Brokeass Mama Making Laundry Soap Because Laundry Detergent Is Cheap As Hell

Good laundry detergent is expensive as hell. Even the mid-prices brands are kind of pricey in my area. So figuring out how to make my own was a no-brainer for me. Not only is homemade detergent cheaper, but it’s also not loaded with tons of chemicals, fragrances, sulfates and other grossness. So it can be way greener too, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The best part is, unlike making regular soap (more on that later), laundry soap is both quick and relatively painless (metaphorically and literally). You pretty much only need three main ingredients to make liquid or powdered laundry soap:

Washing Soda

Arm and Hammer is pretty good and can be found in the grocery store occasionally, and definitely on online. Washing soda is also known as sodium carbonate or sometimes soda ash and is made from regular old limestone or salt.


You can usually find this stuff in your local grocery store. They even sell it at the Rite Aid up the block from me. Side note: every time I buy this my husband makes a Borat joke. Because his references are as dated as Carrot Top’s jokes.

Bar Soap

Dr. Bronner’s or Ivory are both good and can be found almost anywhere. I prefer Dr. Bronner’s because they have a few nice naturally scented ones. Lavender is my fave, and I think they have peppermint and almond too.

Optional: Baking Soda

This can be used on occasion to help freshen your  clothes, but it isn’t necessary.

Like I said before, these ingredients are a lot less chemically than what you see in store bought soaps, and are super cheap individually. You often find these same ingredients in fancy shmancy natural detergents. But making it yourself costs a fraction of the price.

Instructions for cheap powdery goodness (and not the thing Rob Ford does)

Start by grating the bar soap until finely ground. You can also use a food processor, because ain’t nobody got time for that.

Next, in a large bowl you need to mix two parts washing soda, two parts borax and one part grated soap. This is where you would add a teaspoon or so of baking soda if you wanted to.

That’s it! you can store this in a closed container and you only need about 1/8 to 1/3 a cup per load, depending on how dirty your clothes are.

Instructions on how to make liquid gold soap

Start out the same by grating or processing the bar of soap. Then you put your soap into a pan with two quarts of water and slowly heat up (stirring your brains out) until it’s totally dissolved.

Next, put four and a half gallons of super hot tap water (no need to go the extra mile and boil it) into a bucket (you’ll need a five gallon or larger, which you can usually get for free from a bakery or grocery store, or you can buy one cheap online), and stir in one cup of borax and one cup of washing soda until dissolved.

After that, pour the mixture from the pan into your bucket and stir it up really well. Here comes the hard part. Leave it the hell alone for at least 12 hours.

After 12 hours, you can stir until it;s smooth and then pour it into whatever containers you want to keep it in. With this stuff you use 1/2 to one cup per load. It might seem like a lot compared to the super concentrated versions on store shelves, but it’s way cheaper.

* I have to ad a disclaimer to this post. Originally I intended on writing about making regular old soap (with lye), which is very new to me. As you can imagine, that whole fiasco turned out to be a hot mess, so here we are. Take two will be next week, unless I burn my hands off and can’t type. *

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  • Kay_Sue

    I’m not sure if this is a huge coincidence, or just mind-blowing for me, but as soon as I get off Mommyish, this is the very next chore on my list. I use Fels Naptha for my barsoap, because I am lazy and it is usually right there with the Borax and washing soda at the store, although I’m thinking of branching out to something with a lavender scent, so I might look for the Dr. Bronner you suggest next time. ;)

    • Kay_Sue

      Of course, we all know the joke in this comment is the “getting off Mommyish” part. I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole! ;)

    • Crusty Socks

      Yea, I wasn’t gonna say anything, but since you did… um…

    • Lee

      I love Fels Naptha bars so much. One 97 cent bar lasts like 20 years (if you aren’t grating it into detergent). It gets crusty, shit stained onesies clean every time.

    • Kay_Sue

      I buy the bars for the detergent, but keep a separate one for stain removal. We’ve had it since we moved into this house…and that was four years ago. It’s like magic. I love it too!

    • Sara610

      Okay, so I direct a religious-education program, and we’re in the process of packing up the entire RE wing (just finished today, actually) because they’re knocking it down and renovating it. Yay!
      Anyhoo…….I found an old, still-wrapped bar of Fels Naptha in a cabinet and was like, “Ain’t nobody gonna use this shit!” and tossed it into the pile of stuff for the yard sale. *hangs head in shame* I think now I’m going to go back and steal it.

    • Kay_Sue

      You should. It’s amazing. Do you have any ninja-wear handy?

    • Lee

      DO IT!

  • Crusty Socks

    We should have a DIY day, where we all share our DIY saving money tips.

    I have a great one DIY shower head

    • Sara610

      I second this idea!

  • libraryofbird

    I have been making laundry soap for about a year and I love it! I add oxi clean to it as well. My next homemade adventure is going to be fabric softener.

    • Kay_Sue

      Fabric softener is the easiest around here. I do white vinegar with a touch of lavender essential oils. They’ve never been softer, and, while neither scent lingers much after drying, I don’t smell the vinegar on the clothes and the lavender makes laundry day smell like heaven while the washer is running, man. ;)

    • libraryofbird

      How well does it work for static electricity? Colorado is so dry 99% of the time. I also wonder about when I line dry stuff in the summer.

    • Kay_Sue

      I’ve had as much luck with it as with Downy around here. We aren’t particularly dry though–summers are wet and super humid. I haven’t noticed a difference with things I dry by hand (well, not really, but I don’t have a line and would LOVE one, kinda jealous).

      I have a friend that uses aluminum foil balls to get rid of static. For some reason, her partner’s work uniforms really collect it. She can use them for a couple of weeks each time, and they are “reusable” for that time period. They don’t do anything for softening–just the static. I’ve never tried that though, because what we use works for us.

    • libraryofbird

      I am thinking about the wool dryer balls, I think they work similar to the tin foil. One of the big selling points for my house when I bought it is that the back yard is south facing and it’s perfect for a clothes line. I have one that opens up like an upside down umbrella and use an umbrella stand for it.

    • Kay_Sue

      Nice. We had a clothesline growing up, and I love the smell and feel of clothes fresh off the line. I would love to have one, but we’re renting and my other half is pretty stringently opposed to making any improvements to a house we’ll only be in for another year or two.

      I’ve not met anyone personally that uses the wool balls, but I’ve seen the recommended online on a few blogs that I “trust”. They work the exact same as the balls, just a different conductor, I suppose. Pretty cool all around!

    • G.E. Phillips

      I’ve done this too, it’s the best!

    • TwentiSomething Mom

      We need a tutorial on that, unless its been done? I have essential lavender at home to use in my DIY hair oil.

    • Kay_Sue

      I googled one. It’s the exact same as what I do, except I don’t know exactly how many drops of oil I use and I know I don’t mix up a gallon at a time…that’s a lot!

  • Anika

    Do you know if homemade soap works well for cloth diapers?

    • wonderstruck

      No, it doesn’t. The coated bar soap will cause your diapers to repel over time, and it can leave pinholes in the PUL over time. I tried one for awhile without it – just using baking soda, oxygenated bleach, and washing powder, but it didn’t really work. They seemed clean at first but I started getting a barnyard smell from them as time passed because there’s no actual detergent in it.

    • Anika

      Thank you!

    • Emily A.

      I had great success with Crunchy Clean – – a lady in Memphis makes it. Much less $$ than commercial brands.

  • Tea

    We’re lazy and just use Dr. Bronner’s for everything. Everything. If I suspect it might remotely work, it’s going to be left sparkly clean and peppermint scented.

    It’s like the classy hippie version of that soap/shampoo bachelor wash they sold when I was in college.

  • G.E. Phillips

    I love this!! I’ve never heard of washing soda, I am totally going to Amazon it now. I’ve washed my clothes with just Borax and baking soda. Unless your stuff is really soiled or stained, it totally works. For stains, I’ll spray on some Holy Cow–it’s multipurpose and cleans literally everything in the universe.

  • JLH1986

    Will this work in those stupid expensive “High Efficiency” washers/

    • Kay_Sue

      Yup! I use it in mine!

    • JLH1986

      SWEET! I’m gonna give this a shot. I HATE paying for laundry soap.

  • MaebykittyRN

    For the powder: How much of each ingredient? Do I need to grate, like, 10 bars of soap? I want to make this!

  • MaebykittyRN
    • MaebykittyRN

      (link if for homemade dryer “sheets”)

  • AP

    If you want to be really lazy, just use half the manufacturer’s recommended amount of soap for each load. Apparently, their “serving sizes” are generous so you, well, buy more soap.

    I’ve been halving the amount of soap I use for years, as has my mom, and everything comes out clean and soft because there’s no lingering soap residue to make it itchy and sticky.

  • Carrie Murphy

    I’ve made this before, using Dr. Bronner’s Lavender soap and it turned out great!

  • Elizabeth

    This sounds so easy! And if I do this, it will balance out all the money I spend on those scent-boosting laundry beads.

  • GingerChapel

    If you use Ivory soap to make it, you can microwave the Ivory soap and then it gets really dry and easy to grate (it just crumbles really). I’ve been making liquid laundry soap for a few years now, and I love it. I make huge batches once or twice a year. You can add essential oils for a scent. I don’t bother any more, but I do throw a cup or so of vinegar to remove any smells.


    Great idea but by the time I get all this crap I could buy a bottle of Wisk, use half the recommended amount & save the money & the time it takes to do this.

    • Emily A.

      It actually takes about 10 mins to make the powdered form. My kids love grating the bar soap, too. I actually took the time to figure out the cost difference a while back… It’s something like one quarter the costs of even inexpensive commercial detergent. Basically my ten minutes of “work” saves me $10. My time is $60/hour, for sure!

    • Pumplestilskin

      I work for a company that makes all natural cleaning and beauty products. We use all of these ingredients to make our laundry soap, except we make our own bar soap, these ingredients come to about $15 in our area and we get about 6 5 gallon buckets of detergent. When I use it I only use 1/4 a cup unless I’m washing my husbands barn clothes. Unless I’m spending hours doing extreme couponing, I can’t get much cheaper than that.

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