Homemade Laundry Soap

With a family of seven, laundry is a big part of my life. Despite the fact that I have a huge high efficiency washer, I’m still doing an average of two loads per day. So when it was time to trim the fat from our budget, laundry soap was one of the first things I looked at for savings.

I found several recipes, and most sounded pretty messy. As much as I want to save, I have no interest in standing over a stove stirring big batches of soap. But finally I came across this recipe that sounded pretty easy and decided to give it a try. I’m happy to report that I’ve been using it now for 9 months, and I give it a two thumbs up!

Here’s what you need:

2 Cups finely shredded bar soap (about one 4.5 oz bar)
1 Cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1 Cup 20 Mule Team Borax

Each batch makes 4 cups laundry detergent and costs approx $.95-$1.00 to make. I use 2 tablespoons per load – yielding me 32 loads per batch ($.03 per load). This is for a super capacity washing machine!!! I make about 8-10 batches at a time so I don’t need to bother with it very often.

- Stock up on bar soap when it’s on sale. My favorite is the Walgreens Gentle Bar. This goes on sale occasionally for $.25. It shreds nicely and doesn’t have an overpowering scent. I have also used Ivory and Fels Naptha.
- The Washing Soda and Borax are usually found on the top or bottom shelf in the laundry aisle (never at eye level). In my area, Washing Soda is $2.99 for 55 ounces. Borax is $3.59 for 76 ounces. I find both at Wal Mart.

Many of you have contacted me to let me know you’ve had a hard time finding the ingredients needed. Well here is your reason for joining Alice.com if you haven’t already! Each of the three ingredients are available on Alice for a great price – and always with free shipping. Plus when you sign up HERE, you’ll get a $10 credit in your account once you’ve reached $50 in purchases.

Here’s how the pricing breaks down (as of 4/10):

20 Mule Team Borax 76-oz $3.50
Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda 55-oz $2.76
8-pk Jergens Mild Bar Soap $2.49 (that’s $.31 per bar!)

My 6 year old was put to work today shredding soap! This is the most unpleasant part of the process because it can be a bit messy. It also produces a strong soap smell – don’t worry, your clothes won’t smell like this. Luckily this detergent lasts so long that I only need to make it every 3-4 months.

Find a plastic container with a tight-closing lid to store your detergent. This one use to hold my household file folders!

If you try this, I’d love to have your feedback! I don’t miss the store brands at all!
Although I must confess that I do miss the smell of Downy Liquid fabric softener. It’s one of the things I miss the most since revamping our budget. If anyone has a recipe for this, I’m happy to give it a try!

(reprint from 9/08)


  1. Thanks Lori! I have to laugh because I just got a version of this recipe emailed to me from one of my buddies and I wanted to give it a try but was putting it off. Now I know where it came from (yeah!) and I will feel a lot braver experimenting with it.

    Any experience with a front loading washer? I know it uses less water so not sure how the detergent works in them…

    Thanks again!

  2. chrisnallynkids says:

    I’m going to try this and let you know what I think! I love “trim the fat off the budget.” :)

  3. Emily Sturdevant says:

    I too make laundry detergent but make a liquid version. It was most combersome to make the first time when I was not familiar with the recipe, but now is a breeze. I have a family of three and one batch lasts me six months. I store it in old liquid detergent jugs, which makes it very easy to dispense.

    As for liquid fabric softener, I dilute my favorite liquid softener to 3 parts water, 1 part softener. I store it in a one gallon juice picture. I add aproximately 1/4 of a cup of softener to each load and also put sponges in the picture that I end up wringing out and adding one to the dryer for a little extra boost in scent.

  4. Yes! Mine is front loading. No trouble at all. =)

  5. Do your clothes smell fresh when using homemade detergent?
    Right now I am using Gain and although I love the smell it leaves I am starting to think the price really stinks!

  6. The laundry detergent smell is not noticeable. Clothes are clean, but they mostly smell like the dryer sheet…

  7. ive heard of this but cant find the washing soda or fels naptha, and ive checked walmart, target, walgreens, etc. I use Soap Nuts which are also cost effective and much safer/healthier than soap nuts. Ive herad you can make wool balls and put essential oil in them (1/4 tsp). it has to dry very, very thoroughly. then you can put it in the dryer and it will add a subtle scent. Dont miss the scent too much – artifical fragrance is toxic, you are better off without it!


  8. Abundant Blessings says:

    I have made this stuff close to a year now and can’t say enough good stuff about it. I will say I tried many different soaps, and the only one that worked was Dove. It doesn’t smell, doesn’t bubble. I still have to use fabric softener, that is something I can’t get away from. Good luck all.

  9. I make a similar recipe, but with washing soda, borax and oxyclean. I use it on my cloth diapers. I want to start making the other recipe (inc. soap) for the rest of our laundry. I think the food processor might be a fast way to shred the soap, or would it just be a big mess? Great post.


  10. I make my own as well, but I make liquid (I don’t like the residue powedered leaves on cold water loads. I find it quite simple and just as easy :-). My recipe is here:
    As for smell have you tried adding a few drops of essential oil to your batch? Don’t add too much but a few drops works great. Or you can make your own dryer sheets (my recipe here: http://frugal4abusylife.com/2009/02/20/frugal-friday-recipe-make-your-own-dryer-sheets/ ) which nicely “scents” your clothes :-)
    I also make my own spot remover…which I love as well! Great post!

  11. I ordered my washing soda from Church and Dwight, the makers.
    They let me have free S&H if I ordered three 55 oz. boxes.


  12. Okay, Amie I am gonna email you to get more info on the dryer sheets and essential oils.

    I never get residue from the powder and I always wash in cold (cuz its cheaper). But I am totally down for the dryer sheets. Thank you so very much!

  13. Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge says:

    Great info. Is that soap from Walgreens body soap or laundry soap? Because I know Fels Naptha is laundry soap, but the stuff in the pictures looks like body soap.

    I’d love to have the recipe with Oxy Clean in it. I know Oxy Clean is expensive but it’s always given me really good results.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  14. I stopped by for a visit today and wanted to tell you that your son is adorable! :) It’s fun getting to see a little of eveyone’s families.

    Take care,

  15. Hi Texas mama – yep its just plain ole bar soap for your body/hands. Works great.

    Thank you Kim! I kinda think he’s pretty cute too =)

  16. Hittingtheslopes says:

    We have an ‘HE’ machine (it needs special low sudsing soap)….does anyone know a homemade version for these types of machines?


  17. Thanks for the great post! I have made a similar recipe, but I use Fels Naptha soap. The last time I made it, I used my food processor, and it worked great! Very easy and easy clean up. Fels Natha soap might be a bit harder than regular bar soap, so don’t know how that would work.

    Does anyone know if homemade laundry soap is gentle enough for baby clothes? Thanks!

  18. finally found all the ingredients to this – at kroger. just a warning to those sensitive to smell – dont use the fels naptha. the smell totally gives me a headache. I made a double batch and now I have to give it away. just a heads up :)

  19. chewymama – I promise your clothes don’t smell like that. But I know, it is an overpowering smell while you are grating it =)

  20. I have been using this recipe for about 2 years now and find that it cleans great and leaves our clothes smelling fresh. We have tried different bar soaps to see what we like and so far we like Irish Spring because it has a nice smell and it grates easily. We make batches as needed and grate our soaps a few at a time. This recipe is so easy to make and the fact that it saves us so much money is icing on the cake!

  21. I don’t have a HE washer and I was wondering if I need to use more of the detergent or the same. Thanks!

  22. Anyone having a hard time finding the Super Washing Soda? I’ve looked at both Wal-Mart and Target, but no luck. TIA!

  23. Has anyone ever used a food processor to shred the bar soap? How does that work?

  24. sustainingcreativity says:

    I just googled how to make laundry soap and got your blog! Thank you so much for this post~ what seemed intimidating at first, you make it look easy!! I can't wait to try it!
    Thanks again!

  25. Rodriguez Rock Stars says:

    I went to 3 stores today looking for super washing soda. I found lots of Arm and Hammer Laundry Detergent Soap. Is this the same thing, or is it just laundry soad already made, hence defeating the purpose?

  26. I've had a hard time finding it lately. Here is a link to the Arm & Hammer page:

  27. I don't have a high efficiency washer…How much soap would you use for use the old fashioned washer? I am very interested to know. Thanks for the info.

  28. I've been making my own laundry detergent for more than a year now – and I don't think I'll ever look back. I've always used Ivory and often get it for FREE when I have a couple that doubles! I'm glad to hear that you've used other bar soaps – just in case! I've also thought about adding one bar of Fels Naptha in as well – I've heard it has great 'stain fighting' qualities. I stopped using fabric softener too – unless I get it for free. I still use stain treating products because with double couples and BOGO at Publix, I can usually get it for pennies….. Every little bit counts!!!! Thanks for all you do! I rarely comment, but I always read!!!

  29. I am so inspired by this! I already love adding Borax to my laundry! The price is awesome! And now I know what to do with those slivers of soap nobody wants to use bc they are too small to hold;)

  30. Thank you so much for posting this! I have chronicled my journey with it here: http://thezakfam.blogspot.com/2010/02/my-new-project-homemade-laundry-soap.html


  31. Just made up my first batch and can’t wait to try it!!! Thanks.
    Also. Could not fnd the borax or washing soap in places like Kmart but found them in several supermarkets near the oxy clean. It’s usually on the to shelf for some reason.

  32. i am trying to make this but my ivory is balling up when i grate it…is this normal ? any suggestions ?

    • No, that shouldn’t happen. If you are using a soap with extra moisturizer in it, that may be why. Another guess would be that the soap is particularly warm in temperature which could be remedied by putting it in the freezer for a half hour or so. Sorry that’s about the best I can do to help!

    • I have been making my laundry soap with Ivory for about a year now and I will never go back to the store-bought soaps. I use a very similar recipe, only I cut the Ivory bar into quarters and then microwave it on a dinner plate to make a “soap souffle”. Since there is air whipped into Ivory soap, it tends to expand as it heats and causes this “souffle”-type pouffing of the soap. I then remove it from the microwave and let it cool down. While waiting I usually start microwaving the next piece. Once it is cool, you can then take pieces of it and rub it between your hands to make a powder. I hate to use the knuckle-buster as it is affectionately referred to here, so I prefer to nuke it and crumble it that way. Hope this helps out some.

  33. The idea of making the laundry soap at home is amaging