In our efforts to escape excess and save money, I have been experimenting with some Do-It-Yourself projects lately.  There have been some clear winners and some complete failures!  I will share both in the weeks to come.

I’ll start with one of the winners:

Do-It-Yourself Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

detergvI don’t know about you, but for as long as I can remember, my monthly Costco trips have involved either a gigantic-sized laundry detergent or larger-than-life-sized fabric softener.  Both aren’t cheap. So, when I saw how many people have been talking about making their own laundry detergent, I just had to find out for myself if this was something that would save me money.

For me, the success of a DIY project isn’t measured by cost-savings alone.  It is also important for the project to be somewhat simple to follow, easy to repeat and kind to my space and environment.  We are trying to do what we can to keep away from the harmful toxins of commercial cleaners in our home. With my daughter’s eczema, we have to be very careful that whatever we use is mild so it doesn’t irritate her skin.

Did I also mention that she’s still in diapers? That’s why success in this project will also be measured by how well the detergent gets her poopie clothes cleanSorry, TMI…but I couldn’t resist.

Here are the ingredients you will need to start with:

  • 1/2 Cup Borax (Target or Walmart)
  • 1 Cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (This is NOT Baking Soda; find at local grocery store in laundry aisle, Target or Walmart)
  • 1 Fels-Naptha Soap Bar (grocery store or Walmart in Laundry aisle; Target won’t have this one)
  • 4 Cups Hot Tap Water
  • 5-gallon bucket with lid (think Home Depot – like my Harvest bumper sticker?)
  • Empty old laundry soap containers that have been rinsed (I used three for each batch I made)
  • OPTIONAL:  10-15 Essential Oil Drops for fragrance (to find out what we use, email me at

Here are the instructions:

  1. Grate the whole bar of Fels Naptha soap (I bought a cheapie cheese grater from the dollar store to use, so my cheese wouldn’t taste like soap).
  2. Put soap shavings in a pot with 4 cups of hot water and stir over low-medium heat until the shavings have dissolved. It will be a little foamy on top.
  3. Fill the bucket halfway full of hot tap water. Add the melty soap mixture, borax and washing soda. Stir it until all of the powder is dissolved. Top off with more water until the bucket is full.  When it’s cooled, add 15 drops of essential oil (lavender is my personal favorite, but you could also use melaleuca, otherwise known as tea tree oil, or you could even try basil).
  4. Let it sit overnight and then pour into the empty containers. This recipe yields about 10 gallons.

Just remember that you have to shake it up before each use.

Since I used old Tide containers, I didn’t let my husband on to what I was doing until I was a few finished loads into my experiment.  His clothes felt just as soft, and smelled just as good as the store-bought detergent.  So, when I told him this was homemade, he was surprised that it worked so well.

As for the fabric softener, all you need is a capful of vinegar during the rinse.  I pour it right into where the fabric softener goes.  Adding vinegar in the wash will soften and naturally brighten clothes* instead of toxic fabric softeners.  Your clothes will come out smelling fresh (and not vinegar-ey).  Is that even a word?

The best part of this project is that I made this batch almost three months ago and I’m barely into my second container!  This one is definitely a keeper and has encouraged me to make more natural cleaners.  What should I try next?

*You could also add a half a cup of Oxi-Clean to the powder mixture above for more brightening power.  I didn’t add to this batch, but may try it on the next one.