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DIY Laundry Detergent – $0.02 a Load!

DIY laundry horizontal

I’ve been making my own laundry detergent for years now. I was so scared at first to switch over to natural-homemade detergent because there was this mindset that store-bought is best…store-bought smells better…store-bought makes my clothes fresher. However, when we did our budget makeover, I decided to take homemade detergent into my own hands and come up with a DIY laundry detergent recipe that saves a TON of money.

You can see the cost breakdown on the bottom of this post, but it comes out to less than $7 to make a batch of this and each load is under $0.02! That is crazy! When you use Tide you are spending about $0.12 a load!

I’ve gone back and forth about using Borax. However, after asking my Facebook fans what they think a few weeks ago, and reading up a little on it on the internet, I’ve decided to keep using it for laundry uses. I’ve included essential oils in this recipe, which is optional. I love the smell and the way essential oils make my clothes feel.

laundry detergetn

DIY Laundry Detergent


  • 3 Cups of Borax (where to buy)
  • 3 Cups Washing Soda (where to buy)
  • 3 Cups of Baking Soda (where to buy)
  • 2 Bars of Soap (like this one or this one) or Fels Naptha (ingredients are questionable though). I sometimes throw in a stain stick too!
  • 30 Drops of Essential Oil (where to buy) – I use a 50:50 mix of wild orange and lemon, but you can add whatever you like.


  1. Grate the soap with a cheese grater.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the borax, washing soda, and baking soda.
  3. Toss the grated soap into a food processor. Now, add about 1 cup of the powdered mixture from the bowl. This allows you the food processor to process the soap into smaller pieces without sticking to the blades.
  4. While the food processor is on, drop the essential oil into it. This allows the essential oil to blend into the soap.
  5. Take the grated soap mixture out of the food processor and add it to the large bowl.
  6. All done! Add 1-2 tablespoons to each load of laundry! I, also, add about 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the load as a fabric softener.
  7. Makes almost a gallon.

COST Per Load: 

I’m gonna break down the cost for you so you can see how cheap this really is. If you buy the ingredients from your local store, you will get it much cheaper than ordering online.

  • 3 cups of Borax = $1.20
  • 3 cups of Washing Soda = $1.12
  • 3 cups of Baking Soda = $1.00 (we buy 50lbs at a time from a local feed store)
  • 2 Bars of Soap = $2.00
  • 30 drops of Essential Oil = $.05 per drop = $1.50

TOTAL COST PER BATCH = $6.82 !!! …or $0.02 a LOAD!!! 

CLICK HERE to Pin this Recipe

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56 Responses to DIY Laundry Detergent – $0.02 a Load!

  1. Mary January 20, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    I really want to try this, just very busy with homeschooling. I guess I can let the kids help me and call it home economics! One question, have you really found these higher quality soaps for only $1 a bar? I think my overall cost is going to come out higher. Amazon wants $24 for 6 bars of the Dr Bronners soap. I’ll check our local co-op but I think their price is several dollars per bar.

    • The Paleo Mama January 20, 2014 at 10:06 am #

      I linked to bars you could buy but I do get the Kirk’s soap for $1. Obviously get it where you can get a good price! I like Kirk’s and it works great for us.

  2. Tiffany M Bastedo January 20, 2014 at 9:54 am #

    Could this be used in a high efficiency washer do you think? Thanks!

    • The Paleo Mama January 20, 2014 at 10:05 am #

      Yes, it’ should be fine! There is no foaming agent so I don’t see a problem.

      • Kathy March 10, 2016 at 6:47 pm #

        How much do you suggest per load? I have a front loading machine.

        • Jackie Ritz March 11, 2016 at 8:17 am #

          My recommendation in the post is 1-2 tablespoons to each load of laundry.

    • Lynn S April 28, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

      I use something similar in my front loader. It works great. I also use about 1/3 c white vinegar in the liquid fabric softner space. Works great too. πŸ™‚

  3. Laurel smouse January 20, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    Why do you use both baking soda and washing soda?

  4. Brandie January 20, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

    I use clothe diapers do you think this would work. We usually use special soap called Charles soap which is about $16 a container.

    • The Paleo Mama January 20, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

      No, I can’t recommend these for clothe. I’m working on coming up with a cloth diaper safe one! So stay tuned!!

      • Carrie October 4, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

        Did you ever come up with a cloth formula? I JUST finished making a half batch of this recipe instead of my usual recipe. The process is different, but with the exception of the baking soda, the ingredients are the same. I’ve been using my other recipe on my cloth for a couple years and would love to find something better.

  5. Beth January 20, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

    Jackie, I just heard your informative and inspiring talk on debt reduction on the Village Green summit. I had a follow-up question (sorry if it’s a bit off topic). You mentioned cutting out your cable bill and going just with Netflix and Hulu streaming, and that this dropped you to about $10. Is that per week or month? Also, does that factor in the cost of internet service? Who provides your internet service and at what cost? Just curious. Thanks for the wealth of detailed information you provided.

    • The Paleo Mama January 21, 2014 at 12:50 am #

      Hi Beth! No, that does not include internet. It is around $10 a month though for Netflix or Hulu…actually cheaper than that. We pay around $80 for internet service. We have the high speed cable since I work from home!

  6. Noel January 21, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    Hi! Thanks for this post. Can’t wait to try it! Which stain stick do you use when you add that in? My husband’s work clothes are almost always covered in oil and grease, so I know I’ll probably have to use those. Thank you!

  7. Leah January 21, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    You can buy fels naptha at Walmart for under $1 per bar. I don’t go to Walmart for anything but that and load up.

  8. Melissa Johnson January 21, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    I was wondering do you use liquid fabric softener to and do you have a DIY recipe for that? Listened to your talk on village green was great thanks for all the good info!

    • Lynn S April 28, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

      I use about 1/3c white vinegar in the fabric softner spot. It works great. I use a similar mix as this for my laundry soap. πŸ™‚

  9. Melissa Johnson January 21, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    Sorry another question do you think coconut bar soap from tropical traditions would work?

  10. MGG January 21, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    I made this with high hopes, but found it didn’t work at all! It just so happened that my little girl had thrown up over her clothes; I washed them three times with this recipe but they still smelled bad and were stained even after the three washes! Other regular clothes didn’t come out clean either.
    I used a castile soap bar, and halved the recipe, but it still should have worked. I’m very disappointed because I’m working hard to reduce our chemical use and this seemed like such a wonderful (and inexpensive!) idea.

    • Maria H March 18, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

      It might be your water if it’s hard. Ours is hard and I can use neither the liquid nor the powdered homemade laundry soaps. : (

  11. Wendy January 21, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    Your recipe sounds great but You might want to read up on HE machines. I had a repair man friend specifically tell me that vinegar will ruin an HE machine.

    • The Paleo Mama January 21, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

      I don’t think I said to put vinegar in a HE…did I?! I put it in my washing machine, which is not a HE.

  12. nicole January 21, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    could you use liquid Dr. Bronners castile soap? If so, what would the amount be? Just seems easier than grinding, but mabe there is a reason…?

    • The Paleo Mama January 21, 2014 at 11:55 pm #

      This is a powdered version. I think there may be liquid homemade versions that use Dr. Bronners. I’ve never made it like that though!

  13. Mary January 22, 2014 at 9:48 am #

    Just wondered: Why do you use both washing powder AND baking soda?

  14. Roberta February 3, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

    I was very excited to find this, and got all the ingredients, put them together and tried the soap. There was abit of a let down as there was no suds? Is this normal? I guess Im so use to the liquid soap that suds immediatly that I was expecting the same thing.

    • The Paleo Mama February 4, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

      Yes that is normal! There are no foaming agents in this recipe. They will still get clean though! πŸ˜‰

  15. Leslie February 9, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    You mentioned you have gone back and forth about using Borax. I am new to your site and am unaware of the controversy. Please share your issues.

    • The Paleo Mama February 11, 2014 at 8:37 am #

      People say it is toxic. After researching it…it is toxic but only at a certain temperature.

  16. Angela Bergeron March 28, 2014 at 3:40 am #

    I want to say that I tried this and it rocks so thank you! I’ve tried several other versions of diy laundry detergent (with and without borax) and none were as good as this one. I don’t know whether it was the homemade coconut oil soap I made (a mommypotamus recipe) and used, that your recipe called for baking soda too, the addition of lemon essential oil or what, but its way better than any if the recipes I’ve tried before.

    On a side note I’ve been using a 1/4 cup of vinegar in place of fabric softener for months now and I love it. I’ve Googled it and can’t find anywhere online that states that you cannot or should not use vinegar in an HE washer (except mythical oh I heard from some guy that you shouldn’t). In fact most machine makers, including the LG company recommends that you use it for a natural laundry detergent fabric softener, so please check your facts before you reprimand someone.

    • The Paleo Mama March 29, 2014 at 11:05 am #

      That’s great Angela! So glad the recipe is working for you!

  17. Christy April 24, 2014 at 6:12 pm #

    can you make this without a processor? Mine just died. Could I grate it really fine?

    • Laura April 29, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

      I make my own soap too. From what I have read, you need to use the processor to break it down to a fine powder so that it will dissolve in cold water. If you wash hot (or maybe warm) its really not an issue. That is what I have gathered from information on Pinterest, anyway.

      • Cheri January 27, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

        When using cold water with DIY soap, I put the required soap in a quart Mason jar, add HOT water, and shake. I prefill my machine with cold and pour in the dissolved hot water soap mixture before adding my clothes. Works!

  18. Bethany September 17, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

    I could not find in the article how much you use per load?

  19. Belinda-Marie November 23, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    Hi. I’m new to this Paleo/D-I-Y lifestyle, so I am sorry if this is a dumb question. Can glycerin bar soaps be used in this recipe? We are stationed on Okinawa and some of the products you listed is not available here. I can order from the net, but I’d like to use what I have on hand, if possible. We use Dial Organic Coconut Water bars because it’s one that doesn’t stir up my son’s eczema. Thanks in advance.

  20. Wanda December 29, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    I love this recipe and thought I’d share a funny story about it. My husband works out of state and every couple of months or so, he’ll bring home his empty container for me to refill with detergent to take back. Without fail, TSA questions him about it at the airport. Every time it’s a woman agent, they ask for the recipe after he tells them what it is. I finally took a picture of all the ingredients so he can just show it to them on his phone. πŸ™‚

  21. Christin December 29, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    What type of stain stick do you use. I’ve seen recipes that use Oxiclean but I’m sure that is full of harmful chemicals.

  22. Nancy January 29, 2015 at 9:38 am #

    MGG, I use this but I put in 1c. as we live in the country and tend to deal with hard water. I also add 1/2 c of baking soda laundry powder for really smelly clothes.

  23. April February 3, 2015 at 2:11 pm #

    I do not have food processor. what do I need do without it?

    • The Paleo Mama February 4, 2015 at 4:38 am #

      You can try using either a regular bender or a hand immersion blender. Mixture may not be as smooth, but should work.

  24. Adrianna February 7, 2015 at 11:22 am #

    I have been using a homemade powdered laundry detergent for quite about 4 years now. I have to make a batch maybe every 6 months, and buy ingredients maybe once a year for a family of 2.5 πŸ˜‰

    I do not see the need for a processor, although every recipe I read up on has it as a step (One Good Thing by Jillee, Clean Mama..). I grate my Fels Naptha bar on the medium side of my grater. It’s a little courser than powdered snow-not a powder. I have never had a problem with pieces left in my clothes after a load in my cold/cold cycle (non-HE). We prefer the smell and frankly the color over Zote pink or white, and other cleaning bars like Castile are more expensive.

    I also add about a cup of Oxyclean to the mix-just to make sure my son’s is cleaner. I hardly use the vinegar in the softener-but that does both soften, and remove any heavy duty scents (husbands socks anyone?).

    For dosage-I keep a clear jar by the machines, and a scoop from my Slim Fast mix in it. I can see if it needs refilling from the cleaned kitty litter bucket reserves, and the scoop is about the right size (sometimes I only put in 3/4 scoop, sometimes I add a little more depending on the load.)

    For spot cleaning (4 year old boy), I use Resolve. I have come to rely on it over the past 4 years, and don’t know that I want to toy with a “cleaner” alternative. I dilute it more than the concentrate says to, but I do apply liberally. His clothes have always been in the same condition to resell at the same cost I purchased them for at the local consignment sale =)

    To most people on these comments-Yes, it’s wonderful to ask questions and know what you’re getting into before you do it, I did too (and trolled comments…). But please, please take the leap of faith. I laugh now at all the coupons I see weekly for purchasing liquid laundry detergent-what a racket!

    Not only will your wallet thank you, but your family should as well for keeping them healthier! You can adjust the recipe to fit your needs/budget.


  25. Janine April 13, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    I use Dawn in the foaming dispenser. (Regular Blue)This removes even old grease marks that have been dried in the dryer and set. Just apply one or two squirts rub together or use an old toothbrush (my husband'[s preferred method).

  26. Heather May 25, 2015 at 10:43 am #

    Hydrogen peroxide and blue dawn work great as a stain remover. I mix it with a ratio of 1:1 in a squirt bottle. Great on the kids clothes, carpet, pretty much anything! I have never had it not work!!

  27. Joshua July 28, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

    Dr Bronners soap is $5 a bar. Do you think it will work with just 1 bar?

  28. Tanya September 4, 2015 at 8:12 pm #

    I use a very similar recipe but Oxy Clean is added. It works well on everyone’s clothes, except my husbands gym clothes. P-U! How would you recommend making this stronger? More baking soda, washing soda or Borax? I also run vinegar thru washing machine to try and help…

    • Jackie Ritz September 5, 2015 at 8:52 am #

      I suggest you try adding some more Borax and see if that helps.

  29. Esther September 18, 2015 at 2:42 pm #

    Can the powder be used for a machine that’s takes liquid detergent ? I don’t put any soap directly in the washer. Only in the pull out compartment for the liquid. Is this meant to be put directly in the washer with the clothes? Thank you

  30. Andrea January 10, 2016 at 8:26 am #

    For those looking for a spot treatment, I highly recommend Prespot by Ecosense. It uses Melaleuca oil. It might be pricier in comparison to Resolve, but it’s amazing. Someone gave it to me as a gift with my first child and it dependably removed the classic baby stains wonderfully.

  31. Kathy March 16, 2016 at 5:11 am #

    I like to use Zote. Bar much bigger. How much would you recommend. Bar is 14.1 oz.
    Thank you!

  32. Diane Kienholz March 25, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

    I wanted to know if I could use the liquid castile soap instead of the bar… and if so how much would I use? It is peppermint castile soap

  33. Matt March 28, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

    Have you ever tried to add liquid soap?

  34. Venece June 11, 2016 at 8:43 pm #

    Hi, would you please have a natural dishwasher detergent recipe at all? and also just the dish detergent when doing dishes by hand.
    Thanks heaps.

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