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A couple of years ago I found a recipe for homemade laundry detergent. I thought, What a great idea to save money! I bought the ingredients and made up my first batch, storing it in a large plastic trash can (for lack of a bucket). I made countless batches after that one, experimenting with different soaps (from the traditional Fels Naptha to Ivory soap), and using at least 3 different washers (one of them a front loader).

After all that experimenting, I have decided that it simply isn’t as good as the commercial stuff. I have piles of whites that are dingy and graying–not even hanging them on the clothes line or using bluing will make them whiter. Maybe if I used bleach on a regular basis, they would look better (I do use it occasionally), but with a septic tank, I don’t want to use it too often.

So right now I’m using some clear and free stuff my mom bought for me, and will probably switch back to Arm & Hammer powdered laundry detergent sooner or later. That’s what I used before my foray into making my own, and my whites looked much better then than they do now!

So click on the link at the top to find out what doesn’t work for other people. If you have every tried homemade laundry detergent and had good results, I would love for you to share your story. Post a comment and tell me about it or link to your blog post if you blogged about it.

20 Responses

  1. #1

    I tried homemade too, and switched back to commercially made. Uniforms have to stay white…

  2. #2

    I also tried all the different soaps and even added clorox II to the last few batches, but finally decided it just wasn’t going to work. We do bleach our whites and they were still very gray. Even bright colors were graying!

  3. #3

    Thanks for the warning. I’ve been feeling like a lazy bum for not making my own laundry soap, now I can skip the guilt as I buy costco brand free and clear! Really, thanks. I could do with less guilt in my life.

  4. #4

    You’re welcome! I’m glad I could help you get rid of some bad guilt! There is no reason any of us should have to deal with that! :)

  5. #5

    I don’t make the liquid version of the fels naptha detergent. I make the powdered version. It has alot higher soap concentration compared to the liquid version. I like the powdered much better and I mix oxi-clean into the recipe at the same ratio as the borax and the washing powder. I’ve been really pleased. I know you can use grated ivory as well, I just haven’t tried it. Maybe I will next time around as we live on a farm which equals lots of dirt and mud: ) thanks for the feedback!

  6. #6

    That is very interesting. I never made the powdered version with fels naptha, but I made it all this last summer with ivory soap (1 whole bar per batch). I went through it much faster than I did the liquid version, so I know it was more concentrated, but that is when my laundry got the worst. Maybe it was the ivory, and the fels naptha would work better. I don’t know. I use oxyclean too, only I add it to each load.

    I will say, though, that I have found ivory soap good for getting whites whiter when used for handwashing. I use it on socks and shirt collars from time to time. It also gets mud stains out of pants. But I already posted about that!

  7. #7

    I made our laundry detergent for years but recently stopped. I didn’t notice graying (I used Zote and made liquid) but after we got a front loader I noticed a lot of residue in the detergent cup. It just didn’t play nice with my new washer.

  8. #8

    I make the powder version with the Fels Naptha, too, and I’ve really liked it. The first thing I ever washed with it was the cover off my dog’s bed (so stinky and dirty!) and it came out looking like it was brand new. So happy! I wonder if having the powder instead of the liquid really does make a difference.

  9. After several months of using the liquid homemade recipe, our clothes started getting stinky, even after washing. So I stopped using it for a while and went back to store-bought stuff. Lately, however, what I’ve done is use half POWDERED homemade detergent, and half store-bought. Everything gets clean, no stink, and the store-bought detergent lasts FOREVER this way. That’s what works for me!

  10. #10

    Wow, so many good comments! I think I’m going to have to do some experimenting. I have 2/3 of a bar of Fels Naptha lying around. And plenty of borax and washing soda… Though I do have a front loading washer, so not sure how that will work out. Thanks for all the experiences you have all shared. You’ve made this one of my best posts ever!!!

  11. #11

    Lisa-I recently switched back to Tide. (or all free and clear.) My clothes just were NOT getting clean on the homemade stuff. Things still had food on them, baby’s clothes still smelled of spit up, and my whites were getting nasty-even using bleach.
    I have tried both powdered and liquid, in many different ratios. Powdered left a powdery scum on my clothes. Liquid also made my kitchen hand towels so bad that they wouldn’t sop up any liquid at all. Just ran off of it. Anyways, I finally decided I needed to stop all of this, and switch to something that I know works! Hubby was starting to complain! haha!

  12. #12
    Tami Lewis 

    wow! i love my homemade detergent. so does my family! i mix borax , baking soda and 1 bar of any soap i choose plus i use white vinegar as a softener. try that :) ( it’s the baking soda that whitens )

  13. #13

    I have a HE top load washer and the powder is working great. I only use a heaping tablespoon full and it seems to be more than enough. Love all the feedback!

  14. #14

    Where to start? I’ve done alot of research about detergent, because I’m allergic to everything on the planet it seems. What I’ve found is that commercial detergents have chemical optical brighteners in them to keep whites and colors from graying. Homemade doesn’t. It also depends on the hardness of the water you are using on whether or not this is a problem for you. I can’t even use free and clear detergents since they only take out the perfume and dye. The chemicals are still the same.
    If you still want to save money, then use homemade until you see a difference in brightness, then use a commercial one to add the brighteners to your clothes. A friend does this and she only buys maybe 1-2 small bottles of detergent from the store a year. It takes about 3 months before she has to use store bought, so inbetween she’s still saving by doing both.
    Just another option for those who need to save some money.

  15. #15

    I have hard water and noticed since making my own powdered, the whites do get gray. So I worked on the recipe.

    1 bar of Zote grated.
    1c Borax
    1c washing soda
    1c baking soda
    1c Oxi Clean
    1c. Foca laundry soap ( found in mexican stores )

    I use an old tupperware cannister to store it. After dumping all the ingredients in I put the lid on and shake it up really well. I let it sit for an hour before I open it since I have asthma.

    I have used this in both types of washers and have had no problems and no whites turning gray.

    I went to thrift stores and garage sales one day and my daughter found this purple sweater she loved yet it was so stiff. I took it home and used this on it and it was stiff due to all the detergent still in the yarn. The homemade soap took all that detergent out and it was so soft afterwards.

    I also fill my machine with whites and let them soak overnight. They come out clean and white.

    I made a batch for a baby shower gift but instead used Ivory bar soap and put in a tall mason jar. The mother used it and was so pleased with it she started making her own.

    I also still use fabric softener but I use a half and half variation. Half softener and half vinegar. It works really well.

  16. #16

    Thanks for sharing the recipe, Greta! I am sure that would work much better than what I was using.

    However, I have since realized that something. The main reason most people make their own laundry detergent is to save money. But I have become more concerned about what is actually in the detergents. Fels Naptha (which is what I used to use) is actually a skin irritant–which is why I tried using Ivory soap. I don’t know anything about Zote or Foca.

    I’ve started using Melaleuca’s laundry detergent and absolutely love it. It’s not full of dangerous chemicals, and it has reversed some of the graying that the homemade detergent did.

    In any case, I’m glad you found something that works, and thank you for sharing your recipe. I’m sure others will find it helpful. :)

  17. #17

    This is for people who don’t know about the bar soap ZOTE..Its for clothing, also save for personal body soap. and more stuff do the research go to thanks hope it helps so people out. Foca is also great.XD trust i me I’ve used this detergents

  18. #18

    I’ve used homemade detergent for over 7 years now and have never had an issue with whites graying. Back when we used conventional liquid detergent, the whites always turned yellow quickly and looked awful… now they stay white. I should mention that we use the powdered. I make it with Kirk’s Original Coco Castile Soap because the Fels-Naptha scent bugs me, and Ivory doesn’t seem to clean quite as well.

    As others have mentioned, Zote is a good soap to try on laundry if you have issues with whites, because Zote contains optical brighteners (per their website).

    Also, I’ve read on other boards that graying can be caused by hard water. If you bump up your washing soda a bit, that might help because it softens water.

  19. #19

    I should try again sometime, but with Zote, and with more soda, as you said. Maybe run out (next month)…

  1. […] with it, like this article that says Goodbye Homemade Laundry Detergent! or this one that says It Doesn’t Work for Me!  Obviously it’s not the method of choice for […]

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