Laundry Detergent Recipe

Looking for the DIY Cloth Diaper Detergent recipe? Click here.

Small Batch Recipe

There are tricks to grating it.
My favorite method is to chop it up (a food processor can help here), lay it out on cookie sheets to dry out overnight, and then chop it up again (again, the food processor is a big help!) Be careful not to push your processor too hard (don’t rush it!) It will turn to dust, which will make using in cooler water much easier!

Now I don’t like leftovers and I don’t like having to do things over and over again, so I like to make large batches. It’s a little more work at the time, but a lot less work in the long run.

Large Batch Recipe (my favorite way)!

Depending on what soap you get and how you buy it (bulk, discount store, etc.) you can make a full batch of this for around $60 and it will last a VERY long time.

I’ve found that getting large buckets to mix this up makes it SUPER easy! Layer all of your ingredients into one (or more) buckets. Pour from one bucket to the next, and repeat until it’s mixed to your satisfaction. That’s it!

What soaps can you use?

Most any bar soap will do, but something easy on the skin is always  good choice. You might consider:

If you don’t want to use bar soap, you could make the recipe without it and simply add a squirt of Dr. Bronners to heavily soiled loads, or simply pre-treat spots!

How do I use it?

I liked to use 2 tablespoons per load of laundry. My husband has a fairly dirty job and my daughter is quite messy, so from time to time I toss in a little extra on their loads.

If I’m doing a cold wash, I have a jar that I keep close by that I can put my scoops into, add some hot water and help dissolve it a little before throwing it in the wash. It will work without doing that, but I like to.

Want to buy a detergent, here are some brands that gentle on skin & the environment.

Allens Naturally Laundry Detergent
Charlie’s Soap
Country Save
Eco Nuts
Eco Sprout
Rockin’ Green

**I’d like to make a note about the borax used in this recipe.  A recent article by EWG cautions the use of borax for cleaning in the home noting that toddlers and young children face special risks from hand-to-mouth transfer of carpet or crack and crevice, dust or spray borax treatments. I would recommend not using borax as a general home cleaner – any cleaner (aside from pure water) used for these purposes will leave a residue.  I feel comfortable using the minuscule amount in the detergent. It is not used on open surfaces and is washed out during the rinse cycle.

You can read a bit more on this debate here – there are some great points of view in the comments.


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    • i more or less am reading these recipes, i have seen something about doing the fels naphfa bar in the microwave to get it to be a powder…………..can i have some feedback on this???

  • Are those the soap flakes? If so, I think yes. I've heard of people using that, I think. I don't have access to them here or I would try it out.

    I would use probably use 1/2 to 3/4 the amount and see how that goes, you can always add more 🙂

    If you try it, let me know how it goes!

  • Awesome thanks for the reply!

    We're going to try Zote first since it's cheaper and see if we have any skin reactions to it first.

    Should I use the whole 14.1 oz bar of Zote or half?

  • I used Fels Naptha and it smells very strongly (not bad, but it can be smelled in the next room if the laundry room door is open). I grated the soap and it isn't fine enough. Next time I will try the food processor method. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Would it be easy enough to add essential oils to this for a scented version? If so, how much would you suggest?

    I've made this a few times with the Fels but I am wondering if I use the Ivory and add oil if I can make it more personal?

  • I know that you can add EOs to this for fragrance, I haven't done it on more than a jar's worth, so I'm not sure what it would take for the batch. I think I used just a few drops or so for a quart jar. The scent won't last through the wash and dry cycle though, but it will make your laundry area smell nice 🙂

    As for the Ivory. I have heard of people using it (I haven't tried it), but I have read that it may not work well enough on soiled clothes. You could always try a smaller batch of it and see how it goes.

  • yeah borax does get rid of bugs and ants amazingly! we were overrun with ants last summer and borax was my friend….. but, be careful where you put it, cuz this is not nice stuff to your soil. i accidentally killed some of my plants.

  • Hello! My friend gave me almost the same exact recipe for detergent, but the end product is a liquid. If I make it your way, it's a powder form, right? Thanks!

  • It is a powder form 🙂 It can be made liquid (I think the method is to heat water add & mix) but I prefer powder as it's faster/easier to make and less bulk to store – plus I like that the bulk recipe leaves no leftovers.

  • I use this in a standard machine. From what I understand some people just use 1 tablespoon in their wash. You could always use more if you see that you need it.

  • I've been using this recipe, without the oxiclean, for my diapers. I noticed your diaper recipe doesn't have the Fels Naptha. Should I not be using it on the diapers? :-/

  • I recently purchased all the ingredients to make this detergent however I am still trying to figure out how to tackle grating the soap…I thought laying it out to dry before trying to chop it up would help but I think that may take way too long. I will probably end up borrow my mom's a food processor. Anyway, I was wondering about the soap in this mixture. I was wondering if I could just add a box of my regular detergent to the other ingredients ILO the soap and the function would work the same? I would also be able to have the scent I like from my detergent in this mixture…OR would that be defeating the purpose of homemade laundry detergent?

  • You can microwave the bar of soap for about 90 seconds. It will look like fluffy meringue, but it will be dry and brittle, and when mixing it will turn into a powder.

  • I read on a few other websites that people had trouble with this leaving soap scum on the inside of their washer. Has this ever been a problem for you?

  • I have not had that experience Megan, perhaps it's the quantity being used, or the final size of the soap bits? I process them, air out and then reprocess to turn it to dust. Perhaps larger bits would leave a film?

  • Thanks for the recipe! I used to make my own detergent, but i never thought of adding OXICLEAn….>DUH! My fiance has an EXTREMELY greasy job – do you think these sort of recipes would work without the soap? i LOVE soda and borax…just dunno if it would cut the grease? I never really could tell a difference in the mix whether i used the fels or not.

  • I just made this “detergent” in powder form. I found it on a different website. Many people had stated they used Ivory Soap instead of the Fels. I tried this as me and my daughter have sensitive skin. The Ivory flakes DO NOT dissolve….I’m going to try and sift out my Ivory flakes and replace with the Fels and hope that works….

  • For those of you that have used a food processor to help with the bars of soap – what kind of processor did you use? How many cups? Any other advice with doing that? I’m trying to get a used cheap processor to designate just for this use. Thanks!

    • I put mine in the microwave one bar at a time for 90 seconds, then put it in the food processor one bar at a time too. It did not go well when I tried to put 2 bars in the processor at once.

    • Its Soap not rat poison! You use soap to wash your “food” food processor. Also a salad shooter works well to grate the soap.

  • Do you have a recipe that’s suitable for HE washers? Ours says “liquid” only.

    • I had read that it’s OK to use powdered laundry detergent in HE washers as long as you add it to the tub itself and not the little drawer made to hold the detergent. It’s to do with the powder getting stuck in the hose between the drawer and the tub. I’ve added powdered detergent to the tub (where the clothes are) and never had a problem in my front-loader HE.

  • I’ll have to try this when my current stash runs low, but I was excited to see that OxyClean is considered eco-friendly. I tend to buy the eco friendly detergents but have found that with the kids’ clothes from school, I need a bit of Oxy Clean to cut through the dirt and always felt guilty about using it. Thanks for the good advice and the guilt-lifting. 🙂

    • I know this is a very late post but I wanted to pass along that I read Oxyclean is NOT eco-friendly as it contains over 50% fillers, perfumes, and dyes in addition to the sodium carbonate and sodium percarbonate which cuts the stains. Anybody else heard this?

      • If you get the baby or “free” versions they shouldn’t have any of that stuff and are basically just extra washing soda and a solid form of hydrogen peroxide.

      • Also, a lot of people talking about using the Fels Naptha soap and if you want safe, earth and skin friendly, they need to find the ingredient list for that stuff! I read that it has petrochemicals as well as fragrance, which translates to phthalates!

  • Chop the soap (more or ivory only) into 1 inch cubes and microwave about6 at a time until they stop expanding. Then use the food processor. Makes a very fine powder. You can use it in cold water no problem.

  • If I make the batch for cloth diapers to start with. How much do you think I would need to take out to add soap to for clothes.

  • I just made your large batch of this and also the cloth diaper version. I’ve made laundry detergent before but not as large a batch as this. Mixing the powdered borox and other ingredient made a huge “cloud” in my kitchen and I breathed in a lot… I wish I would have known it would be so cloudy, I would have mixed it outside and worn a mask, especially because I am 37 weeks pregnant. I would recommend if you make the large batch to wear a mask and do it outside to reduce your exposure to the chemicals and also so the residue does not land in your home. However, I’m sure I made enough to last a year… so hopefully I won’t have to breath that stuff in for a very very long time if ever again (because I’ll take better pre-cautions).

  • You may have said this, but I like you recipe best and I want to make sure, is this safe for sensitive skin? My husband has occasional flare ups of eczema as well as dry skin, so we have to buy the super sensitive stuff at the store (plus it just better overall) and its just not worth it for the price. So making sure that this switch will not have a hiccup is super important. Thanks! I am loving your site as well!

    • My understanding is that this works well for those with sensitive skin. You could try a smaller batch the first time if you want to test it out.

  • I don’t understand how to chop up the soap using a processor. I have the Nnja food processor…..will that work?
    Also, I have a question about cloth diapers. My prefolds are 100% cotton but my diaper covers are 100% polyester inside. Am I able to wash these 2 together or do I have to wash them separately since they are two different fabrics? Any advice would be great. I am 34 weeks pregnant and new to cloth diapering.


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  • I’d like to make a large batch of the cloth diaper recipe, then use that for the regular laundry with the Fels Naptha. How much of the Fels Naptha do you think I would need to add to each load of wash assuming i use 2 Tbs. of the cloth diaper recipe?
    Thanks 🙂

  • I am interested in making my own laundry detergent. We all has extremely sensitive skin and my son has eczema too. We all have reactions to both borax and oxy clean. Is there a way to make my own without either of these ingredients?

  • A tip I learned from One Good Thing by Jillee’s blog is to add a little of the oxyclean to your food processor when grating the soap. It gets a fine grate without stressing your processor. I used Dr. Bonners lavender castille soap, my laundry smells heavenly, its gotten things clean that were dingy and filmy from years of store bought detergent. I have hard water and this stuff is amazing!!

  • Hi! I love your blog, my sister who introduced me to cloth diapers sent me to you since you have the best how to and explanations! I was wondering if it’s ok to use dawn dish soap instead of the flakes? I make my own detergent now with the borax, washing soda and dawn dish soap, and dissolve it and add water so you use the same measuring cup as normal tide detergent or whatever, and it seems to work great on our clothes and doesn’t seem to have any buildup but I don’t want to ruin the cloth diapers I just bought so I wanted to see what you thought about the dawn dish soap instead of the flakes, sorry this is so long I just really love how cheap and easy it is to make and want to be sure I don’t ruin anything!! Thanks so so much!!!

    • …and check the Fels Naptha for ingredient list….I read there are petrochemicals and “fragrance” which means phthalates!

    • Actually, Oxiclean Baby got an “A” and Oxiclean Free got a “B”, both of which Amanda stated to use in the laundry detergent. There are other versions of Oxiclean that do have an “F” rating. Borax did receive an “F” rating, but Amanda also clearly states above that there is a lot of controversy between people when using Borax, and she, personally, feels safe using Borax. She also mentions an article by EWG and their caution of using Borax…

  • don’t get me wrong, i am grateful for these recipes and the hard work. i just want everyone to know if they are looking for extremely human friendly recipes like i am!

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  • WOW! I just made this today and used it! I had been using arm and hammer pod things. After using this I think the clothes even smell better than the commercial stuff with added fragrances! Thanks Amanda!

  • I have been using your soap recipe for about a year and LOVE it – one question. My husband and I just bought a new washer that is high efficiency (not a front load). Can I use this in there? Should I only use 1 tbsp? Thanks!!!

  • I use this recipe to make our detergent. I make the big batch and set ahead half (w/o soap) for the cloth diapers and then add 1/2 the bars of soap to the remaining batch for everyone’s laundry. I like my clothes to have a nice scent to them so I add the purex cystals to my wash. I have a HE front loader and use the powder detergent in it with no problem. I put in the drawer and lift the divider like the machine says to…haven’t had any issue with residue or clogging. The only issue I have had is my machine gets smelly but it is evidently a common problem for front loaders.

    I use Ivory soap in my detergent. I do not have a food processor to make it super fine but I have a microwave that does the job. I cut up the soap and nuke it. It is super cool to watch it expand. Afterwards I crumble up, crumble it up some more, and then microwave any big pieces that remains and crumbling again.

    I made my second batch this summer and my first batch right around when my 2 year old was born. We only used cloth diapers at home, sent disposables to day care. I have pretty much stopped using cloth diapers once school started again due to the fact the I was getting pretty disgusted with cleaning big kid poop. It always seems that on days that I use the cloth diapers my DS poops 3x more than on days he wears disposables at home.

    Another benefit is my other DS’s skin does not flare up as much as it did.

  • So, I’ve been using your recipe for the past several years and I LOVE it. However, I have recently found that I miss the “fresh” smell. I’ve added something similar to the Downy crystals but I still don’t notice much freshness. I don’t have to have a scent, just want it to smell clean/fresh. Any suggestions?

  • Aw, this was a very nice post. Finding the time and actual effort
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  • How much space does the soap take up in the 5 gallon bucket? I made it without the soap last time but wanted to try it with the soap this time. Will it fit in one 5 gallon bucket?

  • Love your website. I’m making a batch of the cloth diaper detergent and then I’m going to do a smaller batch of the laundry detergent with soap. Is the laundry detergent with soap going to be ok to use on newborn laundry that isn’t cloth diapers? I have Fels-Naptha bars…

  • I was reading your post and I to make my own detergent. I don’t just make it for diapers, but use it on all of our clothes. My family has very sensitive skin and the kids (5 plus one bun in the oven) are very hard on clothes. I have three girls and two boys and the last one due in a few weeks we haven’t found out the gender…. The girls honestly I think get their clothes dirtier and get more stains, chocolate and foods mostly…. the boys just seemed harder on their clothes, like getting holes in the knees from wear…climbing around on the floor etc. Although my oldest daughter seems to have a knack for that too. I make my detergent basically exactly as you do…. I use a bar of the fels naptha soap grated into the washing soda and borax….. mix it all up and then get out a gallon sized jar of boiling water and add 1/8 C of the mix to it… shake it up until its all melted and mixed in…. after an hour or two of sitting and cooling, it gets thick…. I use about 1/2C per load of either diapers or clothes…. I do an extra rinse at the end in which I do add white vinegar to get out any excess detergent left behind. I have noticed that if I don’t “melt” the detergent (because of the grated soap) in hot water, it doesn’t want to wash out. I haven’t tried Ivory soap for the detergent in place of felsnaptha…. Mostly because when I made other detergents/soaps out of Ivory, it left behind film. The felsnaptha has its own unique smell, and of course so does the vinegar, however when it is all said and done and the laundry is dry, the smell of both is gone. I think this detergent is far better than alot of other “free and clear” types of laundry detergents I have used on our clothes. Now I do have to say though that I do use a commercial stain remover….mainly out of laziness for now…. If you scrub the felsnaptha bar into stains, it does remove them. I have came across several recipes for home made stain removers as well, and as soon as the Sams Club sized bottle of stain remover is gone, I am going to try to make my own and see how it goes. The only problem I have ever come across with cloth diapers didn’t have to do with the detergent or detergent build up, but a natural diaper rash spray I was using. The stuff worked like a charm…. it had tea tree oil in it and it literally would start healing the rash with in minutes…for real! it was awesome… I believe they quit making it though :(. Anyhow, the diaper rash spray caused some repelling, but I was able to solve that issue with stripping the diapers that were affected.

  • 24 bars of soap that weigh approximately how much?
    Excited to try this but I want to make sure that I have the right ratio for soap to everything else 🙂

    Thank you!!

  • I have used this detergent for 5 years. We use it for cloth diapers and washing everything in the house we Love it. My husband Loves the cost. when we us store bought are clothes feel weird and not clean we Can never go back to store bought stuff . when we visit family I always bring the detergent with us.

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  • My question is about the BAR SOAP, is there a specific reason why you have to use such ones like, Ivory,Fels Naptha an Zote…????
    Why can’t we use Bar Soaps such as Zest, Irish Spring or Oil of Olay to name just a few …???
    Thanks in advance for any comments to my question….!!!!! ????

    • Zote, Fels Naptha, and Ivory flakes are all specifically made for laundry use. I love to keep a bar of Fels on hand for spot treating stains. C castile soaps are also a great option and won’t leave films. I am not fully familiar with more traditional body bars but I do know that some contain synthetic fragrances that you may want to avoid, as well as items to condition the skin that could possibly leave a film on clothes, the washer, and dryer lint trap.

      That said, I’m sure that some are just fine and I have heard of people using both Irish Spring and Ivory bars and liking their detergent. If you’d like to try it out, I suggest just making enough to use up one bar of soap and see how your laundry and machine are looking after the batch is gone. I would think that’s enough loads to know how you feel about a particular type of soap.

  • My sons Dr. Told me to put a 1/4 cup of vinegar in the final rinse for diapers when he was having rash problems.gets rid of soap residue and any bacteria left in the cloth

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