DIY Laundry Detergent

Between my love of making crafty/DIY goodies and completely wasting time looking at pictures of stuff on the internet, Pinterest has become my new best friend. I can (and have) spent hours just scrolling through, looking at sewing patterns, amazing dinner ideas, ideas for decorating kids’ rooms, and a few ideas on how to become more self-sufficient around the house.

Our family has to tie the purse strings pretty tight, so I am constantly on the lookout for a good deal. I kept noticing different recipes for homemade laundry soap on Pinterest, which led me to start comparing ingredients/costs and discovering UK equivalents for the US products mentioned. Sure, I could have ordered everything from Amazon, but that wouldn’t have saved me any money – and what would have been the point of that?

In my research, I discovered a couple of interesting things. First, borax, one of the common ingredients used to make homemade laundry detergent, is actually pretty darn dangerous. So much so that the EU has reclassified any type of borate chemical as unsafe for use as a cleaning product. A far safer option is Clean and Natural Borax Substitute.

Second, in lieu of sourcing some Arm and Hammer washing soda from Amazon, I decided to use Soda Crystals. I’m new to Soda Crystals, but they’ve been used for the past 200 years in this country and work on EVERYTHING. After using it to remove some serious grime on my stove top, I am now a worshiper at the house of Soda Crystals. They are magic. And cheap.

Finally, most recipes call for the use of Fels-Naptha laundry soap. Not having it handy, I looked into using other types of soap and found out any old type of soap will do. Happy days! I remembered that I had one more bar of Irish Spring soap stored under the kitchen sink so added that to my arsenal of ingredients.

And that was it. I opted not to use any extra whitening crystals because Soda Crystals and Borax Substitute do that as part of their job description. And again, I wanted to do this experiment to see if I could save money, not splash out on extras where not really required.

Now, drumroll please …

DIY Laundry Detergent


1 cup Borax Substitute

1 cup Soda Crystals

1 bar Irish Spring soap, finely grated

Pour the Borax Substitute and Soda Crystals in a large mixing bowl.

Next, grate the soap. I can highly recommend using your food processor for this. Mine has a grating attachment which did all the hard work for me and took a fraction of the time it would to grate the soap by hand. If you have a choice of graters to use, choose the ‘fine grating’ option because you want the soap shreds to be as fine and minuscule as possible so that they don’t leave great big soap splodges on your laundry in the situations where you’re not washing in a particularly warm wash cycle.

A word of caution with the grating process: every 30 seconds to 1 minute, I’d have to stop the food processor to de-soap the grating attachment. The de-soaping process involved scraping the soap off of the grater with a butter knife – not rocket science, but it was the only fussy part of the detergent making. And I remedied that by playing this  very loudly in the background:

Because how can you not enjoy yourself when that song is on!?

Back to the detergent. I took the soap shavings and added it to the mixing bowl, gave everything a good stir or 10, and then decanted it into an old porcelain pot that I used to keep flour in but had forgotten about.

And there you have it! I used one heaped tablespoon to my first load of darks this morning and it came out perfect! I did supplement it with a little bit of fabric conditioner (UK)/softener (US), but that’s just because I’m a bit precious about having super soft laundry. My laundry is slightly Irish Spring scented, which I’m happy about, and I haven’t noticed any difference in the quality of the washed clothes as of yet.

Now, here’s the good part. This homemade laundry detergent cost next-to-nothing to make.

Borax Substitute – £1.39 for a box. I used less than half a box, so let’s round it to 60 pence.

Soda Crystals – £.90 for a bag. Again, I used far less than half a bag, more like a third (judging from the weight left in the bag – you want me to measure it? Pshaw!) so I’ll round it to 30 pence.

Irish Spring – I bought a three pack at Wal-Mart on a visit home two years ago. I believe that set me back a whopping $2? So one bar would work out to what? 65 cents? With the exchange rate, that’s about 40 pence.

Grand total: £1.30 for 50 loads of laundry!


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