Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

Save money and protect your family from harsh chemicals—try this DIY laundry detergent recipe that costs just pennies per load!

Have you ever wanted to go more natural in your household cleaners, but the price tags scared you off? Well, summon your inner thriftiness, because we’ve got a recipe to help you make your very own homemade laundry detergent. If you’re tired of shelling out the big bucks for detergent and fabric softener every month, prepare to be amazed at how easy and budget-friendly this DIY option is. Hopefully, this recipe inspires and motivates you to save some money and create something useful for your home and family!

3 Reasons To Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

  1. It Saves You Money. Those with High-Efficiency (HE) washers know how pricey HE detergents can be and how fast that laundry bill adds up. Because these washers use less water, they require a special soap that doesn’t produce as many suds as the typical detergent. If you think your machine requires a soap too special for DIY, think again. This homemade detergent produces a very small amount of suds, so it’s a perfect match for these machines. As an added bonus, one recipe makes a nice big batch, and each wash load only requires one to two tablespoons. That means you’ll be able to stretch one batch out for months without having to buy new detergent!
  2. It’s Skin-Friendly. If you have sensitive skin, you might have trouble choosing a detergent that doesn’t bother your skin. Or perhaps the sensitive skin versions are a higher cost than you’d like to spend. This recipe is incredibly versatile, and you can simply substitute the bar of soap for a more organic option that you know won’t irritate your skin.
  3. It Makes Great Homemade Gifts. There’s no limit to the resourcefulness of making these products. Store some in Mason jars and give out your detergent as a gift. Tie some twine around the mouth of the jar and add a homemade tag–perfect for teachers, family, or friends. Who doesn’t love a homemade gift?

Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe


  • 5-gallon bucket (with a lid if possible). You can even use a clean, empty plastic kitty litter container with cap (you’ll just need a funnel)
  • One 76 oz. box of Borax (Find this in the detergent aisle)
  • One 55 oz. box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (Find this in the detergent aisle)
  • One 4 lb. box of Arm & Hammer™ Baking Soda
  • Two bars (14 oz each) of Zote Soap (Find this in the detergent aisle. Choose white for unscented or pink for scented.
  • May substitute for any natural soap, though Zote is a great choice for laundry. Fels Naptha is another laundry soap bar but you’ll need 4 bars of it.
  • 3 lb. container OxyClean Stain Remover (Optional)
  • 1 bottle Purex Fabric Softener Crystals (Optional)


1. Finely grate the Zote™ soap. Use a cheese grater — or even a food processor!
2. Add the grated soap and all other ingredients to your bucket. Using a layering method will help to ensure an even mix.
3. Use a large spoon to stir together all ingredients. Mix thoroughly.
4. For each load, you will need 1-2 tablespoons of this mixture. Add your homemade detergent directly to the drum before adding clothing. This soap will dissolve in both hot and cold water.
5. Store the detergent in a cool, dry place, ensuring to secure the lid after each use. Stir the unused mixture at least once a month to prevent hardening.

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Katie Frasier

Katie Frasier is a writer based in St. Louis, Missouri, who spends her days talking work boots with construction pros and her nights freelancing for lifestyle publications.

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Is thie recipe for an HE washer? I ask, because it states to use 1-2 tablespoons per wash load, if so I will need to calculate how much to use for my top load machine. Thank you.


Cost Analysis?
Has anyone done a cost analysis?
I am interested in doing it if it saves money.
Green living will only be adopted when it makes sense and saves cents.


Where I live, Northern IL, if you were to purchase all of these ingredients the total cost as of today (10/02/22) it would be $24.56 at my Walmart. (That calculation is without the cost of the Purex Fabric Softner Crystals; $3.97 to $6.97 depending on the scent and size). Which is about $0.02 per tablespoon. There are 1,066 tablespoons per 5 gallons. Borax 76oz = $5.47, Washing Soda $4.76, Baking Soda 4lbs = $2.73, Zote 14oz (2) = $3.24, and Oxi-Clean 3lbs = $8.36. If you did as the commenter, Diane, state about turning baking soda into washing soda you could save $2.03 for cost of items bringing your total to $22.53.


This is a recipe for laundry SOAP, not laundry detergent. There is a huge difference. There are chemically educated people out there that are willing to share the difference. I have read these articles and they available on the internet if you would like more information it’s just a search away.


You can make your own washing soda by putting some baking soda in the oven for around an hour at 400 degrees.


Also – better for the environment with fewer chemicals. Just grated hand soap and baking soda works fine. Vinaigre in rinse water, optional.


Hello Diane 🙂 Do you use just the baking soda and Zote soap? I’m not sure I want to add the borax.


Does anyone have an approximate cost for this homemade detergetn versus the cost of name brands sold in stores? Thanks!


Thank you! Can’t wait to try it! Cool.


Good idea….when the apocalypse happens. lol. 1/4 cup detergent and 1/4 cup BORAX per load and your good to go. What’s up with all this 2 bars of soap 3 lb. OxyClean 1 bottle Purex…really? K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple…silly). Just saying, that’s one hell of a shopping list. . . for brand name items none-the-less. lol


Is this harmful to septic systems?


Zote white and Zote pink, or blue only have dye differences, they are all scented with citronella. Naturally awesome product. I would not add those crystal scents. They do nothing but smell.


People, please read every word slowly. The instructions couldn’t be more clear. Oy Vey!


What size bars of Zota soap do you use?

Miranda Barton

Is this safe for baby clothes and diapers? Thank you!


I wouldn’t, you’ll end up stripping them often. I liked Charlie’s soap for mine.

Michelle Long

For grating Zote soap, I mi crowave it for a.couple of mins at a time And crumble . It puffs up like a cloud And dries out .


This looks like a great recipe and I can’t wait to try it. Thank you!

Sue Gilbertson

I have been making this soap for over a year . At a tablespoon a load it last me almost 3 months depending on how much laundry you do. It is safe for HE washers as that is what I have. I price it at about 23.00 to make at Walmarts cost . I would never use any other soap after using this !


Are any of the ingredients tested on animals?


We had very hard water, when I was growing up. My mother used to use RIT color remover in the washer to get her white blouses a sparkling white. Just follow the directions on the pkg.


For very sensitive skin, leave out or greatly reduce the borax….. It will take a couple washings to get out all the previous detergents, which will tend to make the colors dull until all is out. You may leave out he fabric softener too … it is full of petroleum products….. You can rinse with 1/3 C vinegar in 1st rinse to obtain softness, instead of a commercial fabric softener.
This really is a great idea and your clothes will look and feel so much nicer!


My grandmother always had a bar of Fels-Naptha handy for when she came in from gardening. She would also add a handful of scrapings from the bar to laundry that was especially grimy. I recycle whatever I can so I almost always have extra laundry bottles sitting around. I wash in cold water so I would not use dry washing soap because of it clumping up. I decided to try something by putting warm water in an empty bottle, adding the soap, and then shaking well before adding to my washer-no more clumps! Will definitely give your recipe a try…Thank you, Dianne


Do you use 14.1 oz bars of zote soap or 7 oz? Thank you.


where did you find the zote soap…..I am in st louis mo?

Jaime McLeod

Jae, You should be able to find it at any grocery story. If you can’t you can substitute Ivory.


I’m sorry, I see it says to use a layering method. I assume that means to fill the bucket with all 5 gallons?


So it never says how much water (cold or hot) to add to the bucket? Do you add 5 gallons of water and add ingredients? Or vice versa? And I assume you add the WHOLE box of Borax, Oxiclean, baking soda, zote soap, etc.? Directions should be revised to more clear.

Jaime McLeod

Andy – This is a dry detergent recipe. You don’t add any water. And, if the ingredients list a box of something, you add the whole box.


I believe it is a dry laundry detergent.

John Pyles

You use it rry


I have the same question as others I read, will this work in a top loader. How would I adjust the amount used. thanks fred

Jaime McLeod

It should work just fine, Fred. No adjustment needed. Just put the detergent in first, and let it dissolve in the water before adding clothes, just like you should with any powdered detergent, to prevent clumping. Because this only uses two tablespoons, there is less danger of that than with commecial varieties.


My local stores do not carry Zote soap and is a bit on the pricey side. I was wondering what is considered a natural soap to use in place of Zote? Would Fels-Naptha or Ivory work as well? Thanks!

Jaime McLeod

Those will work fine, Amy.


I would love to try making this, but I have a top loader, not a new HE front loader. How much would I use for a full load?

Jaime McLeod

You can experiment with different amounts, but the two tablespoons mentioned in the article shouldn’t cause any problems for a top loader. Try a little less if you want to save even more money. Maybe 1 1/2 … As I mentioned in a previous comment, just dissolve the detergent before adding clothes, as you would with any powdered detergent.

Karen Martin

We have extremely hard water here and it turns everything I wash a lovely shade of rust! Any suggestions to add to the mixture to help keep whites white..??

Jaime McLeod

Karen, the recipe includes optional Oxyclean. That might help.


Fill large jars ¾ full and shake them each month to prevent hardening. By not opening them you do not to let in humidity. Scoop out a month’s worth into a pint jar and keep tightly closed.


It would be great to have this in a PDF to print and give to friends.
Of course, I’ll be sending it to my friends who use the internet. 😀

Jaime McLeod

Cindy – yes, it says right in the article it will.

Jaime McLeod

Desiree and Jay – Maranda has it about right. This should last a year or more for most households. I know I don’t do 60 loads per month – maybe 30 – so 10 1/2 months is a very conservative estimate.

Vicki Menton

I have not tried this recipe but have been making my own “liquid” laundry detergent since last December. I have made it twice. It calls for the Zote soap, Washing Soda and Borax detergent. I make about 3 gallons of it at a time and it lasts 3 to 4 months. My husband has very sensitive skin and has not had any outbreaks since we have been using it. Also, I make my own fabric softener as well. The liquid soap recipe can be found on the internet and the fabric softener is just a bottle of cheap hair conditioner (16 ounce) into a gallon of water. I buy the lavender scented suave. Clothes smell great, not static either. I think I will give this powdered soap a try. It should last me about a year I’m guessing.


What is the recipient for the liquid soap


If you only use one to two tablespoons this will do 640 loads of laundry. Now on average tide (what i used to use) did 60 loads for around 10.00 for the container I purchased for my HE washer and it lasted about a month. 640 loads divided by 60 loads per month is ten and a half months of detergent, for the price of 58.99. If I purchased Tide every month for ten months I would spend over 100.00 !!! Thats a pretty good deal to me!!

Desiree Leger

I went on Amazon and tallied up all the ingredients it’s a total of $58.99 give or take and that’s free shipping no taxes. If you have a prime account. It’s two day shipping. My question is how much does this make since the recipe requires a 5 gallon bucket ($5.22/bucket and $2.18/lid) and how long does it last if only using 1-2 tbsp. per load of clothes. I received a cut in pay recently and I am trying to save any way that I possibly can. Thanks!


How much does the total ingredients cost? Seems like ot would be moer expensive to buy some of these products to make your own detergent as apposed to just buying national product.


Wonderful! I was wondering what I would do when we come to the point of not being able to get to the store (due to weather, store shortages/outages, etc.) for laundry detergent. I can make this up and have it ready, especially since a little bit goes a long way!


will this work with HE washers?


If I was to follow this except to eliminate the Zote soap – how much of Dr. Bronners liquid soap would I add to each load along with the dry mixture? A teaspoon?

Jaime McLeod

A teaspoon would probably be too much, Jo. A little Dr. Bronner’s goes a long way. I’d add just a few drops – no more than a half teaspoon, if it were me.


Don’t add the fabric softener crystals if you have a front loading machine and can add softener at the beginning, just pour in a little (a tablespoon or two) white vinegar instead. Your clothes will actually be softer and a large bottle is just over a $1. Especially good for those who don’t want the additional fragrance or chemicals. (Better for the environment, too.)

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