How to Make Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

by Jess on October 7, 2011

Homemade Powder Laundry Detergent Recipe

Now that I’m living with my boyfriend and his 2 little boys, we are running through my measly laundry detergent stockpile like nobody’s business.  Even with a coupon and store sale, finding deals on laundry detergent these days are far from what they were a year ago.

I’d heard about making your homemade laundry detergent but the recipes usually included boiling down soap and pouring the mixture in a huge 5-gallon bucket to let it “slime up”. I didn’t have the space or the desire to make any kind of mess like that in my tiny apartment.

After reading through comments on several different blog posts on the subject, I stumbled upon a powdered recipe, and friends, I’m now SOLD. It’s so easy to do and costs far less per load than what you would spend on store bought detergent.

Let’s get to it!

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Grate ONE bar of Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap using a cheese grater. This took me a few minutes – it’s hard work grating soap! Fels-Naptha has been around for over 100 years and is used as a laundry stain remover and pre-treater. It works especially well on oil-based stains.
    I found found Fels-Naptha at CVS in the laundry aisle for $1.39 (free after using one of my ECB’s), but you can also use Zote (found at Walmart, Big Lots, dollar stores, etc) or even a bar of regular old Ivory will do just fine. Look up high on the shelf or near the bottom. It’s not a well known product so it likely will not be at eye level.
  2. Add ONE cup of Borax to your grated soap. Borax helps to remove tough stains, is a natural alternative to colorsafe bleach & is going to give a boost of cleaning power to the Fels-Naptha soap.
    Many grocery stores and big box retailers like Walmart & Target sell Borax. I picked up 20 Mule Team Borax at Target a few months ago for $2.99. For recipes like this, a box lasts a super long time.
  3. Add ONE cup of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda. Don’t confuse this with baking soda, they are two different compounds. Washing soda has a higher alkaline level which helps to act as a solvent to remove a range of stains. Unlike bleach, washing soda will not stain.
    This product may be tricky to find. I discovered that at least in my area, the only retailer carrying washing soda was Ace Hardware. Check out their website for additional store locations near you or pick up a box on Amazon.
  4. Pour ingredients into a food processor (or in my case, blender) and pulse/grind for about 20-25 seconds, or until everything has blended into a fine powder. Although this step is not necessary, I find it keeps the powder from separating from the ground soap and also helps the soap chunks fully dissolve in the washer.
  5. There you have it! Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent in no time at all. I keep mine in an old food storage container with a tight fitting lid. Easy peazy.
    Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

How To Use:

Small Load – 1 Tablespoon
Normal Load – 2 Tablespoons
Heavy Load – 3 Tablespoons

Homemade laundry detergent does not contain sulfates so it will not suds up like ordinary detergent but don’t worry, your clothes are getting clean. Plus, because this formula is low-sudsing, this is safe for you folks with front loading HE washers.

Do you make your own homemade laundry detergent? How do you like it? Please feel free to share your experience in the comments below!

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

CL October 7, 2011 at 8:10 am

I make my own using the recipe listed above. The only thing I change is I use Kirk’s Castille Soap. It has a pleasant smell and is all natural. I thought the Fels Naptha scent was too strong. To make mine stretch, I make a triple recipe amount and add a small box of whatever laundry soap is on sale. Clothes smell really good! Anyone with a good fabric softner recipe please email me. The hair conditioner recipe plugs up my washer.

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Amanda Medkiff Bartels via Facebook October 7, 2011 at 8:35 am

I’ve been making mine for the last year and a half and really like it. It makes the clothes smell really good & it cleans the clothes very well!

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Susan Oliver Polimeni via Facebook October 7, 2011 at 8:37 am

i like this one due to ease of making. However, I couldn’t get it mixed well enough. Probably an error on my part. I like to do the liquid. One cleans as well as the other.

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Amanda Medkiff Bartels via Facebook October 7, 2011 at 8:38 am

I run my mixture thru a food processor to get it well combined…I use an old baby formula scoop to measure it out-works like a charm. I store it in a clear plastic container with a top..I’ve been using a laundry soap called “Lirio” can be found at some Hispanic grocery stores or any store that has that section in their laundry Dept.

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Amber Zell Turner via Facebook October 7, 2011 at 8:40 am

I got this same recipe off of the duggar family website and you can make it into a liquid detergent that stretches it forever. One batch lasts our family of 4 a year!

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Silvia Garcia via Facebook October 7, 2011 at 8:40 am

I’ve been thinking about this for the last 4 months, I even printed a recipe but never did it. Your right, soap deals aren’t what the use to be so I’m going to do it.

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Erin Murch Hooper via Facebook October 7, 2011 at 8:44 am

My question about DIY laundry detergent is whether it really works. I was using a naturally derived detergent for about six months until I finally came to the conclusion that it was worthless when it came to removing even the simplest stains. Does this detergent work as well as the name brands that can get stains out on the first wash?

I’m all for saving money and making things myself, but if I have to wash things more than once, the savings quickly start dwindling.

Thanks in advance for your feedback!

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Sheri October 7, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Erin: I was worried about that also as I have a couple of little kids that get food, dirt and just general yuckiness on their clothes every day. However, I broke down and tried homemade due to the cost factor and it seems to me that I’ve had the same results with homemade laundry soap as the better commercial brands.

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gina October 7, 2011 at 7:33 pm

I saw this same recipe on another site and she adds oxyclean clean to the recipe. I’m going to try this: http://beingcreativetokeepmysanity.blogspot.com/2010/11/homemade-laundry-soap.html

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Alice March 23, 2012 at 7:44 am

I’ve been using this recipe w/oxyclean (knock-off) and LOVE it! If my whites are especially stained, ketchup etc. I just start the whites late at night filling washer with hot water. Agitate for a couple minutes, turn off washer and finish first thing in the morning. Whites have been amazing. I do miss the smell some of the commercial laundry detergents have…

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Meredith Runge Wylie via Facebook October 7, 2011 at 8:45 am

I use this recipe with Ivory soup instead, works great and smells wonderful.Costs $6, It lasts me about 4 months for a family of 9. I tried cutting out the bar soup to turn it into dishwashing detergent an that does not work as well.

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Jennifer Heisler-Quinn via Facebook October 7, 2011 at 9:21 am

I’ve made the liquid kind for years, with the same ingredients. But the powder sounds so much easier! Definitely going to try this recipe next time.

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TracyFl October 7, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I have made the liquid type. It seems to clean Ok. The main drawback for my is the soap starts to separate and get lumpy. I was having to wisk it often before using. the smell is mild which I like.

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Becky McAllister via Facebook October 7, 2011 at 11:13 am

I made the powder after years of using the liquid. I like the powder better.

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Susan Oliver Polimeni via Facebook October 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Has anyone tried the homemade fabric softner? I love it!

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Michelle October 7, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I have been making mine for a while – but it is the liquid kind and while it seems to work just fine I really want a powdered one – but all the recipes I have found for the powder have lard in them (yes like shortening) and that is just really gross to me – I will definitely be trying this one for sure as soon as I need to make more.

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Nicole October 9, 2011 at 6:34 pm

I just made my second batch of liquid detergent yesterday. I love it. For fabric softener I use homemade dryer sheets. You will need 1 5 gal. bucket, 1 bottle of your favorite fabric softener, sponges. Pour your fabric softener into the 5 gal. bucket, fill up the softener container 2 times with water (1:2 ratio) and add to the bucket. Drop in sponges. When you are ready to do a load in the dryer, remove one of the sponges, squeeze out the excess and toss in the dryer.

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anne conover October 13, 2011 at 11:21 am

Made this for the first time today. Had no trouble finding all 3 ingredients at my Harris Teeter. This worked great!!! I used a food processor as I have no blender. Washed my husbands smelly work clothes and no odor left! Really happy with this recipe – it’s a keeper :)

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Jess October 14, 2011 at 9:03 am

Yay! So happy to hear the recipe turned out well for you, Anne!

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Tisha February 5, 2012 at 5:20 am

Quick question…I have seen several recipes that call for anywhere from 1/3 of the fels naptha, to the entire bar? Any suggestions?

Thanks
Trw422

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dolly cohoon February 19, 2012 at 1:59 pm

ha ! this recipe is much easier than the one i have been making !! same ingredients except i dont have to mess with water ! this is great ! thanks for shareing ! much appreciated ! also , i got all of the ingredients at walmart.

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kim March 4, 2012 at 9:54 am

I love this powder detergent! I am currently making my second batch. I don’t have a food processor anymore so I use my blender. The first time I had touble getting the Fels-Naptha to get fine like the other powders, no matter how much blending and stirring I did. This time a did a few things different because I noticed the Fel-Naptha was getting soft when I was grating it and then again at the bottom of the glass jar on the blender. This time I put the FN in the freezer after grating, I only blended half of the mix at a time and put the blender jar in the freezer after blending for a few minutes. The result was a fine powder! I use vinegar for fabric softener, I just have to remember to put it in the rinse cycle! I guess I should get a fabric softener ball!

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Jessica March 18, 2012 at 7:40 am

I made this detergent for my cloth diapers but unfortunately it doesn’t work for me, my diapers are repelling :( . How can I make this detergent into liquid detergent?

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