Being frugal……homemade laundry detergent

Many preppers today are doing so out of fear of inflation and the economy. More and more people are shopping sales, using coupons, and shopping discount centers. Part of my inflation protection system is stocking up on many commonly used household items such as shampoo, body wash, soap, toilet paper, dish detergent, and laundry detergent. I buy when on sale and stock up. 


With two action-packed boys we go through a lot of laundry detergent. My wife and I typically buy large containers of liquid detergent at SAM’s. I had heard of people making their own detergent and decided to give it a shot.


There are lots of instructions available online and I choose to make a powered version.


Here is the lowdown – 

The detergent is made from three ingredients – 

  • bar of soap (Ivory, Fels-Naptha)
  • Borax (20 Mule Team brand)
  • washing soda (Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda)


I bought everything at Wal-Mart.



Putting it all together:
  1. The first step to making the detergent is shaving the bar of soap into little pieces. A cheese grater works great. Shave the whole bar into a bowl.
  2. Add 1 cup of Borax to the bowl.
  3. Add 1 cup of washing soda to the bowl.
  4. Stir thoroughly
  5. Done.


Usage is pretty simple. For each load add 1 tablespoon. If clothes are real dirty – 2-3 tablespoons will work just fine.




The 20 Mule Team Borax cost $3.38. The Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda cost $3.24. Grand total was $6.62 plus the cost of bar soap.  Actual cost per load with this recipe is about .05 cents – a nickel. About the cheapest I can buy commercial detergent for is .08 cents per load. 


Not bad.


I plan to make up a few 5 gallon buckets of this mixture. Should last a few years.


 – Rourke


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15 thoughts on “Being frugal……homemade laundry detergent”

  1. Enjoy your site and the info you share. We bought a washing machine that the instructions say we are to use washing powders marked HE Only. I am assuming this has something to do with high effiencey and using any other type soap might clog the machine. Do you use this mixture in a HE type washing machine?

    • HC –

      I don’t however from what I have read the HE-only stuff is a scam to make more money. I don’t know that for sure but I have read online that many HE owners use this mix.

      Thanks – Rourke

  2. We have been making our own laundry detergent for almost a year now. We decided that not only being frugal, making our own laundry soap would help eliminate some allergies and sensitivities to the commercial soaps I had recently developed. We love it…. The clothes are just as clean as when we used the commercial stuff and the frugality of it just made more sense.
    I did however, modify the same recipe you are using. I use 2 cups of the Washing soda and 2 cups of Borax with one bar of ‘Fels Naptha Soap. When I use the clothes dryer and not just a clothes line or drying rack, I place 2 -3 drops of an essential Oil on a damp sock and throw it in the dryer with the washed laundry batch. The aroma of the essential oil goes through out the entire load of laundry leaving it smelling wonderfully clean. I use essential oil of Bergamot, but any pleasant smelling essential oil will work. You may want to try Lemon Oil, or Essential oil of Pine or Cedar.

  3. My wife has been doing this for years. When we walk down the Laundry detergent isle, we laugh out loudly at the people that buy that overpriced garbage.

  4. We do the same here Rourke. My advice is to also also to use warm to hot while filling the washer, long enough to help desolve the powder, then add your clothes and switch to your desired settings.

  5. I have been using this for about 6 months. I have many chemical allergies (soaps,shampoos, lotions, etc.) and this has taken care of much of them. Castile soap instead of Fels works well also.

  6. You can pop the soap bars in the microwave until they stop swelling up and then just crumble them in your hand into powder. It’s way easier than cheese grating and far less messy.

  7. The only drawback to this soap is that with some water systems, it can make your whites dingy – and set in body stains – like sweat stains. We have to switch to a commercial soap for our whites. We use city water in a major metropolitan area.

  8. I make the liquid version of this detergent and add a couple of tablespoons of Tri Sodium Phosphate to the five gallons of liquid that this recipe makes. The TSP helps to get the oily sweat of summer out of your wash.

    The dish detergent formula is very similar to the laundry version as well.

  9. I prefer the Fels Naptha; it is very effective for removing stains, all by itself. Here’s a tip (and this is useful for any BAR SOAP): take the soap out of the package and allow it to air dry for several days, turning once in a while, then return it to its package. Soap that is hardened is easier to flake for making your laundry detergent AND soap that is hardened lasts longer – make your $$$ stretch even further!

  10. Nitpick: re: “.05 cents – a nickel”

    .05 cents is not a nickel. .05 dollars is a nickel.

    Will try this detergent soon; I don’t like perfumes and additives.


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