1 Simple Thing: How to Make Homemade HE Laundry Detergent

completed HE soapI’d heard of several people making their own liquid laundry detergent, but there was mixing and boiling involved and I thought “Ugh. No Thank you.” But ever since I’d read how much people were saving making their own detergent, every time I picked up the giant tub of suds at Costco and had to pay way too much money, it made my budget very, very sad. (I mean, you could buy three Costco Whole Roasted Chickens for the same price!)

So when I saw a couple of people come out with this powdered Laundry Detergent recipe I knew I had to give it a try.  Smells great, works great, super easy to make,  and I got all the ingredients for under $35. (And I expect it to last at least six months.)

The first question everyone asks me is “Are you sure it’s safe for HE washers?”  All I can say is that I have scoured the internet looking for anyone who has had a problem with it and have yet to find someone. The main concern is that for HE washers you want a detergent that is less sudsy. Well I’ve sat there and watched my laundry go through a cycle with a store bough HE detergent and this homemade version, (and no, I don’t have better things to do with my time…) and the sudsing was identical.  But, if you are of the super-paranoid variety, $12 a month is a small price to pay for piece of mind. My hubby is super skeptical of “alternative” anything, but even he was convinced to give this a try. So far, we are loving it.

How to Make Homemade HE Laundry Detergent

Ingredients for HE washing soap

Ingredients

3 bars Fels Naptha, grated ($1.33 x 3)
1 box Borax  ($5.75  –  76 ounces)
1 box Washing Soda ($4.00  –  55 ounces)
2 cups of baking soda ($0.65 cents)
2 containers of  Oxyclean ($12.99 for 7.2 pounds)
1-2 containers of Purex fabric softener crystals ($6.97  –  28 ounces) (One bottle was plenty of smell for my gang!)

We found all of the ingredients at Target and at Amazon. I was not very patient to try this out, so I bought all the ingredients right away. Now I’ll be watching for them to go on sale to try and keep the price down even more.

Directions

shredded soap1. Start by grading the Fels Naptha. I see that most people do this with a hand grater, but the soap is not that hard and I was able to use my food processor to grate it all up. Most people want it more grated (and would use a different blade,) but I loved the cheesey look of it.

 

 

 

 

Mixing up Homemade HE Laundry soap

2. Next, mix grated soap and the rest of your ingredients together. It seems that most people mixed right into the tub where they were going to store their soap. I wanted to make sure it got completely mixed up, so I used a big black garbage bag lining my bucket and poured everything in there. (Another hint: do this outside! All the powder can be a lot to breathe in.) Gather up the top of your garbage bag and keep tossing all the ingredients over and over until fully mixed.

 

jug of he soap

And here is your finished product. Store soap in a sealed container with a scoop. I transfer what I’ll need for a month into a smaller jar to keep in my laundry area. Use 2 Tablespoons of detergent for every load of laundry. Make sure to put the detergent DIRECTLY INTO THE TUB, not the detergent dispenser.

There are so many things I love about this homemade detergent:

  1. It’s Cheaper: I’m estimating this will save me between $80-$100 over then next 6-9 months
  2. Less Packaging: better for the enviroment
  3. Less Lugging: I hate with a fiery passion lugging all those giant items home from Costco, but love that I can pick up these small items and keep the tub in my garage
  4. Never Running Out of Laundry Soap – Priceless

And if you’re looking for a liquid detergent recipe, check out One Good Thing by Jillee 

Q4U: Have you made your own laundry detergent before? Do you have other great, ideas about how to keep your bills down? Share them in the comments below. If we love it, you may be asked to write a guest post here on the blog (and receive one of Kathi’s books!)

 

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Comments

  1. For YEARS I have used a much simpler version. A bar, a cup, a cup. A bar of fels naptha (note, any bar soap will do so use one you like the smell of, especially important if you have allergies or sensitive skin), a cup of borax and a cup of washing soda. That’s it. No added smelly stuff. And you only use a single Tablespoon, not two. Even cheaper!

    • Heather Strong says:

      Tara, I use the same recipe, only I use a bar of Ivory soap. I save my fels naptha for stain remover. Wet the end of the bar and rub on stains before throwing in the wash.

    • I use Jillee’s recipe too. I asked about using the little leftover pieces of pink Dove soap and someone replied not to do that. I use fels and/or Zote. I get a kick out of making it and sharing with family. They love it!

    • Melanie says:

      I use the bar,cup, cup recipe, too. I have been making my own detergent for many years. I have an HE washer, and it works great. I use to do the liquid method, the simple one, which was a bar, a cup, a cup and water. Boiling and storing it. I had two 5 gallon buckets, and would fill them up and then a ton of old detergent bottles. I would spend an hour or so and fill them all up to last me awhile. I have a family of 6, so we go through a ton. Well last year I decided to give powder a try, I have never in my life used powder, always been a liquid girl. LOL. Well I tried it and loved it. I grind a bar of Fels in an old food processor, use a cup of washing soda, a cup of borax and a cup of Purex 2 powder. I also use Vinegar for my fabric softener, and no problems. I have seen where you can get a few sponges and store them in a container with fabric softener and just throw one in the dryer, but haven’t tried that yet. I like the vinegar in the washer, as it also makes sure all soap residue is rinsed off, keeps smells out of towels, too.

    • I’ve used the bar, cup, cup recipe too in my old home with my old machine. Our “new” house came with a top loading HE machine, so can I assume from this thread of comments I can continue to use the same recipe? Because it doesn’t create the suds, right? Which is the problem with non-HE detergent (they create too many suds).
      Also, the purex Crystals are for smell and fabric softener? So not necessary then? I’m just trying to be sure I have read everything correctly so as not to screw up our machine. I love the idea of vinegar in the Downy ball, too. Thanks.

  2. Soap nuts; no lugging detergent cans, no running out, can be reused for several loads, add whatever scent you feel like with a few drops of essential oils, or just go with the smell oif clean clothes. NO allergies, no chemicals, CLEAN clothes. I bought a bunch bedfore I got married, after 2 years I have not run out yet. So awesome.

  3. I make my own with a similar formula but without the fabric softener crystals. I use the dollar store brand of oxy. The last batch I made was Sept. 6, 2012, and I estimate I’ve only used 1/4 of it! Our clothes come out clean and nice smelling because of the Fels Naptha soap. (The amount I made was about 5 lbs!)

  4. I make one quite similar to this and love it. Previously I have made the liquid. It is much less expensive and liked it too but I didn’t like that I had to use fabric softener in addition to the soap. Mine won’t last as long because I make it and give it to family members that need it but I will certainly last longer than that box of Tide I pay way too much for.
    I have a front load HE washer and have never had a problem. I do run a homemade vinegar fabric softener once every 10 or so loads to clean up any residue the soap may have left. Leaves my clothes soft and my machine smelling clean.

  5. Can I do this for my HE machine and replace the bars with a box of Zote flakes?

  6. carole Hanna says:

    Just made my first batch!!!!

    • Kathi Lipp says:

      OOOO – let me know how you like it!

      • carole Hanna says:

        So far, I love it! It works great, even gets my 4-year-old son’s clothes clean (and you know what a challenge THAT can be), and I am going to be really curious to see how long it lasts – so far, my little washer-top container is only about 1/3 down after more than two weeks.

  7. Um, am I the only one that didn’t like it? We tried the liquid stuff with the boiling and what-not. We started using it during the winter, and it worked fine. Then, as springtime came around, my husband and daughter were bringing home shirts full of drit, worm guts, and fishing grime. I noticed that even with being pretreated with Oxyclean and Simple Green, then washing with the homemade stuff, the grime was still not coming out. We switched back to store bought detergents and the clothes are brighter, cleaner, and I have to work less on them removing stains.

    • I didn’t like the liquid one either, but this one works. BUT we have a farm and my husband has a physical job,and we have a child that works fast food so even this didn’t work well for everything. I would have special loads that used store bought until I realized there is no degreaser in this.
      Now, I know salts, borax and baking and washing soda, are mild degreasers but people who sweat a lot, have fish goo, motor oil, ect on their clothes need a serious degreaser not a mild one. So I added 1 cup Dawn Ultra, they use it to clean up oil spills, to all the powders before adding the soap. It takes a while. Drizzle some in and work it through until there are no visible lumps. Then add the soap and crystals.
      Clean clothes.

      • Angela Carpenter says:

        WHat was the recipe for the soap you used that you added the Dawn to so I can recreate it. It sounds like a great answer to my grungy clothes probs.

        • Use the recipe in the article. If you can’t find washing soda, it’s just sodium carbonate so you can substitute most powdered non-chlorine bleach for it. Depending on the brand the sodium carbonate may vary from 50%-95%. Cheaper brands usually have the higher percentage.
          Anyway, I dump the box of borax into a large container…LARGE. Mix in 1 cup of dish soap. I used the Dawn Platinum a couple of weeks ago and LOVE it. You want to work the dish soap in until there are no clumps. The borax will feel like the grains are a little larger than before and have a very slight color tint. Then mix in all the other powders- non-chlorine bleach, baking soda, and oxy clean. Mix very thoroughly. Now mix in the grated soap. I prefer ZOTE for the smell and use one pink and one white bar. I’m not sure what the difference is, but they do feel different. Then add the scent crystals if you want to use them.
          Except for the borax (20 Mule Team) and Dawn, I used generic brands. I’ve seen no difference in quality.
          In my he washer it says to dissolve the soap then add the clothes, but that doesn’t work. Load the clothes, then if you can, let the water run over the laundry soap to dissolve it so there are no clumps.
          This works as well as the name brand laundry soaps I was using because the generics didn’t work.
          Oh, yeah. The dish soap does wonders for food stains and grass stains on the kids clothes.

  8. Just wondering – why can’t you put it in the dispenser?

    • kathilipp says:

      Hey Bonnie – In my HE dispenser, it’s only for liquid soap. There may be other kinds of dispensers, but for mine, it has to go into the tub.

      • Ohhhhh. Thanks! Mine has a seperate place for powdered detergent and the instructions say to use it and not add to the tub, so I couldn’t decide what to do. : )

        • kathilipp says:

          Maybe google and see what other people have done. All the ingredients I used are common detergent ingredients, so i’m guessing it would be totally safe!

        • Cortney Mae Griffith says:

          I read on another website using the same ingredients if you mix some with about 2 tbsp of hot water you can add it to the dispenser

    • you should not put it in the dispenser because the water flow trickles through the dispenser and the powder will clog the little dispenser hole. You can take out part of the dispenser, on mine it just snaps out and then you can put your detergent in it then. I got this info from the Sears repairman. I use this recipe for the detergent and I use the pink zote and I love it. I use two tablespoons. per load. Making more today.

  9. Janet Treaster McDonald says:

    You just have to watch your warranty on your washer. If you use the homemade soap, it voids the warranty instantly.

  10. I made a batch of this 9-16-12, and I’m just now running out. But I have plenty of
    of super washing soda and borax left. I didn’t use the fabric softener in mine because I make my own fabric softener dryer sheets. I used Pink Zote soap because the bars are larger, and I like the scent better than Fels Naptha. We haven’t been able to see any difference in our clothes. I’m never going to
    buy store bought again. It may take a little time to put together, but I love that it’s cheaper and lasts me a whole year.

    • Emily Higgs says:

      How do you make your own dryer sheets?!?! :)

      • Hi, Emily. I make mine using diluted liquid fabric softener. I use one cup fabric softener and one cup water mixed together. Pour this mixture into a container with a lid. Then cut white cotton washcloths into 4 squares – or use any cotton or microfiber fabric – and put those in the solution, making sure the fabric squares are saturated. To use, simply take out a square, squeeze out the excess and toss into the dryer. These can be used over and over.

  11. Tiffany Robins says:

    Is it okay to not have it in an air tight container? I have a jar for the detergent but it is not air tight. . .

    • kathilipp says:

      Hey Tiffany – the soap will tend to harden after a few months – I had that happen, but I just broke it up and it was fine!

      • Anonymous says:

        I had the same problem with the soap getting hard. Now, when I am mixing up my batch I take a small square of cheesecloth and fill it with uncooked rice. I put two packets in my container and so far, so good! No 498232285888 at all, it’s been about 4 months since I made this batch. The rice pulls out any moisture.

  12. aurorabisig says:

    I use Zote flakes, which is soooo much easier than grating or using a food processor. Walmart has them and sometimes some of the local groceries stores.

    • Glad to know about the Zote flakes. I cut my bars in half length-wise then in smaller pieces. Put about a cup of the borax or whatever other powders you’re using and add the cut up bar soap to the food processor. Works better that way. Also, I don’t use any fabric softeners so that helps with cost. I find my container needs to be shaken pretty often ’cause the layers settle. Love Kathi’s blog BTW/

  13. Connie Campbell says:

    I have 5 kids and 3 dogs so i feel as if laundry is my life! I have wanted to try making my own in the past but just always come up with the excuse of being too busy…well we are saving money fir a family vacation now so im determined to do all i can! Today is a snow day and I’m out of soap so what better of a day!! I just bought front loaders and so I’m curious if anyone had found a good liquid (i dont think you can use powder but not positive, only had them two weeks) that i use. You can’t use dryer sheets in or dryer i do know, and we have sensitive skin in the house. Typically ALL Free and Clear is all we can use with a fee and clear fabric soap (only because we can’t use dryer sheets)
    Long story short…anyone else in my shoes (or slippers…who can find their shoes with dogs around!)

  14. I made this a year ago December 2012 and we still have about a 1/3 or so left. It is just my husband and i and love the smell, cleaning power, and affordability of this!!!!!! Wonderful.

  15. I have made my own twice. Pretty much the same recipe. I used 1 less bar fels naptha, only 1 oxyclean (it’s expensive), and a 4lb box of baking soda. My teenager that is in college loves it and has been requesting more. I have an HE washer and there has been no gumming, smelly issues.

  16. I was given this recipe by my sister who has four children. I was skeptical with a baby and the stains they Intel. But I gave it a try. I rubbed fels Naptha bar and hydrogen peroxide on the baby poop stains (dried on) prior to washing. Threw it in with 2 tablespoons and WOW!!! I could not believe it!!! Disappeared! !! Thank you so much for sharing.

  17. For years, I used to make my own powder laundry soap. But then I found Jilliee’s concentrated liquid recipe. It is so easy! I can make 2 gallons of the stuff in less than 5 minutes…no boiling required. I have a 2 gallon dispenser and mix 1 cup of borax and 1 cup of washing soda with hot tap water almost to the top. Stir to dissolve, then add 1 cup of Dawn liquid dish soap. I use 1/4 cup per load. It rinses out of my clothes and my HE washer perfectly.

  18. Jackie M. says:

    Do you have to use OxiClean or can you use a generic version of the oxygen bleach? My local grocery store carries a few kinds, Sun Oxygen Bleach, a store brand and OxyClean. With the other two you get twice as much for half the price.

  19. Here’s a tip for the Fels Naptha. Put it on a microwave safe plate and put it in the microwave for about 2ish minutes. You’ll want to stay in the kitchen and watch it to make sure it doesn’t burn. It will get big and poofy. Let it cool, and then you can easily break off chunks. I put the chunks in my food processor and it grinds it into a powder. I find that the Fels Naptha then dissolves completely in the wash. Love it!

  20. Jill Schwalm says:

    Made the homemade fabric softener sheets with the dollar store fabric softener and water, using cut up wash clothes. Had 2 sheets in dryer and could not believe the static cling. Does anyone know a better dryer sheet recipe or reason this had so much static ? Thanks

    • Easy Fabric softener sheets. Have a bucket with fabric softener in it and put sponges in the bucket. When your ready to dry a load take one sponge out and remove excess liquid. Throw it in the dryer while the clothes dry. Then put sponge back in bucket when done. This is better than the washclothes.

    • Brigitte says:

      I use vinegar for fabric softener and never have static cling in my clothes. It’s also anti-bacterial and rinses your clothes free of any residual soap.

    • Don’t cut with water, especially cheaper softeners-they are already so watered down. Wet your wash cloths with the fabric softener and then let the rags dry before use….each rag can be used 5-10 times before having to redo the process.

  21. Janet Lowther says:

    Does this work as well without the stinky Purex crystals?

    This is tempting ’cause every visit to the laundry aisle is pure torment for chemical sensitive folk like my housemate & myself. Most laundry products reek to high heaven. . .

    Thanks!

  22. Janet, YES, it does! I’ve made it both ways. LOVE LOVE LOVE this stuff! I’ve been making it for about 3 years now and REFUSE to buy regular laundry detergent.

  23. I use Dr. Browns lavender bar soap instead of fels and it cleans great and smells amazing (so no fragrance needed). I use my food processor to chop up the bar soap too but add a few handfuls of baking soda to it while it chops and helped my pieces come out finer, more powder like. I read borax can cause oil like stains unless you use hot water and stopped adding it to my recipe and I no longer have that issue. It really is an easy great alternative and money saver!

  24. Kristin says:

    I swear by Charlie’s soap– I buy the big 5 gal bucket dry on Amazon. It’s quite a deal. Once in a while I throw in some oxyclean.

  25. I just made this recipe without the Purex. So far I love it!!! It was fun making it also, I felt like a pioneer woman grating the bars of soap!! Haha!!! But really it does work and I love the smell of it, almost a lemony scent.

  26. Jennifer says:

    going to make a smaller batch of this today for the first time!! I am excited to use it!

  27. Karen F says:

    I have made my own for several years now. I also make my own liquid fabric softener. I just keep refilling my Downy bottle! Hair conditioner. vinegar and water!

    • Hi Karen F – What are the amounts each of the hair conditioner, vinegar and water you use for the liquid fabric softener recipe??

  28. We cut our soap bars up and microwave them and and they crumble like powder than

  29. Hello there, You’ve done an incredible job. I will certainly digg it
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  30. For translating the 1 bar, 1 cup, 1 cup recipe to a liquid, how much water do you use for a front-load HE machine?

  31. Does anyone have an estimate on the number of loads this recipe makes?

  32. I have also heard that you can crumple up aluminum foil in a ball and let the ball tumble in the dryer with your clothes and that is a fabric softener and static cling reducer. The ball can be used time and time again. Anyone else hear of or try this?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes…I use the foil ball and it does work..only problem is. …you can’t put too many clothes in or it doesn’t work as well

  33. Darlene Meppen says:

    If a person doesn’t have an HE washer and have a top loader what is the amount to use?

  34. Morgan Dotson says:

    You said 2 containers of OxyClean but I only see one box in your picture. Is it two of the 7.2 lb containers? or are their multiple containers within that box? Hope I am making sense! Thanks!

  35. Hi. I make my own detergent because I have two teenage boys and want to say $. If you want to get your bar soap grated more finely, after you grate it in the food processor, throw in a cup of the borax and use the regular blade. It will make the soap extra fine and easier to mix into the other ingredients and easier to measure out into the washer!

  36. I was told not to put anything powder in the new HE washer as it will clog and tear it up.

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