Homemade Laundry Detergent for your HE Washer

By , October 8, 2009 9:16 pm
Brands I used

Brands I used


I’m a closet hippie or so I’m told.  Who knew this Army girl had earth-lovin’ tendencies?  My latest project was homemade laundry detergent.  It all started when an Army friend visited and told me all about how her homemade laundry detergent cleaned her clothes better than any name brand detergent.  Did I mention she constantly washes the clothes of her marathoning hubby (think sweat) and her three boys (think dirt)? Her description also included easy and cheap… I was in.

There are hundreds of homemade laundry detergent recipes on the internet. I know… I think I looked at almost all of them.  I opted for a powdered formula instead of a gel because I didn’t have a five-gallon bucket, nor did I really know what I would do with a five-gallon bucket of laundry goo next to my washer.  I also looked specifically for low-sudsing recipes as I have a HE front-loading washing machine.  Here is the recipe I used:

3 Cups Fels-Naptha Bar granules (1 cup equals about 2/3 of a bar)

3 Cups Borax

3 Cups Washing Soda

Mix together and store.  Use 2 Tablespoons per load (1/2 Cup for regular washers).

Chopped up Fels Naptha Bar

Chopped up Fels-Naptha Bar

You probably just thought, Fels-huh?  Believe it or not, I found all of the necessary items in the laundry aisle of my local King Soopers.  The borax and washing soda came in powder form and the Fels-Naptha bars were ridiculously easy to grind up.  The bars break apart with very little pressure (I used a butter knife) and grind into tiny granules with a few pulses of a food processor.  I dumped the three ingredients together in an old plastic bin (first used as a dishwasher tab container) and shook the closed container to mix everything.

Final Product

Final Product

Best part of homemade detergent?  Two tablespoons seriously makes all of my clothes, even the huge loads, SO CLEAN!  Next best part?  Fels-Naptha bars smell fabulous.  Even the kid at the King Soopers checkout said, “Wow, those smell awesome” when ringing everything up.  The bars were $1.30 a piece and the borax and washing soda came out to about 40 cents a cup.  If you can’t find the ingredients at your grocery store, I know they are also available on Amazon.  The hippie in me loves that the detergent is phosphate free and and the mama in me thinks it’s an added plus that the formula is mild on my boys’ sensitive skin.  Did I mention that this stuff really cleans?

Send me your questions as I spent way too much time during toddler naps researching laundry products. Besides a great detergent recipe, I also found out that Mrs. Stewart’s Concentrated Liquid Bluing (small blue bottle also in the laundry aisle) works way better than bleach on light-colored loads and plain old vinegar can replace store-bought fabric softeners.  I’m a huge fan of Mrs. Stewart now and haven’t tried the vinegar trick, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

Well, I’m off to my next hippie project, reusable t-shirt grocery bags.  We’ll see if hubby’s old shirts stand up to the test!

© 2009, FROM MILITARY TO MOM. All rights reserved.


22 Responses to “Homemade Laundry Detergent for your HE Washer”

  1. Amy says:

    Ooh, I want to make it! Can you use it in a regular washing machine or if not do you know of any good recipes? Sounds fabulous.

  2. Amy says:

    P.S. I posted a link to it over on http://www.theanswertowhy.wordpress.com since I thought some of my readers would definitely be interested!

  3. Alyssa says:

    This recipe can totally be used in a regular washer (use 4TBS instead of 2). You won’t have as many bubbles as regular detergent but it will clean the same way. Thanks for reposting the recipe, Ames!

  4. Hollie says:

    You are awesome! I am making this! Thanks girl!

  5. Crystal Warriner says:

    Very cool, I’ll have to try that out!!

  6. Mary says:

    Can’t wait to give this a try! Do you use anything in your dryer for static cling?
    I’m curious about using vinegar as a fabric softener too. Looking forward to your next blog on that one!

  7. Alyssa says:

    Mary, I do use and reuse dryer sheets a couple times for static cling. I’ve had the same box for almost a year! According to reviews, vinegar works really well and the clothes don’t smell like it afterwards. The only warning is that you should never mix it with bleach… icky chemical reaction. Thanks for the post! I’ll let you know how it goes.

  8. So, my dear hippy friend, I actually think I’m gonna try this! Let’s see if the new SuperTarget has these ingredients…thanks for posting this!

  9. Hollie says:

    THE BOMB DOT COM! I know and trust you Alyssa, but one always has to see for himself. My laundry is clean, IT SMELLS fantastic! It’s soft! I feel like little Susie homemaker ’cause I made it myself! AND I saved my self some dough! Thank you for the recipe! Lovin’ it!

  10. Paula says:

    Try vinegar in the washing machine for those stinky dish towels, too. It kills mildew, so they come out smelling fresh again. It seems to make white laundry a bit dingy, especially after a few times being washed with vinegar, but I guess that’s what Mrs. Stewart is for, eh?

  11. Patti says:

    I reuse my fabric softener sheets until they don’t smell anymore. They become pretty flimsy but they work for a long time and take the static out of the load. Tell us more about the vinegar?

  12. Erin says:

    You’ve sold me on it! I bought the ingredients at King Soopers. Now I’ve got to put it all together and see how we like it! Thanks for the info!

  13. Alyssa says:

    Let me know how it goes, Erin!

  14. Lisa says:

    It was great meeting you last night, Alyssa! Thank you for the detergent recipe. I hadn’t found a powder recipe for HE washers before, so this will be great. I will certainly do this once I run out of the detergents I have on hand… Thank you!

  15. Lisa says:

    Oh, and I use vinegar for “fabric softener” once in a while, too. I’ve never noticed any issues with my HE washer from it.

  16. Alyssa says:

    Thanks, Lisa! I’m stocking up on vinegar this weekend. There are so many uses for it.

  17. Michele says:

    Can’t wait to try this! I use vinegar in laundry and it really does help with smells. Also using baking soda helps brighten colors and seems to make whites whiter without using bleach.

  18. Tiffany says:

    Thank you! I recently got a front loading washer and I was disappointed that I had to use special detergent for it. I am allergic to fragarences or chemicals or something (haven’t figured out what yet) and so have been paying more for scent free detergent. I am so excited to find that I can use homemade soap again. :o)

  19. Alyssa says:

    Thanks for the comment, Tiffany! Fels does have a tiny bit of perfume in it, but I haven’t had an issue with my super-sensitive boys. If you think it’s a problem you can always replace the Fels with Dove bars and it should work the same. Good luck!

  20. Wendy says:

    I can’t wait to try this! Had to use Borax as a laundry additive to deal with solids in our water following a city-wide fire hydrant flushing and have kept it up b/c the laundry smells so good. Have been a Fels fan for stain removal so this combo intrigues me.

    How much would folks suggest for a non-HE machine? Thanks.

  21. Alyssa says:

    Thanks for the comment, Wendy! Use a 1/2 cup for non-HE machines.

  22. Marlise says:

    I didn’t think soap was a big expense until I calculated the savings. This is easy, it works great, and my kids like to make it.

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