Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

by Texas Homesteader ~
* contains affiliate link

Due to travel and illness we are way behind in on household chores. In trying to get caught up and get all the laundry done we ran out of laundry detergent about halfway through. But did we stop our work and drive to the store to purchase more? HECK NO!

I make our laundry detergent with just three simple ingredients. Now remember we live and work on a ranch so we need something that will get out some pretty tough grime on very heavy fabric – denim! This formula works great for us.

3 Ingredient laundry detergent recipe only uses 1-2 tablespoons per typical load. Cheap, easy to make, and effective! #TexasHomesteader

Now before I get started I must remind you that I’m just sharing what we do here. I’m a rancher. I live in the country. I’m very interested in being gentle on the environment.

I always love to save money. I’m just sharing what works for us. OK good – let’s get to it!

UPDATE: For those times when I want a little more scent (like cloth napkins & such) I’ve even whipped up an easy Laundry-Scent Booster. Only 2 Ingredients?  Yes please!

But to make my laundry detergent, first I pulled out my ingredients. Borax, Washing Soda, Fels Naptha and my trusty food processor.

3 Ingredient laundry detergent recipe uses 1-2 tablespoons per typical load. Cheap, easy to make, and effective! #TexasHomesteader

NOTE: Many people have problems finding Fels-Naptha in their local stores. When I have it available I offer it for sale in my Online Store.

If I’m out, I’ve also found it on *Amazon here.

It’s very inexpensive and I think it’s an important ingredient that helps with our tough laundry needs.

There are other brands of laundry soap bars such as Zote and others. But I’ve found they just don’t have the same strength to clean heavily soiled fabrics that my beloved Fel-Naptha does.

Fels-Naptha an important part of my homemade laundry detergent recipe. #TexasHomesteader

Ok, on to the easy-peasy laundry soap-making procedure.

Preparing The Detergent

First I unwrap the Fels-Naptha soap and chop it up a bit. Although it’s typical soap consistency it chops very easily.

My sister still has children at home and she saves these large ice cream tub lids for me to use as an improvised cutting board. The raised edge keeps everything close so it’s much less messy than a typical cutting board, and it’s a great way to recycle.

3 Ingredient laundry detergent recipe only uses 1-2 tablespoons per typical load. Cheap, easy to make, and effective! #TexasHomesteader

Then I toss the soap chips into my food processor and give it all a whir until it’s powdery. This fine powder will escape the lid of my food processor while it’s doing its thing. So I place a small towel on top of the food processor during this step to help keep the soap dust down. I also like to let the dust settle a bit before opening up the bowl.

3 Ingredient laundry detergent recipe only uses 1-2 tablespoons per typical load. Cheap, easy to make, and effective! #TexasHomesteader

Then I simply measure out two cups of Borax and two cups of Washing Soda and mix them with the now-powderized soap.

I like to use a large rectangular-shaped container for this blending as the corners make pouring easier when I’m trying to transfer into my smaller containers. (I’ve tried to transfer after mixing in a round container and what a mess it made!)

Use Much Less Than The Commercial Stuff!

So I simply pour the mixture into the containers that I keep in my laundry room. A repurposed glass jar holds the bulk of it, and a small rectangular plastic dish holds a smaller amount for easy scooping and lightweight handling.

The tiny scoop is a repurposed one from a container of OxyClean, which I add from time to time to my load of whites. There’s a lot of recycling in this method and not lots of packaging waste.

NOTE: Please make sure you label these containers. There’s no need in someone picking up an unlabeled container and wondering what’s in it. Or worse, guessing what’s in it and guessing wrong.  A label is a quick and easy way to make sure no one mistakes this mixture for something else.

3 Ingredient laundry detergent recipe only uses 1-2 tablespoons per typical load. Cheap, easy to make, and effective! #TexasHomesteader

This recipe only uses 1-2 tablespoons for each load, but I use about 3 tablespoons for heavily soiled items like manure-covered jeans. But don’t be tempted to use more than that thinking it needs more. Not only does it not add even more cleaning power, but that’s when soap build-up problems can happen.

It works perfectly for us.  Here’s the recipe I use, feel free to try it yourself:


5 from 1 vote

Homemade Laundry Detergent

It's easy (and inexpensive) to make your own laundry detergent in minutes.  And you only use a tablespoon or so with each load. So it lasts a long time.



  • 1 5.5-Ounce Bar Fels Naptha Laundry Soap
  • 2 Cups Washing Soda
  • 2 Cups Borax


  1. Grate the entire 5.5-ounce bar of Fels Naptha finely using a food processor or cheese grater
  2. In a container that has a tight-fitting lid, combine the grated Fels Naptha, washing soda and borax.

    Shake to mix well.

    Store in a sealed container that is properly labeled. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per load.

Recipe Notes

NOTE: Since the effectiveness of any detergent depends greatly on the hardness of your water, experiment by using the lesser amount, and then increase as necessary.


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63 thoughts on “Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

  1. Sovola Sips

    Rather late to the party, but I have a suggestion that works so well for me I just have to share.
    I have used the same laundry powder recipe you posted, with equally awesome results, for several years. It not only cleans well, and is cheap, but I like the fact that it’s compatible with bleach, laundry sanitizer, and Oxy-Clean when you need them for specific loads (hello, face masks, children’s underwear).
    Love the laundry powder. Reducing the Fels-Naptha bar to fine granules, not so much. I’ve grated it, I’ve worn out two small chopper-blenders with it. Then I saw the thing about microwaving a bar of Ivory soap, to make a poufy cloud-like mass. Presumably, kids love it. So I tried microwaving a bar of Fels-naptha. Not quite as poufy, but when it cools it can be put into a plastic (or other) bag and easily crushed into fine flakes with your hands.
    I put one bar on a microwave-safe dinner plate and microwave at 50% power, or until big airy lumps appear. Takes about 5 minutes in my microwave. Microwaves vary, (mine runs a little hot) so you might need to adjust power setting or time for yours. You don’t want to melt or scorch the soap, so go slow at low power until you see what settings work with your microwave. Let the poufed bar cool, place in a bag, and crush with your hands (or, if you are feeling kinda tense, beat it with the flat side of a meat mallet – very satisfying).
    Mix the soap flakes with your borax and washing soda, and you’re good to go!

  2. Sarah

    I have been thinking about switching to a homemade laundry detergent but haven’t made the jump yet. However, now may be the time as I’m almost out of store bought detergent, so instead, o buying more I might just pick up the materials needed to make this. If it works well with my front loading machine and gets things nice and clean, then I’ll stick with it.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      It’s worked beautifully for us for years Sarah. The most important thing to remember – don’t use too much! I’ve read in other places that some folks give it a try & then get frustrated that it seems to gum up in their machine or not wash out of their clothing – I’m guessing because they don’t feel there’s any way such a tiny amount of soap will actually get their laundry clean so they try to use too much. I’ve not found either of their problems to be the case with our use. But I’m very careful to use only 1-2 Tablespoons per load. Give it a try, I think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised. And even if you decide to go back to the commercial stuff for whatever reason you’re not out much $$. ~TxH~

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Not sure I’ve ever heard of Sunlight laundry bars, Beth. Sounds like it’s the same type of product, but I will say I’ve tried other laundry bars and none performed as well as the Fels Naptha. So that’s the only laundry bar I’ll use.

  3. Gina

    I have never actually made homemade laundry detergent. Glad to know this is a good recipe, will have to try! Thank you for sharing on #ShareTheWealthSunday link up!

  4. Kate

    This is great!
    Thanks for sharing on the Wake Up Wednesday link party!
    We hope to see you next week!
    Kate |

  5. goodie odom

    I wonder if I can use the powder on my front loader? BTW keeping the door open will help much with the odor.I had mine for 3 years now and never had an odor.I clean it once a month with vinegar and baking soda.I always make the liquid laundry soap,but this dry method is so much faster, and will take up much less storage room.I guess if I throw the powder in the drum when loading the clothes would work.I had bad results adding powder to the little compartement ,it always seems to clump up. Also if one over loads the washer it tends to leave the clothes smelly, especially with heavy jeans .Hubby learned that the hard way…:) Yes he does the laundry SOMETIMES. Thank you for all the tips and your posts, I truly enjoy reading them.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I don’t know that I’m allowed to recommend that you use it for your frontloader Goodie – you’ll need to check your owner’s manual and decide for yourself. HOWEVER, my machine is a front loader and I got frustrated at all the fru-fru requirements of the machine so I decided to take the leap and use this detergent recipe with mine – it works wonderfully. Things to remember: front loaders use less water but are more efficient. You need a fraction of the soap you used to dump into your top loader – I use about 2-3 tablespoons. Too much & not only will you be wasting soap that’ll be hard for your machine to rinse out of the fabrics but you’ll also have a mess. Like you I strive to NOT overload the washer and I leave the door open after laundry day to allow the machine to completely air dry. I’ve never once ‘cleaned’ my machine by running an empty load with various things included yet I’ve never had that stale mildewy odor I’ve heard others complain about, so I must be doing something right!

      1. MO

        5 stars
        I have a front loader as well and have used this detergent since its initial post. Unlike the commercial brand of powder I used to use that required more, this recipe only requires 1-2 T on most loads and 2-3 T for heavier soiled clothes so it was not enough to ever clump in my washer. I too leave my door open to completely dry and do not have any mildewing. I will swear by its cleaning power and my washer efficiency. I hope this helps.

        1. Texas Homesteader Post author

          I’m glad you like this laundry detergent too, MO. I’ve used it successfully for years. It’s quick & easy to make, effective cleaning and super cheap. Plus, no hauling back expensive bottles of detergent from the store and trying to find a place to recycle said plastic bottle when it’s empty. Our budget and the environment are grateful for the switch!

  6. Ashley Mullen

    I used to make our laundry detergent, I used to make all of our cleaners. But three kids and horrible water issues brought that to a stop.

    I don’t think I have ever seen so many pairs of jeans a on a line before! 🙂

  7. Sue Mosier

    I want to try making the laundry detergent. I have been using natural laundry detergents for years. I have a problem with my whites looking dingy. I cannot use a clothes line where we live. I do not like to use bleach. Any ideas how to whiten whites? Thank you.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Hanging them in the sunshine while line-drying helps keep brights white – helpful since I always air-dry our clothes. And I’m not officially recommending this, but when I’m trying to brighten whites I’ll use my homemade dishwasher tabs – one per load. –> We’ve never had any trouble with those tabs in our whites, and it’s made with gentle ingredients – but give it a try at your own risk since they’re not made for clothing.

  8. Renee

    Fels Naptha is an excellent product but not available readily in the UK *sigh* For toxin free household laundry using the The Breathing Mobile Washer we use Borax substitute, soda crystals, soap flakes, tea tree oil and olbas oil and PLENTY of arm power.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  9. Heidi @ Pint Size Farm

    I’ve been making homemade laundry detergent for years, although my recipe is a little different from this one. It smells so much better than the chemical laden store ones! Thanks for your homeacre blog hop submission 🙂 Feel free to stop by this week and submit another!

  10. Marla

    I DIY recipes and think they are safest and most economical way to go. No toxic chemicals to pollute your body or environment. Thanks for sharing. Visiting from Home Acre Blog Hop!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I agree Marla. People have different drives for doing the things they do. Most of the DIY hobbies I enjoy are healthier options and significant budget savers, as well as time saver by providing for myself instead of having to drive to/from the grocery store & lug in heavy boxes of detergent. It’s a fun hobby for me, but my main driving force is environmental footprint. When I think of the manufacturing plants and all the shipments of raw product that must arrive there to produce the detergent, then shipment of the finished product to warehouses, shipment to distribution points, shipments to retailers not to mention all the raw materials required for product, packaging, shipping, etc – it motivates me to find a gentler way. It’s not a zero footprint, but certainly a gentler one and I like that.

  11. Nancy

    I’ve made my own detergent for years, and have saved a lot of money. I have been using a recipe that also adds baking soda. I’ve made it with Fels- Naptha, Zote and Kirk’s Castile Soap. Kirk’s is more expensive, and I don’t think it gets laundry as clean, but it is probably milder for people who might have allergies.

    I just made a batch of detergent, using your recipe, and it was so fast and easy.

    I sprayed my food processor with vinegar water, to help get the soap residue off, when I was cleaning it.

    Thanks for all of the great environmentally safe and economical ideas you share!

  12. victoria witte

    This is a fantastic recipe! I’ve been making and using it for about 4 or 5 years. So easy and inexpensive. I’m always amazed now when I walk through the detergent aisle at how much that stuff costs and am so pleased with myself for trying this and saving so much money.

  13. Cynthia

    Thanks for sharing – I also had a hard time finding Fels Naptha at the grocery store (I tried several, no luck). One day I stopped by the local hardware store (Ace Hardware) for some gardening stuff, asked if they had heard of Fels Naptha- they had it, borax and washing soda too!

  14. ColleenB.~Texas

    I also make my own laundry mixture and found my Fels-Naptha soap @ Wally World (WalMart). As long as I’m making the mess, I will mix up enough that will last me for a whole year or a bit longer. I do use an old grater to grate the bar of soap and a Very Large container to mix everything in.

    Only difference is that I also in with my mixture I add a box (4lb) of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda as well as a 3.5 container of Oxy Clean along with 1-2 cups Downy Unstopables (for scent).
    I only use 1-2 T. per load :}

      1. Texas Homesteader Post author

        Yep, but all our local merchants carry Zote instead of Fels Naptha. I’ve had others tell me they had trouble finding Fels Naptha as well – good to know it can be ordered from Amazon. Different merchants in different areas will stock different items, you’re lucky you don’t have to look far to find Fels Naptha in your area. Luh-KEY!

  15. michelle

    I have tried the soap bar laundry soap, didn’t too much care for it, was too watery. You can make your own real liquid detergent like the store bought kind, except without all the harsh and artificial ingredients. Olive oil, grape seed oil, coconut oil, distilled water, borax, and potassium hydroxide. You can also scent it with essential oils, like lavender, lavandin, tea tree oil, etc. I got this recipe from (Bonnie at edential farms, just type on Google (how to make liquid soap with potash or koh) and it should come up. It really is worth it, and making your own soap bars is really fun too. Once you get started, you won`t want to stop. You can make a whole loaf of all natural soap bars, unlike the commercial type soap bars that dry your skin out. Sorry so lengthy, but just wanted to help. It seems everyone is using the soap bar method, but no one really knows about this one. When I use Bonnie’s soap method, and dilute with the water and borax’ I get at least 5-32oz bottles of liquid detergent. We used to buy Ecos detergent, until I had a dream about a doctor was telling me to stop using it, because of something to do with cancer. I took it as the Lord trying to give me a message, and so began my journey on how to make your own liquid detergent. I`ve been making our own detergent since October of 2012, and soap bars with Shea butter, and goatmilk which is the best since June of 2012. God bless.

  16. Mary

    Awesome post! I’ve been making my own laundry detergent too with the same ingredients! I do add Oxyclean in with mine, but I’m not sure how environmentally safe that is. I should definitely try it without next time and see how that works! I’ve also found a natural fabric softener too recently with just vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and lavender essential oil. It’s been working great! Thanks for sharing with us over at the Homeacre Hop! Please join us again soon! We’ll be taking next week off for Christmas. Merry Christmas!
    Mary 🙂

  17. Elaine

    i found all the ingredients at my local walmart for under $15. i mixed a big bucket up and it has lasted so long. love how clean my clotbes get and i dont need to use fabric softner. i use my wonder washer that i got from amazon and hang dry. i added a bar of zote soap(pink or white) and geniric oxy clean from local dollar store. i’m on a very tight budget, and this thas saved me from buying a bottle of detergent($5-$10) every month. so now i have more money to buy other much needed items. love getting your emails and all the great tips you pass along. thank you

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Karen, I’ve grated up my last bar of Fels Naptha for my latest batch of laundry detergent so I can’t look at the list of ingredients on the package to tell you for sure. I detect a subtle scent so I’m assuming there is some scent added, although as I mentioned it’s subtle and not overpowering like some of the commercial stuff these days… Just smells like soap to me.

  18. Mindie

    I always add borax to what ever store detergant I use, but now that I know where to get that fels-napatha, I might consider giving this a try! Thanks for sharing at Tuesdays with a Twist. Looking forward to seeing what you share this week.

    Mindie ~

  19. Deborah Davis

    This is such a great homemade recipe that I shared it everywhere and pinned it as well. “Save money and the environment with this DIY Laundry Detergent Recipe”. I am so glad I found you on the “Small Footprint Fridays” linkup.

  20. Sheila

    I’ve been using a similar recipe for years. Mine additionally calls for Oxy Clean. I have several children and LOTS of very dirty clothes. I’ve not had great luck with this as I feel like it doesn’t get the clothes very clean. It doesn’t even take care of the general dirtiness let alone any stains. They never smell nice either. Sometimes, they really smell bad, kind of like they’ve been left in the washer wet too long, but they haven’t. I’ve tried adding nice smelling fabric softener to help with the smell but it doesn’t do much. I love the idea of making my own detergent and it’s really all I can afford to do, but I’m not very happy with the results. Any ideas anyone?

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Our clothes are always hung on the line, I’ve never noticed an odor like you describe. As a matter of fact, there’s really no detergent smell either, just country sunshine! 🙂

    2. Peggy

      Do you have an HE washer? If so, they are notorious for developing a sour smell that transfers to your just washed laundry.

      I make a similar detergent, but add baking soda to it, also. You can also add white vinegar to the rinse water. Your clothes won’t smell like vinegar but any smell should be gone.

  21. Fay

    Great stuff. Just be aware that Washing Soda is caustic, so WEAR GLOVES and don’t use the same container for food that had the washing soda in it. Just the nurse in me speaking here!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Jessica, I can’t imagine why there would be any restrictions – we are well past the baby stage so I’ve never washed diapers with this detergent but we wash all our clothes in it – towels, sheets, jeans, whites, darks, etc.

  22. Ashleigh

    I LOVE this! I make a similar detergent and I’ve been using it for about a year now. I’m excited to search through your blog and learn more, when it’s not so late. LOL Here’s a link to my detergent “recipe”. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Peg

    Have been making this same recipe for the last 4 years. My daughter and I make about 6 batches in 30 minutes that last about 4 to 5 months (she does a lot of laundry) We grate it in the food processor with the chopper blade in the bottom. Take the top off and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Blend for about 3 minutes. It makes a great powder that dissolves easily even in cold water

  24. Lisa Lynn

    Great recipe! I have made the concentrated liquid version of this and it works great 🙂 Thanks for sharing on The Creative HomeAcre Hop! Hope to see you again today!

  25. Jenny

    This is the recipe that I use and I was happy with it until we moved out to the country. It doesn’t seem to do as well with rural hard water. 🙁 I’m taking a break and using something I picked up at the store but I’d like to try it again. I hadn’t thought of putting the Fels Naptha through the food processor! What a great idea! Part of my problem was that the soap flakes weren’t dissolving in the water; so this solution might work. Thank you for sharing this at the HomeAcre Hop! See you tomorrow:

  26. Hannah

    Yay! Same recipe I use. I use laundry soap made and sold by a friend rather than the fels naptha. Thanks for sharing your post with us last week at Eco-Kids Tuesday!!! Hope you stop by again today!

  27. Mary@Back to the Basics!

    I use the same recipe. It’s terrific stuff.
    Thanks for sharing at Tuesdays with a Twist at Back to the Basics. Hope to see you again tomorrow!

  28. Susan Kay Fidler

    So glad you could make it out to my linking party! My husbands family has a farm back in West Virginia (we’re out in Utah) and it makes me think of his home every time I pull up your site! Thanks again for sharing with us!

  29. Angela

    Thank you so much for linking up to Efforts and Assets! Can’t wait to see what you have ready for next Tuesday’s Linky Party.


  30. betty

    Found you at Hickory Trail. I just made laundry detergent for the first time this past weekend. I made the liquid version. I was surprised at how easy it was too. Wow…it would be hard to go back to paying so much for it now. I want to live on a ranch 🙂

  31. Cynthia L

    Thanks for sharing this on the In and Out of the Kitchen Link party. I have all the ingredients to make this and haven’t gotten around to it!

    Cynthia at

  32. Kenya G. Johnson

    Go Amazon! They have everything. Thanks for the recipe. I keep Borax on hand because every now and then I soak my sons jeans in the tub and have to scrub out the grass stains in the knees. I like doing it in the tub because its a “free” clean. I don’t have to do anything but let the water out and my tub is sparkling. TALU


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