How to Make Your Own Easy and Cheap DIY Laundry Detergent

When you have kids, laundry is a never-ending chore. When you have kids that are outside all day, every day, laundry is not only never-ending, but hard to get 100% clean.

My oldest child isn’t one who likes to get dirty. Big Man is more of a computer tech kind of guy and would rather read, take a walk, or work on his computer. So when we had him, the worst mess he ever made was when I purposely took him out to stomp in mud puddles or went to the playground after a rainstorm. However, he always had to rush right home, wash his hands, and change his clothes. He HATED being dirty.

Then we had my youngest. Munchkin LOVES dirt. He is the child who has to be outside all the time. He stomps in every puddle, digs in every pile of dirt, climbs every tree, plants the seeds without gloves (so therapeutic, actually. You should try it sometime.), and runs through the woods without a care in the world. Dirt? No problem. Just clean it up by rubbing it in.

Now that we belong to a homeschool group that is completely nature-based and outside, we are in the mud… A LOT. Most days we are in frog ponds, building forts in the woods, running through muddy trails, spending days in the garden, or just rolling through the grass down the perfect hill. Needless to say, our clothes need to be washed with something that will be tough on stains but gentle on the skin.

We have well water that isn’t too hard, but isn’t soft either and our house has a sediment filter, so some laundry detergents just don’t work well. We have tried SO MANY different brands that I can honestly say that we have almost tried them all. As our children grew older, we wanted to go with more natural products since the chemical-laden detergents weren’t really working that well anyway, but finding a natural detergent that was tough enough to remove dried on grass and mud stains proved harder than we thought. In this article, we’ll go over the more natural brands that we tried and what we thought about them. At the end is our favorite (hint: it’s homemade!) and the recipe for it.

Method: We tried this. I wanted to like it, I really did. It worked okay, but some of the smells were too strong and it just didn’t get the heavy dirt stains out. I have to admit that the idea of only using a tiny bit per load intrigued me, but it just didn’t do what it promised. I found myself having to scrub out stains, which I really didn’t have time for.

Seventh Generation: We felt the same for this as we did Method, really. I still use this for my dishes, but I wasn’t too impressed with the laundry detergent. It just didn’t do the job of removing the heavier stains or smells. It worked well for sheets, but my towels still felt dirty and our clothes would still smell or appear to have not been washed.

Meyers: It wasn’t bad, but was just like Method and Seventh Generation. It just didn’t wow me. It did well with lightly soiled clothing, but some of the heavier smells and stains needed more than one washing, which doesn’t make using a natural alternative worth it.

Soap nuts: These actually worked well. The only complaint I had is that they fall apart if you don’t allow them to dry in between washes. They actually surprised me by getting the smells out and getting the heavy dirt stains out as well. If I ever stop making our own, I will go back to these or use English Ivy.

After trying all of the natural alternatives and being less than impressed with the results, we decided that we may as well try a homemade version. It had to be simple, cheap, and actually work. After trying a few, our absolute favorite is actually our very own homemade version that we came up with after seeing all the different versions online! It’s cheap, natural, easy to make, and lasts forever since you only use a small amount per load, one to two tablespoons in fact. It takes out the heavy stains, rinses clean, and leaves no smell or by-product. Plus, it doesn’t use Borax, so it’s earth-friendly.

The ingredients are natural castile soap bars, washing soda, and baking soda. Sometimes I add white vinegar to the rinse cycle for towels or extra smelly things, but not usually. Also, I do add in Oxi-Clean because sometimes kids’ stains are extra tough, but this is completely optional. The formula worked fine without it and I will likely not add it in next time. The total cost comes to around $12.60 for a gallon jar. This jar easily lasts us four months or more. With two kids, we can do up to two loads of laundry each day, so that comes to less than .06 cents per load! Totally worth it.


3 Natural Castile soap bars

1 box of washing soda

1 small 1 pound box of baking soda

3 cups Oxi-Clean (optional)

1 gallon glass jar (this is what we use)

  1. Start by grating the castile soap bars into a large bowl.
  2. Stir in the box of washing soda, baking soda, and oxiclean.
  3. Make sure all ingredients are evenly incorporated.
  4. Store in an air tight glass jar.
  5. Use 1 Tbs for small loads and 2 Tbs for larger loads.

That’s it! You can customize it anyway you want. We have added the scented crystals, but found the smell doesn’t last, so the cost isn’t worth it. If you want a scent, go ahead and try it! We use essential oils on wool dryer balls.

The formula is completely customizable, so feel free to add or change it to what you need for your particular situation, just like we did. If you have really hard water, add in a box of Borax. We don’t use it because we have a septic system and it isn’t exactly good for the environment (it’s not necessarily bad either, but studies show it isn’t as earth-friendly as we’ve been led to believe). We also limit the use of bleach for the same reasons.

If you try this for yourself, leave a comment and let us know!

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