DIY Laundry Detergent That Actually Works

posted by Andrea | 06/23/2014


Over the past 3+ years, I’ve shared a number of DIY cleaning products here on the blog.

I will be very honest with you, the main reason I make many of my own cleaning products is because they are SO much faster, cheaper, and easier than buying them from the store. Yes, it’s nice that they are safer around my kids and kinder to the environment too — but my main goal here is fast, cheap, and easy.

I almost always have the simple ingredients in my house, so I can always whip up another batch in a minute or so. This means I never need to run to the store for more products and I don’t have to spend a fortune on store-bought chemicals.

To date, I’ve come up with homemade DIY cleaners for:

Along with everything listed out above, I’ve tried many other DIY cleaner recipes that I have NOT posted on my blog because in my opinion, they either didn’t work well enough, they were too time consuming or complicated to make, or they really didn’t save any money over store-bought products.

Some of those “tried but never shared” recipes were DIY laundry detergent.

I’ve tried a few different laundry detergent recipes over the years but literally hated them all — and I’m really not one to care that much about my laundry. As long as my laundry is clean, relatively wrinkle-free, and smells nice, I just don’t care.

However with all the DIY detergent recipes I’ve tried in the past, I ended up with clothes that didn’t seem clean enough for me, and they certainly didn’t smell nice. Plus, the recipes usually involved boiling bars of soap (which I had no desire to do) and storing mass amounts of goopy liquid in my TINY laundry room.

No thanks.

After a few failed attempts, I simply decided that homemade laundry detergent was not for me; and I gave up searching for new recipes.

Then, a few months ago, I found a recipe for a DIY powder detergent that didn’t involve any boiling. It didn’t require expensive or hard-to-find  ingredients, and basically only involved dumping a few boxes into a large bucket and shaking it.

laundry detergent that works

If that doesn’t sound good enough already, this recipe is WAY more than “just” laundry detergent. It’s also spot treatment, whitener, brightener, deodorizer, and fabric softener all in one.  You can use this detergent for front or top-loading machines and it’s safe for high efficiency machines too.

Oh, and one batch makes a lot of detergent so you could easily share with friends or even give it as a gift in a pretty container.

Recipe for DIY Laundry Detergent:

Makes enough for approximately 230 loads of laundry!



  • one 76 oz. box Borax powder
  • one 55 oz. box Washing Soda
  • one 16 oz. box Baking Soda
  • 3 pounds OxiClean (the only reason I bought 2 smaller containers is because I had 2 coupons so it was cheaper this way)
  • one 28 oz. container Purex Crystals
  • three bars Fels-Naptha soap; grated
  • large, clean bucket or other container with a lid


  • Dump all powder/crystal ingredients into a large bucket (I used a 5 gallon bucket with a lid)
  • Grate the Fels-Napths soap bars over the bucket (I used a microplane fine grater so the particles we really small)
  • Place lid on bucket and shake (or mix with a large spoon)
  • Store in the covered bucket or in smaller containers with lids (I put some of mine right back in the OxyClean and Purex containers)

NOTE: I mixed it outside as it was a little “dusty” when I poured all the powders together. Also, grating 3 bars of soap produces a very strong smell :)

mix ingredients in large bucket

mixed detergent

refill containers with detergent


  • Dump 2 Tablespoons of detergent into your washing machine along with your clothes
  • For best results, wash with warm or hot water. (UPDATE: a reader just emailed saying she uses this recipe with cold water and it still cleans fabulously!)
  • If you have a very large or heavily soiled load, maybe use 3 or 4 Tablespoons.

NOTE: You can use the scoop from the OxiClean or the cap of the Purex to measure out the proper amount. The OxiClean scoop is exactly 2 T. and the Purex “fill line” is also 2 T.

use 2T per load

We’ve been using this detergent for a couple months now and I honestly have nothing bad to say about it.

As I mentioned above, my requirements for justifying the time and energy it takes to make my own laundry detergent are:

  1. Something that actually works, cleans well, and smells good
  2. Something that is REALLY easy to make (and not liquid)
  3. Something that was cheaper than store bought detergent

I’m happy to say that this recipe meets all my requirements!

1. It actually works:

I have not noticed any difference in the cleanliness of our clothing. The OxiClean takes care of any stains (which eliminates the need to spot treat) and the Purex Crystals make the clothes smell amazing.

You could definitely make this without the Purex Crystals and just use regular fabric softener or drier sheets if you’d like. Or you could try any of these handy tips to reduce static cling.

2. It’s REALLY easy to make:

Just dump, grate, and shake.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed that this recipe required grating 3 bars of soap. I tried to see if I could find something that worked without grating — but this recipe really is the best.

It probably took me about 15 minutes to grate all 3 bars, but that was doing it all by hand. I didn’t want to put the soap in my food processor, but if you did that, it would only take about a minute! Based on how much detergent this one batch makes, I personally feel it was worth the 15 minutes of grating — especially since the rest of the “mixing instructions” only took about 3 extra minutes.

3. It’s Inexpensive:

When I made this recipe, I had most of the ingredients in the house already (everything but the Purex Crystals and 1 bar of Fels-Naptha soap)… however, I price-checked everything at the store and even WITHOUT coupons or sales, it should cost you less than $25 to make this massive batch of detergent.

If you purchased any of the items on sale and/or used a few coupons, it would probably be closer to $15 or less — and I’m guessing many of you have some of these ingredients in the house already!

I did the math and even without coupons or sales, this detergent would be right around $0.09 per load!!

laundry detergent

To be clear, this is in no way a “green” or completely environmentally friendly laundry detergent — but that wasn’t really my goal. Yes, several of the ingredients are environmentally friendly — but there are others (like OxiClean and Purex Crystals) that are obviously not :)

I think it’s still a lot more “natural” than regular store-bought laundry detergents — with the added bonuses of my beloved OxiClean to fight stains and Purex Crystals to act as fabric softener and give a fabulous smell.

I’m super happy with this DIY laundry detergent and I’d highly recommend giving it a try — especially if you’ve been disappointed by other DIY detergents in the past.

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Filed under: CleaningDIY ProjectsFrugal LivingHomeLife



  1. Debbie


    Ooops….I meant baking soda.


  2. Julie


    Is there anyway you could try this out in not such a large quantity. Some people in my household have skin sensitivities and I don’t want to have five gallons of laundry detergent that will cause some people allergies? Thanks you if you know how to do this in smaller quantities.


  3. desiree


    Microwave your bar of fels napth for about 1:30-2:00 minutes. Its very aromatic but the bar puffs up and after cooling literally will crumble in your hand! No grating necessary!


  4. Niecey


    I just might give this a try! I tried liquid laundry soap and my husband says he doesn’t think it gets our clothes clean. I definitely could smell the slightly ‘old sweaty’ smell once the clothes had been folded and in the drawers for a few days. So I am glad I wasn’t the only one.

    The Purex crystals are for scent and softness only?


  5. rachel


    Yes! I love this and have used it for years. I only use the Borax, washing soda and naptha soap and it works great, I bet the others are an even better boost. For a smaller batch use one bar of the naptha soap grated, and 1 cup of each the washing soda and borax. You can even all 1/2 cup of the unstoppables for a lovely sent if you wish. Enjoy, it saves so much money!


  6. Tara


    I may be confused on my bloggers, but didn’t you used to use soap nuts? If so, were you no longer happy with them? I really ask for no reason besides pure curiosity. :-)


    Andrea Reply:

    No Tara — you’re not confused. I did use SoapNuts for a LONG time and I still do love them. They are 100% natural and organic so that’s always nice. However, I really do like using OxyClean and was adding that along with the SoapNuts — so I figured I’d try this recipe. I think the cleaning power of both are fabulous, this recipe is just a lot cheaper even with the OxyClean. I have absolutely nothing against SoapNuts and still use them for various loads of laundry.


  7. Erica


    These are some great recipes Andrea… going to have to mention these in my company newsletter.


  8. Kari


    My current detergent does not leave a scent and I don’t use or need a fabric softener because of the dryer balls. Could I leave out the Purex Crystals?


    Amy Reply:

    You can definitely leave out the Purex – it just adds a scent anyway. You can also leave out the Oxyclean. I’ve been making this same recipe w/o those two ingredients for years! It’s also easier to shred the Fels-naptha in the food processor and then chop again with the blade. For a super fine consistency that dissolves fast! I make two batches at once with a household of active boys, and this “works best for me”


  9. Kari


    By the way, Andrea have you ever used the dryer balls?
    What did you like or dislike about them?
    I’ve had 4 for almost 5 years now and they still work great.
    Talk about cost savings?


  10. Heather @ My Overflowing Cup


    Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I have wanted to make my own detergent for years, but my husband was concerned about it being compatible with our front loading HE washer. I have all of the ingredients (including the microplaner) on hand, except for the Purex crystals. I usually prefer liquid detergent over powdered, but these economic times are finding me branching out of my comfort zone in the name of frugality. I can’t wait to try this. Thank you, again!


  11. Carrie


    Has anyone tried this recipe with teenage baseball pants…grass stains, mud, red clay dirt and not to mention a smell that is unique to teenage boys?
    Also I have heard that sometimes a smell comes from a washer not from the clothes. Does anyone have a homemade version of washer or dryer cleaner? Thanks.


  12. Karen


    I’m excited to try this! We have made our detergent for a couple of years using borax, washing soda, and ivory. Adding the purex should make it smell better. Thanks for this tip. I love reading your posts everyday. I’m starting to ask myself what would Andrea do? lol


    Andrea Reply:

    haha! Thanks Karen… I hope you like this detergent!


  13. Debbie Smith


    Hi Andrea, love your posts. Can this recipe be used in a High efficiency washer?


    Andrea Reply:

    yes Debbie — our washer is an HE and it works just fine!


  14. Heather


    Hey Andrea,
    I just recently discovered your blog after reading about you in The Bootstrap VA! I enjoyed the post about the laundry detergent. I have never tried or even cared to make my own detergent before, but this sounds easy and cheap. I was wondering if you or any of your readers knew if this mixture was ok to use with cloth diapering? I am attempting to do cloth with my little one and wash diapers about every other day. Thanks!


    Andrea Reply:

    thanks Heather! I’m honestly not sure if it works with cloth diapers or not… sorry!


  15. Beth


    I have been using the Fels-Naptha bars in a laundry recipe for a couple of years. Rather than grate the bars, I unwrap and put them on a microwave safe plate. I microwave them on high for 2:30. The bars puff up. After they cool, they are easily crumbled. I microwave one bar at a time. I’m making my recipe again, but using your idea for adding oxi-clean. Thanks for your helpful posts!


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing Beth!


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