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Why Homemade Laundry Detergent Rocks!

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Laundry LineFrugal Dad recently wrote a post about why he doesn’t make his own laundry detergent. He wrote that there are some things he refuses to give up, and store bought laundry detergent is one of those things. To his credit, he correctly stated that frugality is an individual thing, tailored to each person’s priorities in life.

I, on the other hand, proudly make my own laundry detergent (here’s my homemade laundry detergent recipe).  While saving money on homemade laundry detergent is nice, it’s not the only reason I take the time to make it.

I Know What’s In It

I have two children. I have sensitive skin. Too many times I’ve bought detergent that irritates somebody’s skin. By making my own detergent, I control what goes into it. There are no unnecessary perfumes. The detergent is as strong or weak as I make it. The first time I made homemade laundry detergent, I put too much Fels Naptha soap into it. The second time, I cut it in half, and it was perfect. My clothes were clean, and my skin wasn’t irritated.

Do you ever wonder why new mothers are encouraged to wash their babies clothes in pure soap, rather than laundry detergent, for the first month? It’s because laundry detergent is harsh. And if it’s harsh on skin, it’s probably harsh on clothing, too.

I try to take this attitude in all areas of life. I make dinner from scratch, because I know what goes into our bodies that way. I don’t want to be eating dinner made of stuff I can’t pronounce!

It Gives Me a Sense of Accomplishment

Instead of running to the store to buy something my family needs, making it from scratch serves as a reminder that you don’t need to buy something for every need you have.

Too often in our society when we need something, break something, lose something, (insert your reason here), we run to the store to purchase a replacement. Making my own laundry detergent reminds me that often what I need is at my fingertips, if I use a little creativity.

The other day I was making crockpot macaroni and cheese. Too late, I realized the recipe called for two eggs, and I didn’t have any. Instead of piling the kids into the car to run to the corner (and expensive, I might add) market, I thought about what else I could use as a binder. I ended up using a little corn starch and water, and it turned out just fine.

Making my own laundry detergent is just one step in my effort to see what I can reduce, reuse, recycle, or do without.

It’s All About Attitude

I like knowing that I’m able to do things that companies tell me only they can do for me. I make laundry detergent, household cleaners, and even my own mochas. I somewhat enjoy going against large retailers and doing things myself.

I’m not a total killjoy, though. There are things I splurge on from time to time. Clothes, dinner out, and yes, every once in a while a mocha from Starbucks. But I know when push comes to shove, if the economy tanks and we’re in a dire financial situation, I know how to do for myself.

Homemade Detergent & Cleaners Recipes

Simple Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

If you’re interested in making your own laundry detergent, my favorite (and the easiest) recipe is for powdered laundry detergent.

  1. Grate 1/2 bar Fels Naptha soap (or you can try other soaps) in a food processor.
  2. Add 1 cup Borax,
  3. 1 cup Washing Soda, and,
  4. 1 cup Baking soda.
  5. Process until mixed.

That’s it.  It takes 5 minutes. Use about 2 tablespoons per full load of laundry. You’ll be surprised at how little detergent it takes to get your clothes clean!

Simple Homemade Bathtub Cleaner

My favorite bathtub cleaner is super-easy, too. Besides being easy, it works better than a lot of commercial cleaners!

  1. Put 1/2 cup regular Dawn dishwashing liquid (or 1/4 cup of the ultra kind) into a spray bottle,
  2. Fill the rest with white vinegar.
  3. Give it a good shake to mix and you’re ready to go!

Now you can spray it on the bathtub and wipe off. It’s as easy as that!

If you find you enjoy making your own cleaners, there are tons of cleaning recipes on the internet. Just google “homemade [insert whatever you want to make]“, and you’re sure to find tons of options!

(Photo: Lall)

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125 Responses to “Why Homemade Laundry Detergent Rocks!”

  1. Christina says:

    I am new to making homemade laundry detergent but I am curious, has any one tried lirio clasico in their recipes? I keep seeing Zote, Fels Naptha and Ivory in all recipies but never lirio. I found Zote, and Lirio in my local Grocery Store here in Tx. but not Fels Naptha so I just grabbed Lirio and I am now wondering if I should take it back and get zote since I see this used more. Is Lirio Clasico ok to use in my recipe?

    • Linda says:

      I’m not sure what lirio is however you can also substitute whatever bar soap your family may be using. If you don’t already have bar soap because you like liquid then just stop by your local drugstore for 1 bar of soap, it will be an inexpensive buy. I have used Fels Naptha, Zote, Ivory, Dial and a few others also and a friend of mine uses Irish Spring for her’s. I have not tried any moisturizing bars though when making my laundry soap.

    • NLC82 says:

      Clasico by Lirio is a laundry soap bar similar to Zote (and the others) which are both made in Mexico. Clasico (Lirio) has natural ingredients, so it leaves no remainders in fabrics. You can use it in the home-made laundry detergent recipes as with the others. I personally have used Octagon, Fels-Naptha, Zote and Clasico (Lirio) as I think the Ivory does not clean as well. The best values in my opinion are the Zote and the Clasico (Lirio) bars, both weighing 14.1oz and they are ruffly the same price as the Octagon (7oz) and Fels-Naptha (5 1/2oz). Walgreens sells both (in store and on line) and are priced @ $1.59, and are on sale now for $0.79. With one of either of the 14.1oz bars I can make 20 gallons of home-made liquid detergent. Hope this helps.

      • NLC82 says:

        I use the Duggar family recipe, as I think it works best.

        4 cups hot water
        1 Octagon or Fels Naptha, or 1/2 Zote or Lirio Clasico soap bar
        1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*
        1 cup Borax
        essential oil (optional for scent)

        1. Grate the bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.
        2. Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.
        Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once detergent has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, orange, tea tree oil.
        3. Stir the detergent and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with detergent, then fill rest of the way with water. Shake before each use (will gel).

        Yield: 10 gallons.
        Use 1/2 cup per load = 320 loads

      • Dyane says:

        I have used Lirio and like it. I use it for hand stain removal often. Anyone have problems with residue on washing machine. I heard that in the past and just wonder if it is true? I wash a few loads with All ever once in a while just in case to clean machine. I like Zote for whites. I think Lirio is easier on colored clothes and Fels is great for greasing stains but does fade darks if you use hot water and too much.

  2. Mam_B says:

    I like the idea of the Dawn with vinegar for cleaning the bathroom. For really tough soap scum I sprinkle baking soda in the tub too. Often with a squirt of cheap shampoo. I scrub it all with a bath poof on a stick (the kind made for scrubbing one’s back) to keep from having to bend too much.

  3. Megan says:

    I also read the frugal dads comments about laundry detergent. Needless to say I agree with your ideas more.
    I’m a single momma with three kids. I recently lost my income and am finding simple ways to minimize costs until I can find another job and finish my degree. I don’t know what he was talking about that it is as cheap at Costco, bc its NOT! I spend $3.00 for a 5gallon bucket of my laundry soap. Of course that is after I purchased my $4 bucket that I have reused for several years.
    We have to find what works with our families needs. I am going to try the dawn and vinegar! Thanks..

    • valarie says:

      I would love to have as many different recipes for homemade soaps as possible can you please share them with us I have a family of 10 and hubby just had heart transplant and we get about 800 a month to live on soo as you can tell major HELP is needed here thanks.

  4. cc says:

    “I try to take this attitude in all areas of life. I make dinner from scratch, because I know what goes into our bodies that way. I don’t want to be eating dinner made of stuff I can’t pronounce!”

    If this is your approach than you should probably not expose your children to Borax. In a lot of other countries it is not allowed to be used in products for children under 3 years and it is proven toxic to for example fish. It is NOT environmentally friendly or good for you.

    • NLC82 says:

      Borax is not acutely toxic. There is no issue using it to wash clothes or dishes. It does occur naturally in evaporite deposits produced by the repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes. The most commercially important deposits are found in Turkey; Boron, California; and Searles Lake, California. Also, it has been found at many other locations in the Southwestern United States, the Atacama desert in Chile, and in Tibet and Romania, therefor it is environmentally friendly. Borax is comprised of 99.5% pure borax, the remaining 0.5% is composed of trace minerals. While Borax is used as a food additive in some countries it is supposed to be banned in the US. Borax IS found in some commercial vitamin supplements, such as Puritan’s Pride Multi-Day, which is made right here in the US. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borax

  5. Redbird says:

    I am 63 and started making my own laundry soap about a year ago. I have used fels naptha, Zote, Irish spring and Ivory. I experiment with each batch I make..The Zote and Irish spring leave the Best Smell to our laundry but they all clean our clothes. I especially noticed that our whites are really whiter than with store bought laundry detergent.
    I enjoy making my own and like others have said I do know what it contains. I do not have sensitive skin but my dh does.

    I have also been using the vinegar and dawn dish soap for cleaning. Last time the dawn was a green apple scent and it was not only the best cleaner but smells so fresh.

  6. Sherri says:

    How many bars of soap do you use? I just made my first batch of laundry soap from the duggar websitebut I was alittle confussed about how big the bar of soap was, is it the regular size you use to shower with or is it bigger. And how many small bars of soap do you use?

    • robin says:

      fels-naptha is 5 1/2 oz. I am going to try the irish spring, which is 4 oz. I bet if you use two 4 oz bars it would be ok, but if you don’t think so, try 1 1/2 bars.

    • Dee says:

      I wouldn’t use Irish Spring, personally, as it’s a ‘scum soap’~ in other words, it floats to the top of the water (in the bath). I just made a quadruple batch of the mixture~ using 2 bars of the fels-naptha, 4 cups of Borax, 4 cups of Arm & Hammer Washing Powder and 4 cups of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda. I’ve just done a load of laundry and I also added 1/2 cup white vinegar to the rinse for softening purposes. Excited about saving $$ on laundry items! I figure this mixture will take me thru Christmas season for roughly $8 total investment!
      Hint: I grated up the fels before i put it in my ‘magic bullet’ (you can use a food processor), and added some of the borax to blend it finely.

  7. Karianne R. says:

    I also have used the Duggar family recipe, but in this I have found that it does not work well on whites (they always have a yellow tinge) and I find dark blotches on all of my clothes. I am trying to find a better recipe, because I have two children and find it expensive to keep buying laundry soap. Any ideas?

    • Kim B. says:

      I also have used the Duggar family recipe. I want so bad for this recipe to work but I find that my whites are very dingy. In fact, you would think I washed my whites with my colors as they look really grey. Sometimes I will wash clothes and very simple stains do not come out. (My 4 girls all play soccer and even sometimes simple dirt won’t come out). I have often taken them over to the sink and just put a little liquid Oxy Clean on them and the stain comes right out. It is so frustrating!!! I have a new HE washing machine and I’ve even tried using the pre-wash, tried doubling the strength of the detergent (by not diluting it with water), and tried washing smaller loads at a time. I do have a water softener so I don’t think it’s because of hard water.

      The other things I’ve noticed is that on black athletic pants, the white stripe down the sides is very dingy.

      I have 3 other friends and we all made this recipe at the same time back in the Winter. We have all 4 come to the same conclusion. Two of us live in the country will well water and two of us live in the City with City water. None of us like what it does to our whites.

      My one friend has said that she knows someone who has added an extra scoop of Borax and an extra scoop of the washing soda. I’ve also read about Zout working well on whites. I used the Felz Napa.

      Does anyone have any comments or suggestions? Anyone else have the same problem and have a solution? I don’t mind making it, but it seems pointless if it won’t even get out dirt!!

      • Scott says:

        I make te powdered version — adding a cup of color safe bleach (Purex or Clorox 2) made a huge difference. The whites are white now!

      • joleen says:

        Bluing. Add bluing to your your whites.

      • Heather says:

        I had the same problem when I first started making my own. Your clothes look dingy because commercial detergents have optical brighteners…Fels Naptha does not.

        Try Zote or Lirio….they have the optical brighteners. In my opinion, they work much better anyway. :)

        • Heather says:

          Another tip…..for a color safe bleach….about a half cup of hydrogen peroxide :) Just add to wash water…or soak water.

          Oxyclean and others have two active ingredients….powdered hydrogen peroxide and washing soda.
          Your homemade laundry soap already has the washing powder :)

  8. christy says:

    those who use liquid recipes, why do you dilute the mixture again after making it in the 5 gallon bucket?

    I just put a half cup instead of a whole cup- is diluting it further necessary?

    this time when I made my batch, I went in and mixed it again when it started getting lumpy (after just few hours or more)& now- it has no huge solid pieces, its kind of like a gel-like oatmeal-like goo and it does not appear to need any mixing now

  9. Lisa Jenkins says:

    I have been using the duggar method and am very pleased with the results. First, of all I began doing this when I found that Tide was becoming to harsh and didnt like the way my clothes felt. I am very picky and buy quality clothing that is made with good fabic and constructed well, I do not have gobs of clothes but, what I do have lasts forever and feels good on. Tide was wearing them out so I tried making my own. The results have been fantastic my clothes have that nice feel to them again and my frontloader stays clean. I like it!

  10. SKELLER says:

    I have been making my own laundry detergent for the past couple years and I LOVE IT! I use the exact recipe that you have given. For years, I always swore by a certain brand & also said that I would never stray from that … but guess what? I wouldn’t go back now. It makes everything softer, cleaner, and if you have stinky socks, dog blankets or towels & dish cloths (that tend to sour) this takes that out every time. At least try it. It’s cheaper, its good for your clothing & it’s awesome! I can’t say enough about it.


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