Make Your Own Laundry Detergent!

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Well, I did it!  I have pinned various recipes for homemade laundry detergent for months, now, thinking that soon I would gather the exotic ingredients and muster the courage to make some.  I should have paid a lot more attention to those recipes I was pinning.  There is nothing exotic about the ingredients, nor is it difficult.  I’m actually mourning a little bit, for all the money I have wasted over the years, just not realizing I could do this quickly and simply.  Two weeks ago, I sat down to earnestly study all the pins I have for DIY laundry detergent.  With a few minor variations, they are all essentially the same.  Who knew?  I was just pinning pictures with the good intention of “exploring the possibility”, later.  :)  Once I actually stopped to look at the details, I was shocked.

It's easy and inexpensive to make your own laundry detergent. This recipe costs less than 0.21 for a gallon!

My own DIY brand!!! It’s easy and inexpensive to make your own laundry detergent. This recipe costs less than 0.21 for a gallon!

The one thing that they all had in common was that they make gigantic batches – 10 to 12 gallons, at a time.  I don’t want to be storing all that and so I decided to quarter the recipe I finally settled on.  It turns out that it is adapted from the recipe that the Duggar family uses to make their detergent.  I decided if it is good enough for the Duggar’s clothes, which they wear on national TV each week, it was probably a safe bet that it would work for us.

Why would I bother to make laundry detergent when I could just conveniently grab a bottle off the shelf at the store?  Several reasons, the first of which is cold, hard cash.  I have always purchased the large economy bottles of a name brand “he” (high efficiency) laundry detergent.  It’s not the cheapest, nor is it the most common $14-a-bottle brand.  I pay, on average, $8.00 for a 75-load bottle of my old detergent.  I would have been happy to cut that price in half.  Instead, I discovered that by making the recipe I am going to share with you, a 75-load bottle of DIY detergent saved me $7.79¾!!!  That is a little more than a 97% savings!  Hello!  Making my own is no longer JUST an option.  It’s ridiculous not to.  It cost only 20¼¢ for the ingredients to make a 75-load bottle of detergent!  Translate that savings over a year’s worth of laundry and that put’s a tidy sum back into our family’s budget.

laundry soap ingredients

These ingredients are easy to find and very inexpensive!

Still need a list of reasons to try this?  Okay.  Here it goes:

  • 20¼¢!!  Hello!  :)  (It only takes putting away $19.24 per week to have $1000 in your savings account, by the end of the year.  Making laundry detergent at home, won’t earn the whole amount, but it will be a substantial chunk towards reaching that goal.)
  • Low suds – The water pumps on “he” washing machines are damaged and wear out faster if you’re using soap that creates too many suds.  That’s why manufacturers have “created” the special “he” laundry detergents.  Did you know that regular laundry detergent actually has something added to it to make it suds up?  Soap isn’t able to do that so profusely on it’s own.  People think  that more suds = more clean, so those doing the marketing know it boosts the bottom line to add that ingredient.  See how public perceptions drive the market and increase costs?  Weird, isn’t it!  (Yes, I am using this detergent in my “he” washing machine with absolutely no difficulty.  Obviously, I can’t make claims for your machine, but mine is alive and well.  I’m pretty sure Michelle Duggar’s is, too.  :) )
  • Less waste – I’ve read several posts where people have purchased bottles and buckets and extra equipment to begin their detergent making process.  If you’re going to do it in monstrously large batches and will be reusing those things over and over, I get it; but you can seriously save the expense and the waste, by just recycling your old detergent bottles for the job.  They have built in measuring cups and they don’t cost you an extra penny.  Not one more plastic bottle will end up in a landfill or have to be hauled to a recycling center due to my family’s laundry.  Cool!  I just saved and rinsed out the last two bottles from my old store-bought laundry detergent when they were empty.  They work perfectly!  When I am feeling more ambitious, I may even soak off the old labels and create some very crafty attractive ones of my own.
  • You know what’s in it. – You can add essential oils to your batch to scent it in any way you want, but it’s an added expense, and before you do, I hope you’ll try at least one, just straight.  I actually love the light scent of the Fels Naptha and it transfers to our clothes.  Remember when you were a kid, that plain, fresh, clean smell that laundry had?  Now, I know what it was and I LIKE it!  You also aren’t adding any chemical sudsing agents, emulsifiers, gobbledy gook and alphabet soup chemically-type names or dyes.  That makes me happy.
  • It’s easy. – I didn’t time this process, but I doubt that I invested more than 20 minutes.  Other than grating the Fels Naptha and stirring while it melted into the water, it was pretty minor labor, on my part.  You can totally do this!
  • There are only 3 ingredients and I can buy them at Walmart. – Stores are not sticking these products on end counters or even at eye-level for you to find, but they’re there.  You’ll have to scope out the detergent aisle to find where they have them.  At my Walmart, it’s on the bottom shelf, underneath the fabric softener section.  All you need is a bar of Fels-Naptha, a box of Borax and a box of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda).  Total cost for these ingredients was about $7.50 and with the exception of Fels Naptha (Mine was 97¢) which I will need to re-buy after every 4th batch, I won’t be buying ingredients, again for at least a year, probably more.
  • It works! – I have been using this detergent on all our laundry for two weeks, now.  In my house that’s literally a couple dozen loads.  I have used it on bedding, towels, undergarments, regular clothes and even my husbands greasy, grubby work clothes.  It works exactly the same as my old detergent.  I even conducted a stain test, in the beginning, in hopes that I could tell you that DIY detergent is some miraculous stain-fighter that excels beyond my regular detergent.  Knowing that my detergent could not get out mustard stains, I took an old t-shirt, stained both sides with equal amounts of mustard and then both sides with equal amounts of barbecue sauce.  Then I pre-treated both by rubbing a teaspoon of my old detergent into the stains on one side and a teaspoon of the DIY detergent on the other side.  I washed each side in hot water, using it’s coordinating detergent.  Alas, DIY does no better on mustard than the store-bought detergent and they both got out the barbecue stain.  So, while there was no difference in the way they cleaned and both would require a pre-treater for really stubborn stains, hello!  20¼¢!  -lol-  DIY still wins.  ( Does anybody have a recipe for homemade pre-treater?  :)  )

Well, if you’re convinced, now; here’s the recipe that I used to make mine.  It’s the scaled-back version and made two 75-load bottles.

DIY Laundry Detergent

Rating: 51

(2) 1.17 gallon bottles of laundry detergent (75 loads each)

1/4 cup per load in an "he" washer

Ingredients

  • 1/4 bar of Fels Naptha soap
  • 2 Tablespoons Borax powder
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda)

Instructions

  1. Cut Fels Naptha bar into fourths and store the extra 3 in a ziptop bag, so you have them handy for your next 3 batches.
  2. Grate the 1/4 Fels Naptha Bar into medium shreds.
  3. Put grated Fels Naptha and 1 cup of water into a pot and melt over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Continue cooking until all the soap has dissolved. It will be a little sudsy, but no chunks of soap should remain.
  4. Pour 2 1/2 quarts (10 cups) of water into a large container or bucket and add the cooked soap mixture, Borax and washing soda.
  5. Stir.
  6. Add 2 1/2 quarts more (10 cups) water.
  7. Stir again. You'll notice a few suds on the top of your stirred soap.
  8. If you have a lid for the container you're mixing this in, just put the lid on it and let it set overnight. I mixed mine in a bucket and ended up transferring it to another container with a lid, before setting it aside for overnight.
  9. The next morning, your soap will have thickened and gelled considerably. Stir it up and then you're ready to transfer it into two laundry bottles for your use.
  10. Divide the soap evenly between the two 1.17 gallon laundry bottles you've saved. They'll be about half full. (If you're using empty milk jugs or some other size container, the ratio is one part soap to one part water. Just fill the container you're using half full with your DIY soap and then finish filling with water.)
  11. Finish filling each bottle with water.
  12. Shake the bottles vigorously to mix and you're ready to wash laundry.
  13. It takes 1/4 cup per load.
  14. Give the bottle a shake before each load, to make sure nothing has separated and it's mixed well.
  15. Notes:
    Just because I love you all so much, I actually went to the trouble of measuring out the Borax and Washing Soda in each box. (A little nerdy, I know, but I wanted to do the math.)
    All the calculations I've done are for "he" machines that will require 1/4 cup of this DIY detergent. If you have a regular top-loading machine, you will use 5/8 cup per load and so will only get about 30 loads per bottle which increases your cost per load from about 3/1000 of a cent per load to about 7/1000 of a cent per load. I'm guessing that's still substantially less than your current store-bought brand. :)
    There were 12 cups of Borax in one box which converts to 192 Tablespoons. That means I will get 96 batches of laundry detergent made, before I use up that one box!
    There were 7 cups of Washing Soda in one box, which is 28 quarter cups. 28 batches of laundry detergent, before I need to buy more washing soda!
    Fels Naptha bars need to be quartered so, I have to buy a new bar after every fourth batch.
http://busy-at-home.com/diy-laundry-detergent-save-big-have-fresh-clean-laundry/

,,,




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Comments

    • Joseph says

      My wife and I made a batch of detergent with the same ingredients. The stuff works great! Our clothes are actually softer than the Tide Sport we were using before. My main concern was how well it would work on the smell of my workout clothes (hey, I’m a guy and I sweat) but even on the smelliest part of the grossest gear, there was no more stink just the faintest smell of the Fells Naptha.

      Bottom line, it’s stupid cheap AND now you have about half the ingredients for some home made dishwasher detergent.

  1. Diane Hoffmaster says

    this is awesome, thanks! I bet you could add essential oils maybe? If you wanted some scent that is natural?

    • says

      lol – thanks, Rita! I’m so excited for you to try it. I have been using it on all our family’s laundry for almost a month, now and we love it. I like the fresh fragrance and our clothes are as clean as always. For our big family, it’s a huge budget savings. I hope your experience is just as positive!

  2. Nicole Cox says

    How long does a batch last or I guess what I am asking is does it go bad? I know it sounds like a silly question. I made my first batch but am finishing up my last bit of store detergent. Do I have to separate with water asap or can it stay in gel form until needed?

    Super excited to try it! Thanks for the savings!

    • says

      Nicole, I mixed mine half and half, right away, so I’m not sure how long it would last as concentrate. I can’t imagine it would be a problem. There really isn’t anything that can spoil. The recipe I adapted mine from made 10 gallons at a time! I didn’t want to store that much, because of space, but my guess is that it keeps fine.

      • Tammy E says

        I only mix mine when I need to refill the container. It takes a month or more just to get to the bottom and had never gone bad. Don’t know that it ever would!

  3. Ann says

    Have you tried the recipe with other types of soap (i.e. dove bar soap)? Would it still be HE compatible if you did? And do you just use the same amount of detergent when washing as you would with the store brought kind?

    Thanks for sharing! Can’t wait to try and make my own!

    • Lisa says

      Ann, you should be careful using other soaps like Dove. They contain sulfates which is what causes soaps, shampoos, detergents, etc to suds.

      Glenda…amazing! Thank you for sharing your quartered recipe! I live in an apartment and definitely have no room for clothes, let alone 9 additional gallons of detergent!

  4. Sally says

    The fels naptha bar actually works great as a pretreater. Just wet the stain and take a bar (I usually pick up an extra bar to have laying around) and rub it in till a little suddsy. Let sit for a little while (or days if you are like me and only get to laundry once a week) and then wash as normal.

  5. Arlene says

    I just heard about a DIY stain treatment. The person who told me about it said it was wonderful, but haven’t had a chance to try it myself yet. It’s just equal parts Dawn diswashing liquid, water and ammonia.

    • says

      Paula, I honestly don’t know how to answer that. It certainly doesn’t have all the dyes and added chemicals of regular laundry soap. If it were me personally, I would use it, but then, I washed all 5 of our kids’ baby clothes in the same detergent as the rest of our family, with no ill effects or problems. You’ll just have to use your own judgement on that one.

    • Lauren says

      Late comment, but as I just found this post via stumbleupon, figured I would answer this question in case anyone else was wondering. And the answer is yes!

      I actually started making my own laundry soap, with a very similar recipe, when I was pregnant, because I needed a detergent free of dyes, optical brighteners, perfumes, etc. We use cloth diapers made with microfiber, which holds in residues from detergent and will start repelling liquid if washed in a detergent with all the “extras”, and are also right next to a baby’s most sensitive skin. I’ve used my homemade laundry soap for a year now and never had any issues, and I know that other people I’ve seen posting online have said that they resolved their skin issues by switching to this recipe. I would definitely say that this is safe for infant’s clothes.

    • Amelia says

      Paula, I have been making this detergent for over a year now. My youngest was a few months old when I started, and was prone to diaper rashes and skin irritation at seams of his clothing. Since I started making our laundry detergent (and our wipes) he has had diaper rash exactly three times, always minor, and does not have any irritation from his clothes anymore. So, yes, these are definitely safe for infant’s clothes, because there are no added dyes, surfactants, or perfumes, which are the major irritants in commercial detergents that are omitted in expensive ‘baby’ detergents like Dreft. I haven’t used any essential oils or scented soaps, though, so you may want to wait to add those to the basic recipe until yours is a bit older and not as sensitive. I hope this helps!

  6. Kelly says

    I just found your site by doing a search for DIY stockings and then started clicking around. . . and around. . . :-) I have heard about the homemade laundry detergent and you may have talked me into trying it. I’ve been couponing for most of this year, and this is cheaper and sounds more natural than store bought detergents. :-) God bless and Merry Christmas!

    • says

      Kelly, thanks so much for stopping by! The detergent is so simple and saves so much money. I hope you find it to be a great blessing to your family, too! Have a fabulously blessing-filled Christmas and I look forward to “seeing” you around the blog, in the new year!

  7. Kris Herout says

    Do you add fabric softner to your rinse?? How stiff are the clothes when you take them out of the dryer?? Can’t wait to pick up my supplies tomaro!!!!

    • says

      Kris, I don’t have any problems with stiffness in the fabrics, whether I remember to use a dryer sheet or not. When I use them, it is more for avoiding static cling from the dry winter air, than for a need to soften the fabrics. The washing soda used in this recipe is also a natural water softener, so that may have something to do with it.

      • Allisona says

        I use the powdered form of this recipe, and I fill my fabric softener dispenser with vinegar. It kills germs and softens the clothes. I also found that it help clean out the washer to prevent it from getting gummed up from detergents/fabric softeners. I have sworn off store bought laundry soap and fabric softeners because I have fallen in love with this cheap and clean recipe.

        For static issues: take a wash cloth and attach a few safety pins to the corners. Throw it in the dryer with every load, reuse it each time. The metal from the pins kills the static.

        My recipe: 1 shredded bar of Fels-Naptha or 123 Rosa or Zote, 1 cup of Borax, and 1 cup of Washing soda. Mix with food processor. Use ONLY 1 Tablespoon per small load or 2 Tablespoon for a large load. This totally decreases the watery-goopy mess of the liquid, and it is the SAME exact soap. The powder keeps in a small Tupperware on my washer and takes up very little space.

          • Colleen says

            I have been using vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser for a week now and have loved it! Thank you for the tip on static as that was my only complaint. I have just made my first batch of dry detergent per your recipe and wonder what type of food processor you use? Mine didn’t seem to get the fels-naptha very fine and I wonder if that is going to be a problem.

            • Allisona says

              I was looking at the kitchenaid food processor, but couldn’t bear to spend that much money. After reading reviews online, I headed to Walmart or Target and picked up the Black and Decker for 29.99. A price I couldn’t pass up. Come to discover–I love it. Soooo glad I didn’t pay 4-5 times that much for the kitchenaid.

          • Allisona says

            I shred the fels-naptha with the cheese shredder on my food processor, then I use the mixer blade to blend it with the borax/washing soda. They all end up very fine. I use what ever water temperature I need for the cycle–not forced to use just hot water.

    • says

      Kassee, I suppose it would be possible. Just remember it’s concentrated when you’re adding it. I suppose you could simply use the concentrate in 1/2 the amount. It would just be really thick and harder to pour and measure.

  8. Sarah says

    I made this and it smells fantastic. I do have one question though. I melted the Fels Naptha down all the way and combined and waited over night. Now I have floating gel bits in the mix. Is this normal?

  9. Leslie says

    Is there a liquid homemade dishwashing recipe? I believe there is a powder type of recipe for dishwashers. I have used the powder form for the laundry, but I am really excited to do the liquid version of this. Was just wondering if there was a liquid dishwashing recipe. Any info is greatly appreciated. Love saving money!!!!

  10. peggy says

    I have been using this same recipe (not scaled back & do not add water to dilute @ the end) for over 1 yr & have had no problems with it @ all.. love it… eco friendly & cleans as good as the expensive ones you buy @ the store

  11. Jessica says

    I can’t wait to try this!!! One problem I have been looking all over (I live in Canada) and I can’t find the washing soda or the Fels Naptha ANYWHERE!!! Any suggestions!?

    • Jaime says

      Sorry this is a late reply so it may not help, but if you live close enough to Buffalo, I suggest the drive down when you can & go to Wegman’s. I know the 1 in Cheektowaga (suburb of Bflo if you’re not familiar) on Dick Road has the washing soda, it was the only place I could find it (well, ok, I only looked at Wal Mart too!) for $3.49…the Fels Naptha I got at Wal Mart for $0.97 along w/ the Borax, which I can’t remember how much how I paid, under $4 I want to say. I didn’t check Wegman’s for the Fels Naptha or Borax as I already had those.

    • Jen L. says

      I live in Canada and I found the Washing soda at walmart or Safeway. I can’t remember which one. I also am hoping to try this with a sunlight bar, not sure if it will work, but hopefully.

        • Jen L. says

          Works great and Smells great. I didn’t do the liquid version, but kept it as a powder, and I love it.

          I just stumbled on a recipe that uses hair conditioner, vinegar and water as fabric softener. I hope to give that a try to. (sorry I don’t remember the site).

  12. Carla says

    I am definitely going to try this. I wash in cold water, would that make a difference? Also, any idea on a fabric softener recipe? Thanks for sharing.

  13. Daisy says

    Hi. I have done this recipe myself a few times over the last couple of years. I like the soap, but I have trouble grating the fels naptha (I also use octagon occasionally) because I have carpal tunnel.

  14. Dee Rice says

    For food stains when doing laundry I just use plain old Ivory liquid dishwashing soap. Works really well. Just put small amount on stain, rub gently and put into laundry. Can’t remember using it for mustard, but have used it for just about all other food stains.

  15. Julie says

    Made a batch of this. Cleans great, but I do have one question. Since using this I have noticed sweaters and sweat shirts are getting fuzzy balls when they come out of the dryer. Any suggestions? I am not sure if it is the soap, or just my dryer needing a good cleaning out.

    • says

      Not sure what to tell you, Julie. We’ve used it for several months, now, and I’m not having that issue. Has anything else changed with your laundry? machine? water softener? I can’t really guess what it might be.

  16. Tammy E says

    Go to Henkle on-online http://www.henkelna.com/contact-us-6118.htm, go to the ‘customer information center’ and send the company an email. Then tell them that you love their products (which you obviously do), both fels-naptha and borax, they will send you 3 coupons each. You can request every 3 months. This lowers your already cheap laundry soap!

  17. Laurie says

    What do you think about omitting the last step (dividing the mixture into 2 bottles and adding equal parts of water) and just leave as is. Take 1/8 c of undiluted mix, add 1/8 c. water, mix then add to washer?

    • says

      Laurie, you could do that, I think, but you will want to be very careful to shake and smooth out your concentrate each time. It’s pretty inconsistent in it’s texture until the water has been mixed in, so my concern would be that sometimes you would get the gloppy part and sometimes the more liquidy part, which would lead to inconsistent results.

  18. Rachel says

    I have been making this for awhile and love it. With a set of 2 year old twins and a 6 year old son, we get lots of food stains. I’ve been adding 1/2 cup of the Borax into my HE washer at the beginning and using the “presoak” option, and it takes care of 90 percent of the food stains. You can also pour the diluted detergent into a spray bottle and use it like a pre-treatment for difficult stains (cute little white t-shirts with blueberry stains). Works for me.

  19. Tina Holt says

    You have inspired not only myself, but the man of the house! Kudos! We both were amazed at how much money we were allowing to go down the drain, literally! Thank you for sharing. I’m sure we will be using this for years to come. : )

  20. Stephanie says

    I just finished separating my first batch! Is it supposed to be pretty runny? Almost like the consistency of water? I was expecting something thicker. Just wanted to make sure I did it right! Thanks!

    • says

      Yes, Stephanie, it’s pretty thin – sort of a slick liquid – thicker than water, though. Sounds like you did it just right! Be sure to give the bottle a good shake to make sure it is mixed well.

  21. Cosette Smith says

    I love all of your suggestions – I’m and old lady and
    I am going to give this a try and then pass along to
    family members. Thank you all

  22. Victoria Couch says

    As a college student, I will try anything if it’s going to save me money wherever possible – I can’t wait to try this! Thank you!

    I was wondering though, if I were to add essential oils to the batch, is there any specific type you would recommend using? What about ratio?

  23. Ramie says

    Have you had any trouble with it hardening on you? I had a friend who said hers hardened, but have other friends who have had no trouble. Thanks!
    A great pre-treater is Blue Dawn dishwashing detergent. Gets out everything, and if you watch sales/coupons, you can get it for 25cents for a small bottle (lasts a year in my laundry room with 2 kids).

  24. says

    I am definitely going to try this out!! I love love love the Gain Apple Mango Tango, but alas, I am not made of money. Thanks for sharing!!

    P.S. Mix one part Dawn Dish cleaning soap and one part hydro peroxide for a great stain treatment remedy. Not sure how well it works on mustard ( a dirty word in my house lol!) but it goes great with, barbeque, ketchup and even blood. Thanks again!

  25. Kim says

    This actually was not safe for my HE washer, which I found out after a repair call. If this hardens on the cup you use to scoop it with, or wherever you happen to drop it, then it also hardens in the chute that your detergent goes through and will eventually make the water back-up and spray out of your detergent dispenser. I stopped using it at the advice of the repairman.

    • says

      Kim, I wonder if your recipe is different? My detergent doesn’t harden. It is an extremely viscous (slick and almost slimy) liquid and stays that way, even if dripped down the sides of the container or onto the counter. However, the he detergent I purchased at the store, DOES harden if spilled or dribbled down the side of the bottle. That’s so sad about your washer.

        • Matthew Paine says

          I think you have to be careful with when using HE machines is the dispenser for the detergent. On mine where you put the detergent in it is actually two compartments…one inside the other. If your using liquid detergent then they are both to be used. If you are using powdered you have to take the inner one out. Found that out after having to do some self repair on my machine after using the powdered stuff in my machine. Very important to make sure to read all the little fine print about the smaller removable parts on your machines!

  26. Heidi says

    Hi! Thank you so much for the recipe! I finally made mine and I did have a couple issues so I’m guessing I did something wrong.

    After I let my soap sit over night, I was like one giant gelatinous glob! It was kind of hard to break it up well … even after squeezing it all up with my hands I still had mostly little globs. Is this normal? Is letting it sit over night to solidify an important part of the process or would it would if I added the water right after combing everything? Thanks!! :)

    • says

      Heidi, you did it just right. One big gelatinous glob is how mine turns out, too. Then after adding the water, it is more like slippery liquid. You really need to shake the bottle well, in order to mix the water and soap thoroughly. It really does come together fairly easily, it just has to be mixed and shaking the bottle seems to be the simplest method. I’m not sure what would happen if you add the water right away. If you try it, I’d love to hear how it works for you.

  27. Alexa Van Horn says

    I did not realize that you were using “pour” containers and my detergent bottle i have saved to re-use is a spiggot bottle,so i am going to mix in….or try to mix in the other part water before hand. I noticed on another recipe…the big one…that she actually used an emmersion blender…i don’t have one of those so i will post back and let everyone know how i end up :)

  28. Jannapy says

    It should work the same if I cut the recipe in half again so I’d only end up with one laundry soap bottle, right? I have a tiny laundry area (the corner of my bathroom), so even storing one extra bottle would get in the way.

  29. Gina says

    HI!
    I just made my first batch. Couple of questions…

    1.) After i let my batch sit over night in a bucket, it was not hard. Very slimy and clumpy. I didn’t have a lid for my bucket, so i used a large plate to cover it. Do you think this had something to do with it?
    2.) I does not make any suds of any sort in the washer. I’m assuming this is normal too right?
    3.) Do you have any tips for DIY fabric softeners?

    Thanks for your post!!

    • says

      Hi Gina, it sounds right, actually. It won’t be hard, just thickened – sort of like coagulated slime. That’s why you have to stir or shake it up thoroughly before dividing it and adding the water.

      also, not seeing suds is normal. Especially if you have an he machine. You won’t to avoid suds as much as possible, which is why I love the Fels Naptha. Remember, manufacturers actually add a chemical to detergent to MAKE it suds up, because they think consumers won’t use something without them. They aren’t necessary for cleaning.

      I’ve found a couple fabric softener recipes, but nothing I am jumping up and down about. I love the Wool Dryer Balls we reviewed in this post http://busy-at-home.com/blog/wool-dryer-balls-are-saving-me-big-money-in-the-laundry-room-save-10-on-your-own-enter-the-giveaway/ and that’s all I’m using in my own laundry.

      • Kathy says

        Hi Gina and Glenda, first thank you Glenda for the laundry receipie. I have made it several times now and I love it. I make it in a large bucket and just make a small jug at one time. It does keep well in it’s gel form. As for a fabric softener I use 6 cups warm water, 3 cups vinegar and 2 cups of your favorite inexpensive hair conditioner. Mix well and you can add to rinse cycle of your wash or as I do, put some on a rag, rub well and through into your dryer. No static and clothes come out so soft and fluffy. I will never buy laundry soap or softener again. Love it. Hope this helps.

        Kathy

        • says

          Kathy, that’s awesome information! Thanks so much for your tips and I’m so glad to hear that the detergent is serving you well! I’m sure that your fabric softener formula is going to be a great help to many people!

  30. Melissa says

    I have a question! I made this the other day. And have been waiting to use it. On a different blog the woman didn’t say anything about mixing with water after letting it sit over night.
    Like you said fill two containers halfway with the soap mixture, and then the rest of the way with water. The other site didn’t say anything about that. So I’m curious if she just forgot to mention that step, or if it’s just a more concentrated version?
    I’m really was planning on doing it the way you have outlined here, but like I said I was just curious.
    Thanks.

    • says

      Hi Melissa! I definitely do mix mine and have used it that way, with good results for months, now. I would assume if she is leaving hers as a concentrate, she would only need to use 1/8 rather than 1/4 cup. The problem I would have with that is that the concentrate when thoroughly stirred is sort of a chunky, thick goo. Mine thins out and is smooth to measure after it is mixed with the water.

  31. Alicia says

    Like another commenter- mine never gelled up- after it sat for 24 hours it was still completely liquid (water consistency)- I went ahead and finished making it as detailed above and it seems to be cleaning the clothes fine, but I have wondered if it’s really doing the job. I have hard water and I wondered if that had anything to do with preventing it from gelling. I have also noticed after about 10 loads that I now have a filmy residue on the sides of the glass on my front loader- not the face where the clothes rub against it, but on the sides where the clothes don’t really touch.

    • says

      Hmm…I’ve never had it not gel up, so I’m not quite sure what to think of it. Mine is beginning to gel about 1/2 an hour after it is mixed with the first batch of water and by morning it is thick gelatinous sludge. I’ve made three different batches, now, and the results have been the same, each time. I’ve also never had any residue experiences. I wonder if hard water really does make a difference? Though I’ve heard that in most instances, hard water cuts down on sudsing of any soap and you sometimes have to use more, I don’t know why it would keep something from gelling. I’m curious to know the answer if you figure it out. Thanks for sharing!

      • Christianne Tisch says

        I’ve been using a recipe almost exactly like this one for over 2 years, the ingredients are the same but the steps I take are different. I pour the borax and washing soda into my bucket, and then pour the boiling soapy water on that and mix it until it’s completely dissolved. Once you dissolve it you add ***COLD*** water, the cold water being added to the hot solution is what makes the borax and washing soda react and gel-ify.

        • says

          It’s good to know that there are variations that work as well. It sounds like you boil water and add to soap and we boil soap and add to water. I’m guessing that they both gel up for the same reason — hot to cold combination. Thanks for sharing!

  32. Phalanxx says

    I use the same ingredients to make a dry detergent. 1 cup each of borax and washing soda to 1 bar Fels-Naptha. Grate the soap, add 1/2 cup each of the borax and washing soda and then spin it in the blender so the soap is pretty much powdered, then dump it all into a giant bowl, add the other dry ingredients and mix. You could store it in a glass jar. I use 1 tbsp max for a load, depending on load size and dirtiness I also use white vinegar in the downy ball as fabric softener.

  33. Emma says

    Hi,

    I am super excited to try this recipe out at home, however, does anybody knowthe equivalant to Fels-Naptha in Australia?

    Could I use Sard Soap or just the Homebrand laudry soap bar?

    Thanks :)

    • says

      Dawn, I buy it at Wal-Mart. It is on the very bottom shelf, under the bleach and whiteners. They have boxes of washing soda, Borax, and the Fels Naptha is right beside those. If nothing else, I have seen it on Amazon.

  34. Andrea says

    I am making this right now. I was a little worried at first because I wasn’t sure if I liked the sent of the fels-naptha but once it was mixed with the washing soda and Borax and diluted with water it smelled great. Also the Walmart in my area didn’t carry fels-naptha but I went to their web sight and they had a list of stores that do. I finally found it at a true-value hardware store. I can’t wait to wash my clothes with it!
    Thanks

  35. Jan says

    A great pre-treater for clothing is Dawn dish soap! Gets chapstick out after clothing has gone through dryer & everything!!! Great on kids clothes soiled w/ food & dirt too:)

  36. Riany says

    I live in Canada and use the Sunlight bar soap, the washing soda is arm & hammer, I have to go to two different stores to find the ingredients but I find them.

  37. says

    I am really excited to try this recipe and I love that you did the math. “Nerds” are awesome.

    My fiance and I are saving for our wedding so this’ll help a lot. Also, thanks to Tammy E for the coupon link.

  38. Christianne Tisch says

    I’ve been making my own laundry detergent for about 2 years, it’s very close to this recipe- however I use 1 bar of ivory soap, 1/2 cup of borax and 1 cup of washing soda to 7 gallons of water, I washed out an old chlorine bucket I had laying around really well and I keep it in that, it worked out to be $7 for 45 GALLONS of finished detergent. Every time I do a load of laundry I just dip in an old cap I kept from a bottle of store bought laundry soap and pour it in the washing machine. I’ve always used ivory because I love love love the smell, it isn’t heavily perfumed so it doesn’t leave oils on my clothes, but it gives me enough scent that it makes me feel like I just washed them.

  39. Jennifer Dooley says

    1. Can I store the mixture in the bucket that I mix in or does it have to be transferred in jugs?

    2.Where can I find the essential oils? I can’t seem to find them anywhere. Either that or I’m just not looking hard enough.

    Also I’ve read on some blogs that they’ve used extract. Is that weird?

  40. shawneelynn says

    is this safe to use on baby clothing and flat cloth diapers? i’m expecting and this would be great, especially if i could use it for everything.

    • says

      Shawnee, I, personally, have not used it that way, but if you read through the comments, here, there are several who have used if for diapers and baby clothes with no problems.

  41. Daniel Dingeldein says

    I’m a stay-at-home dad always looking to save money and to live healthier. Thanks for the recipe. I made it for the first time today and I’m anxious to try it out.

    I am wondering if anyone has had any type of allergic reaction to this? I am they only male in the household and we’re all a little sensitive. I’m going to try it out on socks and underwear tomorrow before I start using it full time.

    When my grandmother lived on a farm she used to make her own detergent. When she moved into an apartment later in life she started buying the store brands. She always said that her clothes never got clean after she switched.

    Thanks,
    Daniel in Nashville

    • says

      I hope it does great for you, Daniel. We use it for family from age 2 – 54 and everything in between. My husband has eczema and it does not irritate his skin. We have loved all the money we can save with it and it does a great job cleaning even work and play clothes. Thanks for stopping by!

  42. Tamara says

    Wonderful recipe for this!

    Just wondering if anyone has experienced any fading more then conventional laundry detergent with this recipe? My husband is VERY picky about his clothes and I do not want to make up a big batch of this if it is going to fade his clothes faster then normal.

  43. Emilie says

    Would it be any different if you just skipped the last step of watering it down and used half as much detergent in each load or is it absolutely necessary to cut it in half with the water?

    • says

      Emilie, someone above asked that, too. It is so thick and congealed, before adding the water, that I think it would be very difficult to pour and measure. I’ve never seen a response from above that anyone has tried it that way and been happy. I just don’t know what to tell you since I haven’t tried that and probably wouldn’t. Hopefully, you’ll have the space to just go ahead and dilute it.

    • says

      Hi Dawn! Definitely you will have to make that decision on your own. I use it in my “HE” washer with no problems and if you read through the list of comments, above, so do many other people, but I’m certainly not a washing machine manufacturer or repairman. You should check with an expert whose opinion you are comfortable with. For me, I know that “he” machines need a much smaller amount of suds than regular detergent can provide. This homemade detergent is so incredibly low suds that I, personally, am completely comfortable using it in my machine.

    • says

      I’m not sure Rebecca. I’ve never had that happen before. Did you heat the Fels Naptha in the water until it was 100% melted? If so, and all your measurements are right, I think I would give your bucket or container a very vigorous stirring to be sure all the other ingredients are fully incorporated and not just sitting on the bottom. Then let it sit overnight, again, and see if it gels. I’d appreciate if you let me know how it comes out. Sending good laundry thoughts your way! :)

      • Shelia says

        Thanks for the recipe. I made it and melted the bar soap, added the other ingredients and the water. I let it set overnight and it is separated. I shook it, but it still separates. Any ideas how to blend it so that it doesn’t separate?

        • says

          Hi Shelia! After it set overnight did you separate it into two containers and add the second batch of water? It will mix better then. Also, I give my jug a shake each time, before I pour it in my machine.

    • elisha says

      The same happened to me. I made mine last night & sure enough its still like water. I will try mixing again. I know I measured right. Did u get yours to gel up?

  44. Tabitha Sibille says

    I made the detergent and it came out perfect! I love it! My only question is this….can this be stored outside in the heat without it “spoiling”? I live in south Louisiana and my washer is outside. I don’t want the detergent to mold!!

    • says

      Hi Tabitha! Wow, I don’t know what to tell you about that. Have you had other detergents get moldy? Since the only ingredients are soap and water, I’m not sure if mold could grow in it. You definitely have me curious, now, though. :) If you figure this out, will you come back nd post an update for us, please?

      • Tabitha Sibille says

        Thanks for the speedy reply! I have never had any other detergents mold but I thought that may be b/c of all the additives in store bought detergents! I will store my extra bottle indoors for now and keep the one I’m using outside! If there is any sign of mold or any other problem caused by the heat I will be sure to come back and let you all know!! Thanks again :)

  45. rebecca raines says

    OK, I was the one having really runny soap. Well after trial and error I discovered it is the washing soda that thickens it. I finally added one cup soda dissolved in one cup hot water to a double batch of laundry soap. poured it in and mixed, it thickened considerably immediately. and within four hours was as thick as kids gak or slime. So, if yours is to thin just add washing soda.

    • says

      Michelle, I’m not a dermatologist, so I can’t say for sure. My husband has eczema and has suffered no ill effects from us using it. There are multiple commenters on this post who are using it to wash their baby clothes and cloth diapers. Since, it’s so inexpensive, my suggestion would be to give it a try and see if you like it.

  46. Maria Popo says

    This is really cool! I’ve always wanted to try and make my own household products, so I know exactly what’s in them. I have really sensitive skin, and at least when you’re making your own detergents and soaps you can control exactly what goes into it and hopefully isolate the irritants. great post! thanks for sharing!

  47. Jaime says

    Ok…just used it for the 1st time this morning. I’m hoping I did everything right. After letting it sit overnight, it was full of gel-like clumps, which made for a good time for my husband & I transferring it, we were laughing!! And when I used my 1/4 cup in the 1st load, it just drained right into the spot I put the detergent. I’m hoping that is normal…the store bought would kind of just sit there, it seemed thicker. My husband shook it for me, to mix it all up really good…I’m hoping that’s ok, maybe it will thicken more as it sits a little, since we just mixed it all up this morning too. Anyhow, I’m very excited to try it…going to give it a couple weeks or so & if I’m happy with it, I’m sharing it w/ all my friends & family who I know are trying to save $$ where they can as well!!! Thanks for all your help!! I love reading the comments too, good suggestions, and nice to see if there are others w/ similar questions!! :)

    • says

      Thick gelled clumps is normal, Jaime. Once you mix them half & half and shake it up, it still won’t be as thick as commercial detergent, but it will work just as well. Sounds like you did everything correctly!

      • Jaime says

        Well I did 2 loads with it, the 1st one I just folded after drying & honestly, my clothes feel softer than ever!! I have some fabric softener & softener pads I’m using up, I don’t plan on buying any more of those anymore either! But I always use those, the only thing different I did was the DIY detergent. So after just 1 load, I am impressed already!!

  48. Kristina says

    Ohhh i just lost a ton of neurons makIng this! Love the idea, but the execution didn’t go well. The melting soap stinks so bad, i got dizzy.. And it wasn’t exactly melting, more like softening into smth gooey.. It felt like forever ( i didn’t time it), and after what seemed like half an hour of stirring and breathing the stink the shavings still weren’t dissolved completely.. I got tired of it and just proceeded wit the recipe and of course there were clumps, borax and soda didnt dissolve good eiter.. Also, i wasn’t sure whether to use cold or hot water. Started with cold, but then decided on hot. Well will see what happens, it’s sitting covered in the pot now.

    • says

      lol – I love the fresh, clean smell of Fels Naptha, Kristina. Sorry you seem to have a sensitivity. I’m guessing, because I don’t time it either, but I suppose it takes 7-10 minutes for mine to melt. I work with cold water, but I don’t know why warm would hurt anything. I use a wire whisk as I’m stirring and that seems to help the borax and washing soda dissolve more quickly. I just keep stirring until they do. After 24 hours, you should see a large mass of gelled soap in your pot. Again, use a wooden spoon or wire whisk to stir it very well. Once it is a uniform consistency, divide it and add the water to make your final laundry soap. Good luck!

  49. JoAnn says

    Hi, I too made this same recipe about 2 months ago and love it. The only thing I did differently was to use Dr. Bonner’s bar soap. Fels Napa has a lot of stuff in that I don’t want on my body. Dr. Bonners comes in scents, however, once you make the detergent, the scent doesn’t last. I too have an HE machine and have no problems so far.

  50. Heather says

    Hi! Is this hypoallergenic? I have a lot of allergic reactions to laundry detergent and other items that come into contact with my skin. Just wondering before I try this.

    • says

      Heather, I honestly have no idea. That means so many things to so many different people. If I were you I would research the individual ingredients, to be sure. I know people who use it on cloth diapers and baby clothes and my husband has eczema and we use it with no ill effects, but you will need to search out the individual ingredients for your own assurance that your particular skin condition won’t be irritated by it. Sorry I can’t be more help.

  51. John R says

    I tried it and the results were sub par. My complaint is that most people don’t have a concept of dirty clothes. I’m a terminal DIY guy and my stuff gets grimy and these soaps don’t seem to have the power to remove grease, and stains. Not sure what I should add to turbo charge this recipe? I added a little dawn and that helped but I need a better solution. my intuition seems to say there is not enough borax and washing soda and the the whole mixture is too dilute. which gets worse when the machine adds it’s own water??

    • says

      Hi John! I’m not sure I can help you, but I’ll try. My husband is a machine operator at an auto parts manufacturing facility. He comes home every day head to toe covered in grease. I use GOOP hand cleaner or rub some of the Fels Naptha directly on the spot for tough stains. This detergent hasn’t let me down in the more than six months we’ve been using it. You could try increasing the Borax and washing soda, but I would be cautious. They can both be fairly harsh and might put some extra wear and tear on your clothes. If you do decide to try it, I would be curious to know your results.

  52. elisha says

    The walmart by me put regular baking soda on the shelf in place of washing soda. Nice. Now in search of actual washing soda.

    • says

      Oh! Frustrating! Sorry, you’re having trouble. Mine actually has baking soda and washing soda right next to each other, so I have to be very careful about what I’m picking up. Hope you find it soon!

      • Matthew Paine says

        I am not sure where I saw it but there is supposed to be a way to change baking soda into washing soda by cooking it in the over on a baking sheet….I am sure if you Google around you can find numerous sites for how to do this….

  53. says

    Adding essential oils is a great idea… DoTerra’s lemon oil will even remove tough stains like coffee, wine, ketchup, mustard…etc. the list goes on! If u don’t have a doTerra rep near u please feel free to visit my site mydoterra.com/amandarhoades adding lemon oil @ $10 a bottle with 250 drops is pennies per use. U can add it to the whole mix for extra fresh sent or just a drop to a tsp. For spot treatment. Keep in mind essential oils are great for Ur health too… Find out how on my website. Thanks!

  54. says

    @ john… Try adding the lemon oil I mentioned above it will cut through the grease and gunk of everything I’ve tried so far… I even use it straight as my “goo gone” now plus I can add it to my drinking water to purify every glass and increase the alkaline levels in my body! And SO much more!

  55. Carla Easley says

    I never thought about making my own laundry detergent but its definitely worth a try. How does it smell?

    • says

      Carla, it’s just very simple – clean and fresh. If you like more perfumed fragrance in your detergent you can add a couple drops of essential oil to your batch.

  56. Ellie says

    I found all the ingredients at natural shops, and I’m willing to bet I’d be able to buy the same in bulk from online stores at a discount. I do not shop at Wal-Mart. I might sound elitist or just seem like a jerk, but I can’t support a corporation that treats its own employees like rubbish.

    • says

      Hi Ellie. I’m sorry your experience at Walmart hasn’t been a positive one. From my first-hand, personal experience, three members of our family have been fortunate enough to have been employed at our local Walmart and have not only been treated well, but have developed many strong friendships and solid work histories and experience. We were so grateful to have the jobs. In our small community, Walmart is the only affordable option with a wide selection of products, affording us the option of not wasting the gas money for an 80 mile round-trip to the city, but shopping locally and supporting our local economy. In an area where jobs are not easy to find, they provide employment for hundreds of people in our community. They provide college scholarships to our local seniors, each year, and donate to church events, organization activities and other causes in our community. They are an asset and I feel so fortunate to have them in our small town.

      I’m glad you were able to find all your ingredients for the detergent and I hope you enjoy the savings as much as our family has! Thanks so much for your visit!

  57. Donna says

    I made the dry version of this detergent. I found my whites were looking a little dingy and had read in one of the posts that adding oxy-clean would help. Well, instead of straight oxi-clean, I added Arm & hammer WITH oxi-clean, which is a laundry detergent in itself. Point being I added a whole box of laundry detergent to my homemade, so now I have no clue how much to add to my wash! I have read that using too much of homemade mixture can harm clothes, so now I’m afraid to use too much. Can anyone give me some advice as to how much I should use, because now I have double the amount and it will last forever!!
    Thanks!!

    • says

      Donna, I have never made the dry version. I’m just not sure what to tell you. I have such good luck with the liquid that I don’t add anything else, though i recently found a homemade oxi-clean recipe I may try for really stubborn stains. Hope someone sees your question about the dry version and has an answer for you.

  58. sheila says

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this! I was kinda skeptical about it removing odors. My hubby works in a wood mill and the smell of wet wood is very pungent and hard to remove. Because there is no scent in mixture I didn’t think it would work on his work clothes.WRONG! Using store bought detergent you could smell the detergent scent AND wood smell. Now I can wash his stinkiest work clothes and there is absolutely no scent what-so-ever when I take them out of the dryer. Cheap….and it works…WIN-WIN! :)

    • says

      Woohoo! Don’t you love saving money and still doing a great job. I’m so excited for you and appreciate you taking the time to stop by and share your news. Have a blessing-filled weekend!

  59. Angel says

    Just made this… Added a bit extra washing soda and borax, since my hubby always ends up with grease and dirt on his clothes (badly). It gelled up almost instantly. I’m trying to decide whether I should let it sit overnight or separate it now.

    • says

      Angel, mine is pretty thick, right away, but by morning it is literally a solid gelled mass inside my container, before I stir it. You can try and see, but I think I would wait.

    • says

      Hi Kacie! I think I would just experiment with it and see what works for your particular machine. I see no reason why the same amount of detergent shouldn’t clean your clothes in a conventional machine. You are just not going to see the suds that you are used to with your regular detergent, since he formulas are low-sudsing. Let me know how it’s going!

  60. Tori says

    It had never occurred to me to make my own laundry detergent. And, it looks so easy, too! I’m definitely going to give this a try along with your super-stain fighting mustard remover formula. I already keep Borax on hand for pest control. It’s the Fels Naptha that has me worried. I know I’ve never seen that in my Walmart. Hopefully, now that I know it exists, I’ll be able to keep my eyes peeled for it. The best part of your recipe is the reusable bottles. I do a tremendous amount of laundry and then feel very guilty for every bottle I toss in the recycle bin. But, of course, the chemical-free aspect is a high point, too. I’m so excited to try this! Thx for being a sharing Super-Duper Mom with extraordinary cleaning capabilities!

    • says

      Thanks, Tori! I’m excited for you to try them. I find Fels Naptha in the laundry detergent aisle at my Walmart. It’s sort of hidden, clear down on the bottom shelf, next to the washing soda. Hope that can help!

  61. Weslie says

    I got your recipe about 2 months ago and have been making is since then. I love it. I have an HE washing machine and found that it works great. I use downy fabric softener with it and it makes my clothes and towels soooo soft and smell so homey and clean. Before, I used Gain laundry detergent and fabric softener and found that my towels would never come out soft and the smell didn’t really last. Now every time I open up my closet, the smell of freshness hits me. And because I brag about it and enjoy making it so much, I make it for my boyfriend who is a single dad of three and my parents.

    Thanks!!!

    • says

      Weslie, thanks for sharing your experience! I love hearing from readers who are finding the website helpful and finding creative ways to put money back into their family’s budget. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  62. Shawn says

    My wife has tried this recipe with Zoat soap and unfortunately it’s viscosity is so thick that when poured it comes out in clumps. I understand that you have to shake the bottle before use, but even following this process I still found it quite difficult to handle as it seems to pour out like a slinky toy.

    The directions she followed are the following:
    1 bar zoat soap grated to 3 gallons of hot water stir.
    Next day after 24 hours 2 gallons of hot water and 1 cup of borax.
    Before bottling always add 50 percent of the solution to 50 percent hot water.

    Why does this come out like motor oil with motor clumps? any solutions to this matter?
    Thanks for help folks!

    Shawn

    • says

      Gosh, Shawn, I’m not sure, since I’m not familiar with the soap she is using and the recipe process she uses is so different from mine. The only recipe I am personally familiar with is this one, so I wouldn’t be able to speak to the reactions of different ingredients or combinations. Does she not use any washing soda in her recipe? Also, the washing soda and borax are dissolved in the first solution, in my method, then the entire mixture is diluted with water on the second day. Honestly, without having tried the way she makes it, I just don’t know what to tell you.

  63. Leslie says

    I tried this yesterday. I melted the fels naptha as directed, but as soon as i poured it into the water, it hardened and never mixed into a gel. Ths morning the chunky bits were floating and the soap powder was sitting at the bottom undissolved. I shook it up, and now theres a layer of suds and a layer of chunky bits floating in yellow water.

    I’m getting suspicious that something went wrong.

    • says

      Leslie, that doesn’t sound right, for sure. You melted 1/4 of a block of Fels Naptha, grated, in 1 cup of water? I’ve never had the liquid harden when adding it to the water, borax and washing soda solution. I’m at a loss for what could have happened.

      • Leslie says

        Yep, that what I did. Followed the instructions exactly, or so I thought.

        I’m gonna try it again and try to figure out where i went wrong. Maybe in the melting process? How thick should the melted soap be?

        Is the 10 cups of water you pour it into supposed to be cold or hot? I used cold.

        Thanks very much for the feedback. Ill let ya know how the next batch turns out.

        • says

          Leslie, it’s pretty much the same as water after it’s melted — just sort of milky, yellow colored water. I just pour it into regular tap water, usually about room temperature, I would guess.

        • Matthew Paine says

          Water quality definitely effects the outcome of your batches of soap. The first batch I made at my own home was like Glenda describes hers….kinda slimy looking. Honestly it looked like a 5 gallon bucket of someone blowing their nose….but still worked fine. The batch I made at my parents house was completely different. The gel like chunks didn’t quite dissolve even after heating it all up and I had to re-heat and futz with breaking it down further with filtered water and adjusting the washing soda and borax levels…

  64. Melinda says

    According to the Fels Naptha web page, it can be used to pretreat laundry. Just rub the moistened bar on the stain and let sit for a few minutes.

  65. Andrea says

    Hi!! I’m living in Guatemala and here you can’t find that kind if soap :S I was wondering if any kind would work?? Or do you think it can damage my he washer??? Thanks!!

    • says

      Hi Andrea! I just don’t know what to tell you. You definitely want something low, low sudsing. I only know what has worked for me, so I can’t really recommend what other products might be okay. Can you order from amazon.com in Guatemala? They have Fels Naptha. Be sure to come back and let us know if you find another brand that works.

  66. erin says

    I woke up this morning and my soap wasnt gel-like at all. It was a bunch of thin liquid with all the white stuff on the bottom….do i have to let it set up some more??

    • says

      Erin, I’ve never actually had that happen, but it sounds like the other ingredients weren’t completely dissolved before allowing it to sit. Did you grate your Fels Naptha fairly fine? It melts and mixes in faster and easier if it’s finely grated. I think if it were me, I would put the whole batch in a kettle on the stove and warm it up a little, then use my whisk to REALLY mix it and be sure everything is completely incorporated. Then I’d let it cool and the cover it to sit overnight. Let me know how it comes out.

  67. Alison says

    I think a lot does seem to depend on the water that you’re using… tap water definitely differs from town to town. I followed the directions EXACTLY the first time I made this, and mine turned out much more “watery,” with just an extremely thin layer of goop on top. Now I don’t add anywhere near that amount of water– not because the recipe is wrong, but because obviously whatever minerals and chemicals are in my local water supply affect how all the ingredients work. I’m sure if I were a sophisticated chemist, I could figure out the answer! I wonder if using distilled water would produce more consistent results. I could definitely see how well water could produce all sorts of wonky things with this recipe!
    Anyway, that’s just my two cents for everyone trying this out. Thank you so much for sharing this great idea with the world!

    • says

      Alison, I HAVE seen other commenters say their results varied just by using water from their mom’s house, as opposed to their own, so that is definitely possible. Like you, i’m no chemist. :) Did you try a second batch and get different results?

    • says

      Emily, that’s the point of this recipe – no chemical and artificial suds makers are added, like the commercial products. The new he machines can’t withstand high suds, so when you buy he detergents and pay more for them, it’s to get a low or no-sudsing soap, just like this. Sounds like you did it just right!

  68. J Jakckson says

    I found this recipe on Pinterest. I purchased the products required. I made this detergent. I was excited to be saving money. I posted my new project on facebook. I used it for four months. I was hopeful. It didn’t work. The stains did not come out. My clothes did not get clean. My towels did not feel fresh. The laundry did not feel good to the touch or smell fresh. I had no choice but to return to commercial detergent. After a few washes, my clothing, towels and sheets finally returned to normal. I would not recommend this product.

    • says

      J, so sorry to hear about your experience. We have been using it for well over a year and having great results, even on my husbands greasy work clothes. (He works in an automotive parts manufacturing facility.) I would never be able to switch back after the fantastic results we’ve had and the amazing cost savings. I’ve seen so many comments where water quality affected the thickness or consistency of the detergent. I wonder if it might also affect its effectiveness? Also, be sure if you are not using a high efficiency machine to use the larger amount required for regular washers. It is noted in the post.

  69. Chris says

    I enjoyed reading your post! Interesting to see the link to the Duggers. I had no idea. I can’t remember the blog I originally saw the recipe on. But it included a YouTube video that I watched with interest. The first part was basic–how to make the soap. The second part I found ridiculous. The concentrate was put into 2 5-gallon buckets and filled to the top with water. After 24 hours they then dispersed that into many, many different sized and shaped containers for storage.

    Yuk! I don’t want a million bottles of laundry detergent cluttering up my small already cluttered home. So I skipped the 2nd part, kept my original mixture in just 1 5-gallon bucket. And since my solution is now more highly concentrated than what they ended up with, I just cut their recommended use (1 cup per load) in half. I either keep a 1/2 cup measuring cup in the laundry room and scoop directly from my 5-gallon bucket. Or, occasionally I get inspired and transfer detergent into an old commercial laundry detergent container that I’ve saved for this purpose. The rest remains stored tin the 5-gallon bucket until I’m ready for more.

    • says

      Chris, thanks so much for stopping by. You were braver than me, and thus the reduction to a smaller recipe. I didn’t have the space for such a large batch and so two large jugs at at time is a perfect fit. I would imagine, though, that for the Duggars the original recipe doesn’t last nearly as long as we might expect. :) Have a great weekend!

  70. Bradie says

    I dissolve my soap in the crock pot using a liner bag instead of on the stove. It is slower, but it doesn’t foam over and can be left unwatched. It took 2 hours to dissolve the 14 oz Zote bar (double batch) chopped into 1/2″ chunks. I just filled the water to 3/4 full on my crock pot after I put the soap pieces in.
    I add 1 c baking soda (with the washing soda) and 1 c vinegar to my batches to cut through oily spots and build up. Vinegar works as a fabric softener too.

  71. Gretchen says

    I’ve been using this recipe and procedure for 6 months now and find it to work so well and “as advertised” and my clothes are getting absolutely clean. Believe me, I’m a mom and do the smell test on certain washed laundry to make sure it’s clean! The only thing I do differently than the directions here is at step #10 where it says to divide the concentrate into the two bottles and then fill with water. Since I have trouble knowing or seeing exactly when the bottle is half full what I do is add the extra quarts of water to dilute the concentrate while it’s still in the bucket, then stir and pour into the two bottles. Just easier for me. Thanks so much for this recipe. I love the savings so much and will never go back to buying detergent.

    • says

      Gretchen, thanks for stopping back to let me know. I love hearing that something I share here has helped someone else, is saving them money and they are enjoying it! Have a blessing-filled week!

  72. Sasha says

    I made this last night and finished up this morning. I had the 172oz bottle and 100oz bottle plus a smaller bottle filled about 1/4 of the way. I like that I didn’t have to have a 5 gallon bucket sitting around and just a couple of bottles full.

    Next time i make it i will mix the water in the bucket then transfer to the bottles, like what Gretchen said above. I wish i thought of that because i found it difficult to see what room i had left and kinda fudged a bit. Im sure its ok, maybe a little bit of extra water in one bottle. I also added extra washing soda and borax, just because. I used half hot (pot on stove, but not boiling) and half hot tap water during the first mix. It mixed up perfect with just a tiny tiny bit of soap floating on the top. I took that out, let it cool a bit, covered it and it was nicely gelled this morning. I use vinegar for softener and add 2-3 drops of essential oil to it, usually tea tree because i always have that on hand.

    Thanks for the smaller batch recipe.

  73. Cheryl M says

    Just wanted you to know that I started using this soap last January after a friend recommended it. It’s been a full year now (the date on the milk jugs are Jan 9, 2012) and I’ve been thrilled with the results…and the money that I’ve saved.

  74. Gina says

    Hello! I have my first trial load in the washing machine now–can’t wait to see how it turns out!! I was wondering, have you tried castille soap? Do you think it would be strong enough for a laundry detergent? I have friends with babies and I know castille makes a baby soap.
    Just curious.
    Thanks so much for this detailed recipe!! :)

    • says

      Gina, I use Castile soap in my foaming hand soap recipe and in a few of my household cleaners. I think it would create too many suds for modern washers. High efficiency machines need low, or no-suds soaps. If you read through the comments on this post, you will find several people who use this laundry soap recipe to wash baby clothes and cloth diapers.

      • Gina says

        Wow!! I am so impressed with this detergent! I have now finished 3 trial loads. The first one I started with was filthy, cleaning rags. They came out looking clean, feeling soft, and even smelled clean–even though there wasn’t really an odor (hard to describe what clean smells like when you aren’t smelling perfumes). The 2nd batch was delicate items, and the 3rd was sheets. They all came out perfect!

        The detergent must have some sort of softer, because I didn’t even use fabric softener and just hung a sweater up to dry, and it’s not crunchy! I also added some peppermint oil to the mix and my house smells all fresh!

        I can’t believe I haven’t done this sooner. It’s SO EASY, SO CHEAP, it works, and I’m not polluting the world with a million plastic detergent bottles!!

        Thanks so much for posting this information!

          • Gina says

            Thank you, Glenda, you too! One more question… If I wanted to make it a little stronger for a particular load, do you think I could toss some extra super washing soda in, or do you think that would make it too sudsy?

            • says

              Gina, I haven’t tried that, so I’m not sure about the sudsing. I don’t think there are too many suds associated with the washing soda. I think most of them come from the Fels Naptha. Are you doing it for stains?

              • Gina says

                Yes, for stains. I tried pre-treating them with some undiluted detergent and soaking them in borax, but the stains didn’t come out. So I tried Shout, but that didn’t work either. I was actually relieved that the Shout didn’t work because that just means that they were “set” stubborn stains and still gives me hope for the use of undiluted detergent for other stains.

                The stains were on baby cloths that were donated to an organization I volunteer for. They were little yellow/brown stains.

    • says

      Sigi, I’m not sure what the European equivalent might be, but I do know you can get Fels Naptha online at Amazon. That’s more expensive than in my local Walmart, though. Do you have something called Zote, in France? I have heard others comment about substituting that for the Fels Natha.

      • says

        I love Dr. Bronners, for many other applications, but I would be extremely cautious using it in high efficiency machines as it can become very sudsy. The suds damage water pumps in he machines.

  75. Barb says

    Finally took the time to try this- a few glitches, but first double match was great. Will definitely be making this for family and daughter going to college this fall.Recommend that you use a wire whip or something similiar to stir/mix before dividing into the bottles and adding last of water. When I doubled the recipe, ended up with 8 bottles of 50 load detergent. Thoroughly enjoying exploring your site!

  76. Della says

    I am worried, I didn’t read the direction closely and mixed borax soda and fels naptha dry, thinking I was to “cook” them all and then add more water…is that okay, if not, any suggestions for what to do now? I have 4 batches of the dry stuff mixed :(

    • says

      Della,

      I don’t think it will hurt, since you are just trying to get everything to dissolve. I’ve never done it that way, so I just can’t really say for sure how it will work.

  77. Ann Sayer says

    I have recently replaced fabric softeners with homemade dryer balls. Very simple to make using 100% wool yarn wrapped very very tightly into balls about the size of tennis balls then “felted” I.e. washed in washer with a load on hot water then dried in your dryer. I did this 3 times then boiled them in a large pot with just water and dried them in dryer again. They work GREAT. I hear a little static when I remove things from the dryer but just shake them out and hang or fold them. I don’t notice ANY static when I wear them. As they bounce around with the load in the dryer they help air circulate through the load cutting down on dryer time. Win/win. Save money on electricity or gas and buy no fabric softener.

  78. says

    Hey I just tried making this for the first time and I think it went well! I made the trial sized version and will let it sit overnight and use it in my laundry tomorrow! Hope it works well! It was SO cheap!

    • says

      Hope you love it as much as we do, Sarah! I’m excited because I just discovered an inexpensive way to make those scented laundry crystals that are so expensive in the store. I’m hoping to have that post up in a few days. So glad you took the time to stop by and visit! Have a blessing-filled weekend!

  79. Kay Thomas says

    Ok, I’m going for the liquid! I’ve been making a powdered version for about a year now and love it. But, I’m a Zote user. When I saw your comment to the user over seas about using that you had me! I’m trying it today! Thanks so much! :-D

      • Kay Thomas says

        Hey Glenda, I made my batch today, it is curing as I type. Was wondering if you have any suggestions about getting the Zote to melt. I was surprised how long it took to melt down and finally ended up mixing into my bucket and “helping” it along by squishing between my fingers and continuing to mix. No problem, just took a bit longer. Can’t wait until tomorrow for my pretty pink soap! Thanks again!

  80. Lorraine says

    Made this about 3 weeks ago and have used 3 times. I am not sold, yet. Mine did not gel much. Simple dirt seems to come out fine and the clothes smell clean, without a perfumey smell, which is great, as I always purchased the unscented products to begin with. However, I can still smell my deodorant fragrance on the armpits of my shirts. No smell on socks or undies, but it should be able to wash out deodorant. This was true even after using Oxi-Clean as a laundry booster. I also found several spots of schmutz on my daughters shirts – some kind of food residue, something greasy, perhaps. It is also only able to clean the dirt off my husbands work clothing, but no impact on any greasy stains from the body shop. Any suggestions?

    • says

      Lorraine, I’m not sure. If it didn’t gel for you, something may have been off with the recipe. A couple other commenters have mentioned that the hardness or softness of water may be affecting it. In the overnight phase, the detergent should set up in a very solid and thick gel, like soft jello or even pudding. After you divide and dilute it, it will be thinner than before, but still a thin gel. My water is softened. I’m not sure if that makes a difference or not, but my guess is that if it didn’t gel, the cleaning strength probably isn’t going to match my experience. Did all the Fels Naptha you grated dissolve completely, before you mixed in the other ingredients?

      • Lorraine says

        Yes, I was very patient in melting the Fels Naptha completely. Since the water I am adding to the recipe is the same water I am washing in, I’m really thinking the hardness of my water may be the culprit. I am thinking about trying to salvage this batch by adding extra ingredients. Since it is rather runny, it should be easy enough to encorporate. I just have to figure out which ingredient I need to add more of. I assume either the Washing Soda or Borax. I’ll have to do a little more research, but was thinking of just doubling the Washing Soda and Borax and dissolving it in a small amount of hot water and just remix the remaining detergent and see how it goes.

  81. Marie says

    I’ve had this website bookmarked for a few months and I’m finally ready to try this recipe now that I’ve gone through all of my commercial detergent.

    I was wondering if this detergent could be used with Bleach. I’ve been reading the comments and nobody seems to have written about whether or not it can be used with bleach for whites (bed sheets, towels and socks mostly).

    Thank you

    • says

      Marie, I have never used bleach with it, so I’m not sure of the reaction. If I need to boost whitening power, I use and extra Tablespoon of detergent and hot water, plus I use cleaning strenth white vinegar in the bleach dispenser. Let me know if you try it with bleach. Thanks so much for stopping by to visit!

      • Marie says

        Thanks for the tip! I didn’t even know there was such a thing as cleaning vinegar, I’ll be more than happy if can get away from using bleach!

        Now I have another question, because I’ve made my first batch and it did get somewhat slimy over night but I didn’t get “one giant gelatinous glob”. I still followed the 1 part slime to 1 part water and poured 1/4 cup in my he machine.

        My test load had shirts, towels and socks and the detergent didn’t get the smell out of any of them :(

        I don’t know if I should add some washing soda to get it to gel more, add less water or just use more of it as is?

        • says

          hmmm…I have two suggestions and you may have already tried it, but I always wash towels and whites in hot water. And secondly, if the towels have been sitting awhile and are already a little musty, I use the cleaning vinegar trick, again, but this time, in the fabric softener dispenser. That should take care of any odors. Other than that, I’m not exactly sure. I wouldn’t use more detergent, just because it can be hard on your washing machines water pump.

          You might also try adding a Tablespoon or two of baking soda in the tub of your washer, if you think a load is particularly smelly, but I’m only guessing, now. I haven’t actually tried that. Vinegar is pretty much my laundry room staple. I even use it in place of bleach to clean the tub of my washing machine.

          Let me know what you figure out and thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your experience. It helps us all, Marie!

  82. peter says

    ok, so I just found your website and tried this detergent recipe. After first use I’m not that much happy or satisfied. There is no smell of washed clothes. More rather clothes smells bad. I can’t tell yet if it washes good because I didn’t throw really dirty ones.
    It’s kind of strange to me that this recipe is basically soap with 5gal of water. Adding just a cup or less of soda and borax is in my opinion not enough to even feel it.
    I bought 6gal bucket with lid in Walmart and made 5gal of this yellow pudding.

    • says

      I’m sorry you didn’t have better success, Peter. We continue to be very happy with the results and my husband is a machine operator in a factory. I have been tweaking a dry (powdered) detergent recipe that is showing promise, too. When I get a chance, I hope to post that one. Perhaps it would work better for you.

  83. Katie says

    An easy and very effective pretreatment for stains: For mustard stains, oil stains, serious ground in dirt, and anything that could (and does) come out of a child, I wet the area, rub fels naphtha on it, and use a semi soft bristled scrubbing brush on it (bought at the dollar store.. The brushes made for dishes works as well as the ones made for floors). Unless the clothing was already washed and dried before treating the stain (this kills stain removal) this literally takes out everything I’ve tried on it, except ink stains. I still have no idea what takes those buggers out.

  84. says

    Has anyone tried substituting Ivory bar soap for the Fels Naptha? (I don’t like the smell of Fels Naptha, and I can avoid grating Ivory bar soap by microwaving it.) If so, exactly how much Ivory bar soap did you use in this recipe?

  85. Elizabeth Gifford says

    Has anyone tried this using Zote? I live in Mexico and don’t think I can find the Fels Naptha. Also, approximately how much should I use, considering the Zote bars are huge.

    • says

      Elizabeth, yes, I believe others have used Zote. I have read more problems with getting it to dissolve properly, though and it has been known to leave white streaks of soap on the clothing. even in warm water. I like Castile bars for detergent, if I don’t have Fels Naptha.

  86. Salinda says

    Can this be made with liquid castile soap instead of the grated and then melted soap? I’ve made it successfully several times and love it but was wondering if the liquid castile soap would be easier and let me skip that step…and if so, how much to add in place of the bar soap?

    • says

      Salinda, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work, but I have no idea what amount to substitute. If I were you, I would Google “DIY detergent with liquid castile soap”. I think there are several recipes floating around. Thanks so much for stopping by and I’d love to hear the results if you figure out a conversion amount. Have a blessing-filled week!

  87. Emmylou says

    I don’t know if I added too much water but every time I have went to use this it is completely separated so I have to shake it up and then when i go to use it, it looks like it is all foam. I put my son’s pants in the wash that he had gotten spaghetti sauce on just that night, so the stains hadn’t set in yet, and I used this homemade soap and it didn’t even touch the stains! I was so dissappointed. I don’t know if I had too much water in mine or if it is because we have hard water or if it is because I use cold water to wash our clothes. I am frustrated, if anyone has any ideas on how to fix this, let me know!

    • says

      Emmylou, as noted in the recipe, separation is actually to be expected and you should shake the bottle before using, so that part is right. As to the stain, perhaps rubbing a small amount of detergent into the stain prior to washing would help, but my first guess would be that cold water is not sufficient for removing stains. I do use mine in soft water, so it’s possible that might make a difference, but you can solve that by adding 1 or 2 teaspoons of Epsom salts to your detergent in each wash load. That will soften the water. I hope one of those might help. Keep me posted on your results. It helps all of us to hear other people’s experiences and to help each other make adjustments. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  88. Chantell says

    Question, I made this to the recipe and let it sit over night and it didn’t thickened at all! There is maybe a few little gel clumps but that’s it! Did I do something wrong? I’m new at this so any advice will be appreciated !

    • says

      Chantell, I don’t know that you did anything wrong, but possibly everything wasn’t completely dissolved. Also, some people have said that having hard water might make a difference, as I use soft water when making mine. Do you have leftover sediment in the bottom of your container that didn’t dissolve? Also, be sure you used washing soda, not baking soda. They are two very different items in their chemical make up.

  89. Jacky says

    Hi, I made this yesterday for the first time, used exactly everything as shown, but im at the laungrymat and i washed my clothes, and there is still stains on some and it didnt make no bubbles at all in the washing machine. The water looked clear through the glass? Could I have done something wrong?

    • says

      Jacky, I doubt that you did anything wrong with making it. There won’t be bubbles, since you haven’t added the chemicals that cause commercial detergents to suds. The suds are what does the cleaning and not having them is what makes this safe for high efficiency machines, which can’t take the sudsy detergents. My initial thought is that the commercial washers are not high efficiency and are larger than home machines. It will require more detergent per load, as noted in the post, when being used with top loaders or in this case, commercial machines. I would try that before thinking that you made it incorrectly. Also, I use my homemade pre-treater on tough stains, before washing. Let me know how it goes if you make any of these changes. Thanks for stopping by and letting me know your experiences. It helps us all to see the detergent used in different settings and circumstances.

  90. Bonnie says

    Glenda, I’ve enjoyed your site so much and want to relate a story. As a small child I remember watching my mom pare a bar of Fels~Naptha into the very hot water in the wringer washing machine. She used this method from the time she was married in 1940 until she had to use an automatic washer when I left for college in 1965. Even as a college student, I used the dry Fels~Naptha soap for laundry until I couldn’t find it any longer. None of my family ever had any problems with this soap. Our clothes always looked clean and well kept. Did you know that Fels~Naptha is great to wash your skin with when you have been exposed to Poison Ivy? Try it, you may be amazed! I’m going to try this recipe ~ you’re never too old to learn something new!! Have a beautiful day:~)

    • says

      Bonnie, I’m so excited you took the time to stop and share your story. And no, I had no idea that Fels Naptha was good for poison ivy. I’m glad to have that in my arsenal of natural defenses! Thanks so much and have a blessing-filled weekend!

  91. Rose says

    I can’t use the borax, would you suggest any substitution? I was wondering If I didn’t want to use a pour container can I just scoop it out? Would a T be enough?

  92. Susan Bingham says

    How does this detergent work on whites? I know someone who made her own detergent (don’t know what the ingredients were) and used it for about three months and said her whites turned dingy. Any comments?

    • says

      Susan, we’ve been using it for a couple years and don’t have a worry with my whites. I do often use white vinegar in the softener dispenser. Don’t know if that really makes a difference with whitening, though.

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