Seriously, you guys. When I watched the Duggars making their vats of laundry detergent (Was it on the show, or did I just dream about it?) I thought… “Okay, that’s a little bit beyond what I’m ever going to do to pinch a penny.”

But then I saw this post about making laundry soap. No melting things… no stirring giant pots full of strange ingredients, trying to figure out how to store 18 gallons of liquid, or pouring (spilling) into a smaller container for the laundry room. Just good old stir-and-serve.

And I don’t normally like to shop at Wal-Mart, but the whole everything-is-available-in-one-spot thing made the idea of going there palatable. So I did. I teamed up with a friend, and made a huge batch of the soap. We split the cost and split the soap, and can you believe it lasted both of us (WHILE cloth diapering) 6 months???

It did!

laundry copy

For the amount I would normally spend on ONE bottle…

of High Efficiency All Free & Clear (or even Up & Up, Target’s brand) liquid, I was able to wash tons of clothes and diapers for 6 whole months.

And then I ran out. The second time I mixed up a batch of soap, I did it slightly differently. The original recipe says to use Fels-Naptha laundry soap, or Zote soap, which I did. But the smell was a bit strong for me, and I had read that regular soap like Ivory (NOT a cleanser bar like Zest or something) will work just as well. So far that’s proven to be true.

So here’s your shopping list.

Prices are from, where purchases of over $49 get free shipping and they have TONS of home items. I may just order from them the next time (and also get some shampoo, toilet paper, and other sundries), instead of going to Wal-Mart.

55 oz.  Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda — $4.09

2 2-lb. boxes Arm & Hammer Baking Soda — $4.18

76 oz. 20 Mule Team Borax — $5.59

3 Bars Ivory Soap — $1.79

Total — $15.65

I also added some Lavender essential oil, which you can also get at for $6.99, but I already had mine.

All you have to do is…

  1. Grate your soap.
  2. Convince your toddler daughter that it is NOT, in fact, cheese.
  3. Mix together HALF of each ingredient in a bowl with a spoon. Trust me. The first time, I used the garbage-bag-in-a-5-gallon-bucket method described in the original blog post, and it was SO hard to stir that much stuff. I ended up accidentally flinging some into my eyes, which… don’t do that. It burns like crazy. Half at a time is manageable, and works fine.
  4. Optionally, you can add some essential oil. Lavender is good for a lot of things, and won’t damage diapers or cause irritation when your clothes touch you. Some other oils have “side effects” so you may want to ask someone who knows more about essential oils than I do before using something different.
  5. I didn’t count drops. I just sprinkled them in, and stirred.
  6. Then I used a measuring cup as a scoop…
    And put it into my giant jar.
  7. Repeat with the other half, and you have a full huge jar of soap. I put half of one (or one if it’s more soiled stuff, or a really full load) of these little scoops into my laundry, and it will — no joke — last me an entire year.

So what are you waiting for?

Hop in your car and get some magic laundry powder ingredients! (Or order online.) And be sure to share this post with your friends on Pinterest, Twitter, StumbleUpon, G+ and Facebook! (There are some buttons right below this to help you.)

32 Comments on A Year’s Worth of Laundry Detergent for Less than $16

  1. Caroline says:

    How much do you scoop into a load of laundry??

  2. Ashley says:

    Is it safe for toddler’s and babies?

  3. Mary Jo says:

    I’ve made my batches with fels naptha. I’ll make a big batch doing portions of it at a time and use my appliances to make it go quicker. I’ve put the bar soap through the shredder of the food processor and to combine everything and get it to be fine granuals I’ll put an equal amount of each of the ingredients in the blender to blend it together well until it’s well mixed. I’ve stored the batches in 5 quart ice cream pails that have a lid. Works well for me.

  4. Jen says:

    I know this post is several years old now, but I’m hoping you might get an automatic notification when someone leaves a post so here it goes…

    We’ve been using a similar recipe for the past year (same ingredients just a slightly different ratio that results in smaller batches) and I love it. BUT, was just reading the gDiaper blog and thought I wouldn’t be able to use my homemade recipe on my gCloths because of the borax. So, I have to ask, do you use these on your gCloths or other cloth inserts? I read othat borax breaks down the hemp in the liners, but haven’t found any additional info. Thoughts? Thanks for your excellent series gWhiz! series by the way! 🙂

    • I used this on my cloth diapers and had no issues… but I don’t know, maybe over years and years it would cause problems? I didn’t notice anything though.

    • Vanessa says:

      Just made this and used for the first time. Any advice on making sure the soap disintegrates and doesn’t get stuck on the clothes? Do you only wash in hot water to “melt” the soap shavings? I let the washer fill up and agitate a bit before adding clothes.

  5. […] in September I saw this post on Joyful Abode about making your own laundry soap for $16 a year. It really caught my attention because 1 day […]

  6. Sarah V. says:

    So I just want to verify that the scoop is approximately 2 Tablespoons and you use half a scoop, ie. 1 Tablespoon per load? Thanks.

  7. Brenda L.W. says:

    Hi, I’m one of “those” readers who hardly ever post, but I had to let you know about recent findings concerning borax. I’m providing a link. I had been making my own laundry soap using this recipe for almost 2 years, but after reading the article from the Environmental Working Group concerning borax and hormones, I decided that even though I no longer have children in the house, it wasn’t worth the it.
    Here is the link

  8. Amiyrah says:

    I make the dried version as well. Do you have a link to the original post you saw it on? I’d love to check theirs out as well.

  9. E says:

    I make my own as well. I make a liquid version though. I might try dry next but I used liquid from the store so I just opted for that version when I started making it. I use Dr. Bronner’s soap (or other castile soap). It comes in bar form or liquid. I looked up their website for the ratio equivalent for liquid vs bar. A 5 oz bar of soap is equal to a little over 1.5 cups liquid. Some of the other soaps have some crazy chemicals in them so I try to use Castile soap whenever possible. Have fun!

  10. Tina says:

    I make my own laundry soap. In our area we can’t buy washing soda. I discovered that we can make our own washing soda simply by baking the baking soda in the oven! This is much cheaper than washing soda. Also, I use a 1/8 cup measuring cup for my large washing machine.

  11. Tracy says:

    Where did you get the scoop and jar? Also, what type of scent is fels naphtha? I really love the smell of clean laundry so would be interested in using that if the smell is like that. Also, do you wash your kids/babies clothes in this?

    • Joyful Abode says:

      I think the jar was from Target. The scoop is something I already had laying around, maybe from bath salts or something… but I think I saw some similar ones at Wal-Mart.
      Fels Naphtha is hard to describe but you can sniff it in the store. You’ll be able to smell it through the package and tell if you like it.

      And yes, we use this soap for everything.

  12. Veronica says:

    I saw this in my email yesterday and was immediately wowed. Great job on this. Such a huge money saver.

    • Joyful Abode says:

      Thanks Veronica, and it really is! I can’t believe that I spent less than $10 for 6 months of laundry detergent… and then less than 16 for a year’s worth!
      And it’s great that you don’t have to do it very often too. As long as you have a big jar.

  13. Stef says:

    What kind of washer do you have? I made a huge batch and I felt like it never got our clothes clean but we have a FL HE washer.

  14. Tracy says:

    I have ALWAYS wanted to try this! Every time I would see an article on making your own detergent I would see the word “borax” and feel irrationally intimidated: what was it? It sounded scary! That would make me too afraid to try- completely silly reasoning, right?

    I’m on it! Thanks for the tips.

    • Joyful Abode says:

      Haha I have done stuff like that too. And you’re welcome!
      Do you watch Modern Family? I loved the last season with the old guy having that issue with charcuterie… then Manny tells him what it is and he’s like REALLY?

  15. Stephanie says:

    I’m interested in the size of the scoop and jar as well. Do you think using grated castile soap would work just as well as using ivory soap?

  16. Melissa Elsholz says:

    How does it clean compared to regular run of the mill detergent (ALL, Tide, etc.)? I’m curious. It’s great savings. I don’t usually use powder detergent, but if it cleans just as well, why not? Thanks for posting.

    • Joyful Abode says:

      I never liked powdered detergents either, but I didn’t want to deal with making liquid (and storing it, etc).
      I feel like everything is just as clean…and we’ve been using it for a while now, so you’d think after 6+ months we would notice if it wasn’t working.

  17. Justine Hull says:

    What is the size of the jar and measuring spoon? Also, is this mixture safe for washing all kinds of cloth diapers?

    • Joyful Abode says:

      I THINK the jar is 2 gallons, and the scoop is about 2 Tablespoons.
      And it should be safe for any cloth diapers, yes. I’ve used it for gDiapers, sunbabies, laminated/pul wet bags, etc.

  18. Sara says:

    Thanks for this. I hate Fels Naptha and needed a recipe that skipped it.

  19. Apple says:

    I make my own almost exactly like yours: You can check out my blog post about how I make mine if you want to.
    J2 has sensitive skin so I can’t put essential oils in it, but the smell of Fels Naptha hasn’t bothered him. I make a double bath of my recipe and it lasts me about 4 months. I love that it saves us so much money. I only have to use about a Tablespoon of it to get my laundry clean. 🙂

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