Cheap, Easy DIY Liquid Laundry Detergent

My older sister makes her own liquid laundry detergent. When I asked her how, she sent me this recipe, which I see was later revised and clarified.

As a lover of novelty and new experiences, I set forth to boldly assemble my own laundry detergent. C’est très facile, yo!

My ingredients:


The resulting bucket o’ sweetly scented slime:

Some subjects just don’t make for riveting photos.


1. The revised recipe has better directions, and we all know that poor instructions are a tool of Satan. For example, the original recipe called for 1 box of washing powder and 1 box of Borax, despite the fact the you’ll only be using 1 or 1/2 cup of each ingredient. Shenanigans, I tell you!

2. Making your own detergent may or may not save  money, depending on what you currently spend. However, this method does use fewer mysterious ingredients than most commercial brands and could benefit those with allergies or sensitive skin

3. None of the buckets sold at my Wal-Mart had lids, despite the fact that many of them bore this warning label:

This company emailed me to say they’re “consolidating their backlinks” and asked me not to use this old link. So… uh… not sure what to do now.


I used a spare trash can (with a lid!) instead. You may be able to get buckets from a deli or farm supply

4. Fragrance-wise, your choice of soap doesn’t much matter, so feel free to use something cheap. My big sister says she sometimes gets bored with almost-unscented detergent and switches back to conventional brands. Some readers suggested adding essential oils, a pricy addition.

5. Dissolving your soap in the microwave is more energy-efficient than using the stove top. Shave the soap into a microwave-safe container of water, mind you; if you plunk a whole bar of soap in there, you’ll waste at least 30 minutes of energy AND feel like an idiot. Shave the soap, people.

6. You can also use your borax and washing powder to make dishwasher detergent. Score!

7. If you have ANY questions about the effectiveness or usefulness of this detergent, feel free to consult the original recipe’s 558 comments or the visual guide’s 299. They cover a lot of ground, from questions about HE washers and septic tanks to various opinions on the detergent’s cost and effectiveness


Only after buying my ingredients did it occur to me to research them. Washing soda seems to get a clean bill o’ eco-friendliness, and soaps vary. Borax, though…

Is Borax Safe? Is Borax Green?

Borax: not the green alternative it’s cracked up to be



Not the worst substance, but not the best. Still, it’s paid for and sitting in my kitchen. Therefore, I’ll keep using my pail of squishy white glop. Might tinker with the formula next time.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the ingredients for Seventh Generation’s powder laundry detergent. First ingredients? Washing soda and baking soda! No borax.

Next, I checked on Seventh Generation’s liquids, whose first ingredients are water and sodium lauryl sulfate. But is sodium lauryl sulfate bad news?

Bright Hub has a spiffy series about Green Laundry Detergents, part of which is devoted to the question Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate a Natural Surfactant? The sentence “Basically, a surfactant such as sodium lauryl sulfate affects your skin by partially dissolving the cell membranes of your skin cells” makes me wish I hadn’t used generic Cetaphil for so many years… (some good comments on that post, by the way!)

Readers, I’m all hopped up on chocolate almond milk and refuse to spend my Saturday night further researching detergent, of all things.


Two final thoughts:
– We’ve done about 8 loads of laundry with the DIY detergent, and so far I’m pleased as punch. As a bonus, the novelty hasn’t worn off!
-Next time around, maybe I’ll just buy soap nuts and call it a day


Ever made your own detergent? Used soap nuts? Consumed 500 calories of chocolate almond milk in a day? Share your wisdom in the comments!


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  1. I’ve never made my own detergent, but this looks fun. It also definitely seems like a good way to keep the chemicals in my life to a minimum.

    Wow, that article about Cetaphil is alarming. I don’t use the cleanser, but I use Cetaphil lotion. I guess tonight is a good night for looking at the ingredients list on that and weeping.


  2. Thanks for sharing — I will have to try this someday!

    To anyone that doesn’t know about it, there’s a great website from the Environmental Working Group where they rate safety for cosmetics/personal care products: I try not to use products whenever possible, but when I’m going to use them I check them out on this site.


  3. I’m going to try this…but where I wonder does one purchase washing soda.


  4. Mia – It IS fun. The slime feels very neat.
    You may be happier not knowing what’s in your ingredients, but you will be safer knowing. Sort of like not knowing your zipper was unzipped all day—- you’re happy in your ignorance, but it’s better to know and be able to make an adjustment.

    Annie – It’s a mighty fine site.

    Terri – I found mine at Wal-Mart! Seems like it’s readily available in some parts of the world and strangely absent in others… but I saw instructions somewhere for baking baking soda in your oven and thereby turning it into washing soda, and the idea impressed me to no end. Buy it if you can, though, it was $3 or less for a big box.


  5. COFFEE almond milk, actually, which I had for the first time ever yesterday and clearly this is a sign of a harmonic convergence?

    (I take my laundry in to be done because it’s one of those weird things that’s super-cheap to do in New York, so I am all about the super-industrial stuff. I don’t want to know what they use, honestly.)


    Rebekah Reply:

    Coffee almond milk sounds lovely, and I’m glad to hear our telepathic bond is strengthening.

    It occurred to me that my NY readers might have less control over their laundry. I know jesse.anne.o dropped off soap nuts along with her laundry, but my NY skillz are hilariously limited.


  6. Any idea on whether or not High Efficiency Washers need something different? Just curious.


    Rebekah Reply:

    A couple of comments made it sound like this would be a decent choice for HE washers because it has low-to-no suds. I have no personal experience with this.


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