Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent (HE)

March 25, 2013 · 29 comments

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Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent Recipe (HE)

You should be able to make a full batch from start to finish in about 15 minutes. A full batch is good for about 40 loads so you should only have to make it once a month or so. It is a small sacrifice to know you are not putting nasty things like sodium lauryl sulfate on your family’s skin.

Prefer to make liquid laundry detergent? It is also approved for HE (high efficiency) washing machines.

*ALL OF THE ITEMS USED IN THIS RECIPE ARE NOT HARMFUL TO YOUR CLOTHES WASHER, SEPTIC SYSTEM OR FAMILY MEMBER’S SKIN UNLESS SOMEONE HAS A REALLY UNUSUAL SENSITIVITY.

*IT HAS LITTLE TO NO SMELL AND THE SMELL DEPENDS ON WHICH BAR OF SOAP YOU CHOOSE. SUNLIGHT SEEMS TO BE THE STRONGEST SMELLING AND LIKELY WOULD CAUSE THE MOST SKIN PROBLEMS ALTHOUGH MANY OF OUR FAMILY MEMBERS HAVE EXTREMELY SENSITIVE SKIN AND HAVE NO ISSUES EVEN WITH THE SUNLIGHT BARS OF SOAP.

If someone has a great fabric softener recipe (that is natural and good for folks with sensitive skin) and is willing to share PLEASE do so by leaving a comment below. We live in an area where we can only use a clothesline 6 months of the year. Nice smelling laundry would be a nice bonus for us and our readers, especially in the cold winter months.

And now the homemade powdered laundry detergent recipe.


1 Cup (250ml) of Washing Soda or Baking Soda

Soda Crystals Washing Soda(read below to transform baking soda into washing soda)

Washing soda (a water softener) is nothing more than sodium carbonate also known as soda ash. It is usually sold under the brand name “Arm & Hammer” in North America, “Lectric” in Australia and “Soda Crystals” in the United Kingdom. It is located in the laundry detergent section of your grocery/drug/department store. It is usually not too hard to find if you have access to a large grocery/drug/department store but we have heard others say they cannot find it at all locally.

washing soda for he laundry soap

How do I make my own washing soda?

Even if you are not a chemist you might have noticed that washing soda (sodium carbonate) resembles baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). It is very similar.

Use baking soda as a substitute for washing soda in he laundry detergent.In fact you can make your own washing soda by heating baking soda in an oven.

Simply spread out the required amount of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) on a cookie sheet and bake it in your oven at 200 degrees F for 1 hour. Water and carbon dioxide are released leaving you washing soda or sodium carbonate.

1 Cup (250 ml) of Borax

Don’t like Borax? Don’t use it! It’s main function is to make the ph of your detergent in the 9.5 to 10 range as that seems to be the best for stain removal. We have made batches without borax and have noticed no difference in performance.

Borax is a naturally occurring white powder also known as sodium borate. It is mined underground and is used for a variety of things including cosmetics, food additives, fire retardants, anti fungals and detergents.

Borax works very well as a laundry whitener and deodorizer. It is another one of those items that can be difficult to find. It is commonly found in the laundry section of some grocery/drug/department stores and might even be a little harder to find than washing soda. The most common brand is 20 Mule Team (North America) but is also available as Natura (Canada) and G. Baldwin and Co.(United Kingdom). We can buy a 76oz (2kg) box for $5.49.

Using Borax HE Laundry Soap

Using Unscented Laundry Soap for HE washers1 Bar Laundry Soap (large bar like 14 oz)

Laundry bar soaps are available in the following brands: Fels Naptha, Ivory, Zote, Sunlight and many others. They all seem to work fine and are all different sizes. The first time you use a new bar you can go by the weight (or volume) after it is grated. We use a no name laundry soap bar from a bulk foods store at a cost of $2.79 per bar. Some of these bar soaps can still be found in the laundry section of your local grocery store.

1 Cup Oxygen Cleaner Powder

oxygen cleanerOxygen cleaning power is made from hydrogen peroxide and sodium percarbonate. Hydrogen peroxide is the stuff we use commonly for wound care and oral care. Sodium percarbonte is made by combining sodium carbonate (which is washing soda) and peroxide. Both of these substances are used in many eco-friendly cleaners as the byproducts are water, oxygen and washing soda when they are mixed with water. The most common brand of oxygen cleaner is OxiClean but it is also marketed as Oxyper and OxyBoost. Oxyboost is a Natural Choices product and is a bit cheaper than the OxiClean brand.

Oxygen cleaners used for homemade laundry soap


INSTRUCTIONS:

STEP 1

grating soap for powdered HE laundry detergentUsing a fine grater, grate 1 BAR OF SOAP as fine as possible and add to blender or mixer but DO NOT BLEND OR MIX.

If you have a multi sided grater use the grater with the smallest holes. The finer the soap is the better as it will mix in your mixer/blender and the better it will dissolve in cold water. Don’t use the citrus zester as it will clog and just drive you crazy.

Graters are very cheap and it makes sense to go out and buy one (with tiny holes) that you only use for your new HE laundry soap.

It makes sense to do the grating in a cool room or on a cool day as the soap will be soft and sticky if it is too warm.

 

STEP 2

Add 1 CUP OF WASHING SODA and 1 CUP OF BORAX (if you want) to your blender/mixer and blend to a fine powder.

 

Add washing soda and borax

STEP 3

Add 1 CUP OF OXICLEAN (or other oxygen powder) and mix with a spoon
(do not blend the Oxygen powder in a blender as it is already fine and it will make nasty dust)

Add OxiClean or other power oxygen cleaner

HE (high efficiency) laundry soap ready for useSTEP 4

Dump your new laundry detergent into a 1 liter mason jar and shake a bit.

picture of powdered HE washer soap

CELEBRATE…YOU ARE DONE!

Makes about 5 Cups (1250ml) per batch.

Use 1/16 cup (30ml) (1 tablespoon) per load.


The Cost of Powder Homemade Laundry Soap/Detergent for HE Machines

finished powdered he soap1 Cup (250ml) of Washing Soda – $1.08
(based on 55oz or 3kg for $5.95)

1 Cup (250 ml) of Borax – $1.22
(based on 76oz or 2kg available for $5.49)

1 Cup (125ml) OxiClean – $0.88
(based on 10lbs or 4.6kg available for $8.97)

1 Bar Laundry Soap – $2.79
(based on one full bar bought for $2.79)

TOTAL COST = $5.97 PER BATCH

EACH BATCH IS GOOD FOR ABOUT 40 LOADS

PER LOAD COST = 15 CENTS ($0.15)


TIPS WHEN USING HOMEMADE POWDER LAUNDRY  DETERGENT FOR HE WASHERS:

  • Your homemade dry laundry detergent can either be added to the drum/tub or the regular tray of most HE washing machines. 99% of the time the manufacturer recommends the tray.
  • You need to careful though because some front loading HE washers have specific instructions that say you should not add detergent the drum/tub. We are not sure why but it is best to follow the owner’s manual or manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If you have hard water simply add more washing soda to your homemade HE laundry soap. As washing soda is a water softener, a little extra makes your washing machine work much better if your water is full of minerals.
  • If your clothes are particularly dirty (you have kids who play in the mud or your spouse is a mechanic) add more soap to your recipe. We have doubled the normal amount of bar soap with no problems at all. I would be hesitant to use more than double, as you may get more suds/foam than desired. Another trick is to add a tablespoon of vinegar to your detergent just before you start the wash cycle. It will foam up like crazy but seems to work a miracle with certain stains.
  • Speaking of vinegar, until someone gives us a better idea, you can put vinegar in the fabric softener compartment to remove smells like urine if you have children or others who wet their beds. It makes a HUGE difference.

Enjoy your new homemade powder laundry soap !

And PLEASE leave a comment below whether positive or negative.

Leave a Comment

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill May 7, 2016 at 12:31 am

I just purchased an HE washer. The manual says not using HE detergent can ruin parts in the washer. So… What ingredient(s) would do that? Is it the oxygen cleaner that makes this HE?

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Jody Graham May 12, 2016 at 1:58 pm

Hi Jill,
Thanks for your comment. The only difference between HE and non-HE detergent is the amount of suds the detergent makes. Read the following Why use HE Laundry Detergent?. High efficiency washing machines do not use much water and cannot get rid of the suds regular laundry soaps make. The only way non-HE laundry detergent could hurt your washer is that suds could build up and overflow onto sensitive electronics or the main electrical motor. Hope you enjoy your new machine…Jody

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Mathea April 4, 2016 at 3:33 pm

Do u have to grind it up to a powder? I just got an HE washer today and I already have my soap made (been making it for years) only I don’t use the fels naptha in it at all it irritates my daughter’s skin but I use baking soda washing soda and oxy and the fabric softener crystals and boraxe do I have to grind it up to use it in my new HE washer?

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Jody Graham April 7, 2016 at 8:13 am

Hi Mathea,

Thanks for your comment. You should not have to grind any of your ingredients into a powder for your HE front loader. Just mix together as you have been and add to washer. The main reason for all the grinding is the bar of laundry soap and trying to distribute it evenly into the mixture. The soap is heavier than all the other ingredients. The ingredients you are using are roughly the same weight making a blender unnecessary. Take Care….Jody

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nancy u March 11, 2016 at 12:40 am

Here is how ive been making mine about 3 years. Never had any problems. Grate 1 lg pink zote, letting it sit on a paper plate or newspaper a few days. It will dry out and get crumbly. Your house will smell so good! Add 2 cups each borax and washing soda. Put small amounts at a time in a food processor, blender, or for mine, magic bullet. It pulverizes to a very fine powder. But be careful about opening the top. Until the powder settles, it will puff out. Dont breathe it. I do mine outside. I wash in warm or hot water. 2 tab, or 4 tab for stinky dirty loads. I use white vinegar in a downy ball, and clean the washer once a month with affresh tablets. Ive put this into pretty containers with a 2 tab coffee scoop, bow or ribbon on top, and given for christmas gifts. I usually add a scoop of oxy clean or biz to my whites, kitchen towels, undies, socks. Sometimes for a scent, I add a small amount of some kinda crystals. But the basic recipe is the zote, wash soda, borax. I love the clean citrisy smell of pink zote. I wont go back to bought detergents. This stuff is wonderful.

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Brandi May 18, 2016 at 10:22 pm

Is the zote ok for sensitive skin? I’m looking to make my own, I can’t use tide, not even the sensitive, it gives me a rash, but I feel like the other detergents don’t clean as well. Also, does it have any effect on the HE washers?

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Jody Graham May 19, 2016 at 11:07 am

Hi Brandi,
We have used Zote before and a few of us in our family are super sensitive. None of the store bought “natural” or “unscented” work for us without causing a rash at the least and eczema at the worst. Tide is horrible no matter what they name it. Using Zote in our recipe has caused no skin issues in any of us nor does it leave a scent on our clothing. Obviously we are all different but it would be worth a try…Jody

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Brandi May 19, 2016 at 7:42 pm

Thank you! Tide is bad, I can’t use any of it and it really stinks because I think it cleans better than anything else. I will definitely be trying this. Thank you again!-Brandi

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Jody Graham May 21, 2016 at 3:16 pm

I agree. Anything made by Tide is made with one thing in mind…profit. They use all the nasties like sodium lauryl sulfate and two or three other suds making compounds. Although they work well, they are very harmful chemicals…Jody

shannon January 30, 2016 at 8:15 am

I make homemade laundry detergent all the time. I’ve found a trick to avoid having to grate the fels naptha bar- dont know if it changes the composition or not, but I’ve been making it for years this way and it works well for me. I cut the bars into 1 inch cubes and put in the microwave on top of parchment paper. Kep an eye on it so you can watch it puff up, like a marshmellow would…. when you look at the pieces and the dont have anymore hard soap edges, let them sit out and cool. Afterwards they will just crumble in your hands, so its easy to put in the blender. Just keep a close eye on it until you have your timing right on the microwave. You dont want it to burn….yuck. 🙂

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Jody Graham February 6, 2016 at 7:40 pm

Great idea Shannon. We do not have a microwave but it sounds like it would work great for those of us who do. Anyone else try this? Let us know…
Thanks,Jody

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Mary Beth Minick January 26, 2016 at 2:10 pm

I noticed Zote is now making laundry flakes. Is it possible to use this and not grate? If so, how would you convert to what is in a bar? Thanks

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Jody Graham February 7, 2016 at 9:34 am

Hi,
Thanks for letting us know that. As long as they are grated to a small enough size to dissolve in your washing machine, they should work great. I will try to find out more about the flakes and come up with a conversion rate. I will let you know as soon as I find the flakes. Do you know how many ounces, grams or cups are in a bag of flakes?
Thanks,Jody

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Chantelle September 8, 2015 at 9:24 am

Hi, I am interested in making this laundry soap. Will it still work in the tray if it is a powder?Is there any way to make a liquid laundry soap for my front load HE washer?

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Jody Graham September 10, 2015 at 11:03 am

Hi Chantelle,
The powdered soap works very well in the tray of a HE front loader. However if you prefer liquid soap you can get the recipe here. I prefer the powdered as it seems to be more consistent in the way it washes clothing, doesn’t need to be cooked and is much easier to make. Take care…Jody

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Tania Kothera April 16, 2014 at 12:35 am

I have followed this recipe for dry soap to a T…. we just bought a new LG HE washer and I did a load of darks with the Normal/Cotton setting… The Fels Naptha soap didn’t dissolve and was stuck to some of the clothing. This washer uses very little water and I’m wondering if you can do without the Fels Naptha soap all together. I would prefer not to make the liquid… sounds like a big mess to me. Suggestions? I hate to go back to buying detergent from the store.

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Jody Graham December 6, 2014 at 8:47 am

I would either cut the Naptha soap recommended in half or make sure it is really finely ground. The new LG HE washer uses almost too little water makking it difficult to rinse away soap.

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Gaylynn March 13, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Does this powder need to be stored in an airtight container? I usually keep my powder in a glass canister with a glass lid and no airtight seal.

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Jody Graham March 17, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Hi,
We store ours in a mason jar that isn’t necessarily airtight. If you live in a dry part of the world I don’t think it matters what you store it in. However if you have a lot a humidity in your home or cottage, the soap will tend to clump into hard pieces. Even if it gets hard you can simply shake the jar and make it loose again. Have a great day…

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Lanie Haugen November 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm

In Step 5 you have 81/2 liters of water. In other parts of the recipe, you have it measured in cups. Would that be 48 cups of water? Or are you saying 8……1/2 liters of water? Just a little confused.

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vapingpoint September 29, 2013 at 10:30 am

This recipe is not a “detergent”(as in man-made manipulated molecules) is it? I am trying to find/make a NON DETERGENT laundry soap! Here your recipe is called a “detergent”. I am hoping it is not.

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Jody Graham October 2, 2013 at 10:17 am

Hi,
Thank you for your comment. I didn’t really know the difference between detergent and soap when I wrote this article. According to your definition I would think all soaps are detergents. Our recipe uses bar laundry soap (man made), Borax (naturally occurring), baking soda (naturally occurring), washing soda (naturally occurring) and oxygen cleaner/peroxide (naturally occurring). Some of the items I just mentioned do occur in nature but the store brands were likely man made. It is hard to get hung up on man made vs. naturally occurring. Cyanide and chlorine are both available in nature but I wouldn’t wash my clothes in them necessarily.

Sorry I can’t give you a better answer. All I can speak for is that we use the powder version and we love it. It cleans our four children’s clothing really well without giving any of us rashes or skin troubles. Half of us have very sensitive skin and would have horrible rashes if we dared use Tide or anything like it…Jody

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zapperoli September 16, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Can u use peroxide intead of oxyclean especially if your making the liquid soap?

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Jody Graham September 16, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Thanks so much for your comment. If you look close you will see there is no oxygen cleaner in the liquid HE detergent. Only the powder soap requires OxiClean.
However, I would definitely add peroxide to the liquid recipe if you need a detergent that is a little stronger. Blood, for example is cleaned very well with peroxide. Most organic stains (grass, blood, tomato juice) respond really well to peroxide. Hope this helps and have a great day!!!

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Brenda September 4, 2013 at 6:11 pm

For powder HE detergent, your ingredient list says “1/2 cup” of oxy, but your directions say “1 cup” of oxy. Which is correct? Thank you.

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Jody Graham September 4, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Sorry about that. It should be 1/2 cup of Oxygen cleaner. I have corrected the page. Thank you for pointing that out and enjoy the powder laundry detergent. It really is amazing.

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