Homemade Dry Laundry Detergent?


I know. It’s like I’m obsessed with homemade laundry detergent. I get like that.

Bear with me. I’m sure I’ll be obsessed with something else tomorrow! Like getting the new halters on Glory Bee and BP.

Meanwhile, back in my soap laboratory, I was haplessly intrigued by the number of people who wrote encouragingly about a dry mixture. I haven’t used dry laundry detergent in years, and it was store-bought. It tended to not dissolve properly and nobody in my house liked it. (I always made the kids do their own laundry, as soon as they were old enough to reach the washer knobs, and they complained long and loud about dry detergent. Me, too.) But, I’ve never tried it with homemade laundry detergent. With all my homemade laundry concentrate methods focused on reducing the storage required, I decided it was time to stop being stubborn and try a homemade dry mixture which most certainly would require less storage space.

I didn’t want to run to the store for store-bought soap, so I broke down and made some homemade laundry bar soap. It always makes me feel guilty and lazy to buy store-bought soap when I’m perfectly capable of making it myself. It’s better and it’s cheaper.

I have a Hot Process Soap in a Crock Pot tutorial if you’ve never made soap before. I have “regular” and vegetarian versions of the recipe.

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Homemade Laundry Bar Soap:

Coconut Oil & Lard Recipe
lard — 16 ounces or 453.592 grams
coconut oil (76-degree melt point) — 16 ounces or 453.592 grams
distilled water — 12.16 ounces or 344.73 grams
lye — 5.191 ounces or 147.155 grams

Coconut Oil & Crisco Recipe
Crisco — 16 ounces or 453.592 grams
coconut oil (76-degree melt point) — 16 ounces or 453.592 grams
distilled water — 12.16 ounces or 344.73 grams
lye — 5.134 ounces or 145.538 grams

These are two pound recipes.

Add 1 ounce of scent, if you wish. This recipe traces and cooks very quickly.

Here it is going in the mold:

You can see how super-sudsy it is by the bowl when I ran water in it. (I usually put my soap in a bowl to stir it up some to cool before going in the mold–if I’m going to add fragrance, which I did this time.)

Out of the mold and cut:

If you don’t want to make your own soap, the most popular brands I hear people talk about in reference to the bar soap for homemade laundry detergent are Fels Naptha, Zote, and Ivory.

Now back to my homemade laundry detergent history. I used to make a liquid mixture. My first post on homemade laundry detergent is here. I’ve been playing around with a concentrated version for awhile.

Dry is the only thing I haven’t tried, so why not?

First, what goes into homemade laundry detergent and why? Most recipes for homemade laundry detergents include Borax. Borax is a natural ingredient, sodium tetraborate, a boron mineral and salt which is mined from the ground. There’s an interesting discussion of Borax here. It’s very effective, as the box states, at removing stains, neutralizing odors, and cleaning. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, another natural product that contributes to cleaning and adds softening and freshness as well. Washing soda is sodium carbonate, also natural, which can help with hard water issues and boosts cleaning. These are all soap enhancers, so combined with soap in a mixture, you have a strong detergent that’s not synthetically-based like the detergents in the store.

Since my homemade soap is natural, this makes an all-natural homemade detergent. I like to know what’s in stuff.

Laundry detergent is highly personal. Everyone has different issues. You may want to use more or less of any given ingredient depending on your needs. Several people mentioned adding Oxiclean (or a generic oxygen cleaning equivalent) to brighten whites. I work on a farm and I avoid whites like the plague, so that’s not a big problem for me. If it is for you, you could add it to your mixture, or add it separately for specific loads. You can add 1/4 to 1/2 cup (or, you know, just a big splash, which is what I do) of white vinegar to the rinse cycle for softening. Vinegar also helps to remove any remaining soap. Take any homemade laundry detergent recipe as a starting point–once you start experimenting, you’ll come to know what works best for you.

To try out a dry version, I made a small test batch. You could double and so on to make as much as you want. This just makes about a quart jar.

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Homemade Dry Laundry Detergent:

1 bar (approximately 4-5 ounces) plain soap, grated
1 cup Borax
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup washing soda

Just–stir it together and you’re done. Use one to two tablespoons per load.

Now, time for the test–a load of laundry and WILL IT DISSOLVE? And I’m rooting for it because THIS IS SO EASY.

Maybe too good to be true.

I washed some towels and a throw that sits on the ottoman in my living room–often Gwennie and the cats will sit on it, and there was an orangey cat throw-up stain on it. I did no stain pretreatment for the extra challenge. I started the washer on the Warm-Cold setting (which is what I most often use), adding a couple tablespoons of the dry detergent mixture. I checked several times and it looked as if the mixture had, indeed, dissolved. I added a splash of vinegar in the rinse cycle then put the load in the dryer. It came out clean and fresh-smelling, and the stain was gone.


I think I’m a convert! Though I also think my next laundry experiment will involve real homemade liquid soap, added separately from the rest of the dry mixture. However, I don’t have time to make liquid soap right now. My next experiment will actually be getting new halters on the cows and the farrier is coming this weekend, so I’ll get back to laundry detergent later. Thanks for sharing your ideas! And I hope this helps anyone annoyed and struggling with homemade liquid laundry detergent issues. Try dry!


  1. RosieJo says:

    I have always used this dry detergent recipe, but in much larger quanities because I have a fear of running out and I hate to get dressed to go to the store (You just never know who you’ll see if you don’t do you hair and make-up…). Anyway, if you add this mix to cheap, no-name laundry detergent you will have a SUPER soap that will get out garage, hunting, farm and barn dirt and stains. I’d swear by it IF I was the swearing type.

  2. contentedcat says:

    Hmmm…this looks to be the same ingredients as the liquid version. I may try this instead. I was having trouble with my grated soap not melting entirely or solidifying later in the liquid version anyway. Sometimes little soap pieces were stuck to my clothes when I hung them to dry on my line. Perhaps the vinegar step will take care of some of this…thanks for the dry option!

  3. STH says:

    I have found with this that it’s best to let the washer partially fill (enough so that the bottom is covered with water), then add the detergent. Otherwise, it doesn’t always dissolve completely.

    It seems to work fine, though it did irritate my skin after a while (the list of things that DOESN’T irritate my skin is very short); now I use it for my honey’s clothes and have gone back to the Seventh Generation unscented detergent for mine.

  4. fowlers says:

    Yep::: a very personal topic:::but I’ll have you know: that I have converted quite a few very finicky women here in Butler Co. Oh. to stop buying the name brand CRAP:::: my recipe is easy peasy:::

    1 Box of Borax
    1 lg. Box of Washing Soda
    1 Lg. Box of Baking Soda
    3 grated bars of Fels Naptha::or what ever you like:

    Mix in a big garbage bag:: don’t enhale::choke choken:::you be
    Then place in a large container:: I have a large glass apothecary jar (Wal-Mart special)::: no more that 2 tbls:: no more or you’re just wasting it:: works great:: no complaints here::
    LOVE SPENDING $13.00 FOR ABOUT 1 YEARS WORTH OF POWDER:: Do the math:: it’s not rocket science:: I’m a poor girl:: so this works out to be very cheap indeed.

    I just mix it for a few sec’s as the washer is filling up w/ warm water, to dissolve the powder, then switch the cycle over to cold, I have yet to have a clumping issue.


  5. jeandf says:

    I grate the Fels bar with a microplane. That keeps the particles fairly fine I’ve had no issues with the dry recipe. I much prefer it. I have a son-in-law who’s sensitive to laundry soaps and he’s had zero issues.

    To Sandy in Ohio. I used to live in Butler Co. Do me a favor and drop by Servatii and enjoy some schnecken for me. :hungry:

  6. ibnsgirl says:

    I was going to post in the article about the concentrate, but I hadn’t gotten that done — and now you’ve given me another chance to ask the question I have! :happyfeet:

    Does the particular bar soap matter? Will a basic castile soap work? Sorry, I’m such a noob to this…

    I can’t use Fels Naptha, Zote, or Ivory in my laundry soap — I have family members allergic to propylene glycol and to fragrances. Fels Naptha has propylene glycol (and before I scare anybody, I don’t think it is particularly a problem unless you are specifically allergic to it). The other two have fragrances. And I don’t have my act together enough at the moment to learn how, and to actually make, my own soap,though I love how simple this recipe seems, Suzanne!

    The most basic soap I can find is Kirk’s Castile Unscented. I know nothing about the soap-making process, so I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be looking for.

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! I don’t think I ever would have considered making my own laundry detergent before I started reading your site!

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      I haven’t tried it with Kirk’s Castille, but I picked some up just the other day at the store when I noticed it, as a backup if I need to make laundry detergent and don’t have any homemade soap on hand. The ingredients list seemed much more natural than Fels Naptha, and it sounds okay to me for detergent, but like I said, I haven’t tried it.

  7. mamawolf says:

    I have been making laundry detergent since Suzanne first posted the recipe. For quite a while I made the liquid but with arthritic hands it was difficuilt to get it mixed. About a year ago I used the same basic ration of the same ingredients by grating the Fels Naptha and then putting the Fels and remaining ingredients in the Vita-Mix and whirled a few seconds. One tablespoon is adequate for a large load. No problem with not dissolving.

  8. Linda Goble says:

    Sandy how big a box of Baking soda is a large box?

  9. fowlers says:

    Linda, I do believe it’s a 4 pound box.:)

  10. tsmith says:

    I’ve been using the dry detergent for about 2 years now! I’ve had no issues with it. It’s even gotten stains out that I forgot to pre-treat! The smaller your grated soap is, the easier it is to dissolve. I usually give my grated soap a whirl through the food processor.I have found that I only need about a tablespoon for most of my loads. It is slightly more expensive to make compared to it’s liquid counterpart, but I find it is worth it. No storage issues and no cooking and cooling time.

  11. ibnsgirl says:

    Thank you, Suzanne! My Google searches haven’t come up with anyone else using it, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work. Looks like I am going to find out!

    I will let y’all know how it turns out!

  12. lovemypets00 says:

    As another victim of the orange cat stains, I can’t wait to try this. Just need to pick up some washing soda as I already have plenty of baking soda and borax on hand, along with lard to make the laundry bars.

    Laundry detergent is such an expense, and while I’ve been lucky the last year or so to get some great deals, they don’t come along all that often and I dread paying so much money for so little product.

  13. margareterb says:

    Can I use this recipe in my washer that requires HD detergent?

  14. tsmith says:

    Yes, you can use this in your HE washing machine. It doesn’t foam up and you wonder if you have any detergent in there! Suds do not equal cleaning power.

  15. Ruby says:

    Dry seems to work for us. No large buckets of liquid to deal with. Easier and cleaner all around. I use 1 bar of Fels Naptha, 1/2 cup of Borax and 1/2 cup of washing soda. Chop the Fels good and then put in processor. Add the borax and washing soda. A few pulses until it is the consistency of corn meal. Wa La. About a Tablespoon per load I only use store bought ( baby detergent) for my dress shirts. It seemed that the powder would leave small deposits of soap on them. No stains, but a pain to remove. No more wasted pastic jugs and way cheaper.

  16. melstan1 says:

    I have a question . how does this detergent act as a color preservative – ie any color fading issues? Boo I had another question and I forgot it! Great blog looking forward to being a part of the community.

  17. lovemypets00 says:

    Update – I made the Crisco version a few weeks back, and just grated a bar today & mixed it with the borax/baking soda/washing soda mix. I washed a load of whites. Turned out great, smelled so fresh and clean. I just wish I could have hung them out on the line, but it was too cold and snowy. Now to try the lard version next!

    I even repurposed a plastic food container to keep it in 🙂

  18. marjohalleran says:

    Where do you get washing soda?

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