Laundry detergent is a major item on the expenditure sheet of most households. Keeping a family’s worth of clothes clean can be a big drain on the budget. However, most people do not realize that detergent can be made at home. Detergent is not a magical substance that can only be produced by factories, after all. With a few natural ingredients, you can make laundry detergent that works just as well as the big name brands. Read on to find out how to DIY laundry detergent, and save a bucket load of money in the process!

First, what is laundry detergent? Detergent is a cleaning substance designed to dissolve and become active in water, whether the water is hot or cold. The detergent is effectively a soap that dissolves easily, so that it can permeate clothing, attach itself to dirt and grime, and then be rinsed out by a washing machine’s normal cycle. A detergent that does not dissolve easily enough will become stuck in clothes, and not fully rinse out during a wash cycle. When considering how to DIY laundry detergent, then, it is very important to consider solubility.

The basic recipe for home made detergent is simple:
1 bar of soap, finely grated with a cheese grater or food processor
1 cup of washing soda, or soda ash, which helps deal with oily contaminants
1 cup of borax, which is a mineral that helps prevent calcification
Mix all ingredients until combined. Store in an airtight container. One standard load of laundry takes about 1-2 tablespoons of detergent.

The most important ingredient to pay attention to here is the soap. An all natural soap that dissolves easily is important here. Try testing different soaps for this to find one that is easy to create suds with by hand. If a soap is hard or waxy, it will not dissolve well, which will make your home made detergent difficult to rinse out of clothes. When considering how to DIY laundry detergent, the soap is the key ingredient that will make or break your recipe.

Once you have a basic detergent that will dissolve well and clean clothes, you can add many ingredients to the recipe to make the soap more fragrant or effective.

Essential oils are a great way to add a nice scent to your laundry. For the recipe above, adding 20 drops of an essential oil like lemon, lime, lavender, peppermint, or any other scent you enjoy will give you a fragrant laundry experience equivalent to a very expensive store bought aromatic detergent.

Oxygen booster is a natural compound that accomplishes the same thing as bleach. Adding a cup of oxygen booster to home made detergent makes an excellent detergent to use for loads of white fabric. This will make your whites come out whiter and brighter, without the use of harsh chemicals.

Some water sources have very hard water, which can make it difficult to use home made powder detergent. Hard water means water that has a lot of minerals already dissolved in it. The more things already dissolved in water, the worse that water is at dissolving other compounds. That means that, if you have especially hard water in your home, you may not be able to find a bar soap that dissolves readily enough to use this recipe. In this case, you can make liquid detergent instead. Here’s how to DIY laundry detergent in liquid form. The recipe is similar to the powder version, but there are some extra steps:

First, grate the bar of soap like in the other recipe.

Second, put the soap in a sauce pan with 2 quarts of water. Put the pan over low heat and stir constantly until the soap is completely dissolved. Remove from heat immediately, or you will cover your stove with suds!

Third, fill a 5 gallon bucket with 4.5 gallons of water as hot as your tap can get. Stir in 2 cups of borax, and 2 cups of washing soda, making sure all ingredients are completely dissolved.

Fourth, pour your soap mixture from step 2 into the bucket and stir to combine. Let sit overnight to cool.

Fifth, stir the cooled liquid detergent until smooth, and optionally transfer to other containers like gallon milk jugs.

This detergent takes about 1/2 cup to 1 whole cup per standard load of laundry.

Making liquid detergent is more work intensive, but if you are having trouble getting your powdered detergent to dissolve, making liquid detergent is a good way to ensure that your detergent is already dissolved. In situations where hard water makes natural powder detergent impossible to use, or a specific model of washing machine does not do well with home made detergent, liquid detergent will nearly always solve the issue.

Liquid detergent can also be augmented with any of the ingredients that work for powder detergent. Adding oxygen booster will make liquid detergent clean white clothes more effectively, and essential oils can be used to make an aromatic laundry detergent. These ingredients can be added at the end, or even added individually to each load of laundry.

One concern many people have about this recipe is whether it will work with a high efficiency washer. High efficiency washes need low sud detergents, which this recipe is. In most cases, a high efficiency washer will work just fine with DIY laundry detergent.

As you can see, the recipe for home made detergent is simple and inexpensive. Bar soap, borax, and washing soda are all available in bulk for an extremely low cost, and the work involved in combining them is minimal. For a recipe that takes just a few minutes, you can make laundry detergent that works just as well as name brands for under half the cost. Even in hard water situations, the DIY liquid detergent recipe is a natural solution that will work under almost any conditions. Try making your own laundry detergent today, and see the difference in can make in your budget!