Homemade Laundry Detergent - Only $3.50 for 4 Gallons!

I can’t wait to share my laundry detergent recipe with you guys but, first, we’re going to do a bit of a rewind to the exact moment I figured out that “normal” laundry detergents and fabric softeners do NOT agree with my skin at all! Over ten years ago a family friend offered to do some of our laundry when our washing machine was getting fixed. Great – very thoughtful – nice woman. Then we got our clothes back and I could not believe how badly they stunk (of course I never told her that) my clothes absolutely wreaked in the worst flowery synthetic way that I could hardly believe it! Not only must she have used an incredible amount of laundry detergent and fabric softener she also went on to starch (and only the universe knows what else) and iron every shirt, pair of jeans and even my little sleep nighties. At first I just plugged my nose and figured I would get used to it until my back broke out and I started itching in my sleep. I was blotchy, covered in bumps, it was like chicken pox all over my back kind of not-pretty. I rewashed EVERYTHING and went on the hunt for the gentlest laundry detergent I could find. (I used soap that was safe for kids and babies for a long time but it seemed SO expensive – so on to my homemade laundry detergent recipe!)
homemade laundry detergent only 3 50 for 4 gallons , cleaning tips
The recipe I ended up with calls for:
Half a bar of grated soap
1 cup of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1 cup of Borax
4 – 1 Gallon Jugs
Put a big pot on the stove with about half a gallon of water in it and add all three ingredients, use a long handled spoon and DON’T boil it! If you let it get too hot you will have lots and lots of suds all over your kitchen and end up with an incredibly clean stove! Just keep stirring it around medium or lower heat until everything dissolves. Let it cool a little (If you let it cool too much it will become gelatinous) and then use a funnel and evenly distribute the laundry detergent into the four 1 gallon jugs and then carefully fill them up the rest of the way with your sink water running as hot as possible. (If you add cold water to it it will become chunky but still work.) Be careful filling them because there will be lots of suds! I usually just do a hot water trickle back and forth between them until they’re full and then you are done! Give it a shake before you use it and just add as much as you normally would any other kind of laundry detergent. Seriously: 4 gallons of laundry detergent for only $3.50!
homemade laundry detergent only 3 50 for 4 gallons , cleaning tips
A note about bars of soap. Right now we have a couple of extra bars of Ivory soap left over so that’s what we’ve been using. Once we run out of the Ivory I will be switching to an organic and natural soap that I plan on buying from Amazon or locally. Some soaps are A LOT easier to grate then others! Ivory is a softer soap so I can grate half a bar in just a minute or two. However I have purchased and used other bars of soap where grating them was a real work out and not something I ever want to go through again. So, if you can I would really recommend finding some soft soap!
Wonder why I have a bottle of vinegar in the pictures too? I use it as fabric softener! Anywhere on your washing machine where you would normally put in liquid fabric softener just add a tablespoon of white vinegar instead. It’s all you need! No more fabric sheets, no more buying expensive liquid fabric softener – just use a little white vinegar! Bonus: the white vinegar has the added benefit of helping keep your washing machine clean and mold free as well.
homemade laundry detergent only 3 50 for 4 gallons , cleaning tips
So, how do our clothes smell? I’ve seen lots of Laundry detergent recipes online and they all suggest that you can use essential oils in the recipe. I tried this and it didn’t work – yes the laundry detergent smelled great but by the time our clothes were finished you couldn’t smell it at all – probably because we use vinegar as fabric softener. Considering the cost of essential oils I opted instead to use them elsewhere. Our clothes, in the end, smell like absolutely nothing. I’m serious – they literally smell like nothing. Even with the added vinegar you can’t smell it at all in the end.
So, how does it work? Well, Joe and I are both very active people (I’m either working on the house or out in our horse pasture every single day) Joe is a mason and always outside so his clothes become INCREDIBLY DIRTY. Joe was skeptical when I suggested he try my new recipe (before we were married lol) but he tried it like the good boyfriend he was and he called just to tell me how he couldn’t believe it but it worked BETTER on his dirtiest clothes then the Tide he had been using. I’ve been using this recipe for over five years now and I can also attest that our colors and clothes seem to be holding up better as well.
(To buy the same amount of Tide Laundry Detergent at our local grocery (4 gallons) would be nearly $50!)
That’s it! Its so easy to make that Joe has been making it for us. (Maybe that’s fair though because I only have 1 load of laundry a week while he usually has 2 or 3 . . .) Four gallons lasts us around four months so, as of right now, we’re only spending $10.50 a year on laundry detergent! Vinegar is incredibly inexpensive as well and I literally have not had a break out on my back since I started using it and that’s worth so much to me! If you have skin problems or “bacne” I would really urge you to try this!
Have you checked out my recipe for dishwasher detergent? It’s only .10 a load and it absolutely beat our hard water problem. You can check it out here: How we beat hard water and saved money washing our dishes!

Suggested materials:

  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda  (Amazon)
  • Borax  (Amazon)
  • Bar of Soap (any kind)  (Amazon)

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 32 questions
  • Marnidarr
    on Jan 27, 2017

    Have you ever tried using a liquid soap to replace grating a bar? I think Ivory would have some sort of their own. I was also thinking about Murphy'Oil Soap.

  • Krista
    on Feb 3, 2017

    Is this recipe safe for baby clothes?

  • Pat Riddle
    on Oct 16, 2018

    Does this work in HE front load washers?? If so I will try it..Sounds like a very great idea..And saves tons of $$$$$ thank you

    • GrandmasHouseDIY
      on Feb 13, 2019

      Hi pat, yep I used this in my HE washer/dryer combo every time I do laundry and it works just fine.

Join the conversation

3 of 127 comments
  • Heje
    on Oct 23, 2018

    I too broke out many years back where clothes touched my skin. It was a cheapo detergent that did it - talk about itch! I went to All non-allergenic which helped. I see by your results that this laundry detergent would work for me too. Thanks for the idea and the sharing of your recipe.

  • Nery Lopez
    on Feb 13, 2019

    I buy all the ingredients for make mine today but i buy zote bar soap thats ok .

    • GrandmasHouseDIY
      on Feb 13, 2019

      Hey Nery, yep I would think any bar of soap would work just fine! I like the hypoallergenic dove bars myself

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