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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Liquid Laundry Detergent

I know, I know, but not everything done in the kitchen is edible!  Several years ago on Frugal Families, someone posted about making laundry detergent.  At the time I thought "I" would never take the time to do that.  I figured I was getting a good deal on the detergent I was already buying.  I tried making the powdered version just to say I did - ICK.  It didn't dissolve in cold water and left white granules all over everything!  A few years later however, I saw a recipe for liquid detergent (probably on Frugal Families too lol ) and gave that a try.  IT WORKS!  

I was surprised a few weeks ago to find a similar recipe at the check out stand of a local grocery store.  It listed the cost per load at  3 cents!  THAT is one of the reasons I've kept making my own liquid detergent.  There are only 3 critical ingredients (okay - 4 if you count the water) to keep on hand:  Borax, Washing Soda, and bar soap such as Fels Naptha, Zote, or other pure soap. (I have a friend who likes to use Dove's cucumber aloe bar because it smells better.) These items keep for a long time on the shelf.  A good way to store a bunch of detergent, in a fraction of the space.

Liquid Laundry Detergent

For mixing you'll need:

5 gallon bucket
large spoon
long whisk is nice
saucepan for melting the soap


1 bar soap
1 C. washing soda (not baking soda - washing soda is found in the detergent aisle near the borax)
1 C. borax


Grate 1 bar of soap and place in a saucepan with 2-3 C. water.  Turn on medium low heat and stir occasionally as it softens and melts.  This can take a while... I just go do something else and check in on it every 10 minutes or so.

In your 5 gallon bucket, put 1 C. washing soda and 1 C. borax.  (I use 1/2-1 C. more borax because we have hard water)  Pour 1 gallon of very hot water into the bucket.  Stir to dissolve.  Stir melted soap into the mixture in bucket.  Whisk until mixed.  Add 3- 3 1/2 gallons more of hot water and stir again.  This will be REALLY watery.  Don't worry, it will gel as it cools.  Put the lid on your bucket and let it cool for a day or so.  The mixture will gel fairly thick.  Depending on which soap you use, some water may separate off of it.  Just mix it back in before measuring.  Sometimes I like to scoop  right out of the bucket, and other times I pour some of it into an old plastic detergent bottle. (just shake that before you measure - easy!)

Use 1 or 2 cups of detergent per load, depending on how dirty the clothes are.

This mixture does not suds much at all.  Fine to use in high efficiency washers and easy on your septic system.  If you usually buy a detergent with whiteners, you may want to keep a box of whitener on hand to add to your whites.   Most of the time, the actual time spent grating and mixing is about 20 minutes.  Waiting for the soap to melt takes the longest, but you are free to do other things while waiting on that.

A 5 gallon batch usually lasts me about 3-4 months. (doing probably 10-15 loads per week)


  1. How big of a bar of soap, and what kind do you use?

  2. Wow, I could use a bath soap too huh? I'll definitely try this :) Thanks for sharing!

  3. Fels Naptha and Zote are bar soaps both found in the laundry section of your store. Some stores don't carry them but ask around and you're sure to find it. (online if nowhere else)

    The Dove soaps are really mild. I'd use two bars of Dove for a 5 gallon batch. Or just one if you cut the batch in half.

  4. Also alisa - I don't know that I'd use just any bath soap, just check and see that it doesn't have a lot of things added to it. Some of them suds more than other too if that's an issue for you.

  5. Thank you for this recipe. I have been looking at a way to cut our spending. I did some comparison shopping between the cost of this recipe and the brand of laundry detergent we usually but. This recipe is saving us over $22 everytime we have to buy laundry detergent. I always though making laundry detergent would be more trouble than it was worth, but I was seriously wrong. One thing I would like to point out, for those who use a gas stove like myself, you have to keep an eye on the melting soap. I wasn't was watchful as I should have been. When I did look, I had what appeared to be a cheese quiche bubbling over on the stove. lol. Luckily I got to it before it got bad. My stove was dirty anyway. The soap that did boil over just made the stove cleaning easier.
    I do have a question. Do you have a recipe to make dish soap for washing dishes by hand?

  6. Oh yes Lynnutte! I've cleaned up that mess once myself - I should make that note on the directions. lol

    I've never made dish soap, but I hunted around and found a good recipe on this site. Let me know if you try it and how it turns out!