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Emergency Essentials' DIY Laundry Detergent

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Back in the good ol’ days when DIY was just the way we all lived, people made soap with lye and ash and pig fat. Well, thankfully, DIYing has transitioned into something a little less time consuming, still as satisfying, and probably more effective. Of course, this DIY is not completely from scratch. You’ll still purchase the ingredients for this DIY laundry detergent. But you’ll have the satisfaction of learning a new skill and making a good detergent for less money than you can buy it.

The benefits of DIY laundry detergent? It’s cheaper and uses less harmful chemicals. And it smells so darn good…

We suggest mixing everything in a 4.5 gallon bucket and then keeping some in a 15.9 cup Snapware container on your laundry shelf. Here are our two "recipies" for laundry detergent; one powder, one liquid.



-          2 boxes (or 32 oz) of baking soda; Approximate cost = $1.24

-          2 boxes (110 oz) washing soda; Approx cost = $6.34

-          1 box borax (76 oz); Approx cost = $11.35

-          3 Castille Soap bars (12 oz), grated (or substitute with Ivory soap. It smells better.); $5.97 (Castille)

-          1 Fels Naptha Bar (5.5 oz), grated = $.97


  1. We recommend using 2 TBS per load of laundry, you can add more if you feel like it. This recipe makes a lot, so if you just want to test out one load’s worth, cut the recipe accordingly. (One load = 2 TBS of washing detergent.)
  2. Chopping soap bars up is easier and faster than grating, but you’ll have chunks of soap that won’t dissolve as easily as grated pieces. Consider dedicating a grater to soap (ie don’t use it on your cheese!).
  3. You can make your own washing soda. Here's how.
  4. You can tailor this recipe to your family’s favorite scents with add –ins like essential oils.

You’ll find everything you need in the laundry detergent aisle, except for the baking soda which you’ll find in the baking aisle. And, yes, this homemade detergent can be used on front-loading and HE washers. Some users say you can add it directly to the drum, others say to mix it with a little hot water first and then add it to the drum, and another suggested removing the liquid detergent tray and then putting in your homemade powder detergent normally.

According to my friend Alissa, this DIY laundry detergent will do at least 2 months’ worth of laundry, depending on how many loads you do. She’s washing for a family of five (including one newborn) so she’s doing one to three loads of laundry daily. If you’re washing less frequently, expect a batch this size to last longer.



-           1 Fels Naptha Bar (5.5 oz), grated  

-          1 cup washing soda

-          1 cup borax (8 oz)

-          5 gallons HOT water


Add grated Fels Naptha to one quart hot water. (Make sure it's hot.) Mix until soap is softened, then blend 1 cup at a time in blender on low to mix well. Fill the 5 gallon bucket half-full with hot water. Stir in the blended Naptha mix; add the washing soda and Borax. Add the rest of the hot water (to fill the bucket) and stir again. 


  1. Mix everything in a 5 gallon bucket; make sure it has a lid!
  2.  Use a long handled mixing spoon, large paint stick, or other suitable item for stirring.
  3. This liquid mixture will thicken, so don't worry when that happens.
  4. Fill a jug with half of the liquid laundry detergent and half water. Keep it on your laundry shelf for easy access.
  5. Or, don't dilute with water and use half of the amount recommended below.
  6. This liquid detergent works well in HE machines because it doesn't create suds.

To Use:

1/2 cup per load for top loaders

1/4 cup per load for front loaders

Let us know how it turns out for you or if you’ve got a favorite DIY laundry detergent “recipe” you’d like to share!

23 thoughts on “Emergency Essentials' DIY Laundry Detergent ”

  • Tiffany Adams
    Tiffany Adams July 2, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    I do my own laundry soap. I use zote grated instead fels naptha, I also add oxi clean and Purex crystals. And it is the best!

  • Jamie

    You use 3 bars of castile soap AND 1 bar of Fels naptha?

  • JolieO

    Safe for HE machines?

    • beprepared

      JolieO, our liquid recipe is from our Director of Marketing and his wife, and they use it in their HE machine with no problems. --Sarah

  • Kaylee

    This works great and SAVES SO MUCH MONEY... I add a powder non-chlorine bleach from Dollar General and you could add Bottle of Purex Crystals Fabric Softener. .
    I make one batch and it last 3 of use almost 6 months

  • Regina

    Why are there more ingredients in the powder than the liquid? Do these other ingredients not dissolve? Also does the liquid need to be stirred before each use?

  • Catherine

    Laundry Soap
    supplies needed:
    2 empty Parmesan cheese containers
    1 box Laundry Soda
    1 box Borax
    a bottle orignal blue Dawn dish soap
    a small glass jar with lid (about 1 cup size)
    two 1/4 teaspoon, one for each container
    for each load of laundry place 1/4 tsp Borax and soda in jar
    Add some very hot water, shake well Add 1/4 tsp Dawn
    stiring to mix. Pour into washer rinsing jar in water to
    remove all soap from jar and spoon.
    3/4 cup of each ingredint equals 64 loads.


    I have been using this recipe for over three years and love it. One batch will last for about a year for me. I do an average of 5 loads a week. My husband and I both work outside in AZ so our clothes get dirty and smelly. I use 1/2 cup on work clothes and 1/4 cup on towels and bedding , I have great results. I also use white vinegar mixed with 4 parts water instead of fabric softener. I make vinegar mixture a gallon at a time. I use Zote soap as it is easier for me to find than the others mentioned.

  • Patt

    Sorry - Liquid recipe does not make sense. 1 cup is never going to equal 76 oz of borax, so which is it? Thanks

    • beprepared

      Thanks for catching this. 1 box of Borax is equivalent to 76oz. I think the blogger who wrote this post just got going (you know how sometimes you write one thing one time on a page (like 1 box is 76oz.), and then if something is similar (1 cup) you might mistakenly write 76 oz. again because the last entry was fresh in your mind?). This is a mistake we all make at times. So thank you for catching it. I will fix it.

  • Esma

    I have problem finding borax anywhere in Folsom, CA 95630???

    • beprepared

      Sorry, you're having problems finding Borax in your city. I just looked online and they sell it at places like Walgreens and drugstores. You can check there if you haven't already. I also just did a google search by going to "google shopping" and typing in borax. It gives a list of several online vendors who sell the product. The price ranges from $4-$6 dollars before shipping. Hope this helps.

  • Andrea

    Do these work well in hard water? Ours is so hard it leaves calcium deposits on the fixtures and I have to squeegee and wipe the shower walls each time I shower.

  • AMom

    No Way. I had to give all mine away to another lady that lives in town and has city sewer. After 1 week of use with the liquid DIY laundry soap, my septic started burping very badly. I went back to using the dollar store liquid soap.
    The lady I gave the 5 gallon amount of soap to who lives in the city, uses it in her dishwasher, washing machine and general house cleaning with no septic problems.

  • Kathleen A. Chase
    Kathleen A. Chase March 26, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Would like to find out if BEDORI who posted a comment on 3/24/2014 from AZ. If she uses a septic tank system or not. After her 3 years of use of this home made laundry soap. It is a very good recommendation. We use a septic tank & one other comment had trouble with hers bubbling. If there is anyway to find out it would sure help us out. Now after reading this you folks at E.E. might not want to keep my comment so if you decide to delete it. You have my permission to do so. We are making a 1/4 quarter batch to try it. Will gladly post our results & comments. Please tell Byron thank you for finding it for me & re-submitting to us through an a-mail. You guys there all have a great day. Take care & God bless.
    Kathy Chase

  • Briana

    What is the estimated shelf life on these items? As I will be using these recipes for prepping. Thank you for doing this DIY series-I love it!

    • beprepared

      Based on the individual shelf lives of the ingredients in the liquid soap recipe and after talking with our Marketing director (his wife makes this soap regularly), The shelf life for the liquid soap recipe is about 12 months. However, it will separate after a while and you'll have to stir it together and add more water into it. Take the same precautions with the detergent as you would with food storage products to keep for prepping. Keep it in a cool, dry, dark area and rotate it after a year so that it will be ready for emergencies.

  • Marcia Lutton

    I also have a septic system. I use liquid version in my HE washer and have never had a problem. But we have our system pumped every year, may be over kill but do no want septic problems. 250.00 is a cheap preventive measure. Soap is great!

  • Cathie

    I have tried both the liquid and dry detergents and they leave the clothes smelling wonderful. I have had problems with each of them because my clothes turn grey. I would love to continue to use either or both, but does anyone have help with the greying problem?

  • Leslie Anne

    For the liquid recipe I use Ivory bar soap (I break out in hives from Fels Naptha and that soap smells harsh compared to mild Ivory). Ask people to save you some empty laundry detergent bottles (or you can fish some out of the laundromat waste bin). Fill the bottles 3/4 full...that leaves room to give the bottle a good couple of shakes before filling the cap with detergent.

  • Karen Morris

    I have an HE frontloader. When you use the Ivory, are you talking the Ivory dry? The Ivory liquid is not HE - I even called the company to confirm.


  • Dixie Vasquez

    I love the idea of making my own laundry detergent. I have never thought about that. It sounds great and it is very cheap to prepare it. I will try your recipe, thanks for sharing :)

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