Easy Homemade Laundry Detergent – Washing Powder and Liquid

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No need to spend a lot of money on eco-laundry powder – here’s an easy homemade laundry detergent recipe from soap for a few cents a load.

Looking for a DIY alternative to commercial washing detergents? Here’s a cheap homemade version that I’ve used for years.

More recently, I’ve switched to an eco-friendly powdered laundry detergent because: time. And we can afford it more now than we did when I first started making my own laundry soap.

But I can’t tell you the many, many hours I’ve spent grating soap in the wee hours of the morning to wash clothes and cloth nappies.

Below I share the laundry soap recipes I’ve used and some tips I’ve learned along the way.

Technically, the following are recipes for laundry soaps, not detergents. Detergents are manufactured without oils and fats, unlike soap, but as many people use the terms interchangeably, I have in this article too.

Why Make DIY Laundry Soap?

There are good reasons for making your own laundry soap, including:

  • DIY laundry soap is cheaper than eco-friendly detergents.
  • The DIY version doesn’t include phosphates like regular detergents.
  • Homemade options don’t have fragrances and chemicals.
  • You’re in full control of the ingredients.

Ingredients in Homemade Laundry Soap?

The main ingredients in homemade laundry soap are:

  • grated laundry bar soap or soap flakes
  • washing soda.

Both of these ingredients can be found in your local supermarket. If you just use these two ingredients, your laundry soap will be cheaper and better for the environment.

According to the Lectric website, washing soda is made from 100% natural sodium carbonate, contains no phosphates, dyes, colourants, or fragrances, and has been used for centuries for all sorts of household cleaning needs. 

Borax is an optional addition to the recipes below. It can help boost washing power. The role of the borax is to brighten laundry, soften hard water, remove soap residue, neutralise laundry odours, disinfect, and remove stains. I’ve found I don’t need to use borax in my laundry soap, but depending on the hardness of your water, you may.

Is Homemade Laundry Soap Cheaper than Store-Bought?

The TD:LR of it is that homemade detergent is cheaper than most commercial products that you can buy in the supermarket, but it’s not the cheapest option.

The basic soap and soda recipe without borax IS cheaper than the cheapest ‘eco’ supermarket brand, except when it’s on sale.

Here’s a breakdown of the costs (2023). 

At our local supermarket, washing soda costs $5 for a 1kg bag, and the home-brand laundry soap bar four-pack is $2.80, which weighs approximately 500g in total for a combined cost of $7.80 and a combined weight of 1.5kg.

This makes the per kilo cost of homemade laundry powder $5.20.

If you add borax, the cost is $7.93 per kilo. 

The cheapest home-brand washing powder is $5.00 per kilo, beating the homemade version by 20 cents, but it’s not eco-friendly.

The cheapest eco-friendly washing powder in our local supermarket is $7.50 per kilo, so you’re saving by making homemade compared to the more environmentally friendly brands.

The cost of the DIY laundry liquid is $1.85 per litre ($2.83 per litre with borax).

This is compared to the cheapest supermarket liquid detergent at $1 per litre or $3.00 for the cheapest eco-friendly alternative.

Does Homemade Laundry Soap Actually Work?

In my experience, the answer is yes. I have used DIY laundry powder for years without any problems. 

However, there are some things that can affect the effectiveness of your DIY laundry soap.

The high amounts of minerals in hard water can hinder the removal of dirt on your clothes and linens. If you live in an area with hard water, a commercial detergent will be more effective.

Homemade washing powder may not dissolve as well as commercial detergents in cold water, although, again, I wash in cold water with powder and have never had a problem. You may find you need to use hot water for a better wash.

Some people argue that washing with soap instead of detergent can leave a film of soap scum on your laundry (and washing machine). I haven’t personally experienced this, but you may want to do a trial with DIY laundry soap to test it on some not-so-good clothes to see how it goes with your local water supply.

Time-Saving Tips For Making Laundry Soap

There’s no question that DIY isn’t as convenient as store-bought. Here are some time-saving tips I’ve found useful.

  • If you’re using a box grater when grating laundry bars, do a big batch while you’re watching TV.
  • You can use the grating function on a food processor if you have one to save time.
  • A box of lux flakes (pre-grated soap) will save you time but is more expensive. 
  • The ratio is 2:1 soap to washing soda, so you can grate just enough for a wash if you’re pressed for time, and use this ratio to measure.

Homemade Laundry Powder Recipe

I prefer to use powdered detergent simply because it’s less work. Here’s the recipe I have used for years.

The ratio is 2 parts grated soap to 1 part washing soda (and 0.5 part borax if using), so you can scale your recipe up or down as you need.

To use, add two tablespoons per load or up to a quarter of a cup of detergent per load, depending on the size of your load. Less is more; you don’t need a lot.

Yield: 6 cups

Homemade Laundry Powder

washing powder ingredients

Homemade powdered laundry soap with just two ingredients.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Difficulty Easy


  • 4 cups of finely grated soap (sunlight or home-brand laundry soap or Lux flakes)
  • 2 cups of washing soda
  • 1 cup of borax (optional)


  • Box grater
  • Airtight container for storage


  1. Combine all ingredients and mix well. 
  2. Store in an airtight container.


To use, add two tablespoons per load or up to a quarter of a cup of detergent per load, depending on the size of your load. More is not always better.

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Facebook

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent Recipe

If you prefer a liquid soap, here’s the recipe. You can find more detailed instructions here.

To use: add approximately 1/4 of a cup per load.

Yield: 9 litres (approx.)

Homemade Laundry Liquid

homemade laundry liquid

Homemade laundry liquid using just three ingredients (one is water)!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Active Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Difficulty Easy


  • 1+1/2 litres of water
  • 1 bar of soap, grated (sunlight or home-brand laundry soap or lux flakes)
  • 1/2 cup of borax (optional)


  • Large saucepan
  • Large bucket approx. 8 litres
  • Long spoon or stick for stirring
  • Storage containers (I used empty, clean cordial bottles)


  1. In a large saucepan, combine the water and the soap and stir over medium heat until the soap is dissolved.
  2. Add the washing soda (and borax if using), and stir until thickened.
  3. Pour the mixture into a large bucket and then fill with hot tap water. Stir to combine.
  4. At this point, you could add a few drops of your favourite essential oil for fragrance, but this is optional.
  5. When cool, store in plastic containers or bottles (I used old cordial bottles).
  6. Shake or stir before use.


To use: add approximately 1/4 of a cup per load.

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Facebook

For homemade laundry soap, you need to be a little organised. It’s a bit of a pain trying to put on a load of washing at 6 am before work, only to remember you have to grate a bar of soap first!

Homemade Laundry soap FAQs

What does homemade laundry soap smell like?

Unless you add essential oils or fragrances, your homemade laundry soap is fragrance-free or has the subtle fragrance of the soap used.

Is DIY laundry detergent OK for sensitive skin?

All skin is different, so you should look at the ingredients in the soap and patch test. A personal anecdote: my son’s skin was very sensitive as a baby and would break out in a rash when my mum washed his clothes in her laundry detergent. The rash went away after we cleaned his clothes with our homemade laundry soap. But that’s just one person, so always patch test.

Can I use this for cloth diapers/nappies?

We used our homemade soap on our terry flat cloth nappies with no problems. If you are using the modern nappies, you should check the manufacturer’s recommendations when washing.

What else can I use washing soda for?

I use washing soda in our homemade floor cleaner and soaking pots and pans to clean off baked-on food. Check out the Lectric website for uses around the home (there are lots!).

What else can I use laundry soap bars for?

Laundry soap bars are by far the best stain remover to have on hand. Wet clothes with cold water and gently rub the stain with the soap.

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  1. Benjamin Bankruptcy says:

    Sorry what’s washing soda and where do I get it from? Bunnings?

  2. You can buy washing soda at the supermarket. It’s just called washing soda on the packet – make sure you don’t get the crystals, it’s the powder you’re after. I wrote more about what it is here.

  3. I’m printing out this recipe to use it today…thanks for posting :)

  4. Hope it works well for you. I’ve been using this laundry powder for a few years now.

  5. Howdy!

    Thanks for the recipe. Just so you know, I loved it so much that I shared it on my own blog but linked back to you.

    Thanks again


  6. Thanks. Hope it works as well for you as it does for us.

  7. Can you make laundry liquid without borax???? what can u instead of that?

    1. Yes, you can leave the borax out altogether. There are a few variables that make a difference in regards to the effectiveness of you detergent – the ‘hardness’ of your water is one of them and that varies from region to region. Borax helps soap do it’s cleaning thing esp. in hard water. If you find your laundry liquid isn’t performing as you would like, you can experiment with adding bicarb soda *or* just increasing the ratio of washing soda to soap, which is cheaper and simpler. I use powder because I’m lazy and it’s easier, but the upside of using liquid is that you can add essential oils to create a smell that you like – I add eucalyptus in the softener dispenser straight to the wash when I do nappies or towels.

      Hope this helps.

  8. I have been using this washing powder for a few months and I am very happy with it. I use 1 cup of bicarb instead of borax and have still had great results. I use the food processor to grate the bars of sunlight soap and do a double mixture. It usually takes 10 min for start to finish. I find it cost me about the same price as the cheapest washing powder on the market and is much better.

    1. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your laundry powder success! Glad to hear it’s working for you too. :)

  9. I love when I google something and site I already trust comes up near the top!

    Thanks for this. I am new to making my own cleaning products (beyond using vinegar and bicarb from time to time). I’m going to give your grated soap and washing soda a go. I assume I can just use lux flakes, which I already have? I don’t have to grate my own?

    1. I haven’t used lux flakes myself, but I know that others do successfully. I currently grate laundry soap, not my favourite job, but anyway… one day I will make my own soap… one day :)

  10. Hi!

    Do I understand correctly that for the liquid detergent you will end up with 10 litre product of which you use 1/4 cup per load?


    1. Yes. You can halve the recipe if you like, although that means you need to make it more often :). The amount you use per load will depend on how soiled the washing is and the size of the load really, you could experiment with how much works best.

  11. Thanks for posting these laundry soap recipes. I have seen American formulas, but feel more confident to try now that I know what to use Australia.

    When you say to use ‘4 cups grated laundry soap’.. is that the normal amount you get from 1 bar of soap? Cups of grated soap can vary, so just looking a weight or approximate bar size to use as a guide. (I don’t want to be pedantic, guess I’m a bit nervous that I might wreck my clothes:)

    Also do you know how these would work in a front loader? I was thinking to maybe 1/2 the amount.

    When my first baby was born, I switched to vinegar as a fabric softener and love it. Really like your idea of adding essential oils as a scent.

    Thanks again !

    1. Hi Leta,

      It’s been a long time since I’ve made the liquid detergent, I make the powder because it’s quicker and easier. I’m just trying to remember, but I think you get more than four cups of grated soap from one bar (I tend to grate enough for one wash at a time because I’m lazy and I use a little scoop).

      Fair enough you don’t want to wreck your clothes!! I have to admit that I’m quite slapdash these days with making up the powder – quantities aren’t exact. Also, increasing the proportion of washing soda to soap can help in places with hard water, but again, I make up the powder these days not the liquid.

      I have a top loader, not sure how it goes in a front loader, maybe another commenter can help there.

      I can only say that grating soap for washing is as old as the hills, that’s the way clothes were washed before washing powder. I hope you try it out and let us know how you go.

      I think it’s time to do another post on this topic when I get a chance :).

  12. Stephanie says:

    Hi Melissa,
    I finally got around to making the Laundry Liquid. 1x bar Velvet soap grated, 1/2 cup washing soda (finally found some) and topped up after melting to 10L with water, added a tspn of Lavender oil for smell. Haven’t actually used it yet as I still had a bit of Earthcare liquid left.
    Anyways, I thought then about making some Liquid Hand Soap. Had some soap from the health food shop (can’t remember what its base is, olive oil or palm oil I think). Grated a bar of that, melted it into 2 L of water. Thought it looked a bit runny so added about 1/2 cup Bicarb Soda (figured it wouldn’t hurt the skin). Filled up my dispenser and put the rest in a plastic bottle. Well the one in the plastic bottle I realised the next day, had cooled to be quite thick! The one in the dispenser had as well, but it does still seem to be coming out of the dispenser so all good I guess!
    I wanted to ask, do you use homemade laundry liquid on your cloth nappies? I’ve got MCNs arriving next week. I didn’t add Borax so it should be ok to use. I used Velvet laundry soap just because the Lux flakes were so expensive! I guess I’m wondering more if your kids have had any reactions to the laundry liquid used, or if you have tweaked the recipe to allow for their sensitive skin.


    1. That’s great, I’d love to hear what you think of the washing detergent once you use it.

      Your liquid handsoap sounds great. Bicarb is apparently very softening for the skin. I wish I organised my bookmarks a little better, but there’s a great recipe for liquid handsoap somewhere on the web I read recently and I’m pretty sure they did the same thing as you, if I find it, I’ll post it.

      I wash the kid’s nappies using the homemade washing powder (too lazy to make the liquid now but with all these questions I think I’ll have to make up another batch to remind myself). I’ve never had any problems but I use the terry flat nappies. They have never had a reaction to the homemade laundry powder (the liquid has the same ingredients so it would be the same) they have had a reaction to regular laundry detergent when I visited my mother. When it comes to MCNs the manufacturer should have info on washing. Nurture nappies suggests low phosphorus detergent and vinegar in the rinse except on pocket nappies http://www.nurturenappies.com.au/store/WsAncillary.asp?ID=17#laundry

      Hope this helps.

  13. What is “nappy soaker”? Ive never heard of such a thing. Thanks for your great insights.

    1. Sorry, your question got a bit lost. Nappy (diaper) soaker can be found in the laundry aisle. It’s for sanitising nappies but can be used as a laundry soaker as well.

  14. This may be a silly question,….but how much of the powder wou,d l use per wash? Store bought packets come with a little scoop, so l wasn’t sure how much to use. Thanks

    1. I use about 1/4 – 1/2 of a normal scoop or a full scoop that would come in the laundry concentrate. Use more or less depending on the size of the load and how dirty it is.

  15. edwardingrray says:

    I thought then about making some Liquid Hand Soap. Had some soap from the health food shop (can’t remember what its base is, olive oil or palm oil I think). Grated a bar of that, melted it into 2 L of water. Thought it looked a bit runny so added about 1/2 cup Bicarb Soda (figured it wouldn’t hurt the skin). Filled up my dispenser and put the rest in a plastic bottle. Well the one in the plastic bottle I realised the next day, had cooled to be quite thick! The one in the dispenser had as well, but it does still seem to be coming out of the dispenser so all good I guess!geo tv

  16. Hi Melissa,

    Quick (and hopefully not stupid!) question: Is it possible to make up a bulk load of the laundry powder, or do you have to make it up as you go along? If it is possible to make a bulk load, what kind of container would you suggest putting it in?

    GREAT website, by the way! I stumbled upon it whilst looking for Christmas craft ideas and…wow!



    1. Yes, by all means make it up in bulk – it’s much easier that way, but I’m a bit lazy :). Any container will do – an old laundry container for instance. I use an old ice cream tub. Hope this helps.

  17. Hi Melissa i was just wondering where to buy borax from. i have looked everywhere [woolworths, coles, bunnings] but to no avail. Please help

    1. I have bought it in Woolworths (or Coles) in the same aisle / with the drain cleaner.

    2. I’ve bought it in the cleaning aisle at the supermarkets too, it’s hard to find though, often at the very top of very bottom shelf, and there’s really only 1 brand (I’ve seen) so only one row of them

  18. I thought Id mention that I’ve made a batch of your soap/washing soda powder and it was really quick and easy. I chopped the soap roughly then threw it all in the food processor to get it really fine, then mixed in the washing soda by hand in the storage container I’ve got (an old detergent container).

    I’ve contacted the manufacturers of the Modern Cloth Nappies we use though and they’ve stated that it’s not recommended to use this on them even in a reduced quantity, so to save on potentially damaging our nappies and affecting the resale value we’ll keep using a commercial eco-friendly detergent just for the nappies and stick to this for our clothes/sheets/towels

  19. Sharon Bethel says:

    Hi Melissa, It was great to talk to you today and connect with a like minded person. I thought I knew your blog. I have been using your recipe for this Laundry detergent for the last couple of years. And now I know the person behind the recipe :)

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      Hi Sharon, great to chat with you too! Glad to hear the recipe works for you :).

  20. Lara Sitterlee says:

    Just wanted another opinion on the whole making your own laundry products. Ive recently seen alot of posts in regards to making your own stuff and not to use it as it ruins your machine and your clothes with build up as soap doesnt clean like detergents do. What are your views on this?

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      I’ve not had these problems personally, but I’m not a washing machine expert. If you’re concerned, check your machine’s manual. Soap build-up can be mitigated by not using too much and using vinegar as a rinse aid.

  21. Betty Ward says:

    i HAVE SINCED lost the recipe
    thanks fo giving this to me
    When I made the basic recipe you used to be able dilute it for use as:-
    washing liquid clothes
    washing up liquid
    I cannot remember the break down for each though
    thankyou for this recipe

  22. I used a really similar recipe for some time, but had problems with the machine and when the rapture came out he thought i had been putting grated cheese in the way as it had blocked up… How do you get the soap to be fine enough to not do that?

    I’ve tried the liquid approach but again, too thick (sound like fussy Goldilocks! ????).
    Love you sure and would like to try this as we use washing soda with bicarb but sometimes want a bit of a kick, which i think the soap would offer…

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      All machines are different so check with the manufacturer. If it helps, a few times I put the grated soap through the food processor to get very fine soap.

  23. Haven’t been to this website for way too long. I’m still making the liquid laundry detergent after at least fifteen years – always with the Borax. Love it for everything except the most demanding soaks.