Homemade Laundry Detergent and Cute Containers

Check it. My laundry detergent is looking all cute and junk.

I already had the glass cylinder (my mom got it for me a long time ago and I think it came from Walmart). I got the blue tin for $1 at an estate sale. It’s been moved around the house several times trying to find itself but finally seems to have settled in as an attractive vessel for oxyclean-side note, love that stuff. My laundry appliances are so old that the temperature knob is broken off the dryer and the washer scoots halfway across the room during the course of a normal spin cycle, but I’m making metaphorical lemonade with my cute containers.

I do a lot of laundry these days and detergent is freaking expensive. After months of sticker shock every time I purchased a container of my beloved powdered tide I decided to give homemade detergent a try. Most of the recipes online are for a huge batch to be stored in a giant bucket. I didn’t want to commit to a year’s supply without knowing how I’d like it first so I adjusted the proportions to make a more reasonable amount. My recipe is pretty simple:

  • 1 bar of soap (Zote white soap was 99 cents in the laundry aisle of my grocery store)
  • 1 cup each oxyclean, baking soda, washing soda, and borax

I couldn’t find washing soda at my grocery store, but thanks to my friend Mr. Google I discovered that heat acts as a catalyst to convert baking soda to washing soda. So I poured some baking soda out onto a cookie sheet and baked it for a while until it changed consistency and a test sample of it no longer reacted with vinegar. Yay chemistry! I used my food processor to grate the soap, then mixed everything together in my glass canister and wa-lah! Laundry detergent. I melted my plastic scoop trying to get to washing soda off the hot baking sheet so I had to search my kitchen for something else that would work. I found a shot glass that held exactly two tablespoons, which was perfect. I don’t know that I would use the food processor to grate the soap again. It kept getting all jammed up and I worried I was damaging the motor, plus the soap never got to the powdery consistency I was hoping for. Maybe next time I’ll grate it by hand first and then put it in the food processor.

I’ve also been making my own dishwasher detergent. I don’t have a picture of it but it’s stored in a glass canister on the kitchen counter with a metal tablespoon in there as a scoop. The recipe is equal parts borax and baking soda (though I may try washing soda now that I know how to make it) and a couple packs of lemonade kool-aid. You can use citric acid if you’re fancy but I didn’t know where to get it and I buy kool-aid on sale for 11 cents a packet. It gets clumpy and hard sometimes but who cares, it’s cheap and it works.

I’m not convinced that the homemade laundry detergent is enough to get Jack’s cloth diapers clean but I’m willing to give it a try. When I run out of the batch I’ve got maybe I’ll tweak the recipe somehow. Any ideas from you lovely readers?

20 Responses to “Homemade Laundry Detergent and Cute Containers”

  1. Sarah July 30, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Wow! You are the queen of the cheap ;)

    I don’t think I’ll be making my own detergent any time soon, as easy as you make it sound! I’m still one of those suckers who buys every fancy cleaning product off the commercial (but in target brand) in hopes that it will make my life easier!

    And then every time I clean the house I try to convince myself that a cleaning lady is in budget…

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap July 30, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

      Haha I would LOVE to have a cleaning lady! I’m super cheap on products though. I pretty much only use vinegar, baking soda, dish soap, and magic erasers.

  2. shelley July 30, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    How has the dishwasher detergent worked for you? For us, it failed to get tea stains out of our mugs and discolored some of my black plastic spatulas and big spoons so I didn’t try the homemade detergent since it is similar.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap July 30, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

      Meh, it’s alright. Detergent in general went downhill after they took phosphates out in my opinion and this stuff works about the same.

  3. Patricia July 30, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    Sarah- I feel the same way about not wanting to make it and always wanting to get a cleaning lady too. My friend used a cleaning service and she said it was great. I think she said she paid $60 for each visit or maybe for each month? I’m not sure but she had just a small apartment but was so busy that it helped her so the expense was worth it to her. I live in a huge house and have fibromyalgia so I keep thinking I should just do it. It really would make my life easier to have someone come in help once or twice a month. I should just figure out a way to budge for it.

    Charlotte- I love this post! Even if I’m not going to make my own (maybe) it makes me want to buy powder detergent and put it in a pretty container. We use liquid but I like the smaller bottles because its easier for me to pour and my fiancé buys the big heavy bottles that are too heavy for me in the beginning. But if had powder, it would just sit there and I would only need to lift a scoop. Hhhmmmmm.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap July 30, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

      Oh yeah, this would definitely be more accessible for someone with muscle/motor/strength issues.

  4. Carnisha July 30, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    I tried to make my own detergent (liquid and powder) and I wasn’t impressed with either. So I bought a box of Tide and then added Borax, washing soda and baking soda to it. In my mind I still have Tide, but it’s just a super version! I poured about half a box of each into a large container. (I have a large box of baking soda, it’s the size of Borax and washing soda boxes)
    Let me know if you try that out.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap July 30, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

      GENIUS!!! I love the idea of making pricey detergent stretch further by adding all that stuff to it! I might try that next.

  5. Lisa July 30, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    How much of the dishwasher soap do you use per load?

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap July 30, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

      Just 1 tbsp., sometimes two if I’m feeling frisky. And I put vinegar in the rinse well.

  6. Michelle Chauvin July 30, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    I stopped using Tide and started making my own detergent a couple months ago. I do exactly what you do but without the Zote. I’ve thought about adding something else for scent, but I was worried about buildup. So, instead, I just add a few drops of Ylang Ylang essential oil. I’ve been using it own everything, including William’s diapers, and it has been working great for us! No stinkies or leaks!

    How do you like your dish washing detergent?? I will definitely try it! We currently use the tabs, and they are so expensive!!

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap July 30, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

      So glad to hear it’s been working on your diapers! I’ve been worried they wouldn’t get clean enough, and the other day when I caught a whiff of ammonia I got pretty worried. As for the dishwasher detergent, it’s just alright. It’s not great but it’s not awful either. But for the cost I don’t mind putting in a little extra effort to pre-rinse and re-wash some things by hand.

  7. Laura July 30, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    You know you’re grown up when you use a shot glass for something other than it’s intended purpose. Mine is frequently a batter scoop when cooking.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap July 30, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

      HAHAHA you’re so right!!!

  8. Sara July 30, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    I make my detergent very similar. I add Purex Crystals to mine though. Smells WONDERFUL! I was worried about using the Zote on my son’s diapers, but we haven’t had any repelling or stink issues. Btw, I use the shredder attachment on my food processor and then use the actual blade and run it through again and the soap is a size I feel comfortable with.
    I made a basket for a homewarming party this weekend and made all purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, and my homemade detergent and everyone was so impressed. I store mine in the Purex bottle that the crystals come in. I do need to try the dishwasher soap though.. I bought the stuff, but have never done it.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap July 30, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

      Ooooh, I always forget that my food processor has other blades! I may try that next time.

  9. Missy M. July 30, 2013 at 5:53 pm #


    Love, love, love homemade laundry detergent. I’m washing for four adults (three men who get very dirty & stinky). For $20 in ingredients I make enough detergent to last 3-4 months. You might try adding Purex or Gain Crystals. A little bit goes a long way for scent. Also, I use Fels Naptha soap. Heat in microwave for 1 minute. It will bubble. Then run it thru the food processor.

    My extended family things I’m crazy because I make my own laundry detergent. Let them laugh. Our clothes are clean and I don’t have heart palpitations every time I go to the store because of the price of detergent

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap July 30, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

      You are the second person to mention these crystals! I’ve never heard of them but will have to keep an eye out next time I’m at the store.

  10. Karen Fogarty August 2, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    We have been making ours for years Liquid Castille soap borax and washing soda Only Jim recalls how much of each, but it works well.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap August 5, 2013 at 10:01 am #

      I love castile soap!

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