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Save Money by Making Your Own Laundry Soap

Helena enjoys looking for ways to save money and make money. She shares her findings with her readers.

A completed 5-gallon bucket of homemade laundry soap.

A completed 5-gallon bucket of homemade laundry soap.

All About Homemade Laundry Detergent

Individuals decide to start making their own laundry soap at home for different reasons. The biggest reason is because, on a load by load basis, making your own is significantly cheaper than buying it at the store.

Another great reason to do this is because you know exactly what is going into the soap. For anyone with allergies to dyes or scents, this is a great alternative. You can choose to add essential oil to the finished detergent if you want, but it isn't necessary and doesn't change the way the soap works to clean your clothing.

The ingredients can easily be found at your local Target, Walmart, grocery store, or purchased online. The tools used are common, and you probably already have them laying around your home.

To make this soap, you will need:

  • Borax
  • Arm & Hammer Washing Powder (NOT soda or powdered detergent)
  • A bar of soap with no moisturizer in it like Ivory
  • Water
  • Essential oil (optional)
  • A cheese grater
  • A saucepan
  • A 5-gallon bucket

Once you have made your laundry soap, you'll generally use 1/2 cup in each load of laundry. If you have something that is particularly icky, feel free to use more.

Before You Start

  • Will it work in an HE machine?

Yes. Homemade laundry detergent is a low suds detergent so it is safe for use in HE washing machines.

  • Will it work on tough stains?

I've had really good luck with it. Just like other types of laundry detergent, you'll want to adjust the amount that you use to how dirty your clothes are.

  • How long does it take to make laundry detergent?

It normally takes about 30 minutes from the time you start grating the bar to the moment the cover is put onto the bucket. It really doesn't take long at all!

Instructions to Make Your Laundry Detergent

  1. Using the cheese grater, grate the bar of soap into slivers.
  2. Put the soap slivers into a sauce pan on the stove. Add water to cover the soap slivers by at least an inch and turn the heat on to around medium/low. Stir until the soap slivers have dissolved in the water.
  3. Add a few more cups of water to the sauce pan with the soap. Add 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of the washing powder. Stir until dissolved.
  4. Pour the warm mixture into a 5 gallon bucket. Add warm water to the bucket until it is a few inches from the top. If you are adding essential oil, now is the time to do it. About 20 or so drops is ideal but you can adjust to your liking.
  5. Put a lid or a cover (a piece of wood, cardboard, or loose plastic wrap will work just fine) over the bucket to keep anything from falling into the bucket and wait 24 hours. At the end of the 24 hours the soap will have changed to the consistency of soft jello.
  6. You can either dip your soap out of the bucket to put into your machine or put it into containers. We have saved some of our old store purchased laundry containers and simply put our soap into them to use.

Cost of Making Laundry Soap at Home

A 4lb, 12oz. box of Borax on the shelf at our local Kroger.

A 4lb, 12oz. box of Borax on the shelf at our local Kroger.

A 3lb. 7oz. box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda on the shelf at our local Kroger.

A 3lb. 7oz. box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda on the shelf at our local Kroger.

Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soap usually sells for $1.00 per bar and each bar makes 1 batch.  Ivory bar soap can also be used instead at a cost of approximately 33 cents per bar, 1 bar to a batch.  Zote is another soap that can be used for $1.00 per bar.

Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soap usually sells for $1.00 per bar and each bar makes 1 batch. Ivory bar soap can also be used instead at a cost of approximately 33 cents per bar, 1 bar to a batch. Zote is another soap that can be used for $1.00 per bar.

Cost Analysis of Homemade Laundry Soap vs. Purchased Laundry Soap

So how much money can you actually save by making your own laundry detergent? For this analysis, we'll take a look at two popular laundry detergents on the market, Tide and Purex, and compare the load by load cost of these to our homemade laundry soap.

One box of Borax will make 12 five-gallon batches of homemade laundry soap. I paid $4.79 for the box that I am currently using. For each 5-gallon batch made, there is 40 cents worth of Borax in it.

One box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda will make 7 five-gallon batches of homemade laundry soap. I paid $3.49 for the box that I am currently using. For each 5-gallon batch made, there is 50 cents (rounded up) worth of washing soda in it.

The bar soap that I used was actually more expensive than Ivory which can be purchased in a three pack at Walmart for 97 cents. If you use Ivory soap, the cost for one bar will be 32 cents. The laundry soap that I used (and we will use for this analysis) was $1.00.

So for each 5 gallons of homemade laundry soap, the cost is actually $1.90.

There are 32 1/2 cups in a US gallon. If you use 1/2 cup per load you can expect to be able to wash 160 loads of laundry with each batch of laundry soap that you make. In other words, the home made laundry detergent ends up costing you approximately 1 cent per load and even less if you use Ivory soap instead of Zote or Fels-Naptha.

Compare this to the $5.99 bottle of Tide that will wash 32 loads. If you use the Tide, it will cost you 19 cents per load (rounded up). The $4.99 bottle of Purex that will wash 32 loads will cost you 16 cents per load (rounded up). Compare this to the approximately 1 cent per load of the homemade laundry soap and you can see that there is a nice savings when you make and use your own.

If you do one load of laundry per day for a year, the savings would add up to $65.70 if you were previously using Tide and $54.75 per year if you were previously using Purex. Multiply those amounts by how many loads you do per year and that is your total savings. For us it ends up being hundreds of dollars a year, just by making and using our own laundry soap. I can think of other things to do with that money than spending it on laundry soap.

How to Save Even More Money on Homemade Laundry Detergent

If you are a couponer, you'll want to watch for the P&G coupon insert that comes out once a month in the Sunday newspaper for a coupon to use to purchase the Ivory soap. Coupons for Ivory bar soap are released on a regular basis.

Anyone interested in receiving coupons for Borax can write the company and request coupons be sent to them. I did this and was surprised to find that the company sent the coupons to me quite quickly and I was able to save a little extra money on a few boxes Borax. The company to write to is Henkel. Using their contact us page you can easily send an email to request your coupons. I can't guarantee that you will receive them but it is worth the few seconds that it takes to contact the company.

Arm & Hammer releases coupons for their laundry products on a regular basis. Be sure to check your local Sunday newspaper for insert coupons or keep your eyes open for peelies in your local grocery store that are usually good on multiple Arm & Hammer products.

Where Can I Buy the Ingredients to Make My Own Laundry Detergent?

Unfortunately, not all stores in all areas will carry what you need to make laundry soap. When a search turns up empty handed, you'll want to turn to the internet to find the ingredients that you need to make your laundry soap. Even at the slightly higher prices, purchasing laundry detergent ingredients online can still save you money.

Many national chains such as Target, Kroger, Walmart, Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens do carry the ingredients for making laundry detergent. If you don't want to purchase online but can't find them locally, ask one of the store managers at a national chain store to order it for you. If enough people ask, then the store will start to carry them on a regular basis. This may also work at a locally owned store so try asking there too.

I have purchased ingredients from Amazon in the past and even though they are a bit more in price, it can save you in the long run. You would not be spending money on gasoline to drive from store to store only to leave empty handed.

Essential oils can also be purchased online for adding scent to your laundry soap. You can also easily make your own lavender essential oil for use in your homemade laundry soap. Even though it isn't necessary, it is a nice touch!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Helena Ricketts


Ashly Christen from Illinois on April 05, 2020:

Thank you I will have to try this! I have done it with the powdered soap but not as liquid

Barbara Cox on November 12, 2014:

I made a bucket of laundry detergent, and I apparently didn't do it correctly, I have made it several times with no problems, but because I had ground the soap into a powder I put it in the bucket with hot water to disolve then the powered ingred, the powder solidified on bottom and top and just liquid in the middle. Any ideas on how to fix it? Reheat it all or better easier idea?

Helena Ricketts (author) from Indiana on May 15, 2014:

@mommyloves I don't know for sure because I've never tried it that way. My thought would be that it might dissolve in the bucket over time and if it was stirred over time before using it. I've always melted the soap but now I too am curious and will try leaving it shredded with my next batch and see what happens.

mommyloves on May 15, 2014:

What if you don't melt the bar of soap first. Will it still work?

Helena Ricketts (author) from Indiana on November 12, 2013:

I haven't tried to cut the bar in half but will have to try that and see how it turns out. Thanks!

Lori Colbo from United States on November 03, 2013:

Fred Meyer and sometimes Target have the Arm and Hammer product here in the Pacific Northwest. I see you use the full bar of soap? I have always used 1/2 bar of Fels Naptha but I think using the full bar might be even better.

RTalloni on January 14, 2013:

Well done--so glad to see more people being introduced to this option. Though making soap this way still requires buying products, we buy far less.

Helena Ricketts (author) from Indiana on January 14, 2013:

Hi Virginia,

Yes, it does work in HE machines.

Virginia Kearney from United States on January 13, 2013:

This is great information. I do a load of laundry every day, so we use lots. Does this work in a high efficiency machine?

Megan Garcia from Florida on January 12, 2013:

will do, I already shared on facebook. I'm from the country so I know friends and family who would probably love this.

Helena Ricketts (author) from Indiana on January 12, 2013:

Thank you so much! Saving money is ALWAYS a good thing. If you decide to make the detergent, please be sure to let me know what you think about it. I love it and the savings that comes with it. :)

Megan Garcia from Florida on January 12, 2013:

I loooooove this hub!!!! I've looking into tons of different things to make myself and save money. I'm a stay at home mom so it's my newest endeavor. lol I told my husband I'm boycotting stores and becoming Amish. lol