Cheap Alternative to Laundry Detergent - Cheap Homemade Laundry Detergent Ideas

Cheap Alternative to Laundry Detergent – Cheap Homemade Laundry Detergent Ideas

Are you looking to save money on laundry detergent? With prices rising on most household items, finding a cheap alternative to laundry detergent can help free up some funds. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore several money-saving options you can easily make at home to wash clothes for pennies on the dollar compared to store-bought detergents. Read on to discover how easy and affordable it can be to make your own laundry detergent!

Introduction to Making Homemade Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergent can be expensive, with name brands costing $15-$20 for just a 150oz bottle! When you have a lot of laundry to do and a limited budget, it helps to know of some cheap alternatives you can make at home. The good news is there are tons of DIY laundry detergent recipes out there and most only require a few inexpensive ingredients you may already have.

We’ll cover everything you need to know to start making your own homemade laundry products including:

  • Benefits of homemade detergents
  • Drawbacks to consider
  • Ingredients you’ll need and where to buy them
  • Various recipes for powders and liquids
  • How to use your homemade detergent
  • Tips for best results
  • Frequently asked questions

So if you want to save money on laundry supplies each month, stick around to learn just how easy and affordable it can be to make your own detergents!

Why Make Your Own Laundry Detergent?

Here are some of the main benefits of switching to homemade laundry products:

  • Saves money – Homemade can cost just pennies per load compared to $0.20+ for store-bought
  • Customize for needs – Create scents and formulas ideal for you
  • No harsh chemicals – Control what touches your skin
  • Eco-friendly – Reduce plastic waste from bottles/jugs
  • Use natural cleaners – Ingredients like soap, washing soda, borax
  • Safe for all machines – Gentle on HE and standard washers

When you calculate the cost savings from just a few batches of homemade detergent, it adds up quickly! Even switching just some of your laundry loads to DIY can free up a decent chunk of change each month.

Drawbacks of Homemade Laundry Detergent

However, there are a few potential downsides to using homemade detergent you should know:

  • Time to make – You need to devote time to make it
  • Storage space – Powders/liquids require containers
  • Shorter shelf life – Usually lasts just a few months vs. years
  • Thicker liquids – Can potentially clog HE dispensers
  • Can leave residue – Requires occasional cleaning machine
  • Staining risk – Check for bleeding if using bar soap

Luckily the drawbacks are pretty minor and easy to adapt to with some tweaks. Just be sure to follow tips later on to prevent any issues with clogging or staining.

Now let’s dive into everything you need to know to start whipping up some frugal homemade laundry detergent on the cheap!

Essential Ingredients for DIY Laundry Products

The great thing about making homemade cleaners is that most recipes include common ingredients you can buy affordably at any grocery store. Here are the key items to have on hand:

Bar Soap

One of the main base ingredients for nearly every homemade laundry detergent is bar soap. Most recipes call for a pure soap like Ivory or Castile Bar Soap. Grate it into flakes for powders or melt it down for liquids. Be sure to use plain soap without added moisturizers, fragrance,s or harsh cleaning chemicals.

Washing Soda

Washing soda, or sodium carbonate, works as an alkaline water softener and stain remover. Its cleaning and degreasing properties lend well to homemade laundry products. Washing soda is often confused with baking soda but they are very different! For best results, only use washing soda.


Borax adds extra stain-fighting power, helps brighten laundry, softens hard water mineral buildup that causes soap scum, and acts as a disinfectant. While it’s toxic if ingested directly, borax is safe when diluted in wash water. A little goes a long way toward amplifying cleaning.

Vegetable Glycerin (optional)

Adding just a bit of vegetable glycerin to liquids helps prevent soap separation. If using a foam pump, vegetable glycerin may also improve bubbles and viscosity for better dispensing. Note glycerin can leave an oily residue on dark fabrics so skip using it if this is a concern for your laundry loads.

Cheap Alternative to Laundry Detergent – Options

Laundry day might bring fresh clothes, but the sting of detergent costs can leave you feeling deflated. Fear not, budget-conscious clothes crusaders! This guide uncovers a treasure trove of cheap alternatives to laundry detergent, letting you keep your clothes clean without breaking the bank.

Kitchen Warriors:

  • Baking Soda: This all-natural powerhouse tackles odors, softens water, and brightens whites. Add ½ cup to the drum for a clean boost.
  • Vinegar: Ditch the fabric softener and embrace vinegar’s odor-neutralizing, color-brightening magic. Add 1 cup to the rinse cycle for soft, fresh-smelling clothes.
  • Castile Soap: This versatile wonder bar lathers up beautifully and can be grated or shaved for laundry use. Start with a tablespoon and adjust based on your water hardness and load size.

Scouting the Pantry:

  • Borax: A natural mineral booster, borax enhances cleaning power and softens hard water. Use ½ cup alongside baking soda for an extra punch.
  • Lemon Juice: Bid farewell to stubborn stains with this citrusy champion. Pre-treat stains with diluted lemon juice for effective stain removal.
  • Salt: For delicates and woolens, salt acts as a gentle softener and color protector. Add ¼ cup to the wash cycle to keep your precious fabrics pristine.

Beyond the Basics:

  • DIY Detergent: Craft your own eco-friendly concoction with readily available ingredients. Recipes abound online, catering to specific needs and preferences.
  • Barter & Borrow: Swap homemade detergent with neighbors or borrow a scoop from a friend in a pinch. Community sharing can be a win-win.
  • Buy in Bulk: Opt for large containers or buy store-brand generic detergents for significant cost savings. Just store them correctly to avoid clumping.


  • Test before you trust: Always patch-test any new ingredient on an inconspicuous area of your garment before committing to a full wash.
  • Adjust for hard water: If you have hard water, increase the amount of detergent or borax for optimal cleaning.
  • Clean your machine: A build-up of residue can dull cleaning power. Run a hot vinegar cycle periodically to keep your washer fresh and efficient.

Embrace the freedom of frugal laundry! These alternatives prove that clean clothes needn’t cost a fortune. Experiment, have fun, and discover the budget-friendly joy of a sparkling clean wardrobe.

Bonus Tips:

  • Air-dry clothes whenever possible to save energy and wear and tear.
  • Pre-treat stains promptly for improved removal and to prevent setting.
  • Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible for additional energy savings.

By applying these simple strategies, you can conquer laundry day without draining your wallet. So, let the detergent drain go, and embrace the era of cheap and cheerful clean!

Essential Equipment to Make DIY Laundry Products

Beyond a basic set of measuring cups and spoons, there are a couple useful tools that make homemade laundry product recipes even easier:

  • Graters – Ideal for grating full bars of soap into powdery flakes
  • Food processor – Makes quick work of grating soap into fine flakes
  • 5 gallon buckets with gamma seal lids – Useful for large batch storage of powders or liquids
  • Foam dispensers – Allows easy pouring of thick homemade liquid detergents

While not absolutely necessary, having grater and foam dispenser tools on hand can save lots of time and make your homemade laundry routine more convenient.

Now let’s explore some frugal detergent recipes you can start trying!

Top Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipes

There are a wide variety of DIY laundry detergent options out there from powders to gels and more. I’ll cover some of the easiest tried and true recipes. Let’s start with powders first…

Simple Homemade Laundry Detergent Powder

This straightforward homemade powder contains just 3 ingredients and makes enough detergent for 64 loads for around $0.10 each!


  • 1 bar (4 oz.) bar soap (Fels-Naptha or Castile recommended)
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup borax


  1. Grate bar soap into flakes using a box grater or food processor
  2. In a bowl, mix together grated soap, washing soda, and borax until well blended
  3. Store in an airtight container or 5-gallon bucket up to 6 months
  4. Use 2 Tbsp per standard load

Be sure to use a pure soap without added fragrances, oils, or lotions. Ivory, Kirk’s Castile bar, or Fels-Naptha soap all work great. For best results, avoid detergents with brighteners to prevent bleaching.

The washing soda helps cut grease and soften water while the borax boosts stain removal. Combine with hot water for cleaning power!

This powder dissolves easily in hot or warm water so you can pour it right into your machine’s detergent dispenser drawer per the usual wash routine.

Cost Comparison

HomemadeTide Original Powder
Cost per batch~$3n/a
Loads per batch64 loadsn/a
Cost per load$0.10$0.20
Annual costs for 300 loads$30$60

Over a year, you could save $30 by switching just 100 loads to homemade! Pretty good savings for just a few simple ingredients.

Let’s check out a popular liquid detergent recipe next…

Easy DIY Liquid Laundry Detergent Recipe

Liquid detergents often use a double boiler method to melt bar soap before adding other ingredients. Here’s an easy tried and true homemade liquid recipe that makes enough for 32 loads.


  • 4 cups water
  • 1 bar (4 oz.) Castile soap or bar laundry soap
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup borax
  • Essential oils or lemon juice (optional)


  1. Grate soap bar into a saucepan
  2. Add water and melt soap over low heat, stirring frequently
  3. Once melted and smooth, remove from heat
  4. Stir in washing soda and borax until dissolved
  5. Add 10-15 drops essential oils for scent (optional)
  6. Allow to cool completely then pour into dispenser/ container
  7. Shake gently before each use
  8. Use 1/2 cup per load

The coconut-based Castile bar soaps have a great lather and dissolve easily in water. For something more heavy duty, Fels Naptha Laundry Bar Soap is another top pick as the main soap ingredient. Consider adding some essential oils like lemon or lavender at the end for a light fresh scent.

Let’s compare costs:

Cost Comparison

HomemadeTide Original Liquid
Cost per 32oz batch~$3n/a
Loads per 32oz batch32 loadsn/a
Cost per load$0.09$0.20
Annual cost for 300 loads$27$60

As you can see, the savings of switching add up fast! And it takes just a few minutes to make each batch.

Up next let’s go over some tips to improve performance…

Tips for Making Homemade Laundry Detergent Work Best

To get the best stain fighting cleaning results from your homemade detergent recipes:

  • Use very hot 140°F+ wash water
  • Choose heavy soil setting
  • Add white vinegar to rinse for extra brightening
  • Occasionally clean washer by running a hot heavy duty cycle with 2 cups white vinegar or baking soda and no clothes/detergent
  • Consider a second “booster” rinse if residue is an issue
  • Start with just a few loads first to confirm homemade detergent works well for your needs before making a huge batch
  • Store in sealed container up to 6 months

These extra steps help amplify the stain-fighting ingredients in DIY laundry recipes. While homemade detergents are highly effective for most stains and fabrics, they may require a bit more soaking and rinsing than commercial detergents with added whiteners and brighteners.

Booster rinses with vinegar help eliminate any soap or mineral residue. White vinegar is also a natural fabric softener when used diluted in the rinse cycle.

If clothes come out with white bits or dullness, try the suggested routine changes above. Now let’s go over some frequently asked questions…

FAQs About Homemade Laundry Detergent

Does homemade laundry detergent really work?

Homemade detergent without additives cleans extremely well for most stains and fabrics. Recipes with soap, washing soda, and borax provide effective cleaning power to tackle common food, dirt, grease, and grime stains. They may require more soaking and rinsing than commercial detergents though.

Can you use homemade detergent on HE washers?

Yes, homemade detergent works great on standard top loaders and high efficiency HE machines. Just be sure to use liquid versions to prevent any powder clumping. Occasionally run cleaning cycles to eliminate any mineral residues that may build up over time.

How long does homemade laundry detergent last? 

When stored properly in an airtight container, homemade powder detergent keeps for 3-6 months while liquids last 2-3 months. Heat and humidity reduces shelf life over time.

Why does my laundry smell musty/sour?

If clothes take on a mildew-type stench, the washer likely has built-up grime or soap scum causing bacteria growth. Run a few hot vinegar only rinse cycles and a monthly machine cleaning to eliminate odors. Using too little detergent per load can also cause bacteria buildup so use the recommended amounts.


As you can see, making your own laundry detergent is easy, affordable, and works great for most households’ needs! By switching just some of your weekly loads to DIY detergent, you can quickly realize decent cost savings.

Homemade versions provide an effective eco-friendly cleaning option without the harsh chemicals and excess plastic waste of commercial products. Customize them to your liking with essential oil scents or formulas ideal for your water hardness.

Hope this comprehensive guide gave you everything you need to start enjoying major savings by making your own laundry detergent alternatives right at home! Let us know if you have any other questions.

Happy laundering for less!

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