Introduction: Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

Picture of Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

This is an easy home made laundry detergent. It's much easier on the skin, wallet and environment than the regular stuff.

I was a bit dubious at first, but it does a great job of cleaning our clothes. It removes dirt and mud stains really well. For greasy stains I pre-treat the spots by making some baking soda into a paste with a small bit of water, rubbing it in gently onto the offending fabric, and then spraying it with vinegar before it goes into the laundry. Ive had no itchy red skin while using this, and it costs a whole lot less than store bought brands, especially if you buy the baking soda and soda crystals at a bulk store like Bulk Barn or Binn Inn.

This is only recommended for regular washing machines. High Efficiency washers are some kind of magic and you have to use special stuff.

Home Made Laundry Detergent
Yield: 3 1/2 cups or approx. 30 loads
Time: 10 minutes
Cost: <$5


- 4 cup food processor
- Cheese grater
- Container to keep detergent in


- 2 bars of soap - Sunlight, Castille, Irish Spring, Zest, whatever soap you like, totally 250g
- 1 cup soda crystals – or “washing soda” or Borax would work as well
- 1 cup baking soda
- White Vinegar

Grate bars of soap with a cheese grater.

Mix baking soda, soda crystals and soap flakes together in food processor until very fine. If there are a lot of large pebble sized bits of soap I find they stay on your clothes through the wash.

Use about 2-3 tablespoons of the detergent per load in the detergent slot of your washing machine, add about 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the softener compartment.

Step 1: Grate

Picture of Grate

Grate the bars of soap with a cheese grater.

Step 2: Process

Picture of Process

Mix baking soda, soda crystals and soap flakes together in food processor until very fine.

I like to give it a few pulses, and then just let it run on full for about 1 minute.

If there are a lot of large pebble sized bits of soap I find they stay on your clothes through the wash.

Step 3: Wash

Picture of Wash

Use about 2-3 tablespoons of the detergent per load in the detergent slot of your washing machine, add about 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the softener compartment.


ThomasP5 (author)2015-01-13

I found these directions from 1833 on how to make soap.

karalalala (author)ThomasP52015-01-13

That is making me curious. I love how old timey recipes and instructions are simultaneously super vague and oddly specific, like using the bouyancy of a potato in the lye to test strength. Half out = too strong but a sixpence size = too weak. When I become a crazy hermit living in the woods I'm going to give this a go! Thanks Thomas!

Krock12 (author)2015-02-14

I've been making a recipe similar to this for a few years now because my fiancé has very sensitive skin and the chemicals in commercial brands irritate his skin. I was wondering though, would I be able to make this and add a small amount of either organic (all natural) crystallized or liquid form of scent to it? Like some sort of essential oil type thing. The type they use for making soap and perfume and so on. He works in a warehouse and outside and the soap I make is usually enough to get rid of the smell, but by the end of the day they smell again because there is nothing there to make them smell amazing after being washed. They usually just smell like fabric. Lol. I'm
Just not sure if adding a liquid to the mixture would make it too goopy to be of use??

MyMenagerie (author)2013-02-26

This laundry detergent works great! Thanks for sharing!

I do have a question, though. Sometimes when putting cloths in the dryer, I notice that not all of the soap has rinsed away and have to re-rinse the load. Any suggestions about the cause and remedy for this? Thanks in advance!

karalalala (author)MyMenagerie2013-03-21

Hi! Sorry its taken me a while to reply to this. Its so awesome youre using this recipe so often! When I have trouble with this its usually due to one of two things: the soap wasnt grated fine enough to dissolve in the wash properly (especially true if using cold water washes), or I tried to stuff way too much in the washing machine and some bits of soap hid in safe pockets of clothes and didnt get the chance to dissolve. Are you still having this problem?

MyMenagerie (author)karalalala2013-03-22

Thank you for your reply! I think you may have hit the nail on the head: Sometimes I think I do overload the washer. I will try putting in less and see if that doesn't cure things. Thanks again!

MyMenagerie (author)2013-01-04

I just wanted to post an update: I made some of this detergent and love it!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!!

WARNING: DON'T use the food processor to grate the soap. I followed the instructions on my first batch (which turned out great!) and thought I'd see if it would be easier to use the food processor on my second batch. BAD IDEA!!! My food processor did NOT like it and made a mess between the blade and the cover. The blades took a LOT of elbow grease to clean them.

MyMenagerie (author)2012-09-14

Thank you, everyone for all your fantastic additions to this Instructible!

I am excited about making my own soap!

I only have one question, though: What can I use if I don't have a food processor? I have a cheese grater and a tiny electric food chopper/processer, but it definitely is not what Karalalala is using. Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated!


karalalala (author)MyMenagerie2012-09-15

You could use your tiny electric one, in batches. Grate the soap, grind it to a powder in your little processor in 2 batches, and then grind the 1 cup of soda crystals to a fine powder. You don't need to grind the baking soda. Just mix it all together in a tub, shouldn't take more than a couple more minutes to do it like that. Other than that.. I dunno, the only thing I have around the house here that I would use is maybe a mortar and pestle.. ?

MyMenagerie (author)karalalala2012-09-17

The morar and pestle sound challenging... :D Thanks for the replies! I can't wait to get started!

ruthy nov (author)2012-09-15

This is very useful.
One question though - when you say "soda cristals" you mean perhaps "caustic soda"?

karalalala (author)ruthy nov2012-09-15

Here's a good little article on soda crystals

karalalala (author)ruthy nov2012-09-15

Caustic soda is pretty harsh and is more suited to taking the skin off your bones than removing curry stains from your underwear. Yeah UNDERWEAR, don't judge me, these things happen..

Check my link on soda crystals, it takes you to wikipedia that has a couple different names for it in other places like washing soda or sodium carbonate. If you kind find it, you can just use Borax, it's similarly cheap.

lazemaple (author)2012-09-14

My HE washer is 7 years old now and I've used homemade soap in it similar to this recipe. I always add 1/4 to 1/2 cup vinegar to the rinse to first remove all the soap from the clothing - I use a *real* soap of saponified fat rather than the detergent soaps listed here and real soap is the one that goes scummy in hard water - it has so many other benefits though its worth it. Secondly the vinegar cleans out the washer from soap build up and it matters not wheather you are using a homemade detergent or ready made you should periodically run a cycle with vinegar to clean this soap sludge from the drum, drains, pump etc. and your washer will last much longer.

karalalala (author)lazemaple2012-09-15

Vinegar is probably the most useful substance on earth, and the stinky one is so nice on fries. One day I dream of making my own soap, its nice to hear someone with experience with proper soap AND an HE washer, thank you! So do you find the vinegar does a good enough job of removing the soap scum from the water? Have you tried not using the vinegar, do your clothes come out soapy? I'm interested in this.

vincent7520 (author)2012-09-13

Sounds great !

Your washer doesn't "overfoam" when using it ? That would be my main concern.

karalalala (author)vincent75202012-09-13

Nope! It's not very foamy, I haven't had any problems like that at all. Although it's not super likely, your washing machine might be different, just keep an eye on it the first time you use it.

vincent7520 (author)karalalala2012-09-15

thank you
have a nice week end.

MyMenagerie (author)2012-09-13

WOW! Thanks for sharing! I can't wait to get started!

What type of soap do you recommend to be the best as far as completely dissolving inthe wash water?


jonpersonals (author)MyMenagerie2012-09-14

Hi Good idea but just soaking the bar in water will elminate THE GRINDING ENTIrely.
I use a collection of Hotel and old bars. Just add the soap sloly to get some suds and its best to use a bit of conditioner to get rid of any scum and break down the surface tension for a better rinse, AND conditioner puts a it of wax on your clothes to keep them clean longer.
Jon, the racer dude

karalalala (author)MyMenagerie2012-09-13

I've only been using Sunlight soap, so that's the only kind I 100% know by experience dissolves in the wash. But, I think most soaps would work, just make sure you grind them very fine, almost to a powder. I find chunks larger then a couple millimeters come out on the clothes in cold waster.

MyMenagerie (author)karalalala2012-09-14

Thank you!

HabibasBeloved (author)2012-09-13

What do you consider to be a "regular washer"? That's a bit vague. Top loader as opposed to front loader? Are we talking certain brands? Please clear that up for me.

I just meant any washing machine other than a High Efficiency washer. I dont have any experience with them, but I know they need special detergent. Someone mentioned on here that its only a problem if the detergent is super foamy or sudsy, which this isn't. Top loading, front loading, side to side, up and down, should be all good.

Ah... I see. Thanks!

GoranUvDenRimboe (author)2012-09-13

We make our own soap as well, but use Ivory Soap. I don't use a cheese grater on the bar soap. Instead I put the unwrapped bar on a microwave safe plate and zap it on high for one minute. The bar will "grow" and get "poofy". Let it cool a bit then break it up into your food processor and give it a spin. It's fast and saves time having to grate the bar. Never tried it with any of the other bars since we don't like a strong the perfume smell to our soap.

Have fun!

That's pretty fun, especially if you have any kids you're having help you out. Magic and science! I don't recommend anyone microwaving anything that isn't Dove or Ivory soap though, they are special poofy soaps. Microwaving this Sunlight soap probably would not produce the same results. But I kind of want someone to try it, and tell me what happens.....

donnacecile (author)2012-09-13

One of the main differences (if not the only one) between regular laundry detergent and "HE" for your high efficiency washer is that "HE" is low-sudsing. As I understand it, the manufacturers add ingredients to make suds. I think this recipe is usable in a high-efficiency washer.

karalalala (author)donnacecile2012-09-13

Thanks Donnacecile! I've never used one, so I couldn't be 100% sure, I just wanted to make a note of it in case someone made up a batch of this and ruined their shiny HE washer or something terrible like that.

simayanan (author)2012-09-13

Could one use the grate attachment of the food processor to grate the soap? That would be a lot easier.

karalalala (author)simayanan2012-09-13

Yep! I don't have one, but that would save the arm effort!

Susan La Zazou (author)2012-09-13

This is exactly what I have been looking for! Thanks so much for the great instructable! :)

dulciquilt (author)2012-09-13

We use Zote. The bar has a slight lemon scent, but it's so diluted by the time you mix everything, you don't get the scent in your clothes. I am very sensitive to scents and Zote doesn't bother me at all. We only use cold water and add the soap before adding clothes and never had trouble with its dissolving. We use borax, washing soda, and oxyclean. This is very good with getting out pet odors, too.

auntwrennyz (author)2012-09-13

I've been making soap this way for several month now. I have 2 different bar soaps that I like to use and sometimes I combine a little of each.

1 - Fels Naptha
This is a great all around laundry soap bar. It's great for stain removal including blood and grease. We have a lot of both on the farm!

2 - Zote
I order it from Lehman's but it's available at Wal-Mart and other retailers.

I will say that I have a High Efficiency washer and I've never had any trouble with soap residue or washer performance.

Another tip I have is to add vinegar to the bleach dispenser when you're washing "fragrant" or heavily stained clothing. We sometimes have "farm odors" to eliminate from our laundry and it seems to help quite a bit.

About This Instructable




Bio: Professional maker and eater of food. Donuts.. Cheese.. Chocolate.. Beer.. these are a few of my favourite things! @karakabangpow
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