I made my own homemade laundry detergent! (and dishwasher detergent, too!)

by jolyn on January 29, 2010

in recipes

One of my goal’s for 2010 was to try making homemade laundry detergent. I am happy to say that January has nary gone by and I have not only attempted my first recipe, but it was a resounding success. And not only did I make detergent for laundry, but for the dishwasher as well!

There are many recipes floating out there around the internet. I found this recipe for a powder detergent, because I’m just a powder laundry detergent kind of gal. Plus, it looked easier than the gel recipes I found.

Powder Laundry Detergent: 1 Tablespoon/load

  1. 1 bar Fels Naptha soap
  2. 1/2 cup Borax
  3. 1/2 cup Washing Soda

I found a dishwasher detergent recipe from a blogger who also makes her own laundry detergent, but I noticed her recipe for that was a bit different from the one above. (Feel free to try both recipes and let me know the difference!)

Powder Dishwasher Detergent: 2 Tablespoons/load, divided

  1. 1 cup Borax
  2. 1 cup Baking Soda
  3. 1 Tablespoon Lemi Shine

I made the laundry detergent first. First, I grated the Fels Naptha.

And I grated.

And grated.

I highly recommend doing this while watching a good show — “24″ works well. Jack Bauer keeps the adrenaline pumping.

I finally called in a willing backup.

Whew! Now that’s done, time to add the Borax and Washing Soda and stir.

And stir.

And stir.

It finally occurred to me that I might have found a good use for my sifter.

Again, I highly recommend some Jack Bauer to keep the adrenaline going. This took a bit.

The finished product.

At 1 tablespoon a load (2 for heavily soiled), this ought to last awhile.

I tested this right away on some, um, soiled sheets. My 5yo had just gotten a cold… Ever since he contracted e-coli back in August, every cold or little sniffle he gets seems to go right to his bladder control, poor mom guy. I was washing sheets every morning for a couple of days straight. The new detergent worked like a charm. I even stuffed my face in them and took a big whiff.

The dishwasher detergent was easier than making oatmeal. You just mix these:

Into the finished product:

Again, it works fine. I’ve also followed a tip to add a little vinegar as a rinse agent. Just today I found some name-brand rinsing agent buried under my kitchen sink. I’ll go ahead and use that up; I’m curious if I’ll notice a difference.

I’m not going to try to cost-compare a batch of this stuff vs. a batch of store-bought detergent — just not in the mood to geeky-crunch numbers right now. Based on the cost of buying the ingredients in bulk, it’s pretty darn cheap.

Ingredients for Homemade Laundry and Dishwasher Detergent (powder versions):

  1. Box of Borax: $2.79
  2. Box of Washing Soda: $2.05
  3. Bar of Fels Naptha: $1.29
  4. Box of Baking Soda: $1.99
  5. Thing of Lemi-Shine: $3.19

I found everything but the Fels Naptha at the commissary on base. The super wally-mart here didn’t carry it either– they looked at me like I was from another planet when I told them what I was looking for. I finally found it in the detergent aisle at Kroger’s.

Any homemade cleaning recipes you’d like to share? I’m kind of on a roll here.

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Homemade Dishwasher Detergent: An Update
March 22, 2010 at 11:32 pm

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Carolyn July 12, 2010 at 10:40 am

I love the laundry soap. We used the food processor to shred the bar soap (I used Ivory).

I did not like the dishwasher detergent. It seemed to leave a film on everything and spots on the glasses.

[Reply]

jolyn Reply:

I totally agree about the dishwasher detergent. I wrote an update on that recipe; I ended up doubling the amount of Lemi Shine and have been much happier since. However, a big point was to spend less than on store-bought and when I ran the numbers I don’t think that is the case.

Do you also use the food processor for food? Or is it a dedicated soap shredder?

[Reply]

Forest June 11, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Great stuff, are you still using this and have you perfected a recipe? I started washing my hair with baking soda and vinegar with great success…. I have been looking for a use for egg yolks (as I mainly just eat the whites) for a while too and just last night I met someone who washes his hair with egg yolk.

[Reply]

jolyn Reply:

I am still using and loving the laundry detergent recipe as-is. I tweaked the dishwasher detergent by adding 2 Tablespoons of Lemi Shine rather than just one. I didn’t think my glassware was looking crystal clear. I do like how the recipe works now, but when I tallied the numbers I found I wasn’t saving money compared to the cost of the store-bought I liked, which was really the point for me. I’m still using the recipe, though — buying the ingredients in bulk sure lasts you a long time!

[Reply]

Cathie May 7, 2010 at 11:36 am

Love your site, we are also trying to become debt free. Thanks for the dishwashing soap recipe. Saved me a trip to the store! I am going to use this from now on.

[Reply]

Patty March 10, 2010 at 12:38 pm

If anyone has a Salad Shooter…that’s what I use to grate my Fels Naptha soap. If you don’t own one, maybe you can look for one at a yard sale or thrift store. I think they are running around $25 at the store; over time it would pay for itself (it would take some time) but it definately makes the grating job fast and simple.

[Reply]

jolyn Reply:

Ooh, I am definitely going to start keeping an eye out for a second-hand one.

[Reply]

Selena Lee-Murphy February 1, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Hello,
I have enjoyed reading your posts. I found a easy recipe for home-made furniture polish. Use lemon juice and olive oil. Simply mix 2/3 olive oil with 1/3 lemon juice. The quantity depends on how much you want to make at once (ie. 2/3 cup, 2/3 oz etc. to 1/3 cup,1/3 oz etc) I have used it on real wood, engineered wood equally and found it to work quite will on either. It leaves the furniture with a luster that I have not found in the store bought products. Quick and cheap and works great!

[Reply]

jolyn Reply:

I had never thought about making my own furniture polish! Maybe if I cleaned more often…
I’m going to keep this in mind… I dust so seldom (yes, I said it) one batch of this would probably last me awhile! Just gotta clean enough to use up what I already have… ;)

[Reply]

Carmen February 1, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Un.be.lieve.a.ble…

(and I mean that in the kindest way) You know, Laura Ingalls Wilder is in our family line. Olivia should read those books. How’s that for a ramndom post!

[Reply]

jolyn Reply:

I don’t know when I’ll be able to pull Olivia away from her “fairy” books! She’s a bit obsesses right now.
You’re kidding about the Laura Ingalls line, right?

[Reply]

Jerilyn January 31, 2010 at 1:21 pm

I don’t always use softener because I like my sheets crispy and my towels super absorbent – which they won’t be with fabric softener. But when I do use the sheets, I only use 1/2 a sheet for a full dryer load. Less for a smaller load. Still does the job and you don’t get all that stuff loaded on your clothes.
I will try the vinegar, though. That sounds good.

[Reply]

momstheword January 30, 2010 at 3:38 pm

I haven’t tried this yet, but I’ve wanted too. I’ve heard that some people use their food processor to grate their soap, but I think you’d want to wash it really well afterwards, so you aren’t eating that stuff.

I hope it a week or two you’ll do a review and let us know what you think about how they are working for you. Sounds good so far.

I use vinegar as a softener, but also have some sheets that I bought.

[Reply]

jolyn Reply:

Actually, I’ve been using both for about a week now and so far so good. For laundry, I’ve mostly done sheets;I’m getting ready to do a bunch of laundry this weekend (including the nasty socks and undies) so I’ll update this post after my final verdict.
“Our Lives” (commenter above) uses her food processor to chop up her soap. I would have tried it if I had one! Sifting that soap was a bit of a workout.

[Reply]

Our Lives January 30, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Hi Jolyn, congratulations on your first batch of home made detergent!!! :)
We have not looked back since we did our first batch this past summer. My dish washer is out of service right now so I have been the “machine” and have not made the dish detergent for about a week now. That one literally took less than 5 minutes to make!
I didn’t crunch the number either but I KNOW we have been saving some money for all of the powders we were buying because we actually have money left over from the non-food envelope.
We don’t use fabric softener. Vinegar is much cheaper and more environmental friendlier. The best part is, it doesn’t smell like salad dressing when your laundry is done, but a rather clean, fresh smell. Just be sure to pour only one ounce of the vinegar and fill the rest with water into the fabric softener container in your washing machine.
Mary Hunt said something about pouring vinegar into your washer but didn’t specified the “softener container”. So I ruined some of our clothes by pouring the vinegar directly into the washer. An expensive lesson and that’s why I always mention the part “be sure to pour it in your softener container” when I talk about using the home made detergent to do laundry. See, I did it again. that’s ok, I am a grandma so I could sound like a grandma repeating myself constantly. :)
What is your next money saving project Jolyn? I have two lined up to post soon.

[Reply]

jolyn Reply:

You saw I linked to your recipes, yes?
I’m thinking of trying this “homemade” fabric softener trick. I do use sheets in the dryer — I’ve actually never used the “softener container” in the washer… When you say 1 oz. of vinegar and “the rest” water, how much is “the rest”? I had never heard of using vinegar as a softener, so I am very interested in trying it. (Especially handy for those things you might want to air dry.) (At least once it gets warmer.) (Since we’re in the dead of winter here unlike SOME people!)
Hmmm… As I was making our pancakes this morning, I was thinking of what bread product I want to try next. Maybe tortillas? I just stocked up on those at the store, so…
What are yours??

[Reply]

Our Lives Reply:

Yes, Jolyn, thank you for linking to my recipe. :)
As with the fabric softener, I used Bounce for years. Then when I started to live “greener” in 2008, I switched to the lavender scent reusable dryer bags. I bought those from Trader Jose’s. Then I read of Mary Hunt’s tip on the vinegar so I gave it a try (as I mentioned above that it did cost me a few loads of ruined (shredded) clothes). We never used the softener container either until my husband figured it out (he didn’t know I poured the vinegar directly onto the clothes inside the washer. Oops.) and put the container in its place for me to do it. He said to pour in one ounce of vinegar and fill up the container with water to the top of the container (that’s what I meant by “the rest with water”). I did it and the laundry came out so soft and so fresh. Oh talking about it makes me want to get up and do a load of laundry!
And yes, I do wash my food processor thoroughly after each use, whether it was food or the detergent I had just processed. If you noticed in my step by step illustrations, I only have one or two related items on the counter when I make my detergent. I am nuts when it comes to contamination (I used to work in a Clean Room environment repairing hard drives so I am brainwashed for impurity contaminations. :) )
Oh, and the sun is still shining here. Sorry Jolyn…
Well, I am on a roll this year to be more mindful of our spending. So my coming posts will be topics about where I could make something or use something I already have instead of running to the stores every time when the stuff are out.
Tortillas is a great one to make at home and can save tons of money, plus they taste better home made and probably healthier too depend on the ingredient you use, imo. yes?

[Reply]

jolyn Reply:

Looking forward to learning from your posts!

Rachel @ Life in #3 January 30, 2010 at 11:16 am

Thanks so much for posting this! The pictures really help to give it a good visual, and it looks really easy to do. It’s also nice to see what the ingredients look like, since they aren’t super common. I really want to give it a try! And the dishwasher detergent recipe would be awesome as well- I hate paying for that in the store, so expensive!

[Reply]

JP January 30, 2010 at 11:07 am

I see a high probability of watching “24″ and grating your fingers into the mix. Be safe out there, people!

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Mysti January 30, 2010 at 11:04 am

One site I looked at said it averaged out to about 3 cents per load, vs 30 cents per load.

I have a HE front loader….alot of people have said it is ok to use the homemade powdered stuff, but it could negate the warranty. My washer is almost 3 yrs old, so I think I will wait a little while before trying the experiment. I stocked up on store bought stuff when it was on a super sale, so I am ok for now.

As for other homemade products….I am trying to head in that direction too!

[Reply]

jolyn Reply:

I found info about that somewhere… Maybe Mary Hunt’s site? That talked about front loaders. And yes, the homemade stuff was safe to use, but I don’t recall which recipe it referred to now. I’ll look for that when I get a chance…

[Reply]

Jeff January 30, 2010 at 8:27 am

THANK-YOU, I’ve been wanting to do my own dish washer soap. I’m now getting the packs for 12.5 cents each now using coupons on monthly sales, but I’m interested in trying this. My wife thinks I’m nuts, but oh well it looks very fun (yes I’m a twisted person). 24 is our favorite show so as long as I’m watching it with her she can’t say a thing, right?

I love how-to’s Jolyn and since you aren’t in a Geeky mood to crunch the numbers, I can do it for one of my weekly Friday Frugal Tips if you’d like to know :-)

[Reply]

jolyn Reply:

Yes! I w/definitely be interested in how the numbers play out, how much the cost works out for each load. I also just found a “recipe” for making your own fabric softener dryer sheets, and I’m thinking of giving that a try. ;)

[Reply]

Betty S. Reply:

Woud be interested in reading and trying that one. Right now we have the
rather pricey, very convenient, wonder
fabric softener bar that you stick on the dryer wall and it has been great! I do not miss that extra step of remembering to put in the dryer sheet each time I dry a load separating them and getting that yucky feeling on my fingers. I know, I know….

[Reply]

jolyn Reply:

Betty,
You might not like the homemade version then! It required spraying a concoction onto a rag… Not only w/you have to remember to put the rag in the dryer, you’d have to spray it every time, too! AND touch it. Oh, the horror. ;)

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