I have been playing around with DIY laundry soap recipes for a couple of years now. It wasn’t until 2015 that I came around to one easy recipe that is way cheaper than buying commercial detergents and super simple to throw together.
I had been a loyal Gain detergent consumer for nearly a decade. I know I could have saved money buying any of a dozen other brands, but I was in love with the fabulous fragrances. But, after adding up how much I had spent on laundry and other cleaning supplies, I was pretty motivated to try the DIY versions that I kept seeing other bloggers rave about.
I will be honest, I was skeptical. I mean, my number one priority in laundry detergent was oddly, not how well it cleaned, but how fabulous it smelled. I doubted that I would ever be happy with a homemade concoction that was virtually scent-neutral.
At the time, I was not a fan of powdered laundry detergents. They were too messy for my low-maintenance liking. But, I was ready to be open-minded in the interest of cutting costs.
I tried tried three different DIY recipes for laundry detergent.
#1 – Simple Powdered Version with a Fragrance Boost
The first recipe that I tried was a simple mix of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, 20 Mule Team Borax and Zote soap with the addition of Downy Unstoppables for fabric softener/fragrance.
I liked that it was easy to put together and before using it, I thought that the Downy Unstoppables were an excellent addition for the fragrance that I thought I needed. The cost of putting this one together was pretty low. I paid $2.50 for a box of washing soda, $4.47 for borax, and $2.08 for a bar of Zote. The most expensive part was $8.94 for a bottle of Downy Unstoppables. All together, it the cost for what was well more than a one year supply, was $17.99. That was the same as one jug of laundry detergent which would only last me 6-8 weeks. Overall, it was a win on cost.
I used it regularly at first, and then I noticed that I kept putting off using it and found myself looking for other options. It wasn’t for a lack of cleaning power because it worked well. But, the Downy Unstoppables ended up being a problem–they had a tendency to stain my clothes.
#2 – A liquid version
I liked how well the powdered version worked, so I kept looking for alternatives to the Downy Unstoppables problem and decided to try melting everything into a liquid version to see if that would help with the staining problem.
The recipe did not require any great skill, although it was a lot more time consuming. It still contained the same base ingredients: washing soda, borax, zote soap, and Downy Unstoppables. I tried this version both with Borax and with liquid castille soap.
I did use it regularly, but I still had a problem with the staining from the Downy Unstoppables on occasion. I also found that I would buy commercial detergents in between batches in order to put off the hassle of making another batch. Ultimately, it was also pretty messy and took up a lot of storage space for the amount that I was making per batch.
After three rounds, I switched back to a powdered version, simply to conserve space.
#3 – Revised Powdered Version
When I went back to the powdered version, for both compact storage and ease of assembling, I decided to cut out the extra’s and just start with the base. As it turns out, removing the Downy Unstoppables and OxyClean type product from the recipe was the only change that I needed to make. I have been using the same recipe for the last 18 months, and I am still on my original batch. The entire batch fits in one medium plastic tote.
What you Need:
- Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (1 box)
- 20 Mule Team Borax (1 box)
- Zote or Fels Naptha Soap (1 bar)
Grate the Zote/Fels Naptha soap and combine with equal parts washing soda and borax. Use 1 Tbsp. per load. *I have been using the same batch for over 18 months now. Depending on how much laundry your household does, 1 box of each washing soda and borax and 1 bar of soap should last 18 months-2 years.
What I Like About It:
- No fillers or harsh chemicals so a little bit goes a long way.
- It works, seriously, the washing soda is effective at removing stains without pre-treating. It is basically super strength baking soda.
- There is a lot less gunk to clean out of my washer. In fact, my washer stays pretty clean. Commercial detergents used to leave behind a lot of gunk, ew!
- My clothes feel clean, they don’t hold on to funky odors and they aren’t doused in fragrance to make them smell good, they are just clean.
- It is super simple to throw together. The hardest part is grating the soap. I usually just throw it on my old food processor. If you want to pay a little more, you can buy Zote that is already in flakes. The bar can be pretty hard to grate.
- It lasts a really long time, I seriously made one batch over 18 months ago. I still have left over washing soda and borax because I didn’t even use the whole box.
What I don’t Like About It:
- If you don’t get the Zote soap broken up enough, it doesn’t dissolve well in the washer. It needs to be in very small pieces or shavings. It is not a big problem, and totally useable, I just sometimes notice a chunk or two of the pink stuff left behind when I empty the washer.
I seriously only have one complaint. After I removed the commercial products like Downy Unstoppables and OxyClean, I was more than satisfied with the homemade laundry detergent.