On Facebook people kept telling me about a liquid laundry detergent recipe they were seeing on Pinterest, and I decided to give it a try. I’ve experimented with making my own powder laundry detergent in the past so I’m familiar with the general idea of how to make detergent at home but the liquid version always eluded me because for one, I didn’t want to put soap in the big pot that I cook in all the time because I thought it would ruin it, and also because the recipes I was coming across always seemed super intense. So when people told me about this recipe for DIY laundry detergent, I was like, “Okay, now this looks doable”. I gave it a try, and it was easier than I expected.
I wasn’t going to put this recipe on the site if I didn’t work so I decided to test it out on the grossest, dirtiest, narliest thing I could find: my baby’s super-poopy, cloth diapers that had been sitting in the diaper pail for a day or so just marinating into a nasty, smelly poo stew. I figured, if we’re gonna test this recipe, we’re gonna TEST IT.
We always buy the generic, perfume and dye free detergent for all of our clothes, and I have been using a special (read: expensive) cloth diaper detergent for the diapers. I’m happy to report that this laundry detergent recipe worked great, and the diapers came out whiter than I have ever seen them before. Also, they passed the sniff test, and no stinky residue was present. We will now be switching over to this homemade version for both our clothes and the diapers especially since this recipe is INSANELY inexpensive to make, costing just under 5¢ per load. Seriously. (See the full break-down at the end of this post if you’re curious about the numbers.)
(Also, just as a side note, I tested this recipe on our front-loading HE washing machine.)
How to Make Liquid Laundry Detergent…
- 1/2 cup of Borax
- 1/2 cup of Washing Soda
- 1/3 of a bar of Fels-Naptha soap, grated
- 3 cups of water
- 3 gallons of water
(Click on the above links for each item individually and here is a Laundry Soap Kit that includes all 3 ingredients. Just a heads up, the kit is a bit pricey but it’s a nice option if you have a hard time finding the ingredients.)
- Cheese grater
- 3 to 4 empty and rinsed gallon jugs or other large containers with caps
- A large bucket that can hold at least 4 gallons
- Very large spoon with a long handle (or one of those free paint stirrers from the hardware store)
- Serrated knife
- 2 plastic baggies and permanent marker (optional)
1. On medium heat melt the grated Fels-Naptha in 3 cups of boiling water until it is completely melted. Stir often. (When the Fels-Naptha was melting I used that time to grate the remaining Fels-Naptha for future batches. The grating is the most time-consuming part of the process so it’s nice to have that part done. Plus, then you don’t have to get your cheese grater soapy more than once. Whenever possible I try to consolidate tasks for efficiency. Also, can we just stop for a second to admire that beautiful vintage-looking stamped logo on the soap? It’s on point.)
2. Add the Borax and washing soda. Stir until all the ingredients are dissolved.
3. Fill your very large bucket with 3 gallons of water.
4. Carefully pour the soap mixture into the bucket of water.
5. Stir well, and let the mix sit for at least 24 hours. (At this point I was feeling pretty skeptical because the consistency was like water. Also, I let mine sit for 48-ish hours, and it was totally fine.)
6. After the detergent has set overnight you will see that it completely changed consistency, and it’s morphed into a gel-y substance. Stir the detergent really well again.
7. Distribute the detergent among your containers. (If you can wrangle both a funnel and another person it will make this step 7000 times easier. Once the detergent was in the containers I shook them up again really good, and then I’ve been doing that again before each load because the mixture settles and separates.)
8. Save one of your old store-bought detergent container lids so you can easily measure how much to use per load. If you don’t have an old lid then use 1 1/4 ounces.
Here’s the cost comparison between store-bought detergent and the homemade version:
– At a big name retailer perfume and dye-free detergent is $9.99. The container is 50 oz and gives 32 loads (using 1 1/4 oz per load).
– The homemade detergent costs: for 1/2 cup of Borax and washing soda and 1/3 of the Fels-Naptha bar it costs $1.53. (76 oz box of Borax, $3.97; 55 oz box of Washing Soda, $9.06; 5.5 oz of Fels-Naptha, $1.99). This recipe makes 384 oz and gives 307.2 loads (again using 1 1/4 per load).
The store-bought version 31.2¢ per load, and the homemade detergent is just under 5¢ per load. That makes the store-bought version 600 times more expensive!
This recipe was surprisingly easy to make, and it worked really well too. I will definitely be sticking with this!
What about you? Do you think you’ll give this recipe a try?