How to Save Money on Laundry Detergent


We do a lot of laundry around here, folks. That should come as no surprise, since there are twelve of us that live here, but it still boggles my mind how much laundry detergent we go through. Years ago, we determined that something had to be done to save our poor budget, and one of the ways we save is by making a lot of our own household products. Laundry detergent is one of them, but you can see the others here: Make Your Own Household Products.

If making your own laundry detergent isn’t your thing, you might give Charlie’s Soap a try for a gentle, inexpensive laundry soap that works great.

If you’d like to spend even less (in the ballpark of $2 for 180-640 loads!) then you might find it worth a little time to make your own.

I’ve shared our laundry detergent recipe here on the blog before, but it’s been almost five years. I thought it was about time to share it again – with pictures this time, so you can visualize how easy it is. I enlisted Olivia (14) to assist me so that I could take the pictures, and we had a fun time of it!

How to Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

Pour 4 cups of hot tap water into a large pot.


Get a bar of Fels Naptha soap…


and grate it.


Pour the grated soap into the pot of water.


Stir over medium-low heat on the stove until it is completely melted and dissolved. Any wooden spoon will do, but if you happen to own this nifty gadget (from Pampered Chef), it helps to crush the little pieces of soap. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when the soap is completely melted due to the small amount of bubbling in the pot, so I recommend stirring a few minutes longer than you think you need to.


Fill a 5-gallon bucket halfway with hot tap water. I use my old Charlie’s Soap bucket. :) Add the melted soap mixture…


1 cup of Super Washing Soda…


and 1/2 cup of Borax.


Stir until all powders are dissolved.


Fill the rest of the bucket with hot tap water.




Put a lid on the bucket, and let it stand overnight.


Next Day

You will likely find that the mixture has gelled.


You’re going to have to put your hands in there and squeeze the gel to liquify it. I don’t mind doing this, but I have a kid or two who thinks it’s gross. Then again, I have a bunch of kids who think it’s awesome, so I always have a helper on-hand! If you can find a “this is awesome” kid in your house, get them to help you.


Grab a measuring cup with a nice pouring spout.


Find a clean, empty laundry container, or some other dispenser, and fill it halfway with your mixture.


Fill the rest of the way with water.


Give it a good shake…


And your laundry detergent is ready to use!


  • Makes a total of 10 gallons
  • Use 1/4 cup per load for a front load machine (640 loads)
  • Use 5/8 cup per load for a top loader (180 loads)
  • If desired, you can add essential oils such as lavendar, rosemary, or tea tree, 10-15 drops per 2 gallons.


Pros? It’s cheap. It works GREAT. And you won’t have to worry about laundry detergent for a long time!

Cons? It takes a little time, but not excessive. I think it’s worth it!

Want a short, text only version to follow or print? Here ya go!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

What you need:

  • 4 cups hot tap water
  • 1 bar Fels-Naptha Soap
  • 1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
  • 1/2 cup Borax
  • 1 five-gallon bucket with lid
  • 1 clean, used laundry soap dispenser



  • Grate the bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continuously over medium-low heat until completely melted and dissolved.
  • Fill a 5-gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add the melted soap, super washing soda, and borax. Stir until all powders are dissolved. Fill the rest of the bucket with hot tap water. Stir, cover, and let to sit overnight.
  • Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser halfway with soap. Fill the rest of the dispenser with water.