Making your own laundry soap is a fun and easy DIY experiment, and there are a variety of recipes that you can try. It’s important to note that making detergent at home isn't really possible, but you can make different laundry soaps, though these won’t be as effective as commercial detergents.[1] There are many different types of laundry soaps you can make at home, including a liquid one with soap nuts, a soap-based powdered detergent, and a soap-based liquid detergent.


  • 20 soap nuts
  • 6 cups (1.4 L) water
  • 10 ounces (283 g) bar soap
  • 3 cups (660 g) washing soda
  • 2 cups (818 g) borax
  • 30 drops essential oil
  • ½ cup (205 g) borax
  • ½ cup (110 g) washing soda
  • ½ cup (118 ml) liquid soap
  • 4 cups (940 ml) boiling water
  • 10 cups (2.35 L) cold water
Method 1
Method 1 of 3:

Making Liquid Laundry Soap with Soap Nuts

  1. Transfer the soap nuts to a large saucepan. Pour the water over the nuts and put a lid on the saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a boil.
    • Soap nuts, which are also called soap berries, are the fruit from the Sapindus shrub, a plant in the lychee family that’s native to parts of India and Nepal.
    • Soapnut shells naturally contain saponin, which is a surfactant, making these berries an ideal biodegradable alternative to commercial laundry detergent.
    • Soap nuts can be purchased in health food stores, alternative grocers, and online.
  2. When the water comes to a boil, turn the heat to medium-low and continue simmering for half an hour. This will give the soap nuts time to release their saponins into the water.
    • Watch the mixture carefully as it boils, as soap nut water is prone to boiling over in a sudsy mess.[2]
  3. When the mixture has boiled for 30 minutes, remove the lid and keep simmering for another half hour. As the soap nuts boil, mash the shells gently with the back of a fork a few times to help them release more saponins.[3]
    • As the mixture boils with the lid off, the water will reduce and create a more concentrated detergent.
  4. Once the water has simmered and reduced, remove the pot from the heat. Position a strainer over a medium bowl and pour the liquid into the strainer to remove the soap nuts. Set the liquid aside to cool to room temperature, about an hour. Leave the soap nuts in the strainer to cool as well.
    • This quantity of water and soap nuts will yield about 3¾ cups (881 ml) of detergent.[4]
  5. As soon as the liquid is cool enough to handle, insert a funnel into a clean glass or plastic bottle. Pour the liquid into the bottle through the funnel. Remove the funnel and screw the lid onto the container.
    • It’s best to use a container with an airtight lid, as this will help preserve the detergent longer.
  6. When the soap nuts have cooled to room temperature, transfer them to a freezer bag and store them in the freezer until it’s time to make more detergent. Soap nuts can be reused in this way about three times, or until there are no saponins left in the shells.[5]
  7. Soap nut liquid will go bad within a few days if it’s left in the heat, so be sure to store the detergent in the refrigerator. The mixture will last for up to two weeks as long as you keep it chilled.[6]
    • For even longer lasting detergent, fill a clean ice cube tray with the soap nut liquid. When the liquid is frozen, transfer the cubes to a freezer bag for storage.[7]
  8. When it’s time to do laundry, add 2 tablespoons of soap nut detergent to the drum or detergent compartment of your washing machine.[8] You can use this detergent with regular and high-efficiency machines. Run your cycle as usual.
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Method 2
Method 2 of 3:

Making Soap-Based Powdered Detergent

  1. Use a cheese grater to grate the soap into small flakes. For easier cleanup, hold the cheese grater over a bowl and grate the soap right into the bowl. Grating will make the soap easier to process into a powder-like substance.[9]
    • 10 ounces (283 g) of bar soap is roughly equivalent to two bars of soap.
    • Ideal soaps for this recipe include castile soap, Zote laundry soap, and Fels-Naptha.
    • Because the soap may permanently flavor your cheese grater, you may want to use a separate grater for detergent making.
  2. Transfer the soak flakes to a food processor. Pulse the soap for one to two minutes, until the flakes have been reduced to a coarse powder. The soap may flavor your food processor as well, so you may want to use a separate one for detergent versus food.[10]
    • If you don’t have a food processor, you can add the soap flakes to the detergent as is.
    • Don’t process the washing soda and borax in the food processor, as the dust can irritate your lungs.
  3. Transfer the powdered soap to a large mixing bowl. Add the washing soda, borax, and essential oil (such as lavender or lemon). Whisk the mixture together to incorporate all the ingredients. You want a uniform powder so that each scoop will contain the same quantity of the different ingredients.
    • Other cleaning and washing ingredients you can add to this mixture include 14 ounces (397 g) of Epsom salt,[11] or 1 pound (454 g) of OxiClean powder.[12]
    • Washing soda, or sodium carbonate, is chemically similar to baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), but washing soda is an inedible alkaline powder that’s used for cutting grease and cleaning.[13]
  4. When you have finished mixing the detergent, pour the powder into a container with an airtight lid. Good containers include mason jars, clean bottles, or sealable plastic cereal containers.
  5. When it’s time to do a load of laundry, add 1 tablespoon of powder to a high-efficiency washer, or 2 tablespoons to a regular washer. Because the powder contains grated bar soap, it will work best with warm and hot washes.[14]
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Method 3
Method 3 of 3:

Making Soap-Based Liquid Detergent

  1. Whisk the ingredients together in a large bowl. Remove as many lumps as you can, as the liquid soap will likely cause clumps to form in the powder.
    • Soaps you can use for this recipe include liquid castile soap and a mild liquid dish soap.[15]
  2. Transfer 4 cups (940 ml) of water to a saucepan and heat it over medium-high heat.[16] Bring the water to a boil, and then turn off the heat and remove the pan from the element.
    • You can also boil the water in a kettle.
  3. When the water has boiled, pour it into the bowl with the other detergent ingredients. Whisk the mixture to combine all the ingredients and dissolve the powders in the hot water.
    • Set the mixture aside to cool to room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  4. When the mixture has cooled, pour it into a clean 1-gallon (3.8-L) juice jug or other similar container. Then, fill the jug the rest of the way with cold water, which will require an additional 10 cups (2.35 L) or so.[17]
  5. Some of the ingredients will settle to the bottom of the mixture over time, so make sure you give the jug a good shake before adding the liquid to the washing machine. For each load of laundry, use ⅓ cup (78 ml) of this liquid soap.[18]
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Community Q&A

  • Question
    What is the difference between baking soda and washing soda?
    Stacie Lynn
    Stacie Lynn
    Community Answer
    Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate while washing soda is sodium carbonate. You can also make washing soda from baking soda at home.
  • Question
    Why do you make laundry detergent when you can just go buy it?
    Sonny Vincer
    Sonny Vincer
    Community Answer
    Clothes are softer, especially towels. You clothes will last longer (less lint in your dryer filter), and the cost is about 20 cents a load cheaper.
  • Question
    How can I remove perspiration odors from t-shirts?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    From my experience, you can use 3% hydrogen peroxide (3%). Replace the plastic cap on the bottle with a spray nozzle and you can use it for killing bacteria and cleaning.

About This Article

wikiHow Staff
Co-authored by:
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Co-authors: 35
Updated: May 6, 2021
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Article SummaryX

To make your own powdered laundry detergent, grate 10 ounces (283 g) of bar soap, like castile or Zote laundry soap, over a large bowl with a cheese grater. Transfer the soap flakes to a food processor and pulse the soap for 1-2 minutes until the flakes have been reduced to a powder. Mix in 3 cups (660 g) of washing soda, 2 cups (818 g) of borax, and 30 drops of an essential oil like lavender or lemon. Transfer the mixture to an airtight jar and use 1-2 tablespoons of the detergent with each load of laundry. If you want to learn how to make your own liquid laundry soap, keep reading the article!

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