Homemade Dry Laundry Detergent

laundry_detergent1Effective and efficient cleaning requires the right tool for the job. I grew up with dedicated cleaners for every chore, glass cleaners, kitchen and bath cleaners, dish and dishwasher cleaners to name a few. With a lifetime of success, why would we want to challenge the status quo?

When I was first introduced to personal finance blogs, it was not long before running into one of Trent Hamm’s posts on homemade laundry detergent. At first I ignored it and all the other DIY home cleaning products. Who has the time for one more chore? How could something like that work as well as the “professional stuff?” In my mind, there was little chance it would perform as well and therefore, even if it was “cheaper” it could not be worth the money saved.

While focusing on making homemade pizza and breads recently, I found myself coming back to the concept of saving with more homemade products. Naturally the laundry detergent is low-hanging fruit, easy to grasp and quick (potentially) to provide a pay off.

We began our experiment with Trent Hamm’s recipe for liquid laundry soap. Our experience proved successful but awkward. Habitually we use liquid soaps in the laundry but this one did not easily adapt to our methods. The slime, we found, needed agitation regularly. We also enjoy the convenience of the bottle with its own valve. When we tried to put the homemade soap in these containers we found the inconsistent density created erratic results.  No doubt the problems we experience were a result of our bad chemistry. With Trent’s experience he probably makes perfect soap.

Not to be deterred we considered the possibility of a dry detergent. What a small world it turned out to be. The first page of search engines yielded a site called DIY Natural hosted by none other than our fellow blogging friend Matt Jabs of Debt Free Adventures.

Matt’s simple recipe:

  • 1 bar of shaved bar soap (Ivory,  Zote, Fels-Naptha)
  • 1/2 cup of borax
  • 1/2 cup of washing soda

Thoroughly stir together for 5 minutes and enjoy the results!  That’s it folks…seems too good to be true, but it is true indeed!

I used an ordinary cheese grater for the Ivory and found that the mix works best if you leave out about 10% of the Ivory.

With two kids, we usually have full loads and find that 1/4 cup works very well. The detergent dissolves easily in the water and cleans the clothes well. On a recent batch we tried the Fels-Naptha and found it resulted in a very “commercial” chemically clean smell (the soap, not the clothes).

As for the savings generated, my results were somewhat different. Our costs for the ingredients were a little less expensive:

76 oz. box of Borax – $2.99
55 oz. box of Washing Soda – $2.29
10 pk. Ivory Soap 4.5oz – $7.58

The cost per batch of laundry soap ended up at $1.08. Here is the odd part, the ingredients list 12.5 ounces combined. When aerated, my mixture yielded only about 20 ounces as compared to Matt’s 16. I think this may be due to the use of an electric mixer.

Also, we found that only 1 tablespoon as suggested was not enough for most loads. With a double dose of detergent (1/4 cup per load) this formula costs us eleven cents per load.

Our costs end up twice that of Matt but still fifty percent less than we were paying for name brand commercial laundry detergents.

The first argument against going to such extremes in the pursuit of frugality is time. Factoring labor costs often undermine the best laid DIY plans. In this case however time is virtually immaterial. With a little practice the whole operation takes less than five minutes.

Additionally, my research into these ingredients indicates that homemade laundry detergent might be the most environmentally friendly approach we can take to cleaning our clothes. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral, washing soda is a little less natural but still basic and save salt compounds and Ivory soaps are made of ninety-nine and forty-four one hundredths pure (pure animals fats, plant oils and alkali)

Readers: Have you ever made the effort to make your own  fill in the blank ? What did you make and what else would you like to make? I’m ready to try something else, what would you suggest?


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photo by MattJabs


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10 comments to Homemade Dry Laundry Detergent

  • Thanks for the results on the lau det experiment. I haven’t crossed over yet but have found that by using 1/10 the amount of recommended det by the manufacturer that my clothes are coming out actually in better condition. And i use vinegar in the rinse cycle & forgo the fabric softener.

    I make my own super easy quick pancake/waffle mix.

    Pancake Mix
    4 ½ cup flour
    ¼ cup baking powder
    2 ¼ tsp salt
    ½ cup sugar
    Add 1 egg /milk to moisten….mix

    I keep all the dry mixed up in a container in the fridge. Then when i want to make pancakes or waffles i pour out enough that i would need that day, add 1 egg and enough milk to moisten to the thickness that we like. Some days i will just go ahead and make up the whole batch (adding 2 eggs) and freeze the pancakes or waffles individually on a cookie sheet. Bag them and when needed pop them into the toaster. Works great!

  • I have made many things myself, from cheese, ginger ale, root beer, cold cuts, etc… mostly food. I think for me, the time dedicated to DIY better spent on things that goes into your body. There is just not enough time in the day for DIY everything

  • I wonder if that laundry detergent would work for high efficiency machines…

    I dilute vinegar with water to clean all glass products/windows.

    I also clean the bathroom with oxyclean diluted in warm water in a spray bottle. If I want to get rid of stubborn stains, I soak some paper towel in the water/oxyclean mixture and let it sit on the offending spot.
    .-= Everyday Tips´s last blog ..Opportunity Cost – Trading Financial Gain for Security =-.

  • This post has officially blown my mind. I would have never ever thought of a DIY for laundry soap and especially not in financial blog, Financially Digital. This is awesome. I’m going to try this tonight..I just have to make sure my brothers (who I share a house with) don’t catch me putting a bar of soap through the cheese grater. If those costs are accurate you can’t beat that under $2 price tag for laundry detergent. Definitely a money saver. This is why I love being part of Yakezie, we all have such very different approaches to help people do better for themselves!
    .-= Nunzio Bruno´s last blog ..New Years Resolutions in June?! =-.

  • I make my own laundry detergent using the exact recipe (I too got it from Matt). I absolutely love it and have since recommended it to family and friends. I’ve only used the fels-naptha soap but I’m curious to know how the Ivory worked. Any particular reason (other than cost) as to why you used Ivory after using the fels-naptha?
    .-= Lydia aka Ms. MoneyChat´s last blog ..RAWlicious! =-.

  • I’ve never tried homemade laundry detergent. I’ll put it on my to-do list. This economy has everyone trying new ways to save money.

    I used to work at a bed and breakfast that would save the old soaps and use them to do laundry. I always thought it was kind of weird, but I guess they were on the right track. Hmmm…
    .-= Amy@homemade bath products´s last blog ..Wholesale and Private Label Home Made Bath Products =-.

  • Ginny-Lynn Leimbock

    I really liked your idea on homemade laundry detergent. I’m a senior on old age security and every cent I can save is a blessing.
    Thank you.

  • Fantastic article, it’s very comprehensive and exciting! it’s so helpful to me, and your weblog is very good. I am definitely going to share this URL with my friends. Just bookmarked this site.
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  • Loved your idea of homemade laundry detergent. Really got amazed by your experiment. Definitely I’m going to try it out today & recommend it to my family & friends.

  • [...] as a bonus, Marissa McLeod: the loveliest prom queen was featured in a Daily Yakezie Short Carnival at Eliminate the Muda. Click through and you’ll find a great post on making your own laundry [...]

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