A collage of two photos showing femal pouring powder and liquid laundry detergent into washer

How to Make the Best Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

I’m not proud to admit it, but there was a time that I would’ve rather shoved toothpicks under my fingernails than be bothered with making my own homemade laundry detergent. Are you kidding me? Why on earth would I do that? I’m happy to live in modern times, not the stone age for goodness’ sake!

Oh my, how arrogant and ignorant I was. And deeply, horribly in debt to prove it. Long story short, I learned how to cut expenses—to scrimp where it doesn’t matter in order have what matters most. And yes, I most willingly learned to make my own homemade laundry detergent for cheap—less than a nickel a load, giving up spending $ .35 or even $.50 a load for the ready-made options. And I got paid off a massive amount of credit card debt, now happily debt-free with more joy than I can possibly express.

 

 

Look, I’m not saying that making laundry detergent is going to get you out of debt. That one move on its own will, at best, make a small dent in your weekly grocery tab. But add that to hundreds of other changes (hang around me with and I’ll teach you), and your life will change in dramatic ways. Just think about it.

In the meantime let me show you how quick and easy it is to do this:

Liquid laundry detergent

To make one-gallon liquid laundry detergent, you need these items:

  • 1-gallon container with a lid
  • 3/4 cup borax
  • 3/4 cup washing soda
  • 3/4 cup blue Dawn

 

empty plastic one gallon water bottle with lid

 

Borax. You can find Twenty-Mule Team Borax, or any brands of borax, in the laundry aisle of your supermarket or a department store like Walmart or Target. Also online.

Washing soda. Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (sodium carbonate) is the brand of washing soda available in many supermarkets and stores like Walmart and Target and online.

An alternative to branded washing soda is soda ash (also sodium carbonate). Soda ash is the generic form and exactly the same thing as washing soda (not to be confused with baking soda) and is used in swimming pools to fix the ph. It’s readily available in pool supply stores or even larger department stores that carry pool chlorine and so forth, or online.

Blue Dawn dishwashing liquid. Readily available just about in any store, there are numerous versions of blue Dawn. I’ve seen it sold as “Original,” “Ultra Concentrated” and most recently, “Advanced Power.” I’ve tested all of them and I can detect no difference in the final product we’re going to make here. Just make sure it is blue Dawn.

 

Ingredients for making laundry sop on kitchen counter

Notice I am using blue Dawn Advanced Power, but I could have just as easily and effectively used …

Blue dawn bottle

Step 1:

Pour 3/4 cup borax and 3/4 cup washing soda (or soda ash as I am using in this tutorial) into the empty one-gallon container.

Preparing ingredients

Step 2:

Add about 3 cups water. You’ll see a few bubbles form, but nothing to be concerned about.

Adding water to ingredients on counter

Step 3:

Apply the lid and shake the container vigorously until the powdered ingredients appear to be dissolving. Give yourself a little workout here and shake it well so it looks incorporated and milky like this.

Adding water to ingredients on counter

Step 4:

Fill the container with tap water to within about an inch of the top, more or less depending on the shape of your container. You want to leave enough room for the Dawn which is coming up.

Adding water to ingredients on counter

Bottle with ingredients in the sink of the kitchen

Step 5:

Pour in 3/4 cup blue Dawn dishwashing liquid.

Dawn dish shop in mesuering cup

Slowly …. you don’t want to create a lot of suds or bubbles.

Pouring soap into bottle of water and other ingredients

Step 6:

Once you’ve poured in all of the Dawn, fill that measuring cup with more water so you can top off the container and rinse out the last of the Dawn.

Adding more water to the mixture in bottle

Now, if you still have room, add more water until you are about 1/2-inch from the top.

Step 7:

Apply the lid. This should be quite easy because you will not be contending with suds or bubbles. Notice how the dawn is not fully mixed up. That’s fine. Just get that lid on tightly.

Mixture sitting in the bootle waiting to me mixed

Step 8:

Instead of shaking it now just put the container on its side and roll it around a bit to get everything mixed.

Bottle being rolled to mix

Soap in bottle after mixing

Notice that without any kind of cleaning up at all, the counter is dry with no mess, no suds—quite clean and tidy, don’t you think? Yay! We’ve overcome the suds-to-infinity problem so many of my readers encountered with earlier instructions.

Take a moment to admire your beautiful homemade product and then let’s get to the laundry room where you will need your gallon of laundry detergent and a 1/4-cup measure.

Mesuering cup on counter

Measure out 1/4 cup detergent, more or less depending on the size and type of washer you have, and the hardness level of the water where you live. I know that sounds nebulous. Understand that you will need to experiment to find exactly the right amount for your individual conditions.

The photos in this tutorial go back to when I had an LG Wave Force top-loading HE machine. I routinely used 1/4 cup of this detergent in that washer where I lived in Orange County Calif., where the water is very hard—17 grains!

Now, I live in Colorado, where the water is not as hard and I have a front loading GE washer—which uses very little water. I can’t believe how little! One-quarter cup is way too much for this machine. In my HE machine, with medium-hard water, I use about 1 tablespoon of this liquid laundry detergent per load.

 

mesuering cup full of soap for washing machine

Pour it in the way you have always added detergent to your washer. If you have a little detergent dispenser, that’s where this tidy 1/4 cup of beautiful liquid goes.

This liquid laundry detergent is absolutely suited for HE (high efficiency) machines because when diluted even further in the wash load, it produces no suds, which is the difference between traditional and HE detergents.

 

Soap getting poured into washing machine

Pro-tip. Between uses, the container of liquid laundry detergent will appear to be separating. No worries. Just make sure you shake the container well before each use.

 

Print Recipe
3.67 from 6 votes

Liquid Laundry Detergent

Step by step instructions for how to make laundry detergent is easy, cheap and effective in standard and HE washers. Save money and avoid harsh chemicals with this ORIGINAL recipe and procedure for liquid homemade laundry detergent. It is so good and costs less than 5 cents per load.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Total Time10 mins
Course: Housekeeping
Cuisine: Laundry
Servings: 34 Loads
Author: Mary
Cost: $2

Equipment

  • One-gallon container with tight fitting lid
  • Measuring cup

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup super washing soda, like Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (Note 1)
  • 3/4 cup borax, like Twenty-Mule Team Borax (Note 2)
  • 3/4 cup Original Blue Dawn (Note 3)

Instructions

  • Measure and pour washing soda and borax into the one-gallon container.
  • Add 2 to 3 cups cool tap water
    Mixing borax and washing soda in a plastic jug
  • Apply the lid and shake the container vigorously until the powdered ingredients appear to be dissolving. Give yourself a little workout here and shake it well so it looks incorporated and milky like this.
    Mixing borax and washing soda in plastic jug
  • Fill the container with tap water to within about an inch of the top, more or less depending on the shape of your container. You want to leave enough room for the Dawn which is coming up.
    Pour water into plastic bottle in process of making liquid laundry detergent
  • Measure out and pour in blue Dawn dishwashing liquid. Slowly .... you don't want to create a lot of suds or bubbles.
    Pouring 3/4 cup Blue Dawn in process making liquid laundry detergent
  • Once you've poured in all of the Dawn, fill that measuring cup with more water so you can top off the container and rinse out the last of the Dawn. If you still have room, add more water until you are about 1/2-inch from the top.
  • Apply the lid. This should be quite easy because you will not be contending with suds or bubbles. Notice how the dawn is not fully mixed up. That's fine. Just get that lid on tightly.
  • Instead of shaking it now just put the container on its side and roll it around a bit to get everything mixed. Notice that without any kind of cleaning up at all, the counter is dry with no mess, no suds—quite clean and tidy, don't you think? Yay! We've overcome the suds-to-infinity problem so many of my readers encountered with earlier instructions.
  • To Use: Measure out 1/4 cup detergent, more or less depending on the size and type of washer you have, and the hardness level of the water where you live. I know that sounds nebulous. Understand that you will need to experiment to find exactly the right amount for your individual conditions. If you have front-loading HE washer, start with just 1 tablespoon! That type washer uses very little water, so you want to make sure the detergent will be well rinsed out on the last rinse cycle.
    Using 1/4 cup homemade laundry detergent in top loading machine

Notes

Note 1: Washing soda is the commercial name for soda ash, which is much cheaper than branded Arm & Hammer Washing Soda. Caution: Washing soda is not the same as baking soda. Washing soda is definitely not edible!
Note 2: Find it in the laundry product aisle of most supermarkets or stores like Walmart and Target.
Note 3: Blue Dawn only, please. Other colors or "brands" do not contain the proprietary formula that makes Blue Dawn a fabulous degreaser, even in this highly diluted state.
Note 4: You may notice your detergent developing "crystals" in the bottom of the container, as the detergent ages. These crystals are completely harmless, if only slightly annoying. One of the properties of borax, which is a naturally occurring mineral mined from underground, is that it clumps easily when exposed to humidity. The clumping or hardening action is hastened with heat.
Pro-tip: If you end up with a clump of crystal in the bottom of the container, whack it with the end of a wooden spoon or some other implement to break it up. Then use it up as if it were completely liquified—crystals and all. Your laundry will still come out clean and lovely. If you are still bothered by these crystals, consider making smaller batches of laundry detergent that you will up more quickly.

First published: 5-13-13; Most Recent Update: 9-28-19


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35 replies
  1. Cally Ross
    Cally Ross says:

    I, too, heat the water before adding to the dry ingredients. I start with 4 cups heated in the microwave, pour it into the jug with the dry ingredients, shake just a bit, and do another task, in 10 minutes or so i shake again. when there’s no visible powder i add cold water and the Dawn. easy-peasy!

    Reply
  2. David E Stevenson
    David E Stevenson says:

    I’m wondering if the liquid recipe is safe to use with bleach? The cautions on the bottle of blue dawn say not to add bleach.
    David

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Of course I would caution you to obey. However, I choose for myself to use bleach with both versions, and without problem. For many years.

      Reply
  3. Regina
    Regina says:

    I have used your laundry recipe for years & I love it.
    I believe it is Borax that is used in pools to raise the PH rather than the washing soda. I also use Borax in my pool, another great money saver.
    Thanks so much for all your great tips.

    Reply
  4. Laurie T.
    Laurie T. says:

    I made and used your recipe for detergent for many months, but had to stop. I know it’s our softened (horrible) well water that is the problem, but any clothing that got sweaty developed yellow stains around the neck and armpits. I tried many remedies, but only bleach was successful in removing them. That was fine for white items, but other clothing items were ruined. Had to go back to Kirkland and I no longer have the problem. We have very rusty, yucky water, so I’m sure that’s the issue, even with our water softener.

    Reply
  5. Tanya saron
    Tanya saron says:

    Hi my name is Tanya and I live in Australia Queensland. I love the sound of your washing liquid and would love to make it but I don’t know what to replace the dawn as I don’t think we get that in Australia. Please send. Email back to me as also I wouldn’t know how to get your answer back to my question on this site as I have 8 children and would love to cut down my costs in the household. [email protected]

    Reply
    • wiselady2
      wiselady2 says:

      Wondering why Upsamom thinks these ingredients aren’t “cruelty free”? Soda and borax are simply dug from the earth, nothing could be more natural than that. Dawn has a grease emulsifier, and works great to wash a dirty pet, so that can’t be considered “cruel.”

      Reply
      • Upsamom
        Upsamom says:

        Dawn is a Proctor & Gamble product which does animal testing. Don’t be fooled by their commercials that they are pet friendly when shown washing oil spills off wildlife. Yes, that is a good thing but any company that tests on animals is not!

    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      I believe I would, provided that non-HE machine uses more water. You really have little to lose by experimenting! If you overdo it, you can simply put that load through another rinse, or full cycle with no detergent added.

      Reply
  6. Matthew Butler
    Matthew Butler says:

    Wouldn’t the oxidizer in borax (haven’t read the msds, I’m sure there is one) and soda ash be better to add as a powder for each load? Doesn’t mixing it with water activate the oxidizer so when you go to use it as a liquid it’s not as effective?

    Reply
  7. Iole Damaskinos
    Iole Damaskinos says:

    Have you ever used olive oil or other plant based grated natural soap in place of Dawn? I am worried about build up blocking the drainage system.

    Reply
  8. Linda
    Linda says:

    Here’s a handy idea: Take an empty Tide 2 gallon lay-on-its-side pushbutton dispenser, fill it half full (so its easy to lift if mixing needs to be done) of the laundry mixture Mary Hunt recommends, and voila, no more trying to dispense detergent into a 1/4 cup measure from a big heavy bottle.

    Reply
  9. Tammy Airey
    Tammy Airey says:

    When I make this detergent, I get small “pebbles” of the dry ingredients, I guess, after a time and they don’t mix again when shaking. Anyone else encounter this? I am certain that they are all incorporated in the first mixing process.

    Reply
    • Penny C
      Penny C says:

      I heat a pot of water on the stove and dissolve the borax and washing soda that way. Let cool and add dawn and the rest of the water to a gallon size pickle jar or other container. I let that sit overnight (to check for complete dissolving of dry ingredients) and then pour the laundry soap into an old (clean) repurposed laundry detergent bottle so there is no confusion as to what the product is.

      Reply
      • Debbie Trojahn
        Debbie Trojahn says:

        While I like this recipe, mine also formed crystals. Here is what I figured out. I have to heat my water in the microwave, mix in Borax and soda and mix until clear. Even with that, I’ve had crystals, so I usually leave it out over night on the counter. (Reheat in the microwave it if I have any crystals.) At this point I can mix it up with the Dawn and it will be fine.

  10. Nancy Richter
    Nancy Richter says:

    I’m confused just hot used to formula 3T washing soda 3T Borax 2T Dawn using 1 c in washer plus vinegar is rinse water I keep bar of Fels Naptha for spots so why back to original formula???

    Reply
  11. Donna
    Donna says:

    My question is how does this recipe work with soft water? I now live in an area where we have soft well water. Where I moved from we had hard water. I’ve used a homemade laundry soap where I mix 2 TBSP of dawn, 1/4 cup of borax, and 1/3 cup of washing soda to one gallon of water for several months now. Almost a year. It worked fine in the hard water, but since we’ve moved, some of my clothes are starting to smell. I haven’t changed the way I make or use the laundry soap. As I was searching for a detergent I could use I came across this recipe. Since it is so similar to what I’ve been using, I am just wondering if anyone has used it in soft water and had consistently good results over time, say at least 6 months, since that is almost how long I have been using soft water.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Soft water means less detergent required to get the job done. Lucky you!
      Experiment by cutting back until you’re satisfied with the outcome.

      Reply

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