How To Make Your Own Laundry Detergent Powder - Recipes You Can Use

Economic times are tough, so many people want to know how to make your own laundry detergent. (Some people are also looking for greener, more natural options for their family too.)

There are two basic types of laundry detergent or soap you can make yourself, liquid or powdered.

how to make homemade liquid laundry soap
In this article I've gathered up recipes from readers who have shared how they make powdered laundry soap for cleaning their clothes on the cheap. (You can also find recipes for how to make laundry soap liquid here.)

What I've found is that there are typically basic similarities in these recipes, but people have tweaked them a bit here and there once they've figured out what works best for them. There is no right or wrong laundry detergent recipe, just whether it works well for you or not.

Be adventurous, and try some of these recipes and see how they work for you!

In addition, I would love to hear what recipes you use, either liquid or powder. You can share your homemade laundry soap recipe here, or read other recipes which have already been submitted.

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Christina's Favorite Powdered Laundry Soap Recipe

by Christina

Christina shared this recipe for how she makes her own laundry detergent on SR101's sister site, Household Management 101's Facebook wall, while we were discussing the high price of detergent, and more frugal alternatives.

Christina says:

This is my favorite recipe. It takes out barn smell, and the stink from PT gear.


Use 2 tablespoons per load, and up to 1/4 cup for a very soiled loads.

I also use 1/4 cup vinegar as the rinse and it brings out the colours, kills diaper smell.

Finally, I dry with a fabric softener sheet because I love softness.

I also multiply this recipe by a lot so I make it twice a year (in a 5 gallon pail, it's a paint pail from Home Depot).

It's a powder. If you wash in cold then pre-dissolve it in a cup or two of hot water before adding it to your machine.

Taylor says:

Thanks Christina for sharing this great recipe.

If you don't make many of your own cleaning products yet you may not be familiar with the major varieties of laundry bar soaps that can be used for these recipes. The major brands and varieties include:I know there are other brands and varieties too, but these are the major ones.

In addition, I know many people get tripped up when wanting to make a homemade laundry soap recipe with fragrance, because people just say to use your favorite essential oils. If you aren't familiar with essential oils, and how to put various combinations together, I've created a resource for you.

You can check out my essential oils recipes for laundry supplies which gives some common and popular pairings for various oils that many people love for their laundry.

Photo courtesy of a reader, Dee

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Powdered Laundry Detergent Recipe - With Video

Below is a video showing a powdered laundry detergent recipe, and they put it all together using a food processor in less than five minutes.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 cup borax

  • 1/2 cup washing soda

  • 1/2 cup Oxiclean (optional)

  • 1 bar laundry soap (they used Fels Naptha)

Borax Cleaning Powder {Referral Links}

They suggest using 1 tablespoon per load in an HE machine.

Here is the video for full details:

Sue's Big Batch Version Of This Recipe:

Another reader, Sue, shared a similar recipe with me, but made in a much bigger batch. She too used Oxiclean in hers, and also adds baking soda. She said:

I make a homemade laundry soap and also have sensitive skin. I used the dye free, fragrance free, perfume free laundry soaps prior to that.

I've tried making the liquid version and paste-like version called laundry "sauce" and found I like this dry version the best:

  • 3 bars laundry safe soap (I use Fels Naptha);

  • 1 4pound 12ounce box borax;

  • 1 4pound box baking soda;

  • 1 3pound 7ounce box washing soda; and

  • 2 small containers OxiClean


Grate the bars of soap just like cheese or use a food processor (make extra fine if using an HE washer).

Add all ingredients together and store in 5 gallon bucket.

Only needs to use 1-2 tablespoons per load. That may not seem like my but I LOVE the results!

...oh, I forgot to mention how long the batch lasts too! So it's nice on the budget too!

Photo by peagreengirl

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Fourth Time's A Charm: The Recipe That Actually Worked!!

by Holly

Holly says:

  • 1 bar, grated Fels Naptha soap

  • 3 c borax

  • 1 c heaping washing soda

  • 3/4 c baking soda

  • 4 c oxygen bleach (I used Biokleen)

  • 1 c Purex crystals or Downy Unstopables (this is for scent mainly, could easily be left out!!)

Other recipes I tried left my boys clothes dingy or didn't rinse out completely. This one smells nice and really works!!!

I use 2-3 tablespoons per load in my front loading washer, I have slightly hard water.

My mom uses this same recipe but has to add a bit of Calgon because she has terrible hard water.

I use 2/3 cup vinegar for a rinse and when I use the dryer I use wool dryer balls.

This has saved us so much and my clothes have never smelled more fresh!

The photo does not accurately show how much it makes, I never make a batch without giving some away!!

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Tips For Making Sure Your Homemade Powder Will Dissolve In Cold Water Washes

Question from Mary Ann:

My homemade powder will not dissolve in my HE machine unless I use warm or hot water. Does anyone else have this problem?

Taylor's answer:

This can be a common problem for homemade powder detergents, whether used in a top loader or HE machine Mary Ann.

If you would like to use a cold water wash one additional step you can take is to pre dissolve the powder and make it into a liquid solution and dump that into your machine. To do this add your soap to a hot cup or two of water and stir until dissolved. Then, add this to your cold water wash.

I also have another suggestion for you, which was provided by a reader, Angela.

Angela says:

Mary Ann, it might not be fine enough. That's the problem I had until I started using a food processor on the bar soap.

Taylor's comments:

Making the soap flakes smaller in the way Angela suggests also makes logical sense. This increases the surface area that the water can cover around the soap and makes it easier to dissolve.

Hopefully one or both of these suggestions will help with this issue!

Does anyone else have any other suggestions? If so, please share them with me here and I'll add them to the page.

Plus, I've answered this question as part of the laundry help section of the site. Click the link to check out what else I've already answered, or to ask your own questions.

Photo courtesy of brittreints

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Big Batch Recipe Of Powdered Detergent From Mom Of 5

by Melissa

I make the powder and have for over 2 years. With 5 kids I was a lot.

Here's my recipe if anyone is interested

2 boxes borax
2 boxes washing soda
3 lb box of baking soda
4 bars of Castile soap/fels naphtha

Dr Bronner Soap Bars {Referral Links}

You can cut in half if you want. This lasts me at least 6 months and I wash 6 loads a day

I use a grater to grate the bars of soap.

I don't have any problem with them melting in cold water.

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Stretch Your Powdered Detergent With These Ingredients

by Sheila

Sheila also shared how she makes her own laundry detergent powder, or at least stretches out the store bought version to last a lot longer.

Sheila says:

I've made homemade detergent for a long time. It's saved us money, and cleans better than what we were using.

The recipe I use is:
  • 3 cups borax

  • 3 cups any powdered laundry soap

  • 1 bar of Fels Naptha soap, grated

Fels Naptha {Referral Links}

Mix and store in container with lid and use 1/8 cup each big load.

Taylor says:

Thanks Sheila for sharing your tips for how to make your own laundry detergent.

As you can see there are a lot of different recipes you can use to clean your clothes for less. If you've used a recipe, and it has worked well for you, please share it here, or read others already submitted.

In addition, you can also check out my recipes here for even more ideas.

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Comments for Stretch Your Powdered Detergent With These Ingredients

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I use Zote soap for my powdered homemade laundry soap
by: Anonymous

I have made the powder version of this, with Zote. I have found it to clean better on most things. My husband is a tree surgeon so I have not found that it cleans as well as advertised. Also not cleaning our whites as well. But over all I am happy with it. I have now made a 5 gallon bucket full to keep on hand as I do tons of laundry a day. I will be using this from now on. Have not made liquid yet as I see a lot of people having problems with it.

allergic reaction from my homemade detergent
by: Mary

My husband has never had a problem with any kind of laundry detergent that I've bought for years. I decided to make some homemade detergent. He has been breaking out with big red splotches all over. I'm using Borax; Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda; OxyClean; Fels Naptha; Baking Soda and Purex Crystals Fabric Softener. My question is, is there one of these products that you think might be the most likely that he is allergic to, or is all of them together just too strong for him?

Marks On Dark Clothes from Homemade Detergent
by: Alexa

I have been making my own homemade detergent for some time now. It is a mixture of soap flakes, washing soda, and Borax. Overall it works great, but unfortunately several dark items of clothing have white marks left on them after washing. I have tried washing these items by hand in plain hot water to try to work the marks out, but to no avail. I realize now that it was caused from either the soap flakes being too large, or the washing soda not being dissolved fully in the wash- or possibly a combination of the two. I have remedied my recipe, but am still at a loss for how to "fix" my dark clothes. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

why powdered detergent may not dissolve
by: Laura

I noticed that my powdered detergent doesn't dissolve when my machine is in the "accelerated wash" mode (it shortens the wash time). It's an auto setting on my machine, so I have to manually turn it off for each load. I have never had a problem with my powdered detergent dissolving (even with cold water) when this mode is turned off.

by: Wo Ma

For those that choose to use Zote soap you may find that it slightly dinges white clothes. This is because the laundry needs to be hung out in the sun to full activate certain chemicals in the soap. If when the clothes dries you find it's hard to the touch you may have added too much homemade laundry soap. Please remember these soaps don't sud up as detergent from the store. Happy folding :)

Having problems - some remedies
by: Anonymous

For those having problems with dissolve: If you are grating the soap try powdering it. I cut up soap and microwave it. It will puff up (look it up on Internet many people microwave the soap). I watch it carefully so it doesn't burn. This is usually only an issue with Fels naptha. Ivory works best. Then I toss it in the food processor after it has completely cooled to turn it into a fine powder. Then I pour it into rest of the ingredients.

If you are having trouble with clothes not coming clean or yellow you may be using too much or you over stuff you wash. How soap works is it makes the dirt stick to water. It sounds like you have an issue with dirt still remaining in clothes so your mixture is off. Soap doesn't need to lather and it doesn't need to have a lot of soap in water. It needs space to swoosh water through your clothes so the dirt stays in the water.

Laundry detergent recipe
by: Angela

Do you have conversion on Christys recipe to include whole box. What does Epsom salt do for laundry?

Homade Detergent
by: Chanel

The recipe I use is as follows:
1 cup Borax
1 cup Arm and Hammer washing soda
1-2 bars grated Fels-Naptha soap
I add purex laundry crystals to each load. For my whites I use White Brite powder found at Wal-mart. The White Brite brightens better than bleach and Oxi clean to me.

$22 batch lasts me 6 months!
by: Tracie

I make my own. $22 and it lasts me about 6 months. All it takes is 1 tablespoon per load. Grate the Fels Neptha, and pour all of it (borax, washing soda, baking soda and oxygen bleach) in a sealable container. (Make sure you mix it up really good). I add a large container of Unstoppable's for an extra $9.

I add Downy Unstopables for scent
by: Rebecca

I make my own powder but I first dissolve it in hot water.

I have no idea how it works but I've used Tide for years and years and my clothes are cleaner and brighter with my homemade mix. Oh and at .04 a load, you can't beat the price!

1 cup of arm & hammer washing soda
1 cup of borax
1 full bar of Fels-naphtha laundry bar soap, shredded with a cheese grater
1 full scoop (or more) of oxi clean
(Optional) 1/2 cup of Downy Unstoppable scent booster

It only takes 2 tbs per load. It works better than Tide!!

PS Husband has sensitive skin and it does not bother him. I had to use Tide Free for a long time.

detergent amount
by: Anonymous

About how much do you use per load?

I add the Purex crystals and love it!
by: Louann

I use the standard recipe but add a whole container of Purex fabric softener crystals in my detergent. It gives it a nice smell and makes my laundry soft without using softener sheets in the dryer.

by: Anonymous

I made my own powdered laundry detergent with borax, Fels Naptha, and washing soda. My clothes look dingy and the whites look yellowish! Help!

add baking soda for odor removal
by: Anonymous

I am wife and mother of a lawn mowing crew. Adding baking soda to the dry laundry recipe is a great way to get rid of all odors. This is a big help during hot summer mowing days.

thanks for the tips
by: SR101 Reader

I LOVE my homemade powdered laundry detergent, but I was also having the problem of it not dissolving.

I used Zote laundry soap and had a hard time getting it shredded fine enough until the very last chunks (by then I was a pro!).

Next time I won't use the fabric softener crystals. They were the most expensive ingredients and I'd rather use dryer sheets.

I also used a 5 gallon paint bucket to mix and store it in, but I bought a 3 quart lidded container for $1 to keep detergent next to the washer for easy access.

I have barely made a dent in it because I only use 1-2 tbsp per load. Everything comes out clean and smells good too, but little pieces of soap were stuck to the clothes!

Thank you so much for this tip for dissolving the powder! And for the variety of recipes to try next time!!

amazing how it removes stains
by: Dawn

I make my own powdered laundry detergent and it includes Fels Naptha. The stain removing ability of this detergent surprised and delighted me! Even the things my husband manages to do to my kitchen towels...and they come out clean!

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