homemade laundry detergent

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Homemade laundry Detergent

Save money with this environmentally-friendly, homemade laundry detergent.
These are recipes that I use at home and have collected from various sites over the internet or from various books and adjusted to suit.

Update: Below is a recipe for laundry powder that you can find at various places on the net, but I no longer use this recipe. I do not use borax at all (which makes the powder cheaper and better for the environment) and only add a sprinkling of nappy soaker in a really dirty load (or in with the bath towels).

This is how I make my laundry powder: 2 parts grated laundry soap to 1 part washing soda. That’s it!

I also add a few drops of eucalyptus oil into the fabric softener compartment in the washing machine to give nappies and towels a bit of a disinfect and a fresher smell (that fades once dry).

Laundry Powder

4 cups of grated soap (vegetable soap, homemade soap, Sunlight/home brand laundry soap or Lux flakes)

2 cups of washing soda

1 cups of borax

1 cup of nappy soaker

  • Combine. Use about 2 tablespoons or up to a quarter of a cup of powder per wash.
  • You can leave out the nappy soaker, it just gives the powder some extra grunt, an eco soaker without optical brightening is best.
  • If you are using your washing water as grey water on the garden, leave out the borax.
  • The role of the borax is to brighten laundry, soften hard water, remove soap residue, neutralise laundry odours, disinfect, remove stains, you can substitute with bicarbonate soda, which does the same things. It’s not going to be exactly the same, but bicarb is a cheaper, more ecological alternative. (Note: I find that adding bi-carb can leave white, powdery marks on the washing if you use too much.)

This is the recipe I usually use to do my washing. I wash in cold water and I don’t use any softeners. I usually add 1 few drops of essential oil like lavender or tea tree oil to the final rinse especially to towels, for a little extra fresh smell.

Laundry Liquid

11/2 litres of water

1 bar of soap, grated (vegetable soap, homemade soap, laundry soap or lux flakes)

1/2 cup washing soda

1/2 cup of borax

  • In a saucepan, combine the water and the soap and stir over a medium heat until the soap is dissolved.
  • Add the washing soda and borax and stir until thickened.
  • Pour the mixture into a 10 litre bucket and then fill with hot tap water. Stir to combine.
  • At this point, you could add a few drops of your favourite essential oil for fragrance.
  • When cool, store in a plastic container.
  • Use approximately 1/4 cup per load
  • Add a few drops of essential oil for a fresh scent.

For a fabric softener, add about 1/2 cup of white vinegar (the really cheap stuff) to the final rinse of washing. Once the washing is dry, you don’t smell the vinegar.

For homemade laundry detergent, 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!

Update: These days I usually grate a cup of soap at a time, at washing time. 

buy soap nuts Australia

A natural, frugal alternative to making your own washing powder is to use soap nuts (also known as soap berries). Soap nuts are natural, greywater and septic safe, fully compostable and hypoallergenic. You can get soap nuts here.


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  1. 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.

    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.

  2. 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. :)

  3. 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 :)

  4. 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.

  5. 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 :).

  6. 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.

    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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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’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

  11. 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

  12. 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 :)

  13. 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. 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.

    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

  15. 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…