Thursday, November 15, 2012

Homemade HE Laundry Detergent

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In the ongoing quest to be better stewards of what the Lord gives us, Hubby and I have researched various money saving ideas ... make your own soap (too time consuming), cook meals from scratch (happens about 1/2 the time), sew your own clothes (ummm ... no). But here's one that is working for us:

Homemade Laundry Detergent! Can I get a woohoo?!

Gain was our usual go-to detergent, mainly for two reasons: the fragrance (fabulous!) and the fact that it's phosphate-free (as we have a septic tank and phosphates are NOT septic-friendly). But an 64-load bottle usually set up back about $12-$14. And we go through a LOT of detergent in this hizzy, let me tell you.

So, I started doing a bit of research to see what's up with homemade detergent. Having an HE machine, I was skeptical that it would work for us. But then I found this post by Milehimama (girl's got some good stuff ... go check our her blog). Notice this is for an HE machine ... that's what caught my eye. I read over her directions and thought, "Hmm, I think I can do this." So off to the store I went. I got all of the necessary ingredients at Wal-Mart.

Let me tell y'all ... this stuff IS. THE. BOMB. My littles can mess up some clothes like nobody's bidness ... chocolate, ketchup, grass, dirt, snot, dog hair, ink, marker, pencil, blood, poop ... you name it, they will have it on their clothes. This detergent gets out everything. I mean EVERYTHING! And Beebee has pretty sensitive skin, and this detergent doesn't break him out or make him itch. And our clothes smell clean. One thing I noticed with Gain is that, even though it smells great, our clothes (especially towels) still have a musty ... um ... "after smell" if you will.

So, without further ado, here are the deets:

1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)
1/2 cup Oxiclean
1 bar of Fels-Naptha (can also use Ivory or Zote)

UPDATE - I now add laundry crystals into the mix to add some extra "smell good."

First, grate the soap on the fine side of a cheese grater. You may want to have a separate grater for this purpose. (UPDATE -- I found that a barrel or rotary cheese grater makes this step MUCH easier. Also, Zote makes soap flakes - thanks for the tip, Mom!) Grated Fels-Naptha looks just like shredded cheddar, so remember ... DON'T EAT IT! (wink wink)

Once you've grated the entire bar of soap (and built up some serious arm muscles!), put it all into your storage container. (I use a clear plastic shoebox with a lid, so I can see at a glance how much detergent I have on hand.)

Next, dump in the Borax, washing soda, and Oxiclean. You can do this straight into the container.

I've noticed that the Borax and the washing soda sometimes get clumpy, so I used a food processor to break up the clumps in the past. But it just spread the dust everywhere, and led to much sneezing. So, be careful when mixing/stirring/processing to keep it from making a mess.

That's it! Easy peasy! Putting this batch together took me about 20 minutes from start to finish, and that's with taking pictures and making notes.

For regular loads, use 1 tablespoon; for dirtier loads, use 2 tablespoons. You'll notice that Oxiclean comes with a handy little blue scoop. It's the perfect measuring cup -- 1 scoop per load.

homemade he laundry detergent

This batch makes enough to last about 2-3 weeks, depending on how many loads you wash. You can double or even triple the recipe as you like.

Now, for the bottom line. This stuff is cheap! Like, CHEAP cheap! I purchased a 76 oz box of Borax, a 55 oz box of washing soda, a 1.3 lb container of Oxiclean and a bar of Fels-Naptha for less than $8.00! That's almost the same cost as a 32-load (small) bottle of Gain!! I'm not a math whiz, but this comes out to be less than 5-10 cents per load! Our laundry comes out smelling fresh ... it doesn't have an overwhelming fragrance, just fresh and clean.

As Milehimama mentions, this recipe isn't set in stone. You can change it as needed based on if you have hard water (more Borax), dirtier clothes (more soap), etc. I have a Whirlpool HE washer, and it seems to like this detergent better than any liquids I've used in the past. I've used this with all water temperatures, and it works fine for all ... though it seems to work best with warm water. Also, this has worked fine for our septic tank.

Give this a try, and let me know how it works for you. I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Thank you for posting this. I have been wanting to try a homemade laundry soap but I haven't found a "recipe" for it yet. I do get tired of buying those big bottles of laundry detergent and then tossing yet another big plastic bottle in the recycling bin. We are going to try this! I will visit your blog again. I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas

    1. Hey there! Thanks for visiting! I'm glad you like the recipe. I hope it works out well for you. Here's a tip - to make the grating faster, use a barrel or rotary cheese grater. Not so hard on the arm muscles. :) Another tip -- I just found out that Zote makes soap flakes, so that would cut down on the grating time. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  2. It is a good idea to grate the soap. I tried the microwave method of melting the soap and the detergent is too clumpy!

    1. I haven't tried melting the soap, but that does sound pretty messy! Thanks for visiting!

  3. I use this same receipe, except that I add purex crystals in it to give a little more 'scent'. I love it!

    1. Hey, Stephanie! I've heard other people add Purex crystals to their recipes. I think I might try that. Do you know if it's safe for septic tanks?

      PS -- Thanks for visiting!


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