I started making my own laundry detergent about 6 months ago after seeing several recipes on Pinterest and it has been a journey. If you have made homemade detergent before, you know that it isn’t as pretty as the store-bought kind. Actually, it’s pretty ugly. It separates. It has lumps. It changes color. Some of the ingredients crystallize and never re-dissolve no matter how much you shake it.

Twenty Mule Team Natural Laundry Booster & Multi-Purpose Cleaner-76 oz.

The first recipe I tried (grated soap) didn’t smell good, was annoying to make, and didn’t clean as well as I liked. I tried another recipe (using Dawn dish soap) that cleaned a bit better, but our clothes smelled funny. Like partially washed sweaty gym clothes funny. They went in smelling okay, but came out stinky. Not good.

I tried hotter water. I tried vinegar in the wash water to kill bacteria. It didn’t make a difference. I could use Downy Unstopables to hide the smell, but sometimes it was still there. Besides, that offset any cost savings from making my own detergent. And, our clothes still weren’t as wonderfully clean as I liked. I almost gave up. Okay, I did give up for a bit, until we realized that the cheap bottle of detergent we grabbed from the store was even worse and I threw it out.

So I researched. And I learned that in areas with hard water, Dawn dish soap itself can create a funky smell. Loyal Dawn users started complaining about this a few years ago when the formula changed, probably due to some of the new environmental regulations. So I decided to try a different dish soap than Dawn. I picked up two to try that I knew worked well and that smelled good and, in my experiments, Palmolive Pure+Clean was the winner.

I also saw several recipes that used an oxygen bleach (oxy-clean) to oomph up the cleaning power. But I couldn’t add it to the liquid detergent because liquid activates the oxy-clean. And adding detergent and oxy-clean separately to each wash is a bit of a pain and I knew that hubby wouldn’t do it. So, I needed a dry recipe, but wanted to use liquid dish soap.  Hmmmm…

I decided to experiment. My very first attempt worked and it was fast and simple to make! After two months I can say with certainty that our clothes smell better than they ever have. And, they look brighter than they ever did with commercial detergent thanks to the Oxygen bleach. You know those white shirts you have that have shadowy splotches on them in certain lights? All gone! I love this stuff, and while it costs a little more than some of the homemade recipes out there, it is still much less than the commercial stuff and, in hard water, it cleans better to boot! Besides it is saving the life of all my clothes that previously had to be retired due to dinginess after only a few short years!
Oxiclean Versatile Stain Remover Free, 3 Pounds
So here it is, the amazingly simple and effective solution to my laundry woes.
Hard-Water Laundry Detergent
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda
1/2 cup of Palmolive Clear+Clean
1 cup oxygen bleach – store brand is fine
Mix Borax, Washing Soda, and Palmolive together until a dry, crumbly paste forms. Once ingredients have been well-blended, add the oxygen bleach and again, mix until well-blended.
Add 1-2 TB per load of laundry (less with softer water).
The cost to buy all the ingredients is just under $14 where I live, will last us 7 months, and average cost is $0.05 a load. Compare that to Purex powder – $0.09 a load, Cheer powder – $0.22 or Tide liquid – $0.31 a load!  We are saving from 2-6 times the cost of a commercial detergent!