laundry room detergent

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!

laundry room detergent

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
  • water
  • 3/4 cup blue Dawn

 

A glass cup on a counter, with Detergent and Laundry

 

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

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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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.

Detergent and Laundry

Step 2:

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

Detergent and Laundry

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.

Detergent and Laundry

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.

Detergent and Laundry

Detergent and Laundry

Step 5:

Pour in 3/4 cup Blue Dawn dishwashing liquid.

Detergent and Laundry

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

A glass of wine, with Detergent and Laundry

 

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.

Detergent and Laundry

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.

A glass bottle next to a window, with Detergent and Laundry

Step 8:

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

Detergent and Laundry

Detergent and Laundry

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.

A plate with a fork, with Detergent and Laundry

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.

 

Detergent and Laundry

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.

HE Compatible

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.

 

Detergent and Laundry

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

 

Close-up Of Female Hands Pouring homemade laundry detergent In The Blue Bottle Cap

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.
4.04 from 25 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Housekeeping
Cuisine: Laundry
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 34 Loads
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.
    Detergent and Laundry
  • Add 2 to 3 cups cool tap water
    Detergent and Laundry
  • 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.
    Detergent and Laundry
  • Measure out and pour in blue Dawn dishwashing liquid. Slowly .... you don't want to create a lot of suds or bubbles.
    Detergent and Laundry
  • 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.
    A glass bottle next to a window, with Detergent and Laundry
  • 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.
    Detergent and Laundry
  • 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.
    Detergent and Laundry

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.
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

 

Detergent and Laundry

Powdered Laundry Detergent

Making 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 making powdered homemade laundry detergent. It is so good and costs less than 5 cents per load.
4.38 from 8 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Housekeeping
Cuisine: Laundry
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 75 wash loads
Cost: $3

Equipment

  • 1-quart (32 oz.) or larger container with lid
  • cheese grater

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

  • Grate the entire bar Fels Naptha (or other laundry bar soap (Note 1) using the fine side of a cheese grater.
    Laundry and Detergent
  • Pour grated soap, borax, and washing soda into a large mixing bowl.
    A bowl of rice on a plate, with Laundry and Detergent
  • Stir to mix well then transfer mixture to quart-size or larger container (Note 4). Apply the lid and label clearly.
    Laundry and Detergent
  • 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.

Notes

Note 1: Or ZOTE, Dr. Bronner's Castile Bar, or Ivory.
Note 2: Twenty-Mule Team Borax is one brand, which is available in the laundry products aisle of most supermarkets and stores like Walmart and Target. 
Note 3: Super Washing Soda is a brand name by Arm & Hammer. The product is sodium carbonate (not the same as baking soda). Soda ash is its generic name and much cheaper! Buy soda ash in swimming pool supply stores, or online for a fraction of the cost. 
Note 4: Alternatively, you can pour the mixture into your blender or food processor to create a fine powder that will dissolve more readily in a cold water wash cycle. It's a messy process because you'll create a lot of dust needs to settle before proceeding. Be careful not to breathe that fine powder that will be produced.
Pro-tip: This recipe for powdered laundry detergent multiples well. Shake or stir it a bit before each use to keep everything evenly distributed.
Pro-tip: This recipe for powdered laundry detergent multiples well. Shake or stir it a bit before each use to keep everything evenly distributed.
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

First published: 5-13-13; Most Recent Update: 1-10-21


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28 replies
Newer Comments »
  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
    • AmyK says:

      2 stars
      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.

      Reply
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