How to Make Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent
This post may contain affiliate links and/or advertisements, which means that Homestead How-To earns advertising fees or commissions if you click on a link or make a purchase. As an Amazon Affiliate, we earn commission on qualified purchases. Visit our affiliate disclosure page to learn more. The views expressed by authors on this site are based on their experiences only; Homestead-How To in no way provides any warranty, expressed or implied, toward the content of these articles. Please use at your own risk.
Making your own homemade liquid laundry detergent is a simple process that can save you a lot of money. Not only is it cheaper than store-bought detergents, but it’s also better for the environment! In this tutorial, we will show you how to make safe, effective liquid laundry detergent using just three ingredients. This detergent is effective at removing stains and leaves your clothes smelling fresh and clean. Plus, homemade liquid laundry detergent is safer for septic systems that don’t do well with homemade powdered detergent.
Why make your own liquid laundry detergent?
There are a few reasons why making your own laundry detergent is a good idea. For one, it’s cheaper than store-bought detergents. In fact, this recipe makes 2.5 gallons of laundry detergent (up to 80 loads) for less than $2.00! You will have to spend about $10 on the supplies, but they will be enough for multiple batches.
Second, homemade liquid laundry detergent is better for the environment. Many store-bought detergents are filled with harsh chemicals and artificial fragrances that can be harmful to the environment (though we definitely used envrionmentally-friendly detergent when we were purchasing from the store).
In addition, laundry detergent is often sold in large plastic containers that end up in the landfill. These containers are unnecessary because much of what they contain is just water! By making your own laundry detergent, you can avoid these toxins and help protect our planet by reducing your plastic use. One of the ways that we achieve this goal – that makes our recipe somewhat unique – is by choosing ingredients that are natural and not packaged in plastic, either.
Finally, homemade liquid laundry detergent is simple and easy to make. With just three ingredients – Fels Naptha soap, laundry booster (such as borax or washing soda), and baking soda – you can whip up a batch of detergent in no time.
What ingredients do you need for liquid laundry detergent?
There are a wealth of recipes for homemade liquid laundry detergent with a variety of options for what to add. We chose three ingredients for our liquid based on two criteria: they had to be natural and non-toxic, and they had to come in non-plastic packaging. After all, if we want to reduce the number of products we buy in plastic, it doesn’t help if our ingredients come in big plastic containers.
Please note that we have two options when it comes to a laundry booster: washing soda or borax. Both will work in your liquid detergent, but they do have different characteristics and benefits. Washing soda will work with any temperature water, so if you tend to use cold water to wash most of the time this is a good choice. Borax works better with warm or hot water washes, and may not dissolve as well in cold water. That said, Borax does help to add softness to your laundry. You could consider making a small batch of borax-based detergent for particular purposes.
Here are the ingredients we use for homemade liquid laundry detergent, and the benefits they provide:
(note: These links will take you to product information on Amazon; you can purchase online, or at the regular grocery store. Check prices to see which works out best)
- Washing Soda (option 1): Washing soda is a household cleaner and laundry booster that has been around since the early 1800s. It’s a natural mineral that helps remove grease and dirt, and it also neutralizes odors. It can actually be used as a standalone laundry detergent if you only want powder or as a pre-soak treatment for stains. As a bonus, it comes in a cardboard box! We also using washing soda for our liquid dish soap and powdered dishwasher detergent, so one box is extremely useful around the house.
- Borax (option 2): Borax is another natural mineral that helps to clean and deodorize clothes. It also acts as a fabric softener, helping to prevent static cling and keep clothes feeling smooth and soft. Borax also comes in a recyclable cardboard box.
- Fels Naptha: Fels Naptha is a traditional laundry bar and stain remover that has been used for over 100 years. It’s made with natural ingredients and contains no phosphates, chlorine, or optical brighteners. In addition to being great for removing stains, it also helps to soften clothes and remove odors. Fels naptha comes in a simple paper cover that is easy to recycle.
- Baking Soda: Baking soda is a natural deodorizer that can be used to neutralize tough smells in both laundry and the kitchen. It also helps to remove grease and dirt, making it a great choice for cleaning. Baking soda comes in a recyclable cardboard box.
You also have the option to add a few drops of essential oil to your laundry detergent if you like a gentle scent. Choose high-quality pure oils like lavender, lemon, or eucalyptus.
How do you make homemade liquid laundry detergent?
Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, it’s time to make some detergent! The recipe we’re sharing today makes about 2.5 gallons of detergent (about 40 cups), which is enough for up to 80 loads of laundry!
½ bar Fels Naptha Soap, grated
¼ cup baking soda
Essential oil (if desired)
- Cheese Grater
- Large pot
- Large wooden spoon
- Measuring Cup
- Bucket or Large Stock Pot with lid (for letting the detergent rest)
- Container with cover for storage (I like to split my detergent into two smaller buckets that are easier to handle)
- Grate your Fels Naptha Soap using a cheese grater.
- Add 4 cups of hot water to a medium to large pot.
- Add grated Fels Naptha soap to water in pot and set on stove at medium-high heat. Stir until the soap is melted completely (approximately 10 minutes).
- Fill your five-gallon bucket 1/4 of the way with hot water or a 2.5-gallon bucket halfway (about 20 cups of water).
- Pour in the soap mixture and stir until it is well incorporated.
- Add borax or washing soda AND baking soda; continue to stir until they have dissolved.
- Add essential oil if desired (1/4 ounce or less).
- Add more warm water until the 5-gallon bucket is half full or the 2.5-gallon bucket is most of the way full (another 20 cups). Stir again, then secure the lid and let the mixture sit for 24 hours.
- Once the mixture has rested for 24 hrs, give it another stir (there may be some gloppy separation, but that is just fine).
- If desired, separate out a small amount to keep right next to your washing machine and keep the rest in the bucket.
How to use homemade liquid laundry detergent
For high-efficiency washers, use 1/2 cup of homemade liquid laundry detergent per load. For regular washers, you can use up to 1 cup, especially for larger loads or particularly dirty clothes.
Cold water wash is best for for all loads, especially when using washing soda (using cold water for your laundry is a great way to save energy!).
You can also pre-treat stains by soaking them in a tablespoon of homemade detergent for about 30 minutes before washing or rubbing them with a bar of Fels Naptha soap and letting them sit for a few minutes, or up to a few days.
Enjoy your fresh, clean clothes – without all the harsh chemicals!
Want to make more of your cleaning supplies yourself? Check out these other DIY Cleaning Supply Articles on Homestead How-to!
- Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent
- How to Make Wood Dryer Balls
- How to Make (and use) Beeswax Furniture Polish
- Homemade Dishwasher Powder