, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Wait, DIY powdered laundry detergent?? Yes! Low-suds (which means it’s safe for HE washers), nice-smelling, *effective, inexpensive powdered laundry detergent?! YES! 🙂

*Johnny Lingo is even more particular about some of his laundry than I am about mine, and he’s happy, so I’m happy!

If you can get past the fact that it’s somewhat messy and time-consuming to make (par for the course for DIY, right?), it cost me less than $40 to make enough to fill a 5-gallon bucket about half full. 2-1/2 gallons of laundry powder is approximately 744 Tbsp, and since you only use 1-2 Tbsp (yes, TBSP) per load, that’s about 372 loads of laundry! (Assuming you use 2 Tbsp for every load, which is unlikely, at least in our house.) Have I got your attention now? 😉 Read on to find out how I made my own powdered laundry detergent in one afternoon.

Several weeks ago I found this recipe from a guest blogger at howdoesshe.com on Pinterest (Not following me on Pinterest yet? You should!), and once we started running low on store-bought detergent, I decided to take the plunge and make my own powdered laundry detergent. Here’s the recipe I ended up with:

1 (4 lb 12 oz / 76 oz) box of Borax
1 (3 lb 7 oz / 55 oz) box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1 (3 lb) tub of OxiClean (optional but highly recommended)
1 (4 lb) box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
6 (5.5 oz) bars of Fels Naptha

I found all of these in the laundry aisle at Walmart.

Following Jen’s suggestion to layer the ingredients to make mixing everything easier, I dumped half of each of the first four ingredients into a 5-gal bucket. Easy peasy.

Now for the hard part: pulverizing the Fels Naptha. Here’s what the bars look like straight from the store:


Here’s what one looks like unwrapped (and sitting on a paper towel):


CAUTION: Unless you have a super-heavy-duty grinder of some sort, I highly recommend placing each bar on a paper towel or paper plate and then popping it into the micro for about a minute. This will soften/dry out the bar and make it easier to grind. Miranda at PinTriedIt tested the crumble method and got good results, but since we’re renting and I’m paranoid about burning out the micro (remember, there are SIX bars of Fels Naptha in this DIY powdered laundry detergent), I just nuked the bars to get them dry and kinda puffy so they wouldn’t be as hard on my food processor (and so they’re easier to get a knife through — cutting a bar straight out of the wrapper gave me a deep, red gouge in my hand that was downright painful). Here’s what the first bar looked like after nuking it for 1 minute:


Crazy, huh? However, after this first bar, the rest of them looked like this:


Not quite as interesting, but they still worked. Make sure you let them all sit and cool off — they’re HOT! This should only take about 20-30 minutes, so have patience, Grasshoppah 😉

Also, I suggest doing this on a day when you can open up your windows for fresh air: nuking the Fels Naptha will produce some pret-ty strong fumes, and unless you want to end up with a headache (like I did — the ending up part, not the wanting part), you’ll want to keep things well ventilated.

After the now-somewhat-puffy-and-mostly-dry bars cooled off, I cut them into chunks and put them into the bowl of my smaller food processor:


It looks like I’m preparing yellow sponge for dinner or something. Weirdness.

Next, using the chopping blade, I pulsed my food processor for what seemed like FOR.E.VER several times to end up w/a coarse powder. (“Coarse” is relative –it’s not confectioner’s sugar fine, but it’s not coarse sea salt texture, either.) It actually turned out about the texture of most commercial powdered laundry detergents, so I called it good. Here’s what it looked like:


Here’s a close-up shot so you have a better idea of the texture:


After each bar, I dumped the resulting yellow powder into the 5-gal bucket with the other ingredients. I did this with the first three bars, then I layered the remainder of the first four ingredients and went back to work on the last three Fels Naptha bars.

Once I had all of the ingredients in the bucket, I tried stirring it with a broomstick. Worked okay, but I had other things I had to get done that day, so I moved on to Plan B: putting the lid on the bucket and rolling the whole thing around on the floor. Worked better. Glam came home and wanted to get in on the fun, so I let her roll the bucket around for a while. What finally worked best IMO was Plan This Wasn’t My Idea: putting the bucket back in the laundry room, prising the lid off, and letting Glam play in the bucket with a scoop — kiddo was entertained, and powered laundry detergent got thoroughly mixed. WIN! 🙂


We’ve been using this for a couple of weeks now — smells nice and works at least as well as the commercial stuff, if not better. Plus I know I’ve saved a bucketload of moolah on laundry supplies, and I won’t have to go through this rigamarole for at least another year, W00T!

What do you think? Will you be trying DIY laundry detergent soon?