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 out of debt—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
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.
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.
Readily available just about in any store, there are numerous versions of Blue Dawn. You’ll see it sold as “Original,” “Ultra Concentrated” and most recently, “Ultra Advanced Power.” While any version of Blue Dawn will work in this recipe, you need to know that Ultra Advanced Power Blue Dawn contains enzymes that will make your own laundry detergent even more awesomely powerful.
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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.
Add about 3 cups water. You’ll see a few bubbles form, but nothing to be concerned about.
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.
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 in 3/4 cup Blue Dawn dishwashing liquid.
Slowly …. you don’t want to create a lot of suds or bubbles.
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.
Now, 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.
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.
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. I know that because when I use that much, the result is stiff, dingy results! In my HE machine, with medium-hard water, I use about 1 tablespoon of this liquid laundry detergent per load.
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.
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. In time, “crystals” will develop in the bottom of the container. No worries, just shake before use and as you get to teh end, use the “crystals.” It’s all the same
Liquid Laundry Detergent
- 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)
- Measure and pour washing soda and borax into the one-gallon container.
- Add 2 to 3 cups cool tap water
- 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.
- 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.
- Measure out and pour in blue Dawn dishwashing liquid. Slowly .... you don't want to create a lot of suds or bubbles.
- 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 tablespoon (front loader) to 1/4 cup detergent (older top loading), 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.
Powdered Laundry Detergent
- 1 bar (5 oz.) Fels-Naptha laundry bar (Note 1)
- 2 cups (14 oz.) borax (Note 2)
- 1 3/4 cups (14 oz.) washing soda (Note 3)
- Grate the entire bar Fels Naptha (or other laundry bar soap (Note 1) using the fine side of a cheese grater.
- Pour grated soap, borax, and washing soda into a large mixing bowl.
- Stir to mix well then transfer mixture to quart-size or larger container (Note 4). Apply the lid and label clearly.
- To Use: Add 1 tablespoon powdered laundry detergent to the wash load. You may need to adjust depending on your conditions and washer size. You will not need much to produce excellent results.
First published: 5-13-13; Most Recent Update: 1-10-21
Soda ash, aka washing soda, is used to lower the ph in swimming pools. You can confirm that here.
Thanks for this easier recipe! I’ve been making my own for a year now & can’t wait to try this version.
Soft water means less detergent required to get the job done. Lucky you!
Experiment by cutting back until you’re satisfied with the outcome.
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.
I wouldn’t say that.
These “experiments” are causing my fabrics to shred. Kitchen towels, bath towels, blue jeans. This washing soda is proving to be incredibly tough on cotton.
Perhaps you are using way too much, and it is not getting completely rinsed out.
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@example.com
“Fairy” is the non-States version of “Dawn.”
A recipe using cruelty-free ingredients would be much appreciated.
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.”
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.
Good one, Linda!
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.
I, too had same issues which led me to this recipe. Hope it helps!
One box of Borax, one box of super washing soda, and one equivalent size of Blue Dawn. Mix the powders well in a big bucket. 3-5 gallon recommended. Mix in Dawn. The mixture will solidify so scoop one big wooden spoonfuls on a piece of large plastic cover that will not absorbed. The whole thing will literally look like a cookie doughs ready to be baked. These “cookie doughs” should dry overnight. Crumble all in the container that was mixed the previous day. Voila! One large load only requires about a small mountain scoop of table spoon. I share with my friends and everyone of them cannot believe how clean the clothes get with such a small amount.
Would you be willing to tell me how much dawn you add to the borax and washing soda ? A standard size bottle of dawn or 3/4
Why does it have to be blue dawn soap? What’s wrong with, say, the green?
Blue Dawn has far more surfactants than the other versions, which make it a much better degreaser and stain remover.
Made my 1st gallon. Looking forward to my 1st load. I’ll let’cha Y’all know the outcome.