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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

DIY Laundry Detergent


My nemesis.

I've mentioned that I hate doing laundry before, right?

That was a joke.

I'm hopping on a plane to Orlando for a radio conference first thing Wednesday morning. Whenever I go away, I do every single scrap of laundry so it's not waiting for me when I get back.

And so I have clothes to pack.

I don't think my radio friends would appreciate me walking around...never mind.

So I spent my Labor Day doing the only appropriate thing: laboring.

Now, here's the thing, you've probably noticed along with me that the price of laundry detergent is ridiculous. RIDICULOUS. REE-DIC-YOU-LUSSSSS. And I'm a single person noticing this! I can't imagine how much detergent a family goes through in a week.

I've seen a couple of folks online who have begun making their own laundry detergent. They appear to be perfectly normal people. There are no twigs in their hair. There are no pictures of them hugging a tree. They appear to be normal, hard working folk who are tired of paying for a label. I'm with them. Being raised in a home school environment has made a bit of a rebel when it comes to labels. I don't like to pay extra $$$ to wear or advertise someone's name. Frankly, the marketer in me says THEY should pay ME to advertise their biz, but that's a whole different topic.

Back to making your own detergent.



It took me less time to make this then it does to make chocolate chip cookies. For reals.

What I like about this is that it uses all natural ingredients, it's easy to make (grating soap is the hardest part), it can be fragrance free, and it's CHEAP. All you need are three ingredients that can be found at your local grocery store. My nearest grocery store is about 20 minutes away, but Target and Walmart are closer. I found the Borax at Target and the Washing Soda at Walmart.

Washing Soda

Washing Soda is not the same as baking soda, so let's get that out there right away. They are two different things but they are in the same family. Washing Soda can be used with your regular detergent to boost its cleaning power. For instance, to help with a heavily soiled load of laundry, add 1 cup of Washing Soda, along with the usual amount of your detergent, to the beginning of the wash cycle. It can literally be used all over the house - Arm & Hammer has more ways that you can use it around the house here.


Borax is not boric acid. They are two completely different things, so let's set the record straight, just in case you've been wondering about that. Borax is a mineral, so it is all natural, but you should know up front that this is something that needs to be kept up high away from kids and pets, just like you would any other cleaning agent...because it IS a cleaning agent. I've always had this fear that Borax was like bleach or chlorine, and it's not. It's been used for over 115 years in laundry and can clean just about everything. Check out the uses at the 20 Mule Team website. AOL also shows different ways to use it here.

Bar of Soap

That's pretty self explanatory. Some folks use a bar of Fels-Naptha, which is a heavy duty laundry soap. Some folks use a bar of Ivory or Castille soap. I decided to use what I had on hand. My grandmother gave me some milled soap for Christmas, so I decided to grate that. The Fels-Naptha bar label says it's 5.5 ounces and the Ivory bar is close to five. I have a food scale, so I weighed my bar of soap - it was only 2.5 ounces. I had two of them, so I grated both bars to equal one regular bar of soap. On a side note, I grated my wrist and the knuckles of my thumb and middle finger right after I took this picture. That wasn't awesome. But I'm sure Edison didn't come away unscathed while inventing the light bulb, no?

The recipe for DIY Laundry Detergent is simple:

2 cups Washing Soda
2 cups Borax
1 4-5oz bar of soap, grated on the small holes of a grater

Stir it up and use. The usage varies, I've discovered, but most seem to lean towards using one tablespoon for regular loads or two tablespoons for large or super dirty loads. When I was buying the ingredients, I also picked up the fancy jar for about $8 at Walmart - definitely should have purchased the smaller size. I also picked up the grater for $3 (thought it was better to have a grater that was just for grating non-food items since I grate non-food items all the time...not) and the scoop for $2. The scoop is a coffee scoop that holds two tablespoons. Since I only do super loads, that's perfect. The cost of the Borax and Washing Soda was around $6 total. Using my own soap was free.

The savings are huge here.

There's still QUITE A LOT left in the boxes, so I'll be able to make more. It comes out to somewhere around a nickel to do each load of laundry. That makes me happy. I did three loads yesterday using my DIY mix, and so far so good. The whites were white, and everything smelled clean and fresh. While the bars of soap that I used had a fragrance, it didn't carry over into the clothing. I do miss the fragrance, but I'm reminding myself that fragrance doesn't mean that it's clean.

So, DIY detergent was made VERY fast, it works, and I'll keep using it. Now that I've got all of this Washing Soda and Borax on hand, I'll see what else I can do with that!

UPDATE: I've heard from several people asking if it can be used in HE washers and the answer is YES!



  1. Erin you totally rock! Now this I am going to definitely try. I'm looking forward to having my own hand made laundry soap and other DIY projects from you :)


  2. First off it was great meeting you today at the Farmer's Market! Second, you are hysterical both in person and on your blog. Third, you make your own detergent, even more awesome. Now can you please teach me how to blog like a foodie rockstar and make brownies everyday while staying skinny? Oh and send me money for my grocery bills?

  3. Can this be used in a HE washer?

  4. Erin, I really liked the ease of putting together the laundry detergent. The only thing I didn't like about it is that there were always tiny little bits of the grated soap left on the clothes, etc after having been washed. They had to be shaken off. Do yo have any suggestions for dealing with this?

  5. Hey Anonymous - that's something I have not experienced. I grate my soap on the smallest hole on the grater so it looks like a fine powder (like the photo above). I also drop it in first with the water, swish it around a bit, and then drop my clothes in (I use a top loading washer). Hope that helps!

  6. Thanks for your reply. I've tried a liquid recipe this time. May try the dry again another time.

  7. Awesome job really it's great article.



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