Homemade Laundry Detergent

After a fit of frustration several months ago, I started looking at making my own laundry detergent. My mother had made some, but she made a liquid concoction, and I’m a powder detergent person, for a variety of reasons. I looked up the recipe she had used, and I tried to talk myself into doing all of this work, including cooking the soap, just to make detergent, which may or may not be cheaper after all of the work and time, as well as having to make such a huge amount in one shot. I enlisted the help of a friend of mine from church. She’s a sweet woman who has made a life’s goal of complete self-sufficiency on her farm. Yes, I said farm. An actual farm. When I mentioned my desire and my project, she told me her recipe for a powder detergent. I got so excited, I actually did a happy dance. And then went to Walmart to buy Borax powder and a few bars of dial soap.

This is Cheryl’s magical detergent recipe:

equal parts Borax powder, baking soda, salt and grated dial soap.

I mixed it all in a gallon sized zippered plastic bag and crushed all of the baking soda clumps with my fingers through the bag. Clearly, this isn’t an exact science.

I used a parmesan cheese grater to grate the soap into shavings as small as I could. I thought about buying a special cheese grater just for the soap, and then it hit me that it’s (duh) hand soap. It will clean off of the grater pretty easily.

Cheryl told me that the reason she uses dial hand soap over say, fels naptha, is that in her experience the dial dissolves the best in the wash. Being in no way dissatisfied with the results of the recipe, I have opted to keep it just the way she uses it.

The salt in the recipe softens the water, and you can use much less soap to get the same level of clean. She also mentioned something about it loosening the dirt in the fibers of the clothing, but I don’t know the science behind that claim.

Though Cheryl makes enough for a year in one shot, I decided to make a smaller amount at first. I used two cups of each ingredient (which works out to one box of baking soda and one bar of Dial soap) and made 64 loads worth of detergent. Two tablespoons of detergent per large load seems to be just about right. On smaller loads, like my diapers, I use one tablespoon.

The cost to get started for me was $6 for the Borax powder and $2 for 3 bars of Dial. Baking soda usually costs me somewhere in the neighborhood of $.50 and a cannister of table salt is less than $1. So for my initial batch of detergent (and enough borax powder to make 7 more) I paid $8. 64 loads of a store bought laundry has cost me more than $10. Combined with how simple it is to make and store, this is a no-brainer for me.

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9 responses to “Homemade Laundry Detergent

  1. When you say equal parts, do you mean equal parts by volume or by weight? I presume weight, because the volume of grated soap could change…

  2. I do equal parts by volume, so my first batch was 2 cups baking soda, 2 cups borax, 2 cups salt and 2 cups grated dial soap.

  3. Hey lady! Thanks for posting this, I was just getting on facebook to ask you your mixing method. This is my Saturday Project (with caps to make it official looking). I’ve been using Borax to soften my water anyway, so I have all the ingredients on hand, except Dial, but I have Safegaurd Antibacterial. I’ll let you know how it turns out. My MIL boils hers, but if you like the powder and it’s easier I’m all for that.

    • The dial dissolves without any nonsense, but i don’t know about other hand soaps. Cheryl told me she uses dial because of the glycerin. good luck.

  4. I am excited about making some today . . . well, right after I write this! Spending less money is a great thing. Thank you so much.

    There’s one little problem (I could have read more carefully before shopping): When you listed the ingredients in the recipe, you wrote baking POWDER instead of baking SODA.

  5. (But then all the other times it says baking soda, so that’s what I’m using.)

  6. Do you know if this detergent can be used in a front loader?

    • My machine is a front loader, and I’ve never had a problem with it. It’s a very low-sudsing detergent, so it should be fine.

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