make your own detergent?

tansunnyDecember 24, 2012

Anyone here make their own laundry detergent? I have been seeing a lot about it on Pinterest. I guess I don't really know much about the ingredients involved to say if it is any healthier than buying it (washing soda, Borax, etc...I don't know anything about these).

Also, I am in the process of buying a new washer and dryer. It will be a top loader without an agitator. Not sure if these homemade formulas work as well in machines such as this?

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what's the point? to say that you can do it? Isn't life complicated enough in this day and age without resorting to attempting to formulate your own EFFECTIVE detergent?

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 10:35AM
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The point (for me) would be to save money and also to control the ingredients.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 2:48PM
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DON"T. There is a difference between soap and detergent. Homemade detergent is made with SOAP. Detergents replaced soaps 100 years ago for a reason. If you insist on using this lousy laundry concoction, I would suggest you research how to properly use soap in your laundry. I think you will find that store bought laundry detergent is an easier solution. Also cheaper in the long run. In the end, you will not save money using homemade laundry detergent. If you want to save money on detergents starting cutting coupons, watching for sales, or buy in bulk. I use powdered Tide for 5 cents a load. You cannot beat that with a stick, as far as I am concerned.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 3:10PM
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Detergent manufacturers spend bunches of money on labs and testing for proper formulations to handle water hardness (mineral content) and a range of soil types (enzymes and cleaning agents) far beyond what the DIYer can accomplish. They've already done the work.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 3:13PM
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Got news for you folks. They don't sell a different formula for my water than for yours. They didn't do that much research. Nor do they do a different formula for my usual soil level vs. yours. Nor my water temp vs yours, or the myriad of other variables. Plus I still see people adding their various additives, spot removers and everything else so all that "research" doesn't mean you're guaranteed a clean wash.

I know a number of people using the homemade detergents, many on this forum or have been here in the past. Some swear it works better for them. So if you want to try it, why not?

For me, I like an enzyme detergent so I normally use P&G products. I like Tide because I don't need the other additives. For me, it's not worth the hassle. I did a cost estimate to buy the ingredients but for me it wouldn't have been frugal. Again, for someone else it could be.

And why? Some want to use more natural ingredients and fewer petroleum products. It's a personal choice.

If you try it, let us know how it works for you.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 4:33PM
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Thanks everyone. I was hoping maybe people would have a formula on this, but it seems I am barking up the wrong tree. While I appreciate everyone's input, some of you should be ashamed by your rudeness.

In particular, "If you insist on using this lousy laundry concoction..."...what exactly laundry concoction did I suggest using? I did not list any formula or even any ingredients. Not sure what you were getting at with that.

I've just been seeing a lot of people online making their own detergent for various reasons. We don't get coupons in our mail and we don't subscribe to the paper. Generally the cost of items here (a small town in Florida) seems to be more expensive than where we moved from (Michigan). I currently try to buy only fragrance free or hypoallergenic brands due to sensitive skin, which are usually not on sale.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 6:07PM
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WARNING WARNING O.M.GOODNESS don't do it, and I am not talking about the soap...I talking about the "top-loader without an adgitator". Please read the reviews, not the reviews on the manufacturers websites or the stores that sell them. I own one, and could not regret it more. It looks pretty but sucks for many reasons, namely, the clothes don't get clean and soap isan't rinsed out well...they can't. If the machine dosn't have an agitator then it needs the gravity of a front loader to insure that the water gets all the way trough the fabrics, as well as the rolling motion to help clean. They use very little water which is O.K if it's a front loader. I paid 1,200. for mine 5 years I didn't go cheep. Save yourself and rethink your purchase

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 11:00PM
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It was not my intent to be rude. I am blunt, as a general rule, so try not to take it too personally. In my opinion, home made laundry soap is just not a good idea on many levels. Of course, what you do is up to you.

The "recipe" for home made detergents all use the same ingredients. Grated soap, borax, washing soda, etc. I am speaking to you from hands on experience. Years ago when I was poor as a church mouse, I made this soap mixture to do all of my household laundry with, including cloth diapers. After 6 months, my traditional top load washer stunk. My whites took on a gray, greasy appearance. Dishtowels and diapers were waterproofed. Stain removal was very poor, and everything had to be pre-treated...everything. It took wash after wash in expensive water softener additives and HOT water to reverse the damage done by this home made soap. In the end, it cost me more than store bought detergent. A little advice from laundry experts and my own homework, taught me that using soap required so much more work, and then the end results were poor. While this soap MIGHT work for some, you must have soft water, and rinse every load really well. Soap sours in fabrics if not rinsed well, causing a greasy and rancid smell. If detergent pricing is the leading factor for you, there are a few lower priced detergents out there that will give satisfactory results without breaking your bank.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 9:53AM
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The post above says it best...and I do have to agree with another.. it is a lousy concoction...Think of shower doors, do you want your laundry to look the same because it will!... soap is soap... it will build up in your laundry and your whites will look horrible. I tried it once myself, I also tried the homemade dishwasher detergent, it was horrible also. If you still intend to try it just google it and you will find the exact amount of the ingredients. I would tell you but I don't remember exactly how much of each. I use two different kinds of detergents. I am more then pleased with liquid Purex for my dark colors and powdered Tide with bleach for the lights and whites. Purex is a very economical detergent to buy. I have even bought the huge pail of Wind Tunnel powdered detergent and Sam's and it worked very well for me and is very economical to buy.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 11:03AM
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There are many websites that sell laundry products that are hard to find in some areas. Often they deliver for free with a minimum purchase and you can buy in bulk to meet the required pricing. I know many people with sensitive skin who use All Free and Clear successfully. I used it when on vacation and it seemed to work well, but I didn't really put it through its paces.

After reading about bio-film and other clothing build up, I decided against making my own detergent. If you are wary of certain additives and chemicals in your detergents, there are many eco-friendly products that get good results. Vaska and Bio-Kleen are two that I've used and liked. Vaska is only available in liquid and most likely a mail order only option for you. I love it for fine washables and linens. Bio-kleen is available in both powder and liquid.


    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 2:56PM
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tansunny - My son and I made several batches of homemade laundry and dishmachine detergent for a science project a while back. I used the leftovers on our laundry with no issues, cleaning power or buildup in the washer.

We used Fels Naptha, Dr Bronners and a variety of hotel mini soaps as well as citric acid, kosher salt and baking soda depending on the water conditions we were working with. If you're curious give it a try. It's certainly inexpensive. We made powder and a box of borax, a few bars of soap and washing soda was under $10 and made a huge amount of detergents.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 8:35AM
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Consider homemade detergent or laundry soap ONLY IF YOU HAVE SOFT WATER AND KNOW YOUR WATER CHEMISTRY! If you have hard water, homemade detergent (with soap ingredients) and laundry soap will form a scum on the inside of your machine that will be almost impossible to remove without taking your machine apart. This could lead to mold and mildew growth, smelly washer syndrome, smelly clothes, etc.

If you have soft water, or a water softener, or if you have hard water but feel the risk is worth the reward, then by all means give it a try. There are many recipes available online, most involve the use of grated soap.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 7:28PM
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The Fels Naptha that most of the recipes call for is a detergent bar. It is a completely different thing than soap. The problem with making your own, IMO, is the enzymes that do most of the work in laundry detergents. There are lots of ways to counteract hard water. Adding more borax would be one. In our experiment we used a mix of borax, citric acid and kosher salt to deal with the hard water. It can be made to "work" but at best will provide Charlie's Soap type results.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 12:14PM
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And FWIW, I know several people with the HE top loaders and couldn't be happier.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 3:33AM
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Fels Naptha is SOAP:


Soap (sodium tallowate*, sodium cocoate* (or) sodium palmate kernelate*, and sodium palmate*), water, talc, cocnut acid*, palm acid*, tallow acid*, PEG-6 methyl ether, glycerin, sorbitol, sodium chloride, pentasodium pentetate and/or tetrasodium etidronate, titatium dioxide, fragrance, Acid Orange (CI 20170), Acid yellow 73 (ci43350)

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 10:16AM
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Fels Naptha say right on the wrapper "Heavy Duty Laundry Bar Soap". No description of them anywhere says they are a detergent bar

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 10:17AM
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The basic ingredients of detergents---petroleum-based fats and oils---are tumbled with chemicals like sulfur trioxide, sulfuric acid or ethylene oxide in huge vats, holding up to two tons of material, on average After the chemicals have formed new fatty acids, alkalis such as sodium or potassium hydroxide are added to create one type of molecule.
In the Fels Naptha hydrolysis is achieved with the use of mild acids. This is not the same as a bar of ivory soap. The fat used is not important. It is the process it goes through. The process, not the ingeredients determine soap or detergent. Is body wash soap? Is Dove beauty bar a detergent or a soap? I wouldn't shower with Fels.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 11:30AM
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Nobody is suggesting you shower with Fels - it is a harsh soap. The mild acids are listed as ingredients because they are major components of the oils used and a portion of the acids may remain untreated and may be present in the final product. (edited for clarity)

Body wash is typically detergent (sulfates, sulfonates). Dove beauty bar is both (Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate and Sodium Isethionate are mild detergents while, tallowate and palmitate are soaps).

This post was edited by aliceinwonderland_id on Sat, Jan 5, 13 at 0:21

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 9:41PM
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I've been making laundry powder for a few years. I use a 2:1:1 ratio of Fels Naptha (or Zote), washing soda and Borax. I started, because I was trying to counteract a sour smell in my front loader. The home made laundry powder - plus vinegar added for rinsing - seemed to resolve the smell problem. I have read that my concoction could cause damage to the drum and other metal parts, and I have become discouraged with the greying of my dish towels, so I may experiment with other eco powders to see if there's any difference in my whites.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 11:59PM
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I compared the cost of making that recipe versus buying the big buckets of Costco's house brand concentrated detergent ... and to save a penny a load I would have to be doing a lot of work.

There are some reasons that people report fabulous results:
1 - "Confirmation bias" (see ) ... they expect good results and they tend to ignore any signs that it's not happening how they expect it to work.

2 - They start measuring the detergent and their clothes are rinsing cleaner.

I use about 1/2 the recommended amount of detergent (top loader) and make sure there is enough water to get good agitation ... tightly packed clothes can't release the dirt as well.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 11:34AM
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I agree, homemade laundry soap is a no-go. It lacks enzymes and soil suspending ingredients, washer protection ingredients (notably sodium metasilicate or similar) and can wreak havoc on those who have hard water through the formation of a thick, sludgy calcium precipitate that will coat your washer parts and stick to your clothing fibers.

To those who want to go down this road, more power to you. But please don't come back here to complain that it ruined your machine or clothing. Cost is not a sufficient reason to do this, as the least expensive detergents will give you superior results for less money. I believe homemade detergents are appropriate for those people who have very soft water and who don't soil their clothes much. Stick with what works.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 1:04PM
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Thanks to everyone who posted replies! I live in an area with very hard water, and have made my own laundry soap a few times, using Fels Naptha, Borax & Arm & Hammer washing soda. We replaced our TL Maytag (which was working, but very annoying in that it wanted to take a walk around the laundry room with increasing frequency) with a Whirlpool FL machine a couple of years ago. I had plenty of regrets with this machine from the beginning, but that's another topic!

I originally used a store bought detergent (probably All free & Clear?) and then decided to make my own detergent again. It was sooo cheap, by golly! And though it was very gradual, I noticed in the last few months that all my clothes and towels were getting dingier than ever. I also noticed that sweat smells remained after washing, resulting in clothes being tossed out. To top it all off, my washer started to stink (along with my clothes and especially towels) and I have mildew or mold on the rubber gasket (eew!). I eventually switched back to a store-bought detergent from Costco, but the damage to my family's clothes is done. I have to use a bunch of spray (Shout) to pre-treat any and all stains if I want to have any hope of getting them out.

I really couldn't figure out why; I knew that hard water was a large part of the problem, but I never bothered to research it until now. I am really sick of my clothing and linens looking old and tired long before their time.

Anyway, I appreciate everyone taking the time to post this enlightening info- thanks a bunch!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 12:00AM
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I live in Canada and use an all natural biodegradable cleaner called Pink Solution. They also carry a product called Mother's Choice. Check out their website:

They have MSDS sheets available on their website.

My DH brought it home from his workplace for me to try and we have found it comes in very handy for many applications. It's also great as a general cleaner diluted. I'm not sure if it's for sale in the US, but it's worth a try.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 7:54AM
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I think the biggest risk is making homemade laundry "soap" without knowing your water chemistry. Commercial detergents contain ingredients that make the product effective in hard water conditions, while homemade stuff will not. If you have a whole house water softener and you have confirmed that it is functioning and actively softening your water, then using soap is perfectly acceptable because there are no calcium ions in the water to bind with the soap.

It's a worthy exercise, but only if you are willing to determine your water hardness first. If not, then you should stick with commercial detergents. If you still want to proceed without testing your water, then you are gambling with the health of your machine, your clothes, and ultimately your skin.

While you might save some money in the long run using a homemade laundry soap, if it ruins your washer/dryer doesn't that end up costing you more than if you had used commercial detergent and did not damage your machine?

Those who want a product as close to homemade soap as possible, but with the benefits of a commercial formulation, may wish to look into Charlie's Soap. They have an additive for hard water conditions to ensure their product works well under those conditions, and its list of ingredients is pretty basic. In my experience it doesn't clean very well, which is also what you should expect with homemade soap.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 11:56AM
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