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Homemade Laundry Detergent – Cost Saver

Laundry Detergent

How much did you pay for your last box or bottle of laundry detergent? How many loads of wash can you get from each container? Take the number of loads per container and divide it by the price to get the cost per load

If your per load cost is more than 1 cent, you’re paying too much. Yes, that’s right. Anything more than a penny is too much. No joking, you can save a small bundle of money if you make your own laundry detergent. Not to mention that homemade laundry detergent is less harmful on the environment. Here’s how you can wash your clothes for less than 1 cent per load and do your part for the environment. This is what you’ll need:

UPDATE 3/1/2015: I no longer use the laundry detergent recipe listed below.  I now use the one found at Annie’s Place. The one listed below works as I’ve used it for at least 8 years, but I like the one on Annie’s Place better.



  • 3.1 oz bar Ivory soap (or soap of choice)
  • 1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
  • ½ cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
  • Water


  • 5 Gallon container
  • Knife
  • Pot
  • Long stirring stick/spoon (for 5 gallon container)



Pour 5 cups of water in the pot and heat it just shy of boiling. You want the water hot enough to be able to melt the soap, but not hot enough to boil over. While the water is warming up, use the knife to cut the bar of soap into small strips. Add the shredded soap to the pot of heated water. Stir the mixture until the soap is completely melted.



Once the soap is melted, pour 3 gallons of hot water into the 5-gallon container. To the 3 gallons of hot water you’ll stir in the melted soap mixture. Once it’s adequately mixed, add the ½ cup of super washing soda and stir until dissolved. Once the washing soda is completely dissolved, pour in the cup of Mule Team borax and stir again until dissolved.

Optional Fragrance: If you prefer to have a pleasant scent to your homemade laundry detergent, you may add a few drops of essential oils (usually found at health food stores). The amount of fragrance added is strictly of personal preference.

Now that everything is mixed and dissolved, you’ll have a 5-gallon container of soapy water. Cover the container, and place it somewhere it wont be disturbed. Let it cool overnight. It will begin to gel when as it cools. It does not gel uniformly so if you look in the container the next day and see a lumpy watery gel don’t be alarmed. You will, however, want to store your homemade laundry detergent in smaller containers.

Amount Per Load: ½ cup is sufficient to clean a load of clothes. This recipe is great for high efficiency washing machines because it is a low sudsing detergent.

Word of warning for High Efficiency Machines: Before pouring the lumpy gel into the detergent dispenser, stir it to break up the lumps. Very large lumps may not fully dissolve; stirring the detergent with a spoon, pencil, finger or whatever you have available will resolve this issue.


This recipe yields 442 oz of homemade laundry detergent, of which 4 oz are required per load. In total, you should be able to wash 110 ½ loads of laundry.

Cost break down:

In May of 2007, in the Northeastern region of the United States, the recipe cost as follows:

  • 20 Mule Team Borax: $2.50 for 70 oz.
    Cost per batch: .28 (8 oz needed for recipe)
  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda: $2.50 for 55 oz.
    Cost per batch .18.(4 oz needed for recipe)
  • Ivory Soap: $.99 for 3 3.1 oz. Bars.
    Cost per batch: .33 (1 bar of soap needed for recipe)

Cost to make: .79
Yield: 442 oz.
Cost per oz. = .00178
Cost per ½ cup = .007 or rounded to .01 cent per load

The cost to wash 110.5 loads is $1.11. How does that compare to your store-bought detergent?

For more cost saving tips and recipes, visit Blulow; the blog with tips and advice for living green.

UPDATE: Check out how one family’s experience with homemade laundry detergent after one year of use.

About the author: Felicia Williams is a wife, mother and grandmother who likes to write.

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