Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipes

Make your own homemade laundry soap... easy, economical and fun!

Using homemade laundry detergent with natural cleaning ingredients is easier on your clothing, your skin and the environment (also your wallet!) than buying commercial chemical detergents.

Homemade laundry soap cleans just as effectively, and so far I haven't heard of anyone having an allergic reaction to the natural laundry recipes.

That said, if you're extremely sensitive, you could make them without the essential oils.

My mom uses the liquid laundry detergent recipe below to soak stains out of her tea towels. She just leaves them to soak in the detergent for about a week, and she says they come up beautifully, with no wear and tear on the fabric. Give it a try!

Liquid Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

You need a 5 gallon bucket for this homemade laundry soap recipe. Somebody on one of the forums suggested asking a restaurant for their empties (fat for deep frying comes in huge buckets.) I got mine from my local bulk food store for a dollar.


4 cups hot boiled Water

1 natural Soap Bar or Soap Flakes (see the directions below for tips)

1 cup Washing Soda

1/4 cup Borax

30 drops Lavender essential oil

30 drops Lemon essential oil

30 drops Grapefruit OR Clove essential oil



Grate the soap bar using the coarse side of your cheese grater. I buy clear vegetable glycerin or olive oil soap bars from my local bulk food store, and many web sources suggest using Ivory soap.


Combine the soap flakes and hot water in a large saucepan. Stir over a medium-low heat until the soap is melted.


Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot water. Add the melted soap mixture, the washing soda and the borax. Stir until all the powder is dissolved.


Fill the bucket up to the top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.


Next morning, stir the essential oils into the laundry soap mixture.


Transfer your homemade laundry detergent to a bunch of clean used laundry jugs.

To use: Shake the bottle before each use to dissolve any lumps of gel that might have formed while it was sitting. Use 1 cup per load for top-load washing machines, and 1/2 cup for front-load washers.

This recipe makes enough homemade laundry detergent for 45 top loads or 90 front loads. If that seems like a lot, reduce the recipe by half (although it's not going to go bad - it's soap!)

What If It Turns Out Really Lumpy?

I just made a batch with a new laundry soap bar and my homemade laundry soap came out really thick and lumpy.

I tried mushing it with a spoon, then with my potato masher, and then finally I just put my hands in and squished away the lumps.

It was surprisingly fun, and I'd definitely recommend making it with your kids. It's a great alternative to squishing around in mud!

Note: Washing soda is made from Sodium Carbonate and is NOT the same ingredient as baking soda. You can usually find washing soda in the laundry area of your grocery or department store or ask for it at a pool store. It will be in the water softeners section. You can also buy washing soda online at Amazon.com

Powdered Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

This homemade laundry soap recipe is a lot easier to make than the liquid recipe, so if you like using powdered laundry soap, this one's for you!


2 cups Soap Flakes (see directions below for making soap flakes)

1 cup Washing Soda

1 cup Borax

20 drops Lemon OR Clove essential oil

20 drops Lavender essential oil



To make soap flakes, grate a bar of unscented natural soap using the fine side of your cheese grater. I buy clear vegetable glycerin or olive oil soap bars from my local bulk food store, and many web sources suggest using Ivory soap. 

Update: I'm tired of spending so much effort on making soap flakes. I've decided it's worth a little extra cost to save myself the time and aggravation it takes to grate up the soap bars. If you're feeling the same way, here's a link for buying soap flakes. Your arms will thank you!

Second Update: I learned another suggestion - grate the soap bars using a food processor.


Combine all the ingredients in a large airtight container. Stir to combine (or just put the lid on and shake vigorously.)

Use 2 tablespoons homemade laundry detergent per load.

Try Soap Nuts!

Ever heard of Soap Nuts? They're actually a fruit (related to the Goji berry) native to India and Nepal.

They're an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical detergents, and they're especially good for people sensitive to commercial detergents.

Soap nuts contain natural detergents called Saponins. The soap nut shell absorbs water and releases the saponins, which circulate as natural cleansers in the wash water, releasing dirt, grime, and oils from clothing.

To use, put 4 to 6 soap nuts in a muslin bag and drop it into your washing machine along with your clothes. Run the machine as usual.

There will be almost no bubbles during the wash cycle, and it will smell a bit like apple cider. The soap nuts can be re-used several times (3 to 5 loads) and then composted. They will look mushy and grey when they need to be changed.

Buy Soap Nuts from Mountain Rose or Amazon.

Vinegar - the New Fabric Softener

It's a great idea to replace your chemical fabric softener with vinegar. Here's why: vinegar...

  • Softens fabric.
  • Removes detergent residue.
  • Helps stop colors from fading.
  • Deodorizes smelly clothes.


Do not use vinegar if you're using chlorine bleach - the combination produces toxic gases.

In fact, why not switch to Oxygen Bleach - it's gentler on fabrics and more environmentally friendly. Plus, your clothes won't smell like a swimming pool!

Essential Oils for Laundry Detergent

I started using essential oils from doTerra after comparing them to the other brands in my stash.

I found myself using fewer drops per recipe and actually getting better results. Plus, I've never had a bad reaction, which sometimes happens with other brands.

doTerra's oils cost more than other brands, and that's as it should be. It's like buying a BMW vs. a Kia - the more expensive car is the better quality vehicle.

If you can afford them, I recommend giving doTerra's oils a try and comparing them for yourself.

You can buy doTerra's oils at retail prices by clicking the Shop button at the top. Or click Join & Save to become a wholesale customer and get a store-wide 25% discount. Message me if you want more details on the wholesale thing - why spend more than you have to, right?

I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs if you're on a tight budget. Their oils are more affordable and the quality is good. Click the links for...

Or... If you love having tons of options to choose from, browse through Amazon and see what looks good to you. Just remember that inexpensive oils are likely to be lower in quality - how else do they get the cost so low?

What Next?

Move beyond homemade laundry detergent - do your whole house the homemade way! Check out these recipes for homemade cleaners... and see how easy it is to clean pretty much everything with inexpensive, natural cleaning choices.

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Homemade Drain Cleaners

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Homemade Dishwashing Detergents

Two homemade detergent recipes are formulated for use in automatic dishwashers. One is powder and the other is liquid.

Homemade Dish Soap

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Homemade Cleaners Main Page

Making your own natural homemade cleaners is simple and effective with ingredients already in your cupboards. Not to mention money saving!

Aromatherapy Recipes Homepage from Homemade Laundry Detergent