How to Make Liquid Laundry Detergent – Under 5¢ Per Load!

DIY liquid laundry detergent

DIY liquid laundry detergent

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…


(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)

DIY liquid laundry detergent

DIY liquid laundry detergent

DIY liquid laundry detergent

DIY liquid laundry detergent


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.)

DIY liquid laundry detergent

2. Add the Borax and washing soda. Stir until all the ingredients are dissolved.

DIY liquid laundry detergent

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?


P.S. The hand soap fake-out and use your old coffee to freshen up your skin. Here’s the DIY.


27 thoughts on “How to Make Liquid Laundry Detergent – Under 5¢ Per Load!

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  1. Morgan

    Have used this before and I found it started to make whites kind of dull over time and was harsh on clothes. I used it for some stuff like towels, jeans, ect. and used my trusty Tide for my good items :)

    1. Robert

      I’m not surprised it would be harsh on fabrics, because it’s mostly alkali (the borax & washing soda). A lot of work a century ago was done on laundry soap formulas, and those that used this much alkali, while they were cheap, did tend to degrade fabrics faster and have that dulling effect as well. When people wore heavy clothes that would get laundered only at long intervals, they could afford to use mostly alkali to wash them. Once fabrics became finer and washing machines more common, so that laundry was done more often, it was found that low-alkali soaps were better. Homemade recipes like this are a step backward.

      Unfortunately a high-quality formula based on soap with only a little bit of alkali, while suitable for top-loading or older front-loading machines, would lather up a HE machine something awful.

  2. Bridget

    Don’t take this as advertising or anything, I just want to throw in my opinion here! I use Ecos laundry detergent, it is all natural, cruelty-free, and dye and fragrance free. It runs about $9-10 for 128oz at Wal-Mart which is a lot better than the $9/50oz that you referenced, and is probably a little safer for my clothes. I add about 40 drops of essential oils to a jug when I buy it and it treats my clothes really well!

  3. Robert

    And 42 fl. oz. LA’s Totally Awesome Laundry Detergent is often in the $1 aisle at Rite Aid. I can’t believe a good quality (i.e. not stuffed w alkali) home recipe is ever going to be a significant money saver over bargain shopping like this. You can save money by making your own soap from fats & lye, but once you’re buying soap to doctor into laundry detergent, the savings are gone.

  4. Darrell Patton

    You say you Clothes are dull? You are using to much soap. I had the same problems washed my clothes without soap. Got rid of the all the old residue. I have cut wayyyyyyy down on the amount of detergent needed.

  5. Kenn

    Assuming you are re-using the pail or jug you store it in…. How about cost of dosing cup…re-using both of these from a prior purchase?

  6. Stephanie Scott

    I use one bar of soap shredded, 1 cup mule team borax, 1 cup arm & hammer washing soda. Mix in a bowl then blend into a powder using a small single serve electric blender. Only fill half way then as you blend a second then stop blend a sec and stop, shake It to get the bottom blended and it’s done. Use 1 to 2 Tbsp per load. Use in dishwasher also. Not sure how to make It liquid. I just run a tiny bit of hot water in washer first to dissolve then switch to cold.
    I tried using other powder detergent and it sucked compared to this. I buy the cheap pack of bar soaps at dollar store or get what I can with coupons like caress.

    1. Robert

      Try this: Hand wash a load of laundry with a bar of soap. Weigh the soap before & after. I guarantee you the difference in weight will be greater than what the total of 1-2 Tbsp of powder you’re making weighs — and your powder is only partly soap, and in the washing machine you’re not even putting it directly on your laundry, so it won’t clean as efficiently. So whatever results you’re seeing from your recipe could probably be achieved with no soap at all.

  7. leedy

    I live in Tasmania and we don’t have FELS-NAPTHA soap so do you have any idea what I can use instead
    I would really like to make this as I’m a pensioner and it would really help me. it sounds just great to be able
    to save some money on things
    thank you so much for your recipe it sounds great

  8. Rose

    There is another soap they use in a dry soap she could probably it’s pink and called something like tote or slote I can’t remember exactly but usually by phels naptha

  9. Barbara Rogers

    I’ve been making powdered version for years. I’m anxious to try the liquid version.I just bought everything needed except the Borax. There must be a lot of people making their own as I have been searching for two weeks and can’t find it. Is there anything I can substitute. I have been using Zote Soap, is it as good as the Napatha?

  10. Sharda Lewis

    For those that are saying their clothes are dull or dingy: Solution 1- use a downy ball with vinegar in the rinse cycle(for whites or color clothing). Solution 2- For whites run a loaf with hot water and add oxygen clean or homemade oxygen clean and let sit overnight. Then wash as usual with detergent. Been using homemade laundry detergent for years. I make the 5 gallon bucket which equals 10 gallons because it’s concentrated and you don’t have to use too much. Lasts me from 13mths to 18mths. We are family of 5 with 3 of them being boys!

  11. Kaynetta Calander

    I printed this recipe from another website and my detergent got really, really thick. Reading your recipe it calls for 3 gallons of water versus 1 1/2 gallons in the recipe that I used. I’ve tried contacting that person to no avail. I am wondering if there is a way for me to thin it out and how I should do that, can you help me please?
    Thank you,

    1. Anna Newell Jones Post author

      Hi, I’m not sure about the other recipe. Based on what you’ve shared, it sounds like you could add 1.5 gallons of water to have it match this laundry detergent recipe and thin out what you have.


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