Homemade Cleaner Recipes – Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

This post may contain affiliate or referral links that help keep this site running. For more information about this, please see our disclosure policy.

Have I mentioned lately that I am really, really cheap? No? Well now you know and knowing is half the battle. 😉 Okay, maybe I’m not cheap, but I really don’t like paying for something that I can make myself. That would be how I ended up with a list of over 200 things you can stop buying and start making at home to save money.  Laundry detergent is oat the top of my list of common expenses you should stop spending money on. That list has grown rather significantly since I started. It began as 30 things I simply stopped buying and started making but since I would rather take the time to make something than spend the money to buy it most of the time. With that said, I also like things that are super easy for me to do. Hey, I’m a busy single Mom and I like things that are easy or make my life easier.

DIY Powdered Laundry Detergent - Who says homemade cleaners need to be complicated? This Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent is so simple you'll wonder why you haven't made it before!

Enter my homemade powdered laundry detergent recipe. Of all of the homemade cleaner recipes I use, this one is by far one of the easiest that I mix up. There are only three ingredients and two steps to making it. It is so easy that my daughter has been making it for me since she was just 10 years old! Once you make yours, you’ll understand what I mean when I say it is simple to make. When you make your own homemade powdered laundry detergent, you have the choice of using Ivory bar soap, bar castile soap, Fels-Naptha or Zote. Personally, I opt for either castile soap or for Ivory. Fels-Naptha is amazing and there are a ton of uses for Fels-Naptha around the home, but both it and Zote are known to be nasal irritants. Because of that, I try to stay away from any use that calls for me to grate them into tiny little pieces.

Homemade Cleaner Recipes – Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

This particular recipe is for a large batch. I tend to make it up every few weeks to save myself time so when you make yours, know that if you follow the recipe exactly, it will make a lot. It keeps perfectly well as long as you store it in an airtight storage container and keep it from getting damp. If your laundry room is humid as mine can be sometimes, I would advise only keeping the amount you need to do laundry with in the laundry room and storing the extra someplace else.

When you go shopping for your homemade powdered laundry detergent ingredients, make sure that you don’t confuse baking soda with washing soda. They are two entirely different products. Baking soda will not work in a homemade laundry detergent unless you are using it to enhance the final product. It is unnecessary to do that with this one though since it cleans so well. Washing soda is found in the laundry aisle, usually on the top or bottom shelves and comes in a much larger box. Borax, Fels-Naptha and Zote can be found in the same place. If you’re not sure about using a homemade powdered laundry detergent, you can also make homemade laundry detergent with castile soap that is liquid. Both work incredibly well and are super budget friendly! They also work very well along side of our DIY Reusable Fabric Softener sheets too! The combination is how I clean my home for less than $10.00 each week!


You will need:

I told you this is one of the easiest homemade cleaner recipes I make and here’s why:

To start, grate the bar soap as well as you can. It is far easier to use a food processor for this, but if you don’t have one, a simple cheese grater will work. It is a lot more work though with a grater so I highly recommend that you pick up a food processor if you’re planning on making this often.  Next, mix the grated bar soap with the Borax and the washing soda then give it a good stir.

Tada! You’re done!

To wash clothes, use 2-3 tablespoons per load. If your laundry happens to be abnormally dirty, you can use up to 5 tablespoons per load, but you really shouldn’t need it. Both the Borax and the Washing soda are there to help with stains and odors and both will help boost whichever soap you decide to use.

If you want to add a scent for your detergent that is different from the bar soap you’re using, you can use an essential oil. Lavender essential oil, lemon essential oil or cinnamon essential oil all make an incredibly nice smelling detergent. You could also use soap fragrance oil as well if you wanted to skip the essential oils. If you’re going to add fragrance, add just a few drops to your finished detergent and stir every well to ensure that the liquid from the scent is thoroughly mixed into the product and there are no clumps.

Since I know I am going to get asked this, I do not know if this will work in an HE machine. I don’t own one and have never tried it. I highly suggest that you contact the manufacturer before trying this in your machine if you have an HE machine. This homemade powdered laundry detergent does work very well in cold water so don’t be afraid to switch from hot to cold.

Follow Me

Stacy Williams

Stacy Williams is a 37-year old wife to a USAF Gulf War Veteran, mother of two teen girls and fur-mamma to a rescued pit bull. The face and brain behind the frugal living and lifestyle blog Six Dollar Family, she also owns and manages Long Haul Wife, Republic Preparedness, The Genealogy Queen and a handful of others sites. By the age of 30, Stacy had overcome a drinking problem, a drug addiction, divorce, survived domestic violence, and had built a life for herself and her daughter after spending 10 months in a homeless shelter. Stacy is passionate about homeless advocacy and addiction education.  Her first book, also called Six Dollar Family is available on Amazon.

Learn how to earn a full-time income from home by learning how to start a blog just like this one! Click HERE to check out Stacy's step-by-step tutorial.
Follow Me

Latest posts by Stacy Williams (see all)


  1. I am allergic to Ivory soap. What can I substitute?

    • Fels Naptha is another that you can use. Its cheapest at Walmart for around $1.00 per bar. Zote is another but it is more expensive.

  2. Hey Sylvia, the washing soda is found in the laundry aisle. Normally its right near the Borax. Just be sure you don’t accidentally grab baking soda. The boxes look similar. 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for this recipe. I had tried another using the fels nap soap but do not like the smell. I saw yours and said hip hip hooray! Yours used the whole boxes of soda and borax and I got a 3 pack of ivory soap at the Dollar Tree store for $1.00. I put about 20 drops of lavender in it and mixed it up really good. Now I just need to find something to wash as I finished up the other stuff yesterday. I absolutely love making my own things. I have a recipe for making washing soda powder so you don’t have to buy that anymore if you are interested.

  4. Kristin Bunton says

    My daughter is allergic to arm and hammer detergent so I’m pretty sure she would be allergic to the soda also. Anything I could use instead

    • Kristin,

      She may actually not be. A&H has a lot of other ingredients in it besides washing soda since all washing soda really is is baking soda that has been heated and dried even further (aka sodium carbonate instead of sodium bi-carbonate.) If you don’t trust the A&H brand, you can actually order it off of Amazon in its pure, “generic” version. What I would do is maybe test a very small amount with her to see if it is indeed the washing soda she is allergic to or not. I would say that if she can handle baking soda in baked goods that its actually some other ingredient of A&H that she’s actually allergic to rather than the washing soda. Good luck and keep me updated!

      • A&H detergent gave me horrible hives, but I can use the washing soda just fine. I have used it for almost 2 years now and even my sensitive skin kids are fine with it.

  5. When you replace the 3 ivory bars for the fels naptha do you still use 3 or just one bar?

  6. Gets your things clean, as you said & super easy. Thank you for yet another wonderful savings tip. You are the best! Happy Holidays to you & family.

  7. When adding the essential oils for sent, do I just drop it in whenever?
    Is there any special way to do it?

    • I usually mix everything up first then add a few drops onto the powder and stir really well to be sure that there aren’t any clumps. Hope that helps!

  8. I have made my own laundry detergent before but found that it irritated my skin. I have to use ALL free and clear detergent. Is there a recipe homemade laundry detergent for sensitive skin?

  9. Any thoughts on using Dr. Bronner’s soap bars as a substitute for Ivory/Fels Naptha?

  10. Does this laundry detergent work on HE machines?

    • Tom, I’ve heard of people who use it in HE machines but since I don’t have one personally, I can’t say for sure. If you do use it in your HE machine, do so very carefully the first time or two so that you can test it.

  11. Tanya Robinson says

    Is this detergent HE approved?

  12. Can this be used in the high efficiency washers? Is it allergy friendly?

  13. I have an HE washing machine. While I was unable to use the powder through the little drawer meant for the laundry soap (clumped and left most of the powder behind) I have found that shaking a couple tablespoons of this homemade laundry soap with 1/2-1 cup hot water and pouring over the laundry works just as well with no issues of clumping on the laundry.

  14. Shannon Harding says

    Why do you recommend ivory soap?

    • Shannon, some people (myself included) have a reaction to Fels Naptha. Ivory is as pure as you can get with a store bought soap and can cut that reaction off at the pass. It works just as well as Fels Naptha or Zote w/out the nasal irritants.

  15. Kari Rivera says

    Apparently prices are a little different in my area haha. When I went to buy the Ivory soap, my husband was with me (he’s Hispanic) and he loved the smell of the Zote because it reminded him of his childhood. (Apparently it’s a very popular Latino brand.) He also really liked the fels naptha, so we grabbed both on the way over to the Ivory to compare prices and sizes. Zote was $0.98 for 400 g bar, the fels naptha was $0.97 for a 155 g bar, but the Ivory was $1.99 for three bars that totaled 270 g together! Zote turned out to be the least expensive, and even though my husband preferred the fels naptha scent, (the label says not to let it come into contact with your skin??), we went with Zote. But I have to ask now- are the bars of Ivory that you buy the 270 g ones? Because if that’s the case, I’m only going to need half a Zote bar….. Which I wouldn’t mind at all =D

    • I use the regular sized Ivory bars. I realize they’re smaller than Zote or Fels Naptha. The reason I prefer Ivory over the other 2 is because of irritants. Fels Naptha is a nasal irritant for some people (myself included) and Zote can break people out too (my daughter included). Ivory is one of the purest forms of soap you can buy so I recommend it instead of the others. Very few people find an irritant or allergy with Ivory. 🙂

  16. Hi! I was considering to try this recipe but my husband is scared that the product would be too abrasive and damage our clothes or make the colors fade… Have you notice any difference since you use it?

    • Lauri, no, we haven’t noticed any fading or other issues from it. You could always do a small test load to see how you like it. 🙂

  17. HI Stacy,
    I have used Ivory before for bathing, but haven’t used it in years. The one thing I didn’t like about it was that it left a “soap scum” on top of the water. How can clothes get really clean with this residue?

    • I’ve never noticed that with Ivory Karen, but if you are concerned about it cleaning properly, Zote or Fels Naptha will work too. I don’t use them though because they are nasal irritants and bother my entire family. 🙂

  18. Hi,
    Thanks so much for this recipe. I’m new to making my own detergents and soaps but loved the simplicity of what this one looked like, so I’m trying to make it. I just grated the soap but it looks just like grated Parmesan:) How would I get it to be a powder like you said without a processor? or is it fine like this? 🙂

  19. Alisa Greenwood says

    Hello there,
    Thank you for your tips. When I looked at the store,
    it seemed like Borax and Arm and Hammer Washing Soda were the same thing.
    Maybe you could just use one or the other? I could be wrong 🙂

  20. What size boxes of the arm and hammer and borax do you use?

    • To my knowledge, they only make them in one size boxes, Kristi. They are both in the laundry aisle, usually toward the bottom. Remember that you’re looking for A&H Washing Soda, not baking soda (which does come in different sized boxes). They are two entirely different products.

  21. Have you broken down the cost of this vs store bought detergent? I just made your dishwasher detergent and love it so far! Way cheaper and better for your dishes and health! I assume this makes about the same amount of detergent as a regular size box from the store?? Thanks!

    • Amber, glad you like the dishwasher detergent. 🙂 As far as the cost on this (and keep in mind these are based on my own personal costs so your could be a bit different). I pay $2.84 for a box of Borax, $3.48 for a box of washing soda and $0.33 per bar for the Ivory (assuming I don’t get it on sale). That comes to $7.31 One batch lasts my family of 3 for around 3 months if I do 1 load per day so that’s basically 90 loads. $7.31/90 loads = $0.08 per load.

      I don’t count the essential oils that I use since I already have those on hands for other reasons. If you bought them for this only, you’d jump your cost to around $0.10 per load. Hope that helps!

  22. HI!
    Your list is really inspiring even my boyfriend is excited to change some stuff 🙂
    But I fear we don´t have the same box size7brand in Austria. Could you tell me the amount in grams of each ingredient ?

  23. I am allergic to Ivory soap , would another soap work?

    • Pat, you can also use Fels Naptha or Zote, but they will both likely be much harsher. Ivory is pure soap with no other additives so unfortunately, it’s likely to be the easiest on your skin. You could try using a bar of unscented Castile soap too. That might be gentler.

  24. Chelsea.DeMarco says

    I’m super excited to make some stuff and save money! This is going to be my first thing to try! Does it have to be essential oil or can it be fragrance oil? Also how many drops do you add to this large load? Do you add it at the end of mixing? I don’t have a food processor. I have a cheese grater. Is it possible to get it into a fine powder using the grater? Just want it to work right!

    • Chelsea, you can use EO or fragrance. Your preference. As for the fine powder, use the smallest grating option on your grater and it should work out fine.

      • Chelsea.DeMarco says

        About how many drops of oil do you add? I’ve never used oils. I bought a couple fragrance oils to try!

        • Chelsea, each person will prefer a different strength of scent. I would say start with 4 or 5 drops then mix well. Adjust as needed.

  25. I have started making freezer meals and seasoning blends all from scratch, to take out the chemical factor. I am VERY interested in a lot of your cleaning recipes. Do you know if they are septic safe? Thanks.

    • Sandi, they should be. We haven’t had any issues and I haven’t heard of anyone else that has used them that has.

  26. The laundry soap is great for HE machines. YOU SHOULD REMOVE THE liquid dispenser and put powder in bottom of soap ddispenser. I also added oxiclean. (Equal amounts of washing soda.) my clothes smell much better since I’ve used homemade washing powder and are cleaner as well. I used to use Tide HE free and clear. Don’t add essential oil if you store in plastic or cardboard. Add a couple drops to each wash load with the washing powder. I found the little ivory flakes at Walmart. The washing soda is usually on the bottom shelf. Ask if you.cant find it. I add my oils to my wool dryer balls when drying. But for the things I don’t dry, I’d put them in with washing powd.

  27. Have you had any problems with using this in dark colored clothes? I wear a lot of black.

  28. Elizabeth Hall says

    I use it in mine. My laundry is cleaner than when I use Gain. I’m adding essential oils to the next batch.

    • Anna Marney says

      Elizabeth, do you just sprinkle a couple tablespoons over your clothes in your HE washer and wash as usual?

  29. I use a similiar mix in my HE. It is low suds and works just fine. I use 1-3 tbsp, depending on the size of the load.
    Instead of grating bar soap, I cheat and crush up some Zote flakes. I keep mine in La Madeline soup jars from Sam’s so I mix 1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda and one cup crushed Zote. I just stick the Zote in a baggie and roll a can over it so it is closer to the same size as the other ingredients. Pour them all in the jar and shake, shake, shake.

    • I’ve used Zote as well Michele, but it still irritates my nose a bit. That’s the reason I suggest Ivory for folks who have sensitive sniffers. 🙂

  30. Hi! We do all our washing in cold water…would I be better off putting some into a jar, adding warm or hot water and shaking to dissolve before adding to the wash? Curious minds…;)

  31. Deborah K says

    When I grate the bars of soap in the food processor, I pour a cup or so, of one of the powdered soaps in the food processor along with the bars of soap. This helps with processing the bars of soap.

  32. If I use zote instead how many bars do I need to use? They’re larger than ivory so I wanted to make sure I’m using the correct amount.

    • Stacy Barr says

      Hi Cheryl, Zote bars are about twice the size of a bar of Ivory so I would say half what I called for. 🙂

  33. If I am using your recipe, but choose to use the Zote flakes, any idea how much I would use?

  34. What kind of storage container do you use? Plastic, glass?

  35. Wilma Barnhart says

    I make a powder laundry soap similar to this one, but I have to add oxiclean to mine because of horrible well water. I also make my own dishwasher soap but a powder. My problem is, with both soaps I have a horrible time with it clumping together really bad. When it is first made it gets really hard and I have to break it apart with a knife or something. Once I break it up it doesn’t do that again. But I’m wondering if anyone else has had this problem and knows a solution? I live in Florida so it maybe a high humidity problem. I’m not sure. Any help with this issue would be greatly appreciated!

    • Wilma, it sounds as if it is a humidity issue. Try adding a couple of saltine crackers or a piece of bread to the storage container. Just like with brown sugar, it will attract the humidity and should keep your powder loose.

  36. Yes I’ve been using it for over 10 years. Not a problem. I have sensitive skin, I use the Fels Naptha Soap. My skin is so much better since I don’t use “store soap”. I only use 2 teaspoons per load, and never had a problem with it not being clean. Also it will not suds up like store soap. Suds does nothing to clean the clothes. Enjoy!

  37. I’m new to the whole diy stuff. What is the best thing to store this laundry detergent in? Do some containers work better than others?

  38. jennifer Threet says

    It should be fine for an HE machine. It is very low suds.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.