How To Make Old-Fashioned Laundry Detergent

It’s really easy to whip up your own effective homemade (and very inexpensive) liquid or powder because you probably have at least two of the ingredients already on hand: bar soap and washing soda.

December 9, 2015
laundry machine

When it comes to choosing your soap, look for one made without moisturizers (the oils will stick to your clothes) or artificial fragrance. Many recipes for DIY laundry soaps call for a strong commercial laundry soap bar, but these often contain the same petrochemical additives and fragrances you’re attempting to avoid by making your own detergent. You can either grate a plain bar of soap or purchase plain soap flakes online.

Related: Ditch The Hamper! Laundry Shortcuts That Save Water + Time


Finally, save your health and your money and add plain white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser to remove any soap residue and soften your clothing.

Easy Laundry Liquid

(works well in any temperature wash water)

1 cup + 2 quarts warm water
½ cup soap flakes or plain bar soap, grated
½ cup borax
½ cup washing soda

1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a saucepan, add the soap flakes or gratings, and stir until the soap is melted. To speed the process, you can keep the pot on low heat until the soap melts.

2. Pour the melted soap into a large glass jar or jug and add the borax and washing soda. Stir or shake well until everything dissolves (I have a 1-gallon glass jug with a lid I use).

3. Add the 2 quarts of water and stir or shake until well mixed. Store with the lid on.

4. Shake your detergent before each use. The mixture thickens up and gets really goopy—that’s just the way it is—and shaking breaks up the clumps and makes it easier to measure out. Use 1/8 to ¼ cup for each load of laundry, even if you have a front loader. This mixture doesn’t suds much, which is the concern with regular laundry detergents in front loaders.

Related: What's The Most Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent?

Basic Laundry Powder

(works best in warm or hot wash water)

½ cup soap flakes or grated plain bar soap
½ cup borax
½ cup washing soda


1. Combine ingredients well, and store in a jar with an airtight lid.

2. Use ½ to 1 tablespoon per load.