Saving money and getting clean…

… making your own laundry detergent.

I am becoming more and more aware of environmental issues, add that to my interest in personal finance and the result is home made laundry detergent. My primary motivation for wanting to make my own detergent was money, I knew that store bought detergent had a mark-up and figured that making it myself would be cheaper no matter what. My second motivation for going home made was that I am very sensitive to chemicals and have several environmental and food allergies. Eliminating even just one of those would be a plus! So I started searching for some recipes and reviews on what people thought about them. I wanted a simple, easy to make, budget-friendly and if possible also environmentally friendly detergent. I chose this recipe:

Home made detergent

Powdered Laundry Detergent:
12 cups of Borax
8 cups of Washing Soda*
8 cups of Baking Soda
8 cups of grated bar soap

I used a food-grade pail and doubled the recipe then simply measured cup by cup all the ingredients and stirred it around in the pail. The only hassle with the recipe was grating the soap, I grated it all by hand until I had enough and also some very sore fingers. You can use different kinds of bar soap, but it has to be a PURE soap. Don’t use something like a Dove bar as it won’t wash properly. I used Sunlight laundry bars, since they are already meant to be used with laundry and smell nice and fresh, and I am not known to be sensitive to them, I thought they were a safe bet.  All of these ingredients are available at a local grocery store and are usually reasonably priced.

With the detergent made I found I wanted to add a little bit more scent to it, the Sunlight bar soap already gave it that lemony-fresh smell but I wanted a bit more, so I added about 20 drops of PURE high quality essential oils in my favourite scent to the detergent. This is an optional step. It’s important to get good quality oil since it will be touching your clothes and you don’t want it to stain your favourite shirt. I bought my small bottle of oil for more than 18 dollars, so it is definitely not cheap. Without the oil the detergent would be even more cost efficient than what I calculated below;

Costs to make the recipe, approximately;
Home made det. total cost: $20.28 or $0.07 per load assuming 288 loads per recipe.
Store bought det. X 2.2KG total cost: $8.99 or $0.22 per load assuming 40 loads per box.

WOW! Big difference huh, store bought laundry detergent X is almost 60% more expensive than making your own! Did I do the math right…? I don’t know about you but I am pretty much stunned by the difference. At this point I was convinced this was the right choice but I was still a little concerned about how well it would actually work on our laundry. Who wants dingy clothes? So I used up my store bought detergent and started using only home made. I made the detergent in December 2009.

Looks just like store bought..

{Updated Oct 1st] Fast-forward to today, Oct 1, 2010 :
It has been 9 months since I started using this detergent, I am still using the same pail… I’m not even halfway through it yet!  I find that sometimes I have to add in a little more washing soda, baking soda or a cup of vinegar to help release some of the grime. Since all of my towels are white I wash them all once a month with a little bleach and baking soda to really keep them bright white. I also find that occasionally I ‘both’  a load of laundry, it’s usually some fault of my own and not the detergent. The wash comes out smelling funky and I rewash it with some vinegar and detergent to solve the problem.

All in all I am very happy I switched, stains come out reliably well, clothes come out fresh and clean. I would recommend homemade detergent to anyone! The only hassle is grating the soap for the rest it only takes about 5 minutes of measuring and stirring and you’re set for quite a while.

Thus far the only negative point, if you can call it that, is that I have noticed that clothes come out smelling like… nothing. They’re clean so they don’t smell like anything, if you are sensitive like me this is a good thing but for those people that like the ‘fresh linen’  or other fragrance you are best off to use a scented dryer bar or scented dryer sheets.

PS: The environmental impact of some of these ingredients can be argued, and I know that I should also find an alternative to using bleach, I think however that by eliminating additives, fillers, artificial colouring and others this recipe is already strides ahead of your regular detergent when it comes to the environment. I should also mention that I have not had any itching or allergic reactions I associated with other detergents since I have started using this recipe! + to make it better the next time I make it intend to look for even better sourced ingredients.

* Washing soda IS different from baking soda. It can usually be found on a top or bottom shelf at the grocery store in the same area as other laundry detergent.

So tell me! Have you tried this recipe, what do you think? Or… do you use something different already, does it work better? I’m always looking for bigger and better things and would love to hear any comments below

Published by Renée

I write about my life, travel and my financial up and downs on my blog, Nickel By Nickel, while contradicting myself daily. ;)

5 thoughts on “Saving money and getting clean…

  1. This is great! 🙂 I made my first batch of liquid laundry detergent a couple weeks ago, and it works great. I agree with you that the only real hassle is grating the dang soap. My husband was quick to point out that the clothes don’t have a scent after they’ve been washed, but that really doesn’t bother me. As long as they’re clean and don’t smell *bad*, I don’t care. 🙂


  2. Yeah the Sunlight soap is really hard to grate, ugh. I tried some with Ivory (Isn’t that what you used?) and that was way easier but I prefer Sunlight I think. Aw well, I got the boyfriend and his friends to take turns. They thought the whole idea of making your own detergent was so cool that they didn’t mind doing it, hehe, I’ve got minions doing my bidding!


  3. Pingback: How to make reusable laundry sheets « Nickel By Nickel
  4. Andrea- where do you find sunlight bars? Not in my stores here in So Cal. Customer review on Amazon says the bar sold there is not the same formula as found overseas. ps. I have a nifty hand crank grater from Salad Master- it should be fun with the kids.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website at
Get started
%d bloggers like this: