DIY Laundry Detergent

For some odd reason, I saw a lot of Tide detergent commercials when I was growing up. Perhaps they were sandwiched between kid shows in the hope that desperate new parents would see it as a solution to at least one of their many challenges. These commercials claimed that Tide would get clothes cleaner and keep them more vibrant. We couldn’t afford Tide, so I added this item to my ever-growing checklist of what it meant to live the dream of suburbia.

Then one day, I tried the fancy, bright orange bottle that promised to make all of my dreams come true. Eventually, I admitted that I didn’t enjoy the way it made my clothes—and therefore me—smell. And later, as I became more environmentally conscientious, I began buying brands such as Seventh Generation, which cost even more but didn’t make me stink. The liquid was also clear, as opposed to radioactive blue.

Even more than cost-saving, however, I relish being able to make my own detergent. It’s one item I never have to add to my grocery list again, and each batch makes a year’s supply. Added bonus: the bumps on the back of my arms have disappeared.

Ingredients for laundry detergent

Ingredients for laundry detergent


  • Half of a grated bar of ZOTE soap
  • 1/2 C Borax 20 mule team powder
  • 1/2 C Arm & Hammer (or other brand) Super Washing Soda
  • Hot water

Other items needed:

  • A large pot
  • A large stirring spoon
  • A funnel
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Containers in which to store the detergent (old detergent containers or plastic cat litter containers such as Tidy Cats) Note: the Tidy Cats containers can become very heavy, so I fill them halfway.

What to do:

  1. Fill a very large pot (at least 4 quart) 3/4 full of water.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add grated Zote and stir until dissolved.
  4. Add 1/2 C Borax and stir until dissolved.
  5. Add 1/2 C Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and stir until dissolvedPot of Laundry Detergent on Stove
  6. Fill a 5-gallon bucket 3/4 full with hot water (it is easiest to do this under a tub faucet).
  7. Pour the contents of the pot into the bucket. Add more hot water to fill 2″ from top.
  8. Cover with lid and let sit 24 hours.
  9. Stir and pour into containers using a measuring cup (for the pour spout) and a funnel. It will be the consistency of Jello.
  10. Use a capful from your regular liquid laundry detergent. Some recipes boast that only 1/4 C is necessary, but I usually use 1/3-1/2 C. Note: sometimes I have to shake the containers if the mixture separates.

Filling the containers with laundry detergent

You can add drops of your favorite essential oil if you would like a scent. Otherwise, the detergent is ready to go!

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