Video: How to Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

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After recent appearances on WHO-TV and KCCI-TV in Des Moines, a number of Des Moines area residents have contacted me with lots of questions about The Simple Dollar and saving money. Many of these folks were really intrigued with the idea and the process of making your own homemade laundry detergent (based on one of my most popular posts) and several requested a “how to” video on the process.

The video below depicts the process of making homemade laundry detergent, much as shown in the earlier post, but with lots of additional little pointers along the way. This process took me about ten minutes all told and produced laundry detergent that saves about $8 per batch over Tide with Bleach Alternative. I’ve extensively annotated the video in various interesting and (sometimes) humorous ways.

Hope you enjoy the video! If you’d like to pass it along to your friends (or are viewing this by email or RSS and can’t see the embedded video above), here’s the URL:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfEJHb5lfds

If you found this video useful, I’d be happy to adapt other “how-to” posts into videos on occasion. Just let me know in the comments.

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65 thoughts on “Video: How to Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

  1. I was wondering if this can be used in the new High efficiancy washers that require HE Detergents. I know that it will ruin the machine if you use the wrong type of detergents.

  2. You have lot deeper voice than I expected, that was my first reaction. But I really liked the annotations, it made following you a little hard, but they were really fun :)

  3. Thanks for the video – I’ve always wondered what this process and the final product look like. Some of the extra textual information at the beginning about the laundry detergent ingredients passes by so quickly that it’s impossible to read it all without pausing. Actually, the bit about washing soda zips by so quickly that I couldn’t manage to even pause it in time on several attempts. Hope the feedback helps with future projects!

  4. @Julie: yes, this should be fine in your HE washer. This is a low-sud formula, which is what’s required for HE washers. If you’re worried, try a load with less detergent to see if it suds over (which is what the danger is with regular detergent). But honestly, you should be fine.

  5. I have made this recipe for years, but I use the old fashioned Fels Naptha soap and I grate it instead of using the knife on the bar soap. I like the smell of it and I only have to use 1/3 of a bar, so it’s really cheap! You can get Fels Naptha at King Soopers, Kroger, Albertson’s and probably many other grocery stores. I think I have seen it at Walmart too.

  6. If I did this I’d be really tempted to use my long paint stirrer that hooks up to a power drill. I’m sure it would do a nice job with the soap chunks.

    After seeing the video, I completely understand why you’ve said that you’re having trouble getting your podcasts to sound good. Not that you sound bad…just not very engaging. The little pop up notes were really clever and amusing, but none of that personality comes out in your voice.

  7. Food processor instead of using a grater on the soap? Thanks for the useful instructions — I hope that my wife goes along with this. Laundry detergent is our greatest single expense at the grocery store — and that is so WRONG!

  8. Trent,

    Love this. As always, you inspired me to try this. Interesting that without any bleach (or alternative) that you made detergent that works as well as one with bleach alternative.

    I agree with Jessica about your voice. Techy guys are not supposed to have deep voices.

    Thanks for the bread recipe as well. My son loves the bread.

    Frugal JD

  9. Good video. Although, I found the annotations a bit distracting. Now do one about your homemade beer!

  10. “After seeing the video, I completely understand why you’ve said that you’re having trouble getting your podcasts to sound good.”

    I have a hard time finding a happy balance between too sedate and too hyperactive in my speaking voice. I went on the sedate side here because the video helped it out.

  11. fantastic timing, thanks Trent. We’ve just saved our bottles and ordered some borax yesterday. We decided to shop around and the variation in borax pricing was amazing. Pharmacy = NZ$14.75/100g, or online NZ$10 for a kilo!!! cheers.

  12. This is a big help–I’ve been trying to convince my mom to give this a shot, and I think this will clinch it. Thanks!

    (Incidentally, I thought you were speaking to quickly. Perhaps paring back the script might help. Or it could just be because I’m Canadian.)

  13. We have a high-efficiency front loading washing machine, for which we normally purchase special HE detergent. Has anyone used the homemade stuff, or made a HE variation for a front loader?

  14. Do you know anything about making your own Oxyclean? I have googled this & found some info but was wondering if you know anything about it?

  15. Figures! My son made the soap this morning, and we are in the cooling stage! Would have been fun to see the video! We used Oil of Olay soap, it was all I had. Still watery, but it has been only 6 hours. I ran out of laundry detergent a few minutes ago, so tomorrow is the big test! My husband also comes home from boy scout camping with smelly clothes, so another test!

  16. I’ve used this successfully in my he front loading washer for several months now. I started with 1/2 cup, but things started to get dingy. Bumped it up to about 3/4 cup, which seems to work fine. I use fels-naptha soap and then pour in a generous dollop of [dollar store] lemon extract. Makes my clothes smell really fresh so it’s worth the extra nickel or so.

  17. Have you ever made the powder detergent instead of the liquid one? That’s what I do, the only difference is that there is no boiling water, or 3 gallons of water. if you have tried the home made powdered soap, why have you chosen to go with liquid.

  18. Hey guys, something that really helped me when making this soap was to check out the literally hundreds of posts made over the past few years on his original post on the detergent – on the right hand under “Most Popular Articles”. It’s a lot of input from tons of people who have tried it and reported back on their successes or failures with it, tips and tricks, and some people with a ton of soap/chemistry knowledge. Very helpful.

    That said, I am glad to have a new place to post, since my comments to the original article have never posted up for some reason (too old maybe?), and I have something new to contribute to the discussion. :)

    I use liquid dishwashing liquid as my base instead of a hard soap bar. I pour the liquid soap and warm water into an old (much reused) store-bought detergent bottle, pour in the borax and washing soda, and shake up well. I also like to add a few drops of essential oils (about $3 for a little vial on eBay), to make it smell nice.

    I use liquid instead of grated and melted bar soap because it just made more sense to me… according to my Google research, bar soap has to be treated with a special alkali to make it hard instead of liquid, so since I really want liquid laundry detergent, why not just start with it liquid? Although… my husband *did* really LOVE the smell of the melting soap (from my first try) on the stove :) I should pull that out just for the heck of it, to make him happy. Anyway, them’s my two cents. Cheers, and good luck… it’s fun to be more self-sufficient :)

  19. Oh, and now that I actually watched the video, instead of jumping right up on my soapbox (groan) – I love all the funny little pop-ups. They make the video fun to watch. Hmm, maybe you can make them make that funny “bloop” sound like on Pop-Up Videos :) I especially liked at the end when your son’s feet came wandering into the shot, it was cute.

    Another random thought – I read one of those books set after a huge disaster that had basically changed life as we know it, and high-priced knowledge workers and Hollywood producers were useless, while people with “real skills” like gardening, animal husbandry, construction, metalworking, etc were highly prized. It got me thinking – if something happened and we had to eke out a subsistence existence, what skills do I have? My list was pretty short, so I’ve been dedicating myself to learning more “real” skills. So far I have: making my own laundry soap :), a tiny bit of gardening, soldering (silver and lead), wireworking, metalworking, and advising on how to build a rat-proof grain storage shed.

    Huh… I think I’d probably starve. I’d be at the bottom of the post-apocalyptic list of best workers. Sigh…

  20. Thanks Trent! I might give this a try, now that I’ve seen it done. Laundry detergent is expensive and it’s something I never find a super great deal on!

    Just a note about the big bucket – for those readers that have a little tot (I have an 18 month old) An open top bucket is an accidental drowning waiting to happen! Secure a lid on it, or put it up on a shelf, safe out of reach.

    I liked the video! Thanks!

  21. I’ve been using this laundry detergent for over a year. It’s great, and I love it because a) it’s tons cheaper than any of the hypoallergenic stuff I can find, and b) it actually works.

    I make mine with olive-oil based soap. For some reason, this sort of “conditions” the clothing, making them slippery and softer when they come off the line (we line dry everything, too–can’t afford a dryer).

  22. I thought the video was great, but I didn’t like the pop-ups so much. They were a bit distracting and you don’t need to ‘apologise’ for not being perfect.

  23. Saw you on the news the other day, and you’re huge. Glad to see that you’re committed to losing weight because you really do have a ways to go. Parents’ obesity is ‘contagious’ in the sense obese parents often have obese kids. Good luck, remember you and your wife are setting an example for your kids.

    -Someone who has struggled with obesity his entire life and has obese parents.

  24. Don’t forget that to make this even cheaper you can save up your soap scraps from the shower. When you have enough by weight to equal a bar, make a batch of detergent.
    When a boy from my son’s scout troop was having a typical nine year old boy conversation with his dad about what things will be like when we all move to Mars, he said I should lead the Mars mission and one of the reasons he gave is I know how to make my own laundry detergent!

  25. I thought your voice was perfect for this kind of thing, and I had no qualms with the script either. My constructive criticism has been mentioned pretty much already.
    1) I had to watch the video twice. Once to hear what you said, and once to read the pop ups.
    2) Some of the pop ups I had to pause to read, which as a viewer was annoying.
    But the pop ups are fun and wonderful! I loved the title, and the end where you scrolled across TSD logo.

  26. my comment is:

    I LOVE THIS STUFF! It is how I found my way to reading SD Daily.

    One draw back, for me … I wanted to meet your face — The camera never panned up.
    I did enjoy “hearing” the voice of of the daily Dollar.
    It’s a great voice. Give it up and just begin. Your podcasts, that is.
    ps those sweet little feet that showed up made me smile

  27. This detergent works great in HE washers. I’ve been using it for over a year now, and there’s never been a problem with oversudsing. The only difference I can tell from store-bought detergent is that the homemade version has little or no scent.
    The other question about the powder v. liquid: the liquid is so much cheaper! Liquid costs me about one penny per load vs. about 8 cents for the powder.

  28. Nice! I was skeptical about the value of making home detergents but I realize now that it’s a terrific and easy way to save money! I had pinned this whole exercise down to “petty tightwad” but it’s actually a really good way to save $$$… and easy to boot.

    thanks!

  29. Bravo Trent! Very good job. The video was informative and appropriately humorous. Thanks for all that you do to save us money. P.S. I just went from being a fan to a BIG fan.

  30. Trent, bravo for taking on a new medium! I think the information presented was excellent – however,I think I watched the complete video just because I read your blog. I wanted to see your face and connect with you. Here is “how-to” video that I really like (it’s entertaining and useful):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcMB4-UZI3Y

  31. I have used this in my front load washer and its great. I also use a 1/2 cup of vinegar for the rinse cycle instead of fabric softener and everything is better. Keep up with these tis

  32. I loved the video and look forward to more. I would like the pop ups to stay up just a second longer. LOL I am having a hard time finding washing soda. Walmart here does not have it (unless they were out).
    Thanks

  33. I applaud you for your efforts to make your own laundry detergent. For your lifestyle, it’s a good decision. As for me (single, two or three loads a week tops), it simply is not worth the time or effort.
    So I have come up with a more practical solution for my needs. I purchase low-priced detergent (more recently Sun) when it goes on sale (usually $1.50 a bottle). It does well for most of my wash, which usually needs more freshening than cleaning. For more stubborn wash (my towels, socks, sheets and undergarments), I purchase Mexican-made Ariel detergent from the 99 Cents Only Store. I buy several bags and use them for the tough stuff in my faithful Roper automatic (now 10 years old). It usually costs me a penny or two per wash with Sun, slightly more with Ariel. But my clothes come out clean, my whites are white, my budget is not dented, and life goes on quite nicely.

  34. Could you include a “recipe” post that we could just print off with the ingredients and instructions. That would be really helpful!

  35. Hi,
    I’ve been making my own for nearly a year. It’s easy and the stuff works, on really stubborn stuff I presoak or scrub it in a stain as a paste.

    Occasionally, I’ve added a little bleach. If it wasn’t easy, i wouldn’t bother, but it’s both easy and it works.

  36. Would this laundry detergent be suitable to use for a newborn’s clothing? Do you think it is gentle enough like the Dreft that people suggest you use?

  37. Hi Trent,
    I made your detergent this weekend and it came out just like you said. Since we only do a couple of loads a week and it makes 3 gallons, I’m wondering if the mixture will mold or go rancid over time? Please keep the ideas coming. I’m currently making my own doggie biscuits, dog food, detergent, bread, & shampoo. Any other ideas are appreciated. Really enjoy your site.

  38. I just have to say… you and your wife are both totally off-base with regards to apples. I’d say Granny Smith are best left to pies, and Red Not-At-All-Delicious are not fit for human consumption. Next time you’re at the farmer’s market, try a sample of Braeburn and then never go back.

  39. This may be a silly question, but are the utensils you use to make detergent (pots, measuring implements, grater) used solely for this purpose, or can you still use them for cooking?

  40. Congrats on your TV spots! I just made a batch of this the other night. :)

    Small anecdote – I was making conversation with the wife of one of my husband’s co-workers the other night when she said, “What would you say if I told you I had a recipe to make your own laundry detergent?” And I said, “I do that!!!” Made me feel like we’re part of a secret fraternity of the frugally minded. :)

  41. Just wanted to add that I have a Whirlpool sport HE and I’ve been making my own soap. My recipe uses borax, washing soda, and Fels Naptha. It works great and hasn’t caused any problem for my machine.

  42. Have you ever thought of just using bicarb soda with vinegar in the rinse cycle. Easy and it works. Also you can get bicarb in produce stores because it’s used to stop cattle from getting bloat. It’s much coarser than cooking bicarb, but you can get it in 25kg bags :)

  43. Hi!
    My mom tried a similar recipe where they used a whole bar of Fels naptha and diluted it to make 10 gallons. I use 1/2C in my HE and it works great, smells nice and so far no hives like I get from Dreft!!

    So my advice to Trent is maybe try increasing your water and reducing the amount of detergent and see how much more you save!!

    TTFN–Susan

  44. Goodness, Terry, there are nicer ways to say things like that, particularly if you didn’t mean it in the harsh way you stated it.

    Good luck, Trent, with the continued weight loss.

  45. Well, after seeing the video in the article, I went out and bought some supplies to try this myself at home.

    I live in Canada, so for my first batch I didn’t shop around to find the cheapest prices on the ingredients. I just bought it.

    I bought 2 3-packs of Ivory for $1.99 each, a 3 KG box of A&H Washing Soda for $6.69 and a 2 KG box of No-Name Borax for $4.99 I think.

    A sub-total of $15.66 plus 10% taxes (5% GST + 5% PST) got me to a total of $17.23. If I can get 6 batches of 52 loads out of these supplies.

    $17.23 divided by 312 loads = 5.5 cents per load.

    I can’t wait to make a batch tonight and see how it works!

  46. Well, my batch of detergent turned out like Trent’s video, slimy and jello-y. Really fun!

    Next time I won’t use Ivory, that soap stinks bad… I was thinking of Dove but bought Ivory by mistake.

    This weekend we’ll see how the detergent pans out with some loads of washing!

  47. Your video directions made my latest batch better than my first attempt, and a lot less work.

    One big concern that I think should always be mentioned is that young children can drown in just a little bit of liquid, and buckets are now considered hazardous. These buckets shouldn’t be near kids. I pour my liquid detergent into old laundry detergent bottles, which is handier and also safer for kids.

    To save additional money, I grate soap scraps rather than use a new bar.

  48. My wife has allergies and so our main detergent is the All clear stuff. With this recipe, is the only allergen the soap used? I know she’ll be resistant to this idea (I barely survived the argument for using cheap bleach in the pool rather than chlorine tabs – same thing chemically of course). I’ve heard of people having borax allergies, is that stuff normally in laundry detergent as well? The ingredients on the laundry bottle are near worthless for comparison: Cleaning Agents, Buffering Agent, Stabilizer, Brightening Agents. If All made food I’m sure it would contain Food Agents and Preservative Agents.

    Oh and if you can’t find washing soda, look for PH up in a pool store or pool chemical section (my walmart has a couple aisles right now). If you find something that’s 100% sodium carbonate, you’ve found the stuff. It’s often called Soda ash as well. I suppose you could bake baking soda to create washing soda (heating sodium bicarbonate would drive off water and carbon dioxide, leaving sodium carbonate), but that’s probably a little too far out there.

  49. Great article. I am just ready to try this. To the person who made theirs with liquid dish soap, how much did you use to replace the bar of soap?

  50. yeah,how much liquid dish detergent do you use???

    has anyone used this method for he front loaders and what were the resultS???????

  51. hey tentaculistic comment 24—
    what size old detergent jug did you use?
    how much liquid dish det did you use?
    how much washing soda did you use?
    how much borax did you use?
    how much liquid dish det to use to replace the 1 bar
    of soap in the original receipe?

    please-if anyone has any variations of the he liquid
    detergent please post quantities used:half cup,cup,
    ect,ect. thanks

  52. Trent,
    Great video – thanks for the tutorial! Have you noticed if this recipe causes any more / less fading in your clothes? With three children under the age of 5 at home myself, I try to get the most miles out of clothes that I can.

  53. I saw this recipe a few weeks ago and as soon as I could afford to go to town to buy my supplies I made the recipe. It made about 2.5 gallons and I put them into glass gallon jugs. This is NOW the only laundry soap I use. I LOVE IT. You have to shake it before using it becuase it’s a runny jello substance. Thanks for the great recipe. I used Ivory Bar Soap. Deborah in California

  54. Thank you for taking the time to produce the video and posting it. I’m going to try this, it seems very logical and Borax has been used for about a billion years (I remember the black and white TV commercials). Got any ideas for a home made fabric softener??? Dale in Massachusetts

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