Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pinterest Project: Homemade Laundry Detergent

Since I've already tried (and loved!) making homemade cleaning solutions for glass, wood, and other surfaces, I feel like I'm willing to put any homemade product to the test. My family recently ran out of store-bought laundry detergent, so I decided to replace it with a homemade version. I found a recipe from this website through Pinterest. Not only did it seem easy to make, but the author claims that this mix will last a whole year (at four loads of laundry a week)! The recipe cost the author about $28, but included optional ingredients. Being the frugal gal that I am, I decided to test the recipe without the optional ingredients to see if they are really necessary for my family's needs.

My "essentials" recipe consists of four ingredients, which cost me a total of $11.34:

  1. 1 (4 lb 12 oz) Box of Borax- Found in the detergent aisle
  2. 1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda- Found in the detergent aisle
  3. 2 (14.1 oz) Bars of Zote Soap- Found in the detergent aisle
  4. 2 (2 lb) Box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda- Found in the cooking aisle 

The optional ingredients that I chose not to include are OxyClean and fabric softener crystals. I figure that I can add these on an as-needed basis. You will also need a large bucket for mixing your ingredients, and a tool for grating.

There are really only two steps for creating this laundry detergent. First, you have to grate the bar of Zote Soap.

Grating the soap was by far the hardest and most time-consuming part of this process. Even though the website claims that you could use a food processor for this task, I decided to go at it by hand. I wanted to avoid the hassle of cleaning out the processor, mostly because I didn't know how hard it would be to get all the soap off. I really didn't want soapy food in the future. So, in an effort to make grating by hand easier, I tried slicing the bar into manageable-sized chunks. I even periodically cleaned the blades of our hand-cranked grater in order to keep the little holes from gunking up.

By the end, my hands were so tired of grating that I couldn't finish the final chunk of soap without having to take a break. But, seeing as I was impatient to start mixing, I called on Jon to do the last little chunk. Next time, I may brave the food processor because the soap wasn't that hard to get off.

The second and only other step is mixing all your ingredients. I sat on my kitchen floor to do this part. The author of the original recipe recommended adding ingredients in increments as you mix, which was a great tip. It would have been difficult to evenly distribute all the parts if I dumped all of each ingredient in before mixing.

The consistency reminds me of a cake mix with coconut flakes in it.
I've used my new detergent for a week now, and I'm very happy with the results. Even without the extra ingredients, my laundry feels soft and smells great. I don't know if I'll ever go back to store-bought detergents since this homemade version is so cheap!

Now if only I knew it was safe for cloth diapers! I may have to do a test-run in the future.


  1. My understanding is that it'd be fine, with the possible exception of the soap- we use Dr. Bronner's unscented in our recipe, and friends with kids have used it on cloth diapers with no reported problems. It does cost about $4-5 a bar though.

    1. Thanks, Emma. I may have to use Dr. Bronner's soap in my next mix! :)

  2. Have you found this works with the cloth diapers in getting stubborn stains out?

    1. I haven't tried it on cloth diapers yet, since I still have plenty of diaper-safe detergent to use up right now. However, many of my cloth diapering facebook friends have told me that the detergent should be safe for diapers. Sorry I can't give any more feedback than that!

  3. Alison,

    How much do you use per load? And would that be a standard sized load in a standard sized washing machine?


    1. I use 2-4 tablespoons, depending on the load size, and how dirty the load (and yes, with a standard sized washer). I do about two large laundry loads a week and I still haven't used up my first batch! I think it may take me till the end of the year to use up!