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Doing Laundry Frugally and Naturally AND How to Make Your Own Laundry Detergent


Today I’m going to show you how easy it is to make your own laundry detergent. You may think, “Why on earth would I want to make my own laundry detergent when I can just buy it?!” This is a fair question, my friend.

Why Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

1. Its cheaper. All you need is a bar of soap, some borax, and some washing soda.

2. You can control what’s in it. I used an all-natural soap to make mine.

3. I personally think it works better than at least one brand of natural laundry detergent I’ve tried. That’s why I started making it in the first place—I kept needing to add washing soda or borax as a laundry booster to get my clothes all sparkly clean. I thought, “Why am I adding all of this stuff to the natural laundry detergent when I could just make my own with it in there?”

How to Make Laundry Detergent: A Photo Tutorial

The Ingredients


  • Borax – can be found at most stores now. I found mine at Wal-Mart.
  • Washing Soda -NOT baking soda. This was harder to find, but I found it at my local Ace Hardware.
  • A bar of soap -I can’t find the one I used in this picture. I think they stopped making it. A good natural option is Dr. Bronner’s Bar Soap, which can be found at Target. Another option is to use either Zote or Fels Naptha—both of which are a laundry soap (although they aren’t all natural.)

Kitchen Gadgets Needed:


  • A bowl
  • A grater
  • Measuring Cup


You could you use your food processor and then you would need a knife to cut the soap into sections and a cutting board.

The Method:


Grate up a bar of soap. It need to be as small and fine as you can get it.


Here it is. Its pretty! Looks like coconut.


Then measure out your soap flakes as we want to do an approximate 1:1:1 ratio of soap flakes to borax to washing soda. This bar made a little over a cup, so I added one cup of borax and one cup of washing soda.


Stir it up!


Here’s how it will look.


This next step is entirely optional, but I like my soap ground up really fine so it dissolves easily since I do a cold wash 99% of the time. I just put my immersion blender into my mixture and blended it a little. (The food processor would also give you very fine soap flakes, I would guess. I seem to not be able to use a food processor very well since I’ve never owned one (I borrow my mother in law’s for the picture) so I just did it the simple and slow way.)


Here it is now—much finer.




You use 2 Tablespoons for a large load. This is safe for high efficiency washers since it is very low suds.


Easy peasy. Smile

Natural and Frugal Fabric Softener

Next, I’d like to mention a natural and frugal option for fabric softener—white vinegar! Yep, just straight up, plain old white vinegar. You can put it right in the fabric softener dispenser (or, if you are cool like me, one of those little balls you throw in with the wash). My clothes have never come out smelling like vinegar and they come out of the dryer smelling like clothes, not crazy chemicals. It cheaper than normal fabric softener too! The only way I think it is inferior to normal fabric softener is when it comes to fleece. What makes fleece so static-filled? I have no idea, but it does. I’d also like to try using dryer balls. I’ve heard really good things about them from more than one person.

Other helpful laundry links

Natural and Eco Friendly Soap Reviews – If you don’t want to make your own, here are some reviews of natural laundry soaps.

Soap Nuts are another natural option. (There’s also a slightly different laundry detergent recipe on here that doesn’t use borax.)

Here is a photo tutorial about how to make it with a food processor.

  1. Donna/Nonna permalink
    01/31/2011 3:26 pm

    I had no idea you used so little in a load…I could probably use less in a front-loader. Also, in case I forget, I have some dryer balls you can have…they have only been used twice. They worked, but they are loud in the dryer.

  2. 01/31/2011 6:18 pm

    Tried Dryer Balls. They are stupid and just make things staticky. I just decided to stop using softener altogether and never noticed a difference!

    • Kate permalink*
      01/31/2011 7:18 pm

      Did you use the wool dryer balls or the plastic ones? I wonder if it would make a difference or not.

  3. sian permalink
    01/31/2011 11:51 pm

    First, you are a mind reader about the pattern for bunting – I had it on my to do list before J’s birthday!! Have already cut out and now ready to sew!! Secondly, I’m wondering if this detergent will work on cloth diapers? – I’m really careful how I wash mine, and they are staying in really good condition at the moment…
    Also, what do you do for really bad stains – spag bol style?? I’m definitely going to gve this a whirl as I’m not a fan of any of the detergents I’ve tried so far here… HOw much of this would you use in a HE machine?
    I LOVE your blog by the way…

    • 02/02/2011 6:42 am

      Hi – I’ve read that vinegar & baking soda is the best natural detergent for cloth diapers.

      Kate – have you read the dangers of borax on skin? I have read about it and never felt comfortable with using it as a personal soap or on our clothes. I’m all for it, though, for washing items that we don’t wear close to our skin (rugs, for instance) or for general household cleaning on non-food surfaces… Anyway, what did you think?

      I went with soap nuts for our clothes (not the diapers).

  4. Tara permalink
    02/01/2011 9:50 am

    I got some (plastic) dryer balls but I dont know that they really do much so I haven’t really been using them. I have never heard of wool ones.

  5. Laura permalink
    02/02/2011 2:14 pm

    Ah, great timing. I am almost out of the All Free & Clear I stocked up on last year when I got a great deal with coupons. I don’t think I’m going to get a price that good again, so I’ve been thinking about trying to make my own.

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