November 18, 2017

How to Make Laundry Detergent (Liquid)

I have lots and lots of reasons for wanting to make my own laundry detergent for our family.  It’s more gentle on their skin.  The recipe uses earth “friendlier” ingredients.  It’s a blast to make.  It makes the house smell good when I am melting the soap.


Probably the biggest reason to make your own laundry detergent is that it is extremely cost effective.  And when you are doing laundry for a family of nine, seven of whom are rowdy, muddy boys, sometimes covered in carrots, you need cost effective!!

And as a growing family, we need things to be cost effective anyway.

There are a ton of recipes out there to choose from, but I chose to start with the one from the Duggar website.  (Have you seen their new site??  It’s great!)

I made the concentrated solution and threw a few loads in to test it out according to their recommendations.  Uncertain, I did a little more looking, and explored another similar version at The Simple Dollar.

Between those two basic recipes, I realized that you can dilute the mixture as much or as little as you wish.   The Duggar family makes ten gallons.  The other guy at The Simple Dollar makes three.  They both cost roughly the same.

What to do???

I have a front loader, and assumed from the start, that I had better dilute it according to directions.  (Have you ever put too much detergent in one of those machines?!?  The results can be a bit overwhelming.)  But I watched at different phases of the cycle, and noticed that I never really saw a lot of suds.  At one point, I “paused” my washer, opened the door, and ran my hand through the water, just to be sure that there was, in fact, detergent in the washload.  There was, and the clothes came out smelling clean, but I am still leaning toward using a more concentrated amount.

I filled my empty storebought laundry detergent dispenser with 1/3 water and the rest with my homemade detergent.

So here’s the “recipe”:

  • 1 bar Fels-Naptha soap, grated
  • 1 cup Arm & Hammer All Natural Super Washing Soda
  • 1/2 cup Borax
  • water

What to do:

1.  Boil 4 cups water on stove and add the grated soap, slowly, stirring until melted.

2.  Fill a five gallon bucket half full of hot tap water.

3.  Add melted soap, laundry soda, and borax.  Stir.

4.  Fill to the top with more hot tap water and stir again.

5.  Allow to sit overnight.

6.  Fill a large laundry detergent dispenser 1/3 to 1/2 full of water, and fill the rest of way with detergent mix.  Shake container before each use.

7.  Use as much or little for each individual load as you prefer.  I used 1/4 cup at first, then tried 1/2 cup and even 3/4 cup and had no problems.  Depends on size of load.

What do you use for your laundry?  Do you have a recipe that works great for your family?



  1. Carolyn says:

    I used to use that recipe with my homemade soap, but now I just grate the soap and mis with the boraz and baking soda for a dry mix. It works just as well. But you are right, it is fun to make. I had to laugh about watching the front loader for soap bubblig out. I did too. My youngest son (14) actually did tis with our dishwasher last year. We ran out of detergent so he thought he could use dish liquid. Needless to say I ws not amused. Gotta love boys!!!

    • Hey Carolyn!! Thanks for your comment. I think I would actually prefer the powder….will have to experiment with that, too!!

    • Sandy Williams says:

      Hi – Brandy,
      I made the liquid laundry detergent. I used Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda that was in our Walmart’s laundry soap depart. It’s a large box (4 lbs) & on the back is says “For fresher, cleaner clothes: Add 1 cup with liquid laundry detergent for cleaner, fresher clothes”. Is this the right Arm & Hammer product? Hope so since I’ve made the entire 5 gallon bucket!

      Also, for top load washer (not he) how much detergent to I use?

      Plan on making the powder clothes detergent & the dish soap too! Great way to save $ & use a better product all the way around.

      Thanks, Sandy
      Weatherford, OK

  2. Having trouble finding the washing soda. Haven’t been able to find it at two wal-marts and don’t think i’ve seen it at target. Am I missing something?

  3. Hey Leslie! I found mine at my local Ace Hardware. 🙂

  4. i knew there was a reason i bought liquid detergent last time at costco (which i have never done before)…it’s about to run out and now i have a container to try this “recipe”!!

  5. Found the washing soda at Brookshires…go figure.

    One last question…can you keep that big 5 gallon bucket for a long time and just keep refilling your original soap dispenser from the bucket? I’m thinking it will take us a long time to go thru the whole 5 gallon bucket only using half a “tide” container at a time. We are not quite to seven boys yet. 🙂

    • Hey Leslie! I’ve heard a few people say their bucket lasted them a whole year, so I would say you have at least that long. And you don’t HAVE to dilute it again, by the way….so that will make it not last as long, also…. 😉

  6. speaking of not diluting it…i had a liquid ALL container from costco that was just under 6 quarts, so I put the concentrated mixture in there and just filled that with hot tap water. Is there a reason why i can’t just use it that way? Just put in a lesser amount than the diluted stuff? Would it not disolve as well in the wash without as much water added? I am just trying to figure out an alternative to the 5 gallon bucket as i don’t have a great place to store it. Let me know what you think. Oh, and have you tried the powdered recipe yet? Seems like it might be easier?! I read somewhere where they used a food processor to make the powdered recipe.

    • Hey Tina. I think that’s another one of the great things about homemade laundry detergent….You can customize to be as strong or as diluted as you need. As it turns out, what’s in my dispenser right now is about 2/3 concentrate, and 1/3 water. However, in the future, I plan to not dilute it at all. One recipe I read somewhere, a lady made hers and put it straight into a 1.5 gallon dispenser. Hers was the least diluted I’ve read about. So there’s a wide range here…. And about the powdered version…you’re one step ahead of me. I have the ingredients waiting for me to mix it up in the food processor….. 😉 Coming soon. 🙂

  7. Hi Brandy,

    I homeschool three boys, so you have me beat by a long shot. With all their sports and such I have been looking for a way to reduce the cost on laundry. Thanks for posting this info. I also have a front loader; this answered the questions I had regarding the use in a front loader. I can’t wait to try it!!!
    What do you think of using a 5 gallon water cooler with a pour spout for easier dispensing? You know the one most construction workers strap to the back of their work trucks.

  8. I just made my first batch and really like how it’s working. My husband keeps telling everyone how cheap it is, even with the start up cost of a new bucket. I kept the 5 gallon bucket in the garage where the temp was in the 50’s. The soap really seemed to solidify. Is that normal or should I find somewhere in the house to keep it?

  9. I might be wrong, but I’ve always thought that naptha was a harsh chemical to be avoided. I used to use it to remove stains but stopped when I heard it was toxic Does anyone know if it is?

    • There are other options for the bar soap component of the recipe. I have been wanting to try Zote, whose ingredients you can see here:
      Other people have tried myriad soaps including Ivory, Kiss My Fave Pure Olive Oil soap, and even Dial. I have wondered about using the Kiss My Face olive oil…..

      • Sarah Bass says:

        Another option is to use a bar of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap. It’s a bit pricey at nearly $5 a bar, but still a lot cheaper than store-bought detergent. The recipe I use calls for 2 gallons + 1 quart water, 2 cups washing soda, 2 cups borax, I bar Dr. Bronner’s castile soap. I make half a recipe and it nearly fills my old 100 loads Purex bottle. It’s about $3 for what used to cost me $8! And it’s natural and gentle for my sensitive-skin boys! 🙂

  10. Do you know if this is cloth diaper safe?

    • I have never used this detergent with cloth diapers. The two laundry solutions I have used for washing cloth diapers have been these:

      • I use Charlie’s soap. I originally used it just for my 6th baby’s fuzzy bunz about 5 years ago and then I began using it for the entire family and would never use anything else (store-bought).However, I have tried several variations of this home-made soap and it works well and I’m sure I’ll use it again if I run out of Charlie’s Soap or can’t afford enough of it:) Thanks for sharing all the great ideas and recipes.

        • Oh, don’t you just love Fuzzi Bunz??? 😉

          • Yes. They were awesome! I guess I’m done having babies (:) ) but in the last few years I have noticed so many new diapering choices similar to or even better than Fuzzi Bunz. Some ladies can also sew their own really well!

  11. I am planning on making this, seeings as it seems so much cheaper than buying the stuff they offer at the store. My only concern is that I have very sensitive skin, where I break out in hives if I encounter artificial or very strong scents/chemicals, to the point where I cannot be hugged. Has anyone found this laundry detergent to be harsh? Can you add essential oils to it to make it smells pretty? (like tea tree oil or some other oil to calm skin).

  12. I use the Duggar’s recipe but I do not dilute it. I actually add 1 1/2 C of the undiluted detergent to my full loads (top load). I didn’t think that 1/2 or 1 C of it was enough to clean my clothes. I use white vinegar for the rinse. Am I using too much detergent??

  13. Katylee Gilman says:

    So I am very new to making your own laundry detergent so my question may sound silly but I have an HE front load washer. And because of this, I need to use the special HE detergent. Would I use the same recipe and how much should I use in each normal sized load?

  14. I have looked over alot of recipes and found one that is pretty good that I would like to share.
    Ingrediants needed
    This is a powder version:
    1 Zote soap bar
    1 box of purex color safe bleech powder… very cheap
    1 box of borax
    1 box of arm and hamer WASHING SODA however if you cannot find all one has to do is bake a regular box of baking soda at 400deg in oven on cookie sheat for 30 mins to get washing soda
    1 bottle of purex crystals
    This recipe makes alot of laundry detergent
    Zote is a large bar so slice the bar in half and set one half aside … take the other half and cube it into small chunks and place into food processor… it will not hurt it! when done should kinda be like tiny little pink balls
    add the finished zote to a large bowl
    add 2 cups of washing soda
    add 2 cups of borax
    add 2 cups of color safe bleech powder
    add 1 cup of purex softner crystals
    stir togther
    I like to get the ziplock containers that the lids screw on as I fill two containers at a time and always give it alittle shake before adding the detergent to washer
    add this mixture 2 tblspoons to washer as filling and then add clothes
    smells wounderful! and cleans great… this does make some suds but once the clothes are added they disapate.You will find out that you will still have quite a bit of product leftover to make more!!!!

  15. Brittany C. says:

    We use this detergent and it’s worked well for us!!! The only difference is I use a bar of Ivory soap instead of the Fels Naptha. When I first started making our laundry soap our Baby was young and I heard that Ivory was more gentle (and fyi, for other Moms—a better option for sensitive skin or people with exzema). 🙂
    Yay for saving $!!

    • Ivory and naptha are both lye soaps as is castle only castle is made with coconut butter, i make mine with ash and water let sit a week then add lb lard or coconut oil to the filtered liguid( ash in water) boil and it doesnt separate add lavender as a fresh smell you can add 2 cups soda after heating in oven for an hour. borax 1 cup. boil and stir then cool over night makes 5 gallons.

  16. I have the ingredients to make this soap. My niece said this will fade your clothes. Has anyone found this to be a fact. Is it safe to use on colors and jeans, or should it be used only on lights and whites?

  17. Hi i am looking forward to making this my only question is if there is a difference between just regular washing soda and the super washing soda you used? I needed washing soda for a recipe in the past for dishwasher tablets and found that you can make baking soda into washing soda by heating it in your oven (much cheaper!) i still have some and would like to use that if I can!

    • Hey Trisha, if you know how to make the washing soda into baking soda, then I would go for it! 🙂 And tell us how! 🙂

      • It is actually really easy when baking soda is heated it breaks down to become washing soda! I followed the directions I found at a blog called nature’s nurture so you heat your oven to 400f sprinkle baking soda onto a cookie sheet and bake for about 30mins its great because baking soda here costs less and is a lot easier to find!

  18. Mumta goel says:

    Hi IreLly want to make it but pls tell the other option of fel naptha and zote
    soap as I won’t find if I am in india

  19. Viknesh Kumar says:

    Is it possible in india? I don’t heard fels-naptha soap in india. I buy borax,washing soda and essential oil. But I don’t have fels-naptha soap. Now what I to do?

  20. Hi,
    I am sushil from Gurgaon, India. I would like to tell you a very good but very simple formula to get Liquid detergent. take 01 Kg of Acid slurry, add 5 ltr water preferrably de-minral water. Add about 50 gms causti Soda flakes. Bring it to neutral by checking through pH paper until neutral. Afte this add about 100 gms or more ktchen salt.
    This ir ready to use. This is multipurpose liquid detergent and may be used right from dish wash to cloth wash and floor cleaner.

  21. Pradhanrishi says:

    Dear Sushil

    Thanks for the recipe you have shared. I would like to try your formula but I want to know the order of adding the ingredients. Which one first and then second and third order.


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