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Jour 196: How to make your own laundry detergent

Hey guys! Making your own laundry detergent is something I've always read about, but it seemed too time consuming and/or super hard core for me. But along comes Joy from Creatively Cheap to make it all sound super-easy! Take it away, Joy!

Laundry is the one chore that we do around the house that is NEVER complete! There will always be at least one article that is dirty. AM I the only one that bothers? The other thing that bothers me about doing laundry is the impact it has on my pocketbook as well as the environment. I found a great alternative!

My niece and I talked about making our own laundry detergent for about a year before actually doing it. Procrastinate, much? We have now been using our homemade stuff for around 2 years and I can never see myself going back to buying the “other” stuff!

The first time, we used a bar of Ivory Soap. It worked great. Since then we have been using Fels-Naptha soap and we love the clean smell it leaves. Out of the 4 ingredients, the only thing I have had to replenish in the two years we have made it is the bar soap. We still have tons of the washing soda and borax.

The Recipe

~Based on the recipe found on the Duggars’ website~

4 Cups - hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha soap bar (or Ivory or any kind of “natural” soap)
1 Cup - Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*
½ Cup Borax

- Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. (this part takes the longest, but it’s still not bad) Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

Diagram 1: Stir!

-Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. (Seriously, stir and stir some more) Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

Diagram 2: Still stirring...

-(Next day)Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser** half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (will gel)

-Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil (I have thought about doing this but I really like the clean smell the Fels-Naptha leaves).

-Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons.

-Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)

-Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

We tried figuring out the cost per load, but gave up when we started splitting pennies!!

*Arm & Hammer "Super Washing Soda" - found in many home improvement-type stores. I have been told that Wal-Mart and many other discount chains carry it now. Baking Soda will not work, nor will Arm & Hammer Detergent - It must be sodium carbonate!!


The Fels-Naptha can be purchased usually wherever the washing soda is sold. All of the ingredients can be bought online, but I would do so ONLY if you have looked and your area simply doesn’t carry it because it is more expensive. The last time I bought it I found it at our local hardware store for .99. I bought 2 bars and store the unused one in a Ziploc bag.


My niece and I split the batch each time we make it and it lasts us about 4-5 months. For both families it’s just two adults (and several 4-legged babies), but we both do a lot of laundry for some reason! Anyway, I don’t have the containers to store the detergent in already diluted nor do I have the space in my house. 

We leave it in concentrated form to store and only mix the bottle we are currently using with water. We saved our laundry containers from “back in the day” when we were buying it. We also asked family members to save bottles for us. If all else fails, I have used thoroughly clean gallon milk and water jugs to store it until I needed it. I keep a small, squeeze bottle of this detergent in concentrate form to use as a stain-remover. 

This stuff is so easy to make that when we when we initially made it, we actually thought we had screwed up and missed some steps. Nope…perfect the very first time!

Let me know if you make this and what you think of it! It’s an easy way to be frugal and do your part in not putting so many chemicals down the drain. When my friends find out that I make my own detergent, they are so impressed because they think it’s so difficult! After all, you could always use the money you will save to buy that awesome pair of new shoes…oh, I meant to pay off debt more quickly!!

Cost breakdown:

4 Cups - hot tap water (free)
1 Fels-Naptha soap bar (or Ivory or any kind of “natural” soap) ($1)
1 Cup - Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda* (55oz box around $3.50) 6.87 Cups
½ Cup Borax (76 oz box around $5) 9.5 Cups

Call it $10 to account for sales tax
.05 per load for regular machines and .015 per load for top-loaders FOR JUST THIS BATCH! So, there is enough washing soda left for almost 6 batches and enough borax for almost 9 batches! I love me some cheap!!

Joy offers more creative, money-saving tips on her new blog, Creatively Cheap. She's doing a membership drive - once she gets more than 30 followers, she'll host a giveaway, so get to following this lovely lady! 

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