Friday, April 27, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Update October 2012: I made this bucket of detergent last April and I still have several inches left in the bottom! We've been using an HE top loader for one month, but up until September we were using a regular ol' top loader! 

I finally ran out of my homemade laundry detergent a couple weeks ago. I had a bottle of store bought detergent my neighbor left when they PCSed last summer and so, great procrastinator that I am, I've just been using that. I've been using the homemade kind for over a year now, I've probably made it twice since I started, it lasts awhile, and the first time I used the store bought detergent the smell of it almost knocked me over. Pulling the clothes out of the dryer was like getting hit in the face with a perfume bottle. It smelled good, I just wasn't used to it.

Since this whole thing with the ammonia in the diapers, I've decided to just go back to my homemade detergent and add water softener to every load to ward off the hard water.

I really like this recipe, I used it on my cloth diapers for about a year and only stopped because I was having problems that turned out to be a result of hard water on base, not my detergent.

This recipe comes from Grocery Cart Challenge.

1/3 bar Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 c. Borax
1/2 c. Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda) 

You'll need a large 5 gallon bucket with a lid and a cheese grater. 

1. Grate the soap and put it in the saucepan with 6 c. water and heat until it melts.* 

2. Add washing soda and borax and stir until dissolved. 

3. Pour 4 c. hot water into your bucket, then add the soap mixture. 

4. Add 22 cups of water and stir.*

5. Put the lid on the bucket and let it sit for 12-24 hours before using.*

6. Use about 1/2 c. of detergent per load of clothes. I use about a 1/4 c. for my cloth diapers. 


  • Don't let the heat get too high, it will start to bubble all over the place. Use the fine grater so the soap melts quicker.
  • 22 cups = 1.4 gallons of water. I used a cleaned out milk jug to measure the water using approximately 1 and a half jugs. 
  • Make sure you get a bucket with a lid. Prevent spills and accidents by keeping the lid secure on the buckets at all times. Never leave a child unattended when the lid is not secure, buckets are known to be drowning hazards (check out the awesome pictures on the side of your buckets for more information). Pets should also be kept away from the bucket, my cat has tried to jump on it before thinking the lid was on when it wasn't. 
  • The detergent will have a weird consistency, part liquid and part jelly. No one part is more important than the other, so don't worry about it. 
  • I doubled the batch this time around, when all 44 cups of water are added in the detergent comes up to about 4 inches from the top of the bucket. I'll probably just eyeball it next time so save myself the pain of measuring, although using the milk jug worked quite well. 


  1. I have been wanting to make some homemade detergent for a while now. I've only seen the powdered version before, so this is good to know!

    1. I almost made the powdered kind this time but decided to just stick with what I know! I also have Calgon water softener and OxiClean but because I am also using the detergent on cloth diapers I just keep those by the washer and add them in separately. It takes a few more steps but it's worth it to have my own home made diaper detergent!

  2. Can you use the Zote soap in place of the Fels Naptha?

    1. I've never used the zote soap myself but a lot of other recipes use it. In fact I've read in some forums that people prefer zote over fels naptha. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!


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