DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe, Stain Remover, Fabric Softener & Refresher
A Non-Fictional Account of This Mom’s Attempt to Save…money on laundry, while being green.
Recipes for making homemade laundry soap, homemade stain remover and homemade fabric softener and more for a fraction of the cost. Plus, tips to save energy costs!
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Do It Yourself Laundry Products
With major name brands such as Tide, Downy, Gain and Bounce costing a pretty penny, paying less than a penny per load of laundry sounds enticing. And when you use natural ingredients, it’s less harmful to the environment than the big brands. I’d call that a win-win!
So, what do the big brands cost? In my neck of the woods, Tide Ultra 50 oz is approximately $13 and claims to do 32 loads. The price divided by number of loads is $0.42 per load. Purex 100 oz claims to do 64 loads, and costs just under $5 (or $0.08 per load). How much does your brand cost? If it’s more than a penny per load, why not give our homemade laundry soap a spin!? It’s a great way to bridge the gap between extreme couponing sessions to find cheap or free laundry soap!
I first heard about making your own laundry detergent on my local Freecycle cafe (I talk about them a lot, huh?) I tried a variety of “blends” over the years – some work better than others. Mostly it works well, but it does depend on the stuff in your water as with any soap or detergent. If you have hard water, you may need to adjust slightly. Please feel free to comment below if you have had success with any specific combination.
Homemade Laundry Detergent
It takes about 15 minutes to make. Ingredients can be purchased from most grocery stores.
- 3.1 oz bar soap – very small bar, or use part of regular size bar (cost approx. $0.25 – $0.50) TIP: If you prefer all natural with no additives, try Ivory soap or Fels Naptha works very well too. If you prefer specific fragrances, look for bar soaps that smell how you want
- 1 cup 20-Mule Team Borax (76 oz for $4.29 = 1 cup for $0.45)
- ½ cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (55 oz for $2.99 = ½ cup for $0.43) NOTE: This is NOT Arm & Hammer baking soda, although it’s almost the same and I’ve heard you can substitute it
- Water (mostly free 😉 )
- 5 Gallon container (we use a cat litter bucket)
- Knife or cheese grater
- Pot large enough to hold 5 cups of water
- Long stirring stick/spoon (for 5 gallon container)
- Shave (or grate) the soap into small bits and place in large pot with 5 cups of water
- Bring the water just shy of a boil and stir until the soap is completely dissolved
- Fill the bucket with 3 gallons of water and pour in the melted soapy water from pot
- Stir in ½ cup pf washing soda until dissolved
- Then stir in the cup of Borax
Optional: If you like fragrant detergent add a few drops of your favorite essential oils.
Next, cover the container and let sit overnight. It will gel, but probably won’t look like the detergent you’re used to. No worries, it’s perfectly normal to be lumpy and watery. If you have empty containers from your name brand detergent, reuse them for easy dispensing.
Usage: ½ cup per load. Works well in high efficiency (HE) washing machines because it is low sudsing, but be sure to stir it first or it may not fully dissolve.
Yield: 442 oz @ 4 oz per load = 110 ½ loads of laundry = total cost $1.38 = total cost per load $0.01
Homemade Laundry Stain Remover
To get tough stains out of clothes, sometimes you need more than just laundry soap. Popular stain removers on the market include Shout!, Oxi Clean, Resolve, Clorox and Tide. Here’s our homemade version we think works just as well:
1/2 cup ammonia
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup baking soda
2 Tablespoon dish soap
2 quarts water
Mix all ingredients together and pour into a spray bottle.
Store in empty spray bottle (I reuse empty household cleaner and laundry stain remover bottles and reuse them)
To use: shake well and spray solution on stains. Let it soak in for a few minutes and wash as usual.
Homemade Liquid Fabric Softener
Liquid fabric softener goes into your washing machine when you’re washing clothes. Similar to Downy, Snuggle and Gain fabric softener, this homemade fabric softener leaves your clothes smelling great!
- 6 cups water
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 2 cups inexpensive hair conditioner, pick a scent you love!
Heat water to almost boiling and add conditioner. Mix well. Add vinegar and mix again.
Store in a large container (I reuse empty fabric softener bottles)
To use: shake well and use 2 Tablespoons per load in fabric softener dispenser.
Note: Sometimes I also use just plain white vinegar (about 1/4 cup per load) which does not make the clothes smell like vinegar, but does leave them feeling soft and clean.
Homemade Dryer Sheets Fabric Softener
While I don’t think generic dryer sheets cost enough to break the bank, this is a nice alternative that does cost less. Commercial brand name dryer sheets such as Bounce, Snuggle, Downy and Gain cost much more than generic alternatives. But, our homemade version still costs less!
- 1 capful of liquid fabric softener
- NEW sponge (or your batch might get moldy! yuck!)
- Tupperware or Rubbermaid type container to store
Wring them out almost dry and throw them in the dryer in place of fabric sheets. I tried this and it worked well. I think if I tried this again I’d do a smaller amount and mix up batches more often to avoid possibly getting moldy.
Homemade Fabric Refresher
If you love Febreze Fabric Refresher, Lysol Fabric Refreshers, Dreft Fabric Refresher or even a generic version, you need to try this simple trick!
Why? Not only is it much, much cheaper (name brands can cost from $5 – $12 and up!) it’s also natural. So it’s better for your family and the environment!
Believe it or not, a great thing to use in the laundry when you’re trying to remove odor is baking soda! It soaks up the odor and whisks it away, and really works!
My little girl played in the sprinklers at Disneyland in her favorite Cinderella gown. Apparently they feed the sprinklers from the sewer or something because when she got home I could not stand the smell of the bag containing her dress! I soaked it for 3 days in a baking soda and water bath, and the smell was gone!
To use: soak clothes in water with baking soda (approx. 1/4 cup baking soda per gallon of water)
Save a Bundle Drying your Clothes
A few years back, I asked on my local Freecycle cafe for tips on cutting laundry costs so I could write this article. Sometimes the most obvious answers are the most brilliant!
Save money on energy by NOT drying your clothes!
The tip? Save a TON – put up a clothes line! Line drying is something we always did when I was a kid, growing up in the country. But when I live in the suburbs of Los Angeles. A clothes line? I don’t know, it never crossed my mind. And, the thought of hanging my family’s undies out when my neighbor can practically reach them from INSIDE their house just did not appeal to me. So, okay, I didn’t hang out unmentionables. But, I did hang out my bedding and towels (things that take forever to dry!) And, even with L.A. just 55 miles away (think: smog) they smelled great! Not just great…. amazing! No fabric softener can touch how fantastic line-dried clothes smell. Even in the city!
When I put up a clothesline, the line itself was just a few bucks at Lowe’s Home Improvement. I could have strung it from one pole to the other on my patio and called it a day for under $3. But, I decided to put up a pulley system, so I spent about $12 total being fancy. 😉