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Make your own High Efficiency laundry detergent

Experimenting and getting creative in the laundry room puts a whole new twist on a traditionally mundane chore. And it makes the whole house smell good with your favorite scent: cinnamon, sandalwood vanilla, orange or any of your favorite essential oils. This article will show you how to make your own laundry detergent and fabric softener in a way that is both economical and personalized.

First, the laundry detergent ingredient list. Please note this recipe is a concentrated, low-suds version and intended for high efficiency washers. Supplies for this recipe can be found at most grocery stores in the laundry detergent section. As with any detergent or soap, test the finished product out on a small hidden area offabric before trying out the whole batch of clothes.

Bar of Fels-Naptha soap

2 cups Borax powder

2 cups washing soda (not to be confused with baking soda)

For equipment, you will need a:


sauce pan

3-5 gallon bucket (lid preferable)


Grate the entire bar of Fels-Naptha soap. (A coarse grater will do the job and take less time.)

Heat in a large saucepan over medium-high heat with 8 to10 cups of water until soap melts.

Add the Borax and washing soda and stir until dissolved.

Pour a gallon of hot water into your bucket and add the heated mixture.

Stir well.

Add enough water to make about 3 gallons (about 3/4 full in a 5-gallon bucket) and stir again.

Let sit overnight and mixture will solidify to a watery gel.

Use a 1/4 cup per load, more for heavily soiled loads. Be sure to switch the soap compartment to the "liquid detergent" setting if your machine has that option available. If you want to infuse a particular scent in your laundry soap, add a few drops of fragrance or essential oil to the detergent after you've put the 1/4 cup detergent in the laundry machine compartment. This is not as effective or economical as scenting the fabric softener alone, but the laundry room will smell wonderful.

For a really tough, dirty load, add 1/4 cup Borax and 1/4 cup washing soda in the "auto soak / pre-wash" compartment. That will take care of just about everything. Be sure to press the "auto soak" button on the front loaders instead of "pre-wash." Auto-soak is more effective in removing stains than the pre-wash cycle.

Here are two choices for inexpensive, scented fabric softener. The second formula works the best, but the first idea works great in a pinch and is good to know.

Fast Fabric Softener (use with the washing machine only):

This fabric softener will also de-odorize the washing machine.

Add 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar to the fabric softener compartment.

Add a few drops of your preferred oil scent. (Essential and fragrance oils can be bought at various craft and health food stores or ordered online at I don't have an affiliation or agreement with this company.)

Last Forever Fabric Softener (use with the dryer only):

1-2 cups of UNSCENTED fabric softener

1-2 cups of water.

Several drops of essential oil or fragrance oil (optional)

Mix well. Cut two sponges from the dollar store in half. Store all in a resealable plastic container.

Throw in 2-4 semi-squeezed sponges per dryer load. It may sound overly diluted, but the mix is plenty strong. One container will last about three months. You may also opt to make several containers at one time with different scent choices. Besides being very inexpensive, a year's worth of laundry detergent ingredients can be stored in a small box and tucked away for rough times. The soap ingredients have a storage life of 5-10 years at least, depending on what the temperature is where they are stored.

Self-reliance and know-how is a satisfying skill. Playing and experimenting in the laundry room adds some new life and interest to a formidable chore. This recipe will prove to be a reliable standby and your friends will appreciate the cost-saving tips you when you pass them on.

Shawn Cannon currently helps teach a stake Book of Mormon class and resides in Grants Pass, Ore., with her husband Joel and their six children. She blogs at