Frugal Guide to Saving Money with the Laundry

laundry detergent and stain remover

Picture by mpkino – Pixabay

Few people actually enjoy doing the laundry. Not only is it a chore that isn’t very enjoyable, it is also a necessary expense that takes a chunk out of the household budget one or more times each week. Big companies make a lot of money producing and selling detergents and stain removers, usually by charging more than they should. If you want to save money and become more frugal, you can make your own detergent and stain remover. It is easy and much less expensive than you are probably paying at the store.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Major manufacturer’s learned long ago that they could sell more detergent and increase their profits by adding fillers. Some also add perfumes and charge a little more for them, knowing that lots of people will be gullible enough to pay the extra price. Others may simply not know how easy it is to make their own clothing detergent that works better, costs less and isn’t mostly filler. It is likely that the laundry detergent manufacturers don’t want you to know how simple it is to make your own.

Here are the steps:

Put 1 cup of baking soda on a cookie sheet or similar and bake it at 400 F for about an hour and a half, stirring it every 15 minutes. This turns the baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, into washing soda, sodium carbonate. (You can also use washing soda from the store, but that is also sodium carbonate and it is much more expensive than baking soda.)

Allow this to cool, then mix in 1 cup of sodium tetraborate, commonly sold as borax. Borax usually costs less than $7 for a five pound box and there are a lot of cupfuls in each box.

Put this in a food processor and add one bar of Ivory soap, homemade soap, natural soap or any solid hand soap that you prefer. If the soap is scented, the laundry detergent will also be scented, so this is the part where you can experiment a little. The soap should be ground up, grated or peeled, using a potato peeler.

Blend all the ingredients until they are thoroughly mixed and look like they are somewhere between granules and flakes. This is the laundry detergent and although it doesn’t look like it makes much, it is concentrated so it goes a long way.

To use the detergent, simply put 2 tablespoons of the detergent in the washing machine per load of laundry and wash as normal. The sodium is responsible for cleaning the clothing and the soap adds the suds and scent, if you use scented soap. I haven’t had issues with using it on our regular laundry, so this is safe to use on colored fabrics, if they are color fast. It contains no bleaching agents.

I credit my late sweet grandmother for showing me this inexpensive way to make laundry detergent. The difference in the way she made it and the way I make it is that she not only made her own hand soap, which she used in this, she also ground all the ingredients by hand.

After making a batch, the food processor should be thoroughly cleaned with hot water and rinsed well, but the homemade detergent even helps with cleaning the food processor, since the inside will still have a little of the detergent clinging to it.

The last time I made some of this, the total cost for one batch was about a dollar. Not bad for 16-20 loads of laundry, huh?

Homemade Stain Remover

This is an all purpose stain remover we learned to make in the Boy Scouts. It is even simpler to make than the laundry soap, but it does a great job on stains. Simply mix together a cup of dish soap, a cup of household ammonia and a cup of water. Mix this gently as the dish soap tends to foam up. Put this in a spray bottle and use it like you’d use pre-wash stain removers; spraying it on the stain, letting it sit for a couple minutes so it can be absorbed, then wash the clothing as normal.

This stain remover is a natural compliment to the homemade laundry soap, so while it will work with most laundry soaps, it works even better with homemade laundry detergent. Incidentally, the stain remover is also a powerful disinfectant. However, the bottle shouldn’t be used for anything else and it should clearly be labeled that it contains a poison, which liquid ammonia is.

Considering the amount of money that is charged by name brand laundry detergents and stain removers, you can save a substantial amount of money on your laundry by making these products. Your clothing will still come out clean and fresh. Yet this is a step in the right direction toward living frugally.


  1. Gil Camporazo

    This is one of the “life hacks” for every housewife who does the laundry if not everyday, every weekend just like what my wife is doing. This is useful and practical way of saving money for laundery cost.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      Indeed it is. It is especially useful for people who have very limited funds to work with.

  2. Andria Perry

    I have a different recipe and I just got all of the ingredients to make it, in a five gallon bucket.

    But I do like your recipe too!

    I stumbled and pinned this article.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      Sooo…are you going to share your recipe? Huh? Are ya? lol I’m always in favor of saving money here and there. It does add up. I noticed just the other day how expensive a box of Tide or All is. All I could think of was, “Good grief…that is 80% crushed peanut shells, and they want people to pay THAT much for it??” 🙂

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      People are often amazed by how easy the recipes are, even before they consider how much cheaper they are than store-bought alternatives.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      They should be available almost everywhere, except in extremely small villages. Making the detergent and stain remover is also incredibly simple.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      I don’t see how that is competition. If we both have good recipes, a combination of the two must be fantastic. LOL

  3. Jacky Hughes

    I think I am going to try this. It always amazes me how expensive laundry powder or detergent is.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      I agree entirely. It’s strange when you think about it. Back when the laundry detergents at the store were mostly detergents, they cost less than they do now, with all the fillers. A few companies even have the audacity to sell “concentrated” detergent, for more money of course, that isn’t concentrated at all. It simply has less of the fillers in it. The fillers do nothing to make clothes cleaner.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      To be honest, the only reason I can think of is that they don’t know how (unless they read this article or articles like it). It is far simpler than most people think. I’ve thought about mentioning how to make homemade dish soap, but that is almost too simple.

  4. Pat Z Anthony

    @rextrulove Some people we have shared such information with have made it clear they would rather buy than use what can be made at home. You should write about dish soap! We posted how we make soap for a dish washer (on another site) and some said they could not see how it would work. However, some really appreciated knowing there are options!

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      Unfortunately, there will always be people who are dead set on throwing away money on products that are dangerous and also harmful to the environment, rather than taking a couple of minutes to make their own products that are far less harmful and usually don’t hurt the environment. And yet people wonder how come there is so much pollution in the world today???

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *