Homemade Laundry Detergent “Recipes” Based on Different Water/Machine Types

Below you will find “recipes” for homemade laundry detergents provided by different Padded Tush Stats readers. I asked them to provide me with the source of their recipe, if it is from somewhere (I also tried to do some detective work to see if perhaps it was from somewhere else). If you see that one appears like one listed from another website, please let me know as soon as possible so that I can make sure I link up that site. Please also be aware that some of the contents listed in these recipes had a negative effect on your diapers or may void diaper warranties. While I personally do not feel like there is sufficient research correlating the use of these chemicals on diapers specifically, please use at your own risk. Pin Stripes and Polka Dots has a GREAT post that talks about many of these ingredients.

*** Items are those that may lead to premature wear on diapers, so wash at your own risk! Borax is in all of these, which may lead to early wear. See the article above at Pin Stripes and Polka Dots that talks about the abrasiveness of Borax and how dissolving could help with the harshness. You may also want to read this caution article from Thirsties. I am eagerly pursuing actual research that connects these chemicals with damage on diapers, so if you find anything that provides lab or statistical-based evidence, please let me know.

Although washing with some of these natural chemicals may not be ideal for diapers, many have come to the point that due to their water conditions or budget, it is just something they need to do.

Making your own detergent is one way to both reduce costs and to customize your detergent to meet your particular needs. 35 of the 2,098 survey respondents to the Washing Diapers Survey (still open) indicated that they made their own detergent. Overall, the satisfaction score for homemade laundry detergent did score higher than the average score for all detergents.

Homemade laundry detergent versus all other detergents

Those who had front loaders, soft water, and normal water all seemed very satisfied with their detergent (much, much more than those using all detergents).

I asked those who were satisfied with their routine to let me know what their recipes were and here were the responses:

Front loader, unsure of water
1 cup borax***
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup baking soda
1 finely grated bar of Ivory or Dr Bronners
Use 1-2 tablespoons per load
Makes 48 cloth diaper loads/24 regular clothes
(this video seems very similar to this recipe)
Estimated Price: roughly .05 per load

Front Loader, Moderately Hard Water
1 bar fels naprha, grated
1/2 c washing soda
1/2 c borax***
Melt grated soap in 2 qts. Of water on stove top, stirring to melt. In 5 gallon bucket add 2 1/2 gallons of hot tap water, pour hot soapy water into that stirring well. While it’s still liquid-y I pour that into gallon jugs (I use vinegar jugs). Leave lid off overnight the soap will set up a bit like jello.
Use a little less than 1/4 cup.
Makes 3 gallons for $1.50 per gallon.

Top Loader, Hard Water
165 oz washing soda (3 boxes)
96 oz Oxiclean
152 oz Borax ***(2 boxes)
Using 1.5T in the prewash and 3T in the wash cycle, it would do about 100 loads of diapers. Use 2T in regular laundry loads.
Estimated Cost: .31/load (about .15/load for regular laundry)

Top Loader, Moderately Hard Water
1 box washing soda
1 box baking soda
1 box borax***
2 containers of oxyclean***
3 bars Dr Bronners bar soap (or Kirks Castile bar soap)
Estimated price: roughly .05 per load

Front Loader, Normal Water:
One bar shredded Ivory soap
1C.  Borax***
1C. Washing Soda.
Keep it a powder and use about 1/2 a tablespoon.

Front Loader, Normal Water:
I’ve only made my recipe once (as it makes such a big batch!) and it has lasted me a year already (and there is probably another year’s worth left!). I made the recipe from this website the Eco Friendly Family and obviously used the larger batch mentioned. I’ve loved this detergent. It’s so cheap to make. It never leaves any smells afterwards, my diapers are just clean! I only use a 1/2 TB per wash since I have an HE frontloading washer. Here is my exact washing routine in case it helps other HE people (if not HE I would do the same just use normal cycles instead of “delicate” and use 1TB per wash):
1st wash: Delicate setting (because it fills an HE washer with the most water) on cold or warm/cold with 1/2 TB detergent
2nd wash: Normal or SuperWash setting on hot/cold with 1/2 TB detergent
Extra rinse
I’ve never had to strip my diapers due to build up of detergent (they have never leaked from this) but have stripped them after a yeast rash (only after 9 months or so).

Top Loader, Normal Water:
It is very easy:
1 part Borax***
1 part Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1 part oxygen cleaner (any off-brand OxiClean***).
They are all powdered ingredients, so just dump them in a container and stir it up. :) I usually made it with 2 cups of each, and stored it in a 2-qt tupperware container.
To wash, I use 2-3 tablespoons depending on my load size. I also use this same recipe for all of our regular clothes as well. I have been cloth diapering for 22 months, and we have never had any issues with build-up, stinkies, repelling, etc. And all of my diapers are still in good condition (except the seconds quality rump-a-rooz I bought that delaminated). The only ‘issue’ we had is when my son’s urine turned into that super strong toddler urine, and his overnight diapers would be pretty potent. And he also started wetting more heavily, and we had to start doubling up on inserts. But those are hardly issues at all! So overall, everything has been going great for us!

Front Loader, Soft Water
Take a bar of non-oil based soap and microwave it about a minute. I use Dove. Take that and put it in a blender with 2 cups of washing soda and 2 cups of Borax***. Blend it and let it cool. Viola! Makes about 75 loads.

*** Items are those that may lead to premature wear on diapers, so wash at your own risk!

I just want to say a special “Thank You” to all who contributed to this article!

Do you make your own detergent? If so, please share below! Please also fill out this survey on whatever detergent you use. If you got your “recipe” from somewhere, please link up!



  1. says

    I have made my own laundry detergent at times (NYC water, “soft”) for top- or conventional front-loading machines, but I’ve just used Ivory soap straight. (I think once I added a little washing soda or borax, but maybe 1/4 cup of that to 1 cup of soap.) All the recipes I see online are alkali-heavy, and when formulas like that were used commercially, the product was considered cheap & inferior. The large amount of alkali would prematurely degrade fabrics if an effective amount were used — but the amounts of detergent recommended above per load are minuscule! You might as well wash with plain water. What you’re probably seeing with Tbsp. quantities of mostly alkali in the wash is an acid-neutralizing effect, deodorizing the sour smells of laundry but adding hardly any cleaning effect to the water. The high satisfaction ratings show that detergent doesn’t add that much effect to a washing machine, as far as many people notice.

    In the days when laundry detergents were soap-based, the alkali used in the formulas listed above weren’t even the best alkali to use with soap. Sodium silicate of moderate alkalinity (as in Rinso & Persil) worked better than washing soda or borax. BTW, baking soda does practically nothing in conjunction with soap.

  2. Melissa Calo-oy says

    I like Rockin’ Green because it’s a natural detergent without a bunch of additives and weird ingredients, but it’s all ready made. I know myself and it’s just better for me to buy something that’s already all put together! I love the scents, too. It’s fantastic at getting stains and smells right out. http://www.rockingreensoap.com

    • says

      These were all recipes sent in by readers, so we don’t have any personal experience to draw from. I’d probably start with however much you would use on your clothes, and then adjust from there 😉

  3. Michelle Lee says

    I’ve considered homemade detergent but was a little nervous to try them because I didn’t want the wear and tear on diapers and clothes. I’m still a little nervous lol. But if I do decide to try it I’m glad to have all these recipes handy!

  4. Christina says

    I use version 1 from this sight: http://www.freshideamama.com/6/post/2011/09/healthy-penny-pincher-idea-6-homemade-cloth-diaper-detergent.html . I love it, and use it as a ‘booster’ in our regular loads.

    I dissolve the powder in a small bottle with hot water while my diapers are soaking in a cold rinse, then add the dissolved detergent to the wash cycle. Seems to be working well, no smell or staining or damage… though I am newish to cloth diapering, so long term I don’t know yet.

  5. HeirByGrace says

    Thanks so much for these recipes! I haven’t started using homemade detergent yet but look forward to start.

  6. Amanda says

    I recently got a new washer. It is a top loading HE. I also have hard water. What recipe would you recommed?

    • Tara says

      I would probably do the same one as the front loading hard water. You may need to use a little more, but stick with that and if there are still stink issues, use more.

  7. says

    All of these recipes include Borax. I use a similar recipe for my regular clothes. However, the borax will definitely cause premature wear to diapers, especially to elastic. As a cloth diaper retailer, I want to caution you against using any recipe with Borax on your diapers. It is warned against by several manufacturer’s, and it will void your diaper warranty. It will likely get your diapers very clean, but continued use will really destroy your elastic and/or PUL shell.

    • Tara says

      Thanks for the caution, Andrea. Like I caution in the article, that definitely MAY happen to some. I am hoping people contribute more “recipes” with cloth diaper safe items. But there are a few in there, not all of the recipes have borax.

    • Tara says

      Oops, I am wrong, I thought one didn’t have borax. But one caution is for people using borax (and this is referenced in the link given), they can dissolve it first to help avoid it being as abrasive.

        • Tara says

          You just dissolve the detergent right before use. No need to heat. You could just mix it in a tupperware container and pour it in. Whatever is easy peasy.

    • Laura D says

      I find the whole “Borax will ruin your elastic” debate quite interesting as I have been using homemade laundry detergent on all of our clothes (not diapers) for about 4 years and our clothes are in way better condition than they were with commercial detergents. I use Borax as the main ingredient and none of our elastics have worn out on clothes that we are still wearing. I also line dry when possible.

      I wonder if it’s the dryer doing more damage to the clothes than the Borax?

    • Tara says

      Washing soda is made by the same people who make baking soda. You can find it in the laundry care aisle and the box will look the same orange as the arm and hammer box. Oxyclean is discouraged by SOME on diapers (you’ll see a note on the very top of my post about that and there is a great article that talks about Oxyclean at Pin Stripes and Polka Dots). I don’t feel as though there is enough research yet to tell us about that damage. I am hoping my statistics will at least help shed light on the topic. I will run those numbers shortly. But, in the meantime, these people are very satisfied with their routines with Oxyclean–and I would assume part of that satisfaction would be that they are satisfied their diapers aren’t falling apart form damage. HOWEVER, there are a lot of variables involved in that assumption. I really hope to break up those variables soon.


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