recipe like the butterhorns. I used all-purpose flour, but next time like to do hand and half whole wheat 🙂 SO YUM!

  • Sarah says:

    This post is so timely because I just bought the ingredients to make my own detergent this week. The recipe I’m using is from and it is safe for cloth diapers as well as regular laundry. It uses washing soda and borax as well, but instead of the soap, it calls for 1 tub of oxiclean. I have enough to make about a year’s supply — so I’m really hoping it works! 🙂

  • Keri says:

    I LOVE the homemade laundry detergent (liquid). I just started using it this past weekend. I got the recipe from the Duggar website. I WAS at “Tide” snob. I was introduced to this detergent over two years ago and turned my nose up to it.
    I have been washing laundry like crazy the last several days and it hasn’t even put a DENT in the 5 gallon detergent bucket.
    We are on city water and someone else mentioned about using warm water. I don’t use hot but definitely warm. I don’t notice any color fading, yet. However, I do sort my clothes and am careful what types of fabrics I mix together (ie; no denim with other materials, etc).
    I use the Fels-Naptha. I bought the soap, borax and A&H at Walmart for under $7. Of course the bar soap is the only thing that has to be replaced every time a new batch is needed.
    With having eczema and other skin allergies, it has been a joy on my hands. No more itchy, painful break-outs from folding laundry due to the high fragrant chemicals.
    Looking forward to hearing everyone success!

  • Danna says:


    I used to make my own laudry detergent, both dry style and gel style, all the time. I found that Fels Naptha soap worked better than Ivory (also shreds better in my food processor). Just a preference thing, but I HATE the smell of Ivory, so the Fels Naptha worked out better for that reason as well.


  • Jennifer says:

    Just a heads up, I have 4 kids and I’ve been using the homemade laundry soap for a while, and the only thing I’ve noticed is that although the clothes get clean, the soap doesn’t always get the smells out (DS sometimes wets his bed, and DH works a pretty grungy job). To remedy this, I add 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar to the wash as well.

  • Sarah says:

    I tried this experiment just yesterday using fels naptha,borax and super washing soda. I purchased all of it at walmart and the cost per 40 load batch was 1.51. Its just barely cheaper than detergent i get through sales. I used it on my white bar towels i used to clean and it got them just as clean as regular detergent. I would think it would be worth it if you couldn’t find detergent on sale but otherwise no.

    fels naptha 97 cents
    Borax 2.98 for 76 oz box
    Super washing soda 2.77

  • Kassi says:

    I have used this recipe for the last 2 years–I use fels naptha instead of ivory soap. I just started cloth diapering and soap is a big no no for diapers so I substituted Simple Green for the soap. (I use the version where you water down the ingredients in hot water.)

  • Jaclynn R. says:

    I’ve been making my own for awhile now, unless I can get detergent for less than 4-5 cents a load.
    I use fels Naptha soap though, which seems necessary for all the dirty guy’s work clothes. It works just as well as anything else I’ve ever tried and the washing soda and borax are great because we have hard water.
    The only thing I do different is I also add the hot water to make it a liquid soap and I store it in an old detergent bottle, makes it super easy for dispensing. I don’t know if there is an advantage to using it in the gel form as opposed to powdered?!
    I also love the Purex softener crystals (love the smell of the laundry) and they work great too (bought for about $1 a bottle at Rite Aid on sale)

  • Kristine says:

    I decided to try this using the ingredients that I have on hand. I read on several sites that some people prefer baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) instead of washing soda (sodium carbonate) in homemade laundry detergent. Washing soda has a higher pH level and can be more caustic and damaging to cloth and elastic over time (and skin, too, unless you wear gloves while handling it).

    Since I have baking soda but not washing soda, I used that, in addition to borax and Ivory soap (the only kind of soap my hubby likes because he has sensitive skin). I grated the soap in my food processor first and then added the borax and soda and mixed everything together. It was super easy to mix that way.

    I just finished my first load, and so far it seems to be working fine although I didn’t have any major stains. I usually use OxiClean to pretreat stains. Also, I put some vinegar in the fabric-softener dispenser. And I’m trying another tip that I read online, too–balls of aluminum foil in the dryer to reduce static. I’m not sure how well that works yet.

    • Kristine says:

      Update: With warm water, my homemade detergent worked great. With cold water, the soap didn’t rinse out as well, so I had to do a second rinse with warm water.

    • Kristine says:

      And the aluminum foil in the dryer seems to be working so far.

  • rhoda says:

    I used to make my own laundry soap, but found it to be time consuming and it still wasn’t all natural. We started using Shaklee laundry soap last year! It is super concentrated ( a 32oz. bottle last my family of five – five months, thus making it very affordable!(It is actually cheaper than when I was making my own), it is all natural and safe (I don’t have to worry about the kids getting into it) and it works! I love all shaklee products, but I was ‘sold’ on the Shaklee laundry soap first!
    Shaklee also has a great Basic H2 cleaner that is super concentrated, all natural, and safe and lasts forever….it works great!

  • Sarah Z. says:

    We have been using this particular detergent recipe for over 2 years now and we still love it!!!

  • I made homemade detergent using a similar recipe, except I added Oxyclean, since that is like a godsend for kids clothes. I haven’t made it since I finished the last batch because I’m paranoid. I read that if you wash fire resistant children’s pajamas with soap the fire retardant will wash out. I guess I could just wash those clothes in regular detergent, but I’d rather not have to worry about it. I did start making my own facial cleanser 2 months ago, and am extremely happy with the results! I can’t believe I didn’t try it years ago! I use baking soda, lemon juice, green tea, and choose from honey or pumpkin to help with dryness. It has been amazing!!

  • Priscilla says:

    I’ve used this for the past 2 1/2 years…it does help alot (and makes it like a 5 minute job!) if you grate the soap in a food processor. The finished product is more pulverized and dissolves into the wash water much better (if you wash a lot on cold). I also add 1/4 cup generic oxyclean per your recipe ratio.

  • I don’t remember reading it in the above comments, but does anyone have any experience using washing soda and baking soda? Not together, I just want to know if you notice a difference. I made laundry detergent using a recipe that called for washing soda, or soda ash, but I could not find it in the store, so I used oxi clean and baking soda instead (still used ivory soap).

    • Kristine says:

      I posted above that I read that some people prefer baking soda instead of washing soda. Washing soda has a higher pH level and can be more caustic and damaging to cloth and elastic over time (and skin, too, unless you wear gloves while handling it).

      I didn’t have any washing soda on hand, so I tried it with baking soda, in addition to the Ivory soap and borax, and it’s working fine for me so far. I use OxiClean to pretreat stains, and I use vinegar in the fabric-softener dispenser.

      • Sabrina says:

        Thank you! I did see your comment, I was wondering if anyone had any first hand experience using both, to see if there was a difference in how clean the clothes actually got. My baking soda detergent did okay when I made it, but some loads seemed like they weren’t washed at all. I am not sure if I just didn’t use the correct ratio of ingredients. I replaced the soda ash completely with baking soda, then added oxi clean into that. Oh, and I do rinse with vinegar also. Some loads were still dingy after that.

        • Kristine says:

          I haven’t compared the two myself, but my clothes seemed clean enough with baking soda. The only problem I had was that in cold water, the soap didn’t wash out as well, so I had to do a second rinse with warm water. I think I’ll try starting with warm water next time and then switching to cold after the detergent dissolves.

  • Jordon says:

    I don’t know if someone has already suggested this but I use a Castile soap in place of the FelsNaptha, the FelsNaptha is made using rendered animal fats and also contains fragrances which you want to avoid.
    The Castile is biodegradable and all natural so it’s better for the earth and your skin! You can also find scented (naturally of course) castile soaps!

  • mariah says:

    Did anyone mention that borax is actually toxic? I always thought it was a friendly cleaner, research renders that untrue. Just wanted to put that out there.

    • Kristine says:

      There’s a lot of controversy over whether it’s safe for the environment and for use in laundry and other household cleaning. From what I’ve read, most people agree that it’s toxic if ingested or inhaled and should be kept out of reach of young children and pets and away from food. It can cause skin irritation, too. Personally, I’m not worried about using it in the washing machine because it gets so diluted.

    • Sabrina says:

      I’ve read that too. I am not sure how much it helps, but I do an extra rinse with every wash, to make sure as much of the detergent gets out as possible.

  • Melissa says:

    I tried this for 2+ years and documented usage, cost/load and experimented with the amount. In the end I do not like homemade det.

    I found that with our well water (which is “soft”) – did not work well wih homemade det. Plus we install a brand new septic system ($18K) and I am not convinced this it is good for it. You may not have an issue now, but it seems to produce a residue that builds up over time – just my experience! Same for my HE washer.

    Here’s what I found, some of which was mentioned above:
    1. absorbency decreases – we do not have a dishwasher – the kids wash/dry- they notices all my towels just moved the water around. This built up over time, yes, I decreased the amount of soap and used vinegar. Bath towels were doing the same.

    2. not good for cloth diapers – again absorbency issue

    3. as someone else mentioned – stored clothes that were put up “clean” are yellowed when unpacked

    4. I used vinegar in the rinse cycle – this did not help rinse out whatever residue was left causing the absorbency/yellowing issue. Also, decreased the amout of det./load.

    5. Having a child with sensative skin the soap (Fels or Zote) caused a reaction.

    6. You do need to use an oxygen-type stain remover (I prefer Oxi-Boost) – this det. does not have stain-remover properties

    7. I found better alternative – soap nuts (either the “nut” or liquid form) – purely natural, absolutely no smell to the clothes. I am not associated with any company. But I buy from one in particular, when whey had a sale the cost/load ended up being similar to the claimed cost/load for homemade det. Once I washed my towels a few time with soapnuts – the absorbency returned.

    8. Bonus: my daughter no longer has rashes from her clothes!

    So there’s my 2-cents and experience.

  • Carissa says:

    Can’t wait to find out how you like the Artisan Bread! I have been baking it for a couple of months now and it is fabulous! The dough is great for a number things! Love it with Carmel Sticky Rolls and pizza crusts! Never going to buy french bread for $2.50 again! 😀

  • Jesse Bosher says:

    I have done both the liquid and the powder. for me powder is the way to go. I recently found Fels Naphtha soap at Walmart. It cost 0.97 and makes it through 3 batches of soap for me. I like it and have had no problems with it for the past year or so that I have been using it. I just switched to the Fels Naptha, I have used Ivory also as well as home made goats milk soap to make the detergent.

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