Homemade vs bulk bought household staples

I have a friend who periodically organises co-ops to purchase massive amounts of various things, including household cleaners, laundry detergent, loo paper etc. I have participated in these co-ops before and they are great value. I encourage more people to get involved with bulk buying clubs and co-ops in their area, they really do make a difference to the household budget as well as saving on packaging waste.

Recently my sister asked me to show her how to make laundry detergent which is something I used to do regularly and had gotten out of the habit. I was comparing the cost of making it myself vs purchasing through my handy, friendly co-op and realised that for the cost of the ingredients, I could purchase about four litres of laundry detergent or enough ingredients to make about 40 litres of my own. It struck me as a total no-brainer and was a good reminder to go back to making the detergent, especially as it’s really grey water and septic friendly. We wouldn’t want to kill the worms in our Biolytix system.

For those of you interested in the recipe, here ’tis:

Homemade laundry detergent

1 litre water

1 cup pure soap flakes or grated soap (I use Lux brand. If you purchase or make your own Castile soap, the detergent is also vegan/vegetarian friendly)

1/2 cup of Washing Soda (This is not bicarb soda. It’s usually found on a low shelf in the laundry aisle if your supermarket carries it.)

1/2 cup borax (this can be omitted if you like; it’s used as a stain removal booster but it works fine without)

1 10-litre bucket with air tight lid

OPTIONAL: Essential oils in your favourite flavour to scent the detergent. I usually use lavender or eucalyptus if I’m putting them in.


Heat the water to just below boiling in a saucepan. You should be able to see bubbles forming on the bottom of the pan, but it shouldn’t be simmering. You can also use a microwave to heat the water in a suitable container.

Add the soap flakes and stir to dissolve. Try not to agitate the mixture too much as you don’t want to form froth on the surface if you can avoid it.

When the soap is totally dissolved, add the borax (if using) and dissolve. Then add the washing soda and keep stirring. The mixture is ready when the washing soda is also dissolved and it becomes slightly thickened. You should be able to trace the path of your wooden spoon or whisk in it.

Add 15-30 drops of essential oil if you’re using it.

Pour the soap mixture into the 10-litre bucket. Add hot water to the bucket until it’s almost full, making the liquid up to 10 litres total (one litre of soap mix and nine litres of hot water). Stir gently and continuously until the diluted mixture becomes room temperature, otherwise your detergent will split. If this happens, it’s still usable, just gently stir it with a whisk to break up the solid mass at the top of the bucket.

Use half to one scoop from normal powder detergent container, depending on how soiled the load of washing is. I’ve only tried it in Melbourne or rain water, so if you wash in dam water or bore water, I’m not sure how it would work for you. It is very low suds, so suitable for front loading machines.