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Homemade laundry detergent

Fellow UsedEverywhere blogger Amber recently shared some of her top tips for cleaning your home without toxic chemicals. The natural cleaning methods she recommends are not only healthier for you and your family because they don’t contain toxic chemicals, but also better for the environment for the same reason.

As it turns out, homemade cleaning products are much cheaper, too. When you buy cleaning products from the store, you’re paying for the dozens of chemicals that go into every bottle, plus the research that went into developing those chemicals. Add in the cost of the fancy packaging, and the marketing campaigns and advertisements that get you to buy the cleaners in the first place. Chemicals are expensive!

True confession time: I don’t do that much housecleaning, so switching to homemade cleaning products isn’t actually going to save me much money. But my husband and I generate a lot of laundry somehow, so using store-bought laundry detergent is one area of our lives where we were literally pouring money down the drain, along with a lot of chemicals. That is why we switched to homemade laundry detergent three years ago and have never gone back.

Homemade laundry detergent is quick and easy to make – it takes only three ingredients compared to the three dozen listed on the back of a box of Tide. It is low-sudsing, so it is perfectly safe to use in both HE front-loaders and standard washing machines. Homemade laundry detergent performs just as well as any store-bought detergent ever did for me: it works in both cold and hot water, it lifts stains, keeps whites white, and takes Rolf’s shirts from funktastic to fresh as a daisy. All without dozens of toxic chemicals, and for pennies a load. With all these points in favour of homemade laundry detergent, I feel like a chump for ever using store-bought detergent!

If you’re ready to shake off the chains of the store-bought laundry detergent industry, here’s how you do it.
Homemade Laundry Detergent Ingredients

Homemade laundry detergent – powder

You can find the ingredients in the laundry or cleaning aisle of most Wal-Marts and large grocery stores such as Loblaws / Real Canadian Superstore.


  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda (not to be confused with baking soda!)
  • 1 bar laundry soap (e.g. Sunlight, Fels Naptha, Zote, or you can even use regular body soap like Ivory)


Finely grate the bar of laundry soap with a cheese grater, blender, or food processor. Mix the grated soap with the borax and the washing soda. Store in an airtight container such as a jar or plastic tub. This detergent is very concentrated, so you only need to use 1 tbsp of powdered detergent per load of laundry (use 2-3 tbsps for heavily soiled or stinky loads).

Homemade laundry detergent – liquid

The liquid version of homemade laundry detergent takes more work, but it still requires only three ingredients and is just as cheap. I made the liquid version for two years because I had always used liquid store-bought detergents, and because my HE front-loading washing machine had a liquid dispenser. Turns out you can just remove the liquid-dispensing cup from the washing machine and use powder instead. The powder works just as well as the liquid for me, so I’ve switched because it’s easier to make. If you just plain prefer liquid detergents, here’s how you make the homemade version.


  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 bar laundry soap
  • large bucket with lid


Grate the bar of laundry soap into a large pot. Add 6 cups of water and heat on low or medium, stirring occasionally, until all the soap is melted – avoid boiling as this produces a lot of foam. In a large bucket, mix the borax and the washing soda with 10 Litres (or 40 cups or 2.5 gallons) of very hot water and stir well. Add the hot soapy water from the stove and stir until everything is thoroughly mixed. Let stand overnight. When it cools, it will turn into a solid gelatinous mass – break it up and stir it with a large wooden spoon until it becomes a smooth, thick, liquidy mixture. Use 1 cup per load.


Each of the recipes above makes enough for 50 loads of laundry. The cost breakdown is:

Borax (2kg box / 10 cups): $4.99 ÷ 10 cups = $0.50 per batch
Washing Soda (3kg box / 15 cups): $4.99 ÷ 15 cups = $0.33 per batch
Sunlight Laundry Bar Soap: $1.25 each

At a total cost of $2.08 per batch, which makes enough for 50 loads of laundry, that’s about four cents a load. See you in the borax aisle!

Saving the planet is a nice side benefit to going green, but I have to admit I'm in it for the money. Why pay more for new when used is better?

36 Responses to “Homemade laundry detergent”


I know the Sunlight bar is an amazing stain remover.

I’m going to try this

Thank you 🙂


    Lisa Higgs

    Hi Shelley! Yes, the Sunlight bar ingredient does great at lifting stains and cleaning clothes. It also gives the detergent a nice light lemon scent. Good luck with your laundry detergent and let us know how it goes!

Femme Ménage

Great tips. Thanks. I use vinegar & essential oils for tables, kitchen, bathrooms & windows.


    Lisa Higgs

    That sounds great! Do you dilute the vinegar at all? I have an uncle who uses vinegar and a piece of newspaper to clean mirrors and windows. It’s almost a little mind-boggling and makes you wonder why there are 50 choices of glass cleaners in the cleaning aisle!


I have a fantastic pure lavender oil that would fit the bill. Inexpensive ($8) for 10 ml but $12 shipping.


Industrial Detergetnts

Hey I liked you blog and will definitely try this.



Is there any danger or harm to adding some essential oil to the recipe as a fragrance?


    Lisa Higgs

    Hi Nadine, lots of people add some essential oil to their homemade laundry detergent. If you are making the liquid version, you would add about 1/2 oz (half an ounce) of your favourite essential oil to the mix at the end and stir it all up. If you are making the powdered version, you would add about 5 drops of oil at the end and mix it up very well.

    You can use essential oils just for scent, such as lavender, or you can use oils such as lemon, orange, or tea tree for their disinfectant and stain-removing properties. Have fun!


I ran across this website page & used the recipe for the powder laundry detergent and I LOVE IT! I couldn’t find the “Sunlight” bar where I live so I used Fels-naphtha bar. When I shaved down the bar of soap I must of shaved it too finely because I had more soap than powder so when I mixed everything up I used 2 cups Borax, 2 cups Washing Soda & 1 bar of soap. I’m blown away of the difference to my laundry verses the store brand! What sold to try was when ya figured up the math 🙂 so Thank You for helping my large family save much needed money!


    Lisa Higgs

    That’s so great to hear! Saving money is the number one reason I switched to homemade detergent, too. The side benefit of using fewer chemicals in my life is like icing on the cake. Happy washing!

Betty Higgs

I’m ready for some more!!



definitely i will try it , but would you please confirm if this detergent is good for HE machine.
Thanks a lot!


    Lisa Higgs

    You’re welcome! Thank you for commenting. To answer your question: Yes, both the liquid and the powder homemade detergents are safe for HE machines because they are low-sudsing. I have used both detergents in my HE machine for almost four years now. Enjoy!


I live in South Africa and we don’t have Zote or Fels Naphta. We do have a Sunlight made by Unilever which comes in a green bar soap, is this the same thing that you are talking about? Not sure what the ingredients are in this, I am wondering if this would be safe to use?


    Lisa Higgs

    Hi Nisha, Good question! After looking through the Unilever website, I learned that the green Sunlight bar soap you have in South Africa is basically the same product we have in North America, they are just marketed in different colours and scents. Additionally, you can’t go wrong with this recipe because any type of pure bar soap will work, even bath soap like Ivory. The main difference between laundry bar soaps and bath bar soaps is that laundry soaps can have harsher cleaning ingredients, but chemically all soaps are designed to break down the resistance barrier between the water and the dirt, grime, and oil, allowing it to be wetted and washed away.


I just made this today, and am very happy with the results. I came across the sunlight laundry bar, by chance, in a grocery store that I hardly frequent. As I have been looking for this product for sometime, I grabbed 6 bars. I went home and made a batch of the laundry detergent.

I also wanted to mention that for those of us living in Canada, as I am. Washing Soda is hard to come by, however I have learned how to make it. Simply bake baking soda in a 425 degree oven for an hr roughly. There are lots of videos on yoytube describing the fine details.

Happy DIY’ing!


    Lisa Higgs

    Hi Leigh, good job stocking up on ingredients! I also tend to grab the ingredients ahead of time whenever I come across them. I have had some luck finding washing soda at Wal-Mart and Real Canadian Superstore, but not consistently. Your tip about making your own washing soda is really impressive and handy. Now that’s DIY!


    Washing soda can be found at Home Hardware. You can also buy Lye there if you are making bar soap also😁

Terra Marini

I use any natural soap to make this, right now my laundry soap is made with an Italian bath soap called Nesti Dante and comes in lots of scents (my favorite is violetta ) an added bonus to using this laundry soap in your front load washer is that it completely eliminates that funky sour smell they frequently develop. .


    Lisa Higgs

    Hi Terra, that’s a great tip about front loaders, thanks for sharing! That soap “violetta” must make your laundry smell heavenly! You’re absolutely right, any pure soap works for this recipe and you can change up the soap to get different laundry scents.


I use my kitchen machines to grate my bar soap, I mix it all together with the borax and washing soda, then pour it bit by bit into my blender and let it blend together which turns everything into a powder. I store the finished product in quart jars. I add a bit of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. My clothes have consistently come out noticeably softer and smells wonderful. I use an HE machine. I enjoy hanging my clothes and bed sheets on the line to dry. Heaven! I machine dry face clothes and towels most of the way then line finish them. I’m hooked!


    Lisa Higgs

    Hi Grace, those are great ideas – especially line drying which saves you so much money on electricity costs! So glad you’re enjoying the homemade detergent just as much as I do. I also put a bit of white vinegar (1/4 or 1/2 cup) in the rinse cycle just like you, and it really makes me marvel at how few chemicals we need to get our clothes clean and fresh – unlike what advertising would have you believe!


I like this recipe as we are a 2 person household and would rather make a smaller batch at a time. All of the other recipes I have seen for homemade laundry soap included oxyclean. Has anyone tried adding that, and if so.. how much would you include in this recipe? Thanks.



    I’ve never tried adding oxyclean, but I believe it’s a powder, is that right? If so, it sounds like you could definitely add it to the powdered version of this recipe. To figure out how much to add, check the Oxyclean label for how much it tells you to add to each load when using it normally. Then, as this recipe does 50 loads of laundry, you would add 50 amounts of Oxyclean to this recipe and mix it up well. If you are doubling the recipe, or halving it, etc, change the amount of Oxyclean accordingly. Good luck!


I just made my own laundry detergent and I LOVE it. I added oxyclean because of my husband’s work clothes. IT IS amazing.

My recommendation for adding oxyclean is at a 2:1 ratio. So for a small batch of my soap I would use:
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup oxyclean
1 bar of Sunlight
I like to add a few scented laundry crystals for my regular clothes, but for my baby soap I omit that.



i live in Canada.I have never seen washing soda .I have seen Borax but never the 20 mule .What else can be used instead ?



    I live in Calgary and washing soda is readily available in the laundry aisle of Co-op, Safeway, Superstore (Loblaws) and Walmart. The 20-mule brand borax is in a light green box. The Arm-&-Hammer washing soda is in a dark blue box labelled “So Clean Super Washing Soda”.

    Karen S

    I just bought the washing soda at London drugs.


    For Canadians we can get the items at Home Hardware for the borax the code is 4510-274 and for the Arm and Hammer Laundry Soap the code is 4527-273

    verna seward

    if you want washing soda buy it from well .ca they sell it in 2 kg bags free shipping if you spend 29.00,excellent company to deal with ,i order from them all the time,they carry 2 brands,i love it


I live in South Africa and I would love to try this, im just wondering how safe it is to use for Hand Wash?



Wondering if need to add Tide to this recipe for heavily stained and soiled clothing?



I live in Australia and are unable to get the 20 mule borax or arm & hammer super washing soda so what’s equivalent to these 2 products that are sold here in Australia and what brands are they. Is borax used in this recipe safe as I’ve read a lot of articles saying how dangerous borax is
I was lucky enough to get the pink zote soap posted to me but it’s the large 14.1oz bar, is that too large for the liquid soap recipe or should I consider using 7oz of soap by cutting it in half.



Washing Soda is just sodium carbonate. (not sodium bicarbonate which is baking soda.) You can get it at a pool supply store or any hardware store that sells swimming pool supplies. It is used to condition pool water and sometimes referred to as Soda Ash. Read the label to be sure that you’re buying the right stuff.



Making this tomorrow. Love that it is simple and pure. The $ savings a plus too



I just made a batch of this and the soap just collected in a huge mess at the top of my bucket when it cooled down. I tried to heat the whole thing up again but the same thing happened. What did I do wrong.
And a question has been posed to me about damage done to washing machines over time. Is there any truth to this


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