Homemade Laundry Soap Detergent - A Tutorial with Images and Recipes

Homemade laundry soap is quick, easy and cheap. What other reasons do you need to make either a laundry powder or soap for your front loader or top loader washing machines?

I will teach you how to make laundry detergent and a laundry soap liquid with step-by-step instructions, and you will never want to buy another box of expensive, commercial washing powder again.

I don't know about you, but when the children were still at home I had a mountain of washing to do each week. And when they became teenagers the washing pile got bigger still. And not because their clothes were larger, but because they would change up to 3 times a day!

As a result, one of the most expensive part of my fortnightly shop was buying laundry detergent. First of all you get the box home and it is half empty and secondly it just never seemed to last, but most importantly commercial washing detergents have ingredients in them that are toxic to us, to the water systems and to the environment as a whole.

If only I knew then what I know now! The children have all flown the nest and although my laundry pile is just a fraction of what it used to be, I still can't bring myself to pay high prices for something that can be made at home using basically the same ingredients, and these days my personal impact on the environment is important to me.

Country washing day - basin, suds, soap and table.

A country washing day

So What is inside Commercial Laundry Soap?

 Basically 2 Things:
  • A surfactant that removes dirt
  • A builder that softens hard water
There are of course a lot more ingredients in commercial washing detergents but a lot of them are just fillers which is basically what you are paying for. In general, laundry detergents contain water softeners, surfactants, bleach, enzymes, brighteners, fragrances, and many other ingredients.

We can make laundry soap at a fraction of the price using the same elements necessary to clean clothes.

  • By using pure laundry soap we are providing the cleaning agent.
  • If we include washing soda we are softening the water.
  • If we use borax we are including a stain remover.

Homemade Laundry Detergent vs Homemade Washing Soap in Liquid Form for Soft and Hard Water

I prefer using a homemade laundry detergent as a powdered form of detergent because it works better for my soft water.

If you have hard water you would have to use more than the 2 tablespoons that I use per load. Using more soap can be problematic all round.

However a homemade washing soap that is in a liquid form is fine for both soft and hard water, and therefore a better option for those of you who have hard water.

How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent

I make my homemade laundry detergent with just 4 different ingredients.  I will give you a laundry detergent recipe or two so that you can choose the option that suits you best. One detergent recipe has soap bars that need grating, and the other detergent recipe uses soap flakes that are already grated, and therefore takes out some of the elbow grease needed for the first recipe.

Laundry Detergent Recipe using Grated Soap

This detergent recipe takes some time because you have to grate the soap bars, but really, it doesn't take me more than 6 or so minutes to grate the 3 bars of soap. I grate the soap using the fine side of the grater. I feel that this is important so that your soap will dissolve quickly in your top loader of front loader washing machine. 

You will need the following equipment:

1 bowl
1 wooden spoon 
1 cheese grater

You will need the following ingredients:

2 bars pure soap
1 bar Sard Wondersoap (125g / 4.5 oz) (Any soap used to remove stains, Zote or similar)
2 cups washing soda
2 cups borax

All the ingredients needed to make homemade laundry detergent.
The 4 ingredients: washing soda, borax, 2 bars pure soap, 1 bar Sard Wondersoap


Grate the bar of Sard Wondersoap, Zote, or similar into the bowl using the fine side of the grater. Now grate the pure soap bars until you have 4 cups of grated soap in total.

I find that I have a very small piece left over at the end of grating, which you can see in the image below. However, as far as I am concerned, grating it in and adding it to the homemade laundry detergent mix wouldn't harm in the slightest.

Grating the laundry soap for the homemade detergent.
Grating the Laundry Soap and the Little bit Left Over

Now add the washing soda and mix well. Finally add the borax. The borax will be very lumpy. You need to get in with your hands and crumble the lumps up until no more lumps exist.

Borax added to the homemade laundry detergent.
You can see the lumps here in the borax that still needed to be broken down

(Not sure why it looks as if there is liquid in the bowl. There is no liquid in this recipe. Just a bad image. My apologies!)

Homemade laundry detergent in a bowl.
The final product! Homemade Laundry Detergent!

You now have your very own homemade laundry detergent made for a fraction of the cost of commercial washing detergent. Place in an air-tight container until needed.

Quick and Easy Laundry Detergent Recipe using Soap Flakes - No grating Needed

This laundry detergent is just as good as the one above, but instead of using grated soap you can use soap flakes instead, such as Lux Soap Flakes. This saves grating the soap if you would prefer and as a result, this detergent recipe is very quick to make.


4 cups Lux Soap Flakes
2 cups washing soda
2 cups borax


Mix all together in a bowl and then place in an air-tight container until needed.

How Much Homemade Laundry Detergent per Load?

I find that it really depends on the load, whether large or small, but on average, I use 2 tablespoons of detergent per load for the first recipe. Because the soap flakes are a little large in the second laundry detergent recipe I use 3 tablespoons.

You may be worrying about the lack of soap suds if you have a front loader as you watch the washing going round and round. Don't panic. This is normal. This homemade laundry detergent does not foam. And neither would commercial detergents if they weren't packed with a foaming agent that is completely unnecessary.

I know that for those of you who want to make a liquid version of your homemade laundry soap you wouldn't be happy if I didn't give you one here so here it is:

Homemade Laundry Soap Recipe

Homemade laundry soap is good too, and as I mentioned earlier, it is good for both soft and hard water. This soap recipe will make 10 quarts (about 10 liters) which will do a heap of washing.


1 pan
1 10 liter (5 gallon) bucket, or similar
1 wooden spoons


1 cup Lux Soap Flakes
1 1/2 quarts (1.4 liters) water
1/2 cup borax (all lumps removed first by sifting or manually crushing)
1/2 cup washing soda

Ingredients for homemade laundry soap.

Put the soap flakes in a pot and cover with the water. Place on medium heat and stir until all the soap flakes have melted. This will take just a few minutes but all flake have to be completely dissolved for the soap to work well and not separate out later on.

Add the lump-free borax and washing soda, one after the other and stir in well. Continue cooking and stirring over the medium heat until the mixture thickens. Now remove from the heat.

Get a 10 liter bucket ( or 5 gallon bucket).

For those using a 10 liter bucket: Place the soap mixture from the pan into the bucket and fill it up with very hot water from your tap.

For those using a 5 gallon bucket: Place the soap mixture from the pan into the bucket and fill 1/2 the bucket with very hot water from your tap.  You are looking for a total volume of about 2.5 US gallons.

Continue to stir well for a few minutes and then leave it for an hour or so, before stirring again every so often until it is cool enough to place in some sort of container for later use. When I make this recipe I put the soap in plastic milk containers.

How Much Homemade Laundry Soap Liquid per Load?

Again it will depend on how large the load, or how soiled your clothes are. However, on average for each load of laundry you only need to use 1/4 cup per load. Place this in the soap dispenser section.

Benefits of Homemade Laundry Detergent and Homemade Laundry Soap

As you can see, neither the laundry detergent nor the laundry soap are difficult to make. You only need basic kitchen equipment and a few ingredients that are readily available in your local supermarkets.

If you don't know whether you have hard or soft water I would suggest using the homemade laundry soap recipe. However, for those who have soft water the detergent powder will give you a better result.

The other benefit is that it is quick to make. None of the above recipes will take you more than 20 minutes to throw together.

Finally, and I think this is the best reason, not only will it save you a heap of money, but you are also doing something good for your family and environment as you will be eliminating a lot of the toxic elements found in a commercial detergent.

More Soap Making Resources for You

Go from Laundry Soap back to Making Soap

Go to Homemade Soap Recipes

Go to the Saponification Chart

Go to Make Lye from Wood Ash

Go to  the Stain Removal Guide

Go to Country Crafts

Go to Country Living

Go to Frugal Living

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