DIY Laundry Detergent Update

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DIY Laundry Detergent Update: You may have read my post here about trying the DIY laundry detergent I had seen all over Pinterest.


About 2 weeks into my experiment I decided to add the Purex Fabric Softener Crystals because I didn’t like the smell of the clothes. It helped some.

I can now say that after using the homemade detergent for 2 months, it is a definite bust. The last couple of weeks our clothes have begun to have a weird sour kind of smell. I thought that maybe it was because I hang them to dry and they were staying damp too long, so I did a few loads and dried them in the dryer–same smell.

I checked my washing machine and even called our water department to have them test our water. The only conclusion that I can come to is that the detergent is the cause. Interestingly enough, my sister who lives in another state and who was using the same recipe that I used, recently had the same problem, so we have both decided to return to purchasing store bought detergent.

I will be buying the cheapest powder brand, which in my area is Sun (around $2.48 for 42 ounces). The box says 40 loads, but I am going to use two tablespoons of detergent for a few loads and see if the clothes are clean. My mother taught me to test the water to see if it feels soapy. If it does, there is enough detergent. [By the way, powder detergent is almost always cheaper than liquid.]


Have you used this homemade detergent recipe? What were your results? Leave a comment. :)


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  1. Jessi P says

    Aw man, sorry it didn’t work for you!
    I use homemade detergent but a different recipe, if you’re interested in trying something else.
    1 c borax
    1 c super washing soda
    1 bar Fels Naptha soap (available in laundry aisle, 97 cents at Wal-Mart) grated

    I use one tablespoon per load, a little more of it’s particularly soiled. Then I use a downy ball with some vinegar in it as a fabric softener. Just toss it in with the wash.

    I’ve been using this recipe for months and my clothes come out smelling fresh and are soft and fluffy. And we have hard water so that’s an accomplishment!

    • Lisa Larrabee says

      I too use this same recipe. I make mine into a liquid. We bought a box of Tide and did a side by side comparison. The Tide didn’t do any better than my homemade soap. And our clothes smelled good. Tge vinegar for fabric softener is a great idea. Might try that but usually I just make a “fabric soft sheet” from a washcloth and a couple of shakes of softener. That “sheet” lasts several loads.

  2. Rachael says

    Probably for the best. I havent seen this pin, but whoever is passing this on doesnt know that Baking Soda will eat you clothes. Its well known in cloth diaper circles that it will put wholes in the cloth after awhile. It’s too harsh. Washing soda is ok though. Sorry it didnt work out. I have tried so many. I’ve ended up buying the generic at Costco. :O)

  3. Annmarie says

    Check out Home Made Laundry Soap on facebook, and email the owner @ I love it, I had clothes that sat dirty that were in storage for over a year and others that had gotten lost in the laundry room and sat dirty for way to long. I felt like 2 tablespoons in a large load worked wonders! I’m also very careful about what I use as I have had severe allergic reactions to detergents in the past. I was really happy with the results and the different fragrances. She loves sending out samples!! Good luck.

    • says

      I use All Free and Clear for my daughter with skin issues and they recently came out with a powder version that is cheaper. As I mentioned in the post, I previously used Sun and so that is what I will return to.

  4. Lisa says

    I also have returned to commercial detergent after trying homemade. I found I could buy detergent on sale for cheaper than a batch of the homemade stuff. My boys also don’t think their clothes are clean unless they have that laundry detergent fragrance either, so I found myself buying expensive additives (like the crystals) to make the homemade smell “better” for them.

  5. Ryanne says

    I’m sorry it didn’t work for you. I have been using homemade detergent for several years with no problems or “smells” at all! I use Ivory soap, Borax and Washing soda. I have done powdered and liquid and love them both. I hope you will try again with a different recipe! I have used #1 and #9. I have also used this one

  6. Jill L says

    I use the homemade laundry soap, but mine doesnt call for the baking soda and I use Ivory soap instead of the Zote and my clothes smell clean… I do still use Downy fabric softener… My household has been using it for over a year now and we love it!!!

  7. says

    Hi Kimberlee,
    I used Ivory soap in my recipe, but like you I’m not found of the smell. It smells good as I add it to the wash, but the smell is quickly diluted. I bought a better brand of dryer sheets and that does give the clothes a fresher smell. As for the clean aspect, I do feel that the clothes are getting clean as I have a 3 year old and the “stains for the day” are coming out of his clothes. I have been using this for about 4 months, but with my next batch I think I will add some essential oils. Thanks for all the great posts!

  8. Candy says

    I’ve used homemade for about 2 years now, but my recipe didn’t have baking soda, and I used Fels Naptha soap. I’ve never had a problem with sour smells. I switch up and use store bought for a few weeks here and there when I find a really good sale on store bought. I have a diesel mechanic hubby, 6 and 4 year old boys, and a 9 month old girl.

  9. Amy says

    I have been using it minus the baking soda its a gel and I love it!!! Clothes smell good and are really soft. I started using it the first of the year!

  10. says

    I use borax, washing soda and Ivory soap (I don’t use baking soda). We have hard water (we do have a water softener too but you can still tell our water is hard) and we have no problems using homemade detergent. I leave it in the powder form when I make it. Also the homemade soap is low sudsing so it wouldn’t feel soapy like regular soap.

  11. Holley says

    That’s sad that your experiment didn’t work. I’ve been using homemade laundry detergent for over a year now and we love it!!!! I use the Duggar’s recipe. I noticed that your ingredients in the picture are different from what I use. Maybe you should give it another try with the Duggar’s recipe!!!

  12. Diane says

    That is one reason I haven’t tried to make homemade detergent yet. I buy Purex which goes on sale for 1.98 for 32 loads but always use less than it says by about 50% and use coupons when they’re available, too. So I can get about 64 loads for a dollar when a dollar off coupon is available. We use Purex just because I have very sensitive skin and can’t handle perfumes or dyes.

    Do you know if anyone has had problems with homemade detergent hurting their machines?

  13. Beckie R says

    I made my own but I didn’t use baking soda just washing soda, borax and fels naptha soap I also added a bit of oxyclean the generic brand. It worked really well.

  14. Samantha says

    I use this detergent and have for a while… I use the Duggar recipe tho and it works good. We haven’t had any weird smells at all. I also use the scent crystals with mine. Another difference is a I use the Felths Naptha soap instead of Zote and I don’t add baking soda to mine. My mom and I both use and neither have had any problems! I’m so sorry you had an issue because it really is a money saver for us.

  15. says

    I have not tried it with the Zote, but I have tried a variation on this recipe that makes a liquid detergent… And just as you did, I found that after a few weeks the clothes had a “funky” smell and I too went back to using store-bought. Now I’m wondering if maybe alternating with “regular” every few weeks would work… Only thing I can figure is that there is some sort of buildup developing on the clothes that causes the smell and the “regular” detergent gets rid of it…

  16. Melanie M. says

    Sorry that you are having smell issues. I’ve made the DIY liquid laundry soap and had no odd odors. Recently I saw on Pinterest a recipe that you can make in smaller batches which uses dish soap/borax/washing soda. It also is working fine.

  17. Audra Curtis says

    I just started using homemade laundry soap again. I quit using it a year ago because my clothes were getting dingy – but they never smelled bad. I’ve added Clorox 2 powder and am hoping that it fixes the problem. My recipe is: 3 bars Fels Naptha, 2 cups washing soda, 2 cups borax and 2 cups Clorox 2. I have a large capacity washer, so I use 3 TBSPs per load. (And 3 kids – so our clothes are pretty dirty!) Maybe you just need to double the amount of soap per load?

  18. Nikki says

    I have been using homemade laundry soap for over a year now and I love it. The recipe I use is 1 bar fels naptha soap grated up. Simmer on the stove in water until it is dissolved then add 1/2 cup borax and 1 cup washing soda. Stir until they are dissolved then add to a 5 gallon bucket. Fill bucket with hot water and stir. Then let set overnight and it will become a watery/gel. It works really well I’m finding my clothes are clean and it works great to use a little soap as a pre treater. It works well in our front loading washer because it doesn’t suds up. I hang my clothes to dry in the summer and dry them in the dryer during winter and have never noticed anything but a slight soap smell. This batch I added a little bit of essential oil to give it a nice scent but that was personal preference. A 5 gallon bucket of this soap lasts my family about 6 months and I have a 2 year old little boy and I”m married to a soldier who comes home covered in grease/oil/hydraulic fluid/who knows what else on a very regular basis. My sister in law introduced me to it and she has been using it much longer than I have.

  19. says

    I have a homemade laundry detergent that is pretty similar to yours except that I use Ivory. I also added some essential oils. It doesn’t leave any kind of scent on my clothes. I use a dryer sheet in the dryer with them sometimes to add a scent. But I have had no problems with it whatsoever. In fact, it has worked wonderfully well. Sorry to hear that it has not worked for you. Perhaps it was the kind of soap you used?

  20. Jamie says

    I used a similar recipe, only mine has the addition of Oxy-clean (well, the knock-off brand.) I have not had the sour smell, but I do like more scented laundry so I’ve started using about a teaspoon of Downey’s Unstoppables in our loads. I also always use a little bleach in my towel loads – they seemed to get that soured smell no matter what detergent I was using. Since I started using the bleach, I have not had that problem.
    Prior to making our own, we stockpiled liquid Purex detergent when it was on sale. It comes to about the same cost as the homemade with the addition of the scent-boosters. I still haven’t decided if we’ll go back to the store bought when this is used up. I like not having all the “additives” (even though I’ve since heard Borax isn’t exactly environmentally friendly, either.) So, the jury’s still out for us. 😉

  21. Jennifer says

    We use homemade detergent and love it. Recently we have been using the felsnaptha soap but dove makes it smell nicer. Didn’t have any problems with it smelling bad tho and our clothes get as clean as with store bought detergent.

  22. says

    I have tried homemade detergent more than once with less than stellar results. The clothes never seemed to get as clean as I thought they should. I agree with using powdered detergent. Besides usually being cheaper, you can get almost all of it out of the box. With liquids, I hate to think of how much is still stuck to the inside of the bottle that I couldn’t get out.

  23. says

    i tried the formula too. i made an entire batch and used all of it. i didn’t notice any bad smell to the clothes but it did cause my husband to have some skin irritation. i also went back to store bought, purex for us.

  24. jody says

    I have been using the diy soap for going on 2 mos as well. i have made several batches and gave a lot of it to family and friends to try. we are raising 3 boys so i need to cut corners where i can. WE ALL DO!!! one twist that i have done is when making mine, i add about 1/4 bottle of store bought laundry soap to the batch AFTER it has set for 24 hours as i am dispensing it into containers…which im so cheap i use 2ltr bottles. I love the smell that the home made has but it dont last on clothes. and i dont use fabric softener on everything so i wanted a lasting smell. So i tried adding some store bought to the batch and it works fine for me! A trick one of my friends recently told me that she does which i have yet to try. She has no desire to use home made stuff…what she does is gets the powder stuff (she uses arm& hammer but i assume it would work with any powder) she keeps a large yogurt container on her washer, as the load is filling up she fills up the container with water and then adds 1/4 of the recommended amount of soap and let it dissolve. she said its just like using liquid but cheaper. I, personally have not tried that as i am perfectly happy with my 1/2 home made soap. but i have been keeping my eye on sale adds for powder soap…ill give it a shot once i find my fav soap on sale!

  25. Evelyn says

    I’ve been using a similar recipe, although not with baking soda, for a couple of years now, and I’ve never had a smelly problem. I actually love the fact that there isn’t really any scent at all!

  26. Patti says

    When I used homemade laundry detergent, it made our clothes turn gray. I thought perhaps it was not washing out well or something. I am glad to see you also have had problems. It is just not worth it to me to have my clothes look bad to save some $$. I’d rather try to find laundry detergent on sale and save my pennies elsewhere.

  27. Julie says

    I’ve noticed with either homemade detergent or natural store bought detergent, my clothes not only smell like they have NOT been washed but my whites become very dull and dingy. I’m not a fan.

  28. teresa says

    I have a feeling the zote soap is not rinsing well (after seeing how it caked up on the grater) and that is causing the sour smell. You may have a build up of it in the washing machine.

    I would thoroughly clean the washing machine to remove any soap scum. “Ask Anna” has a tutorial of how to clean the washing machine on her blog. If your machine has a filter, it might be clogged too.

    Also adding vinegar to a downy ball will help to strip out any soap scum from the clothes and help them to smell better.

    Love your blog :)

  29. says

    I have been using the laundry detergent recipe that can be found on the Duggars’ website for about six weeks now and I have not noticed an off smell or problems with cleaning. I don’t know if it matters, but the recipe I have does not call for baking soda and I just used the bar soap I had on hand (Dial, I think.) It is nearly scentless, which works for us.

  30. says

    I never noticed a sour smell….ours used Borax, Washing Soda, and (grated) Ivory bar soap. I will say that I thought the clothes looked a bit more dingy (I don’t use bleach). And we use vinegar as a fabric softener. I noticed the gunk build up in my machine after using this….I have gone back to All free and clear (my kids have sensitive skin) as I just don’t have the time to deal with it anymore…..

  31. Katie C. says

    We used a DIY detergent and a DIY softner for about 4 monthes. The one I used was a combination of washing soda, borox and a laundry soap that I grated. The clothes seemed clean but not “clean” at the same time. They were stiff and didn’t smell good. I too noticed a sour smell no matter how I dried the clothes. After staying with a dear friend for vacation and washing our clothes with her detergent, we decided to switch back to the store bought stuff. Our clothes smell clean and feel cleaner. I use way less than I used to. But it was a great learning experiment. Can’t say I will try it again though.

  32. jody says

    another thing…i noticed u have the zote soap in the pic…i havent tried using that, i use the Fels Naptha soap which, in my area is like 99 cents a bar. I use 1/2 a bar per batch that i make. maybe using a different bar of soap may change the smell for u?

    One thing im going to try soon is adding some of the fabric softener crystals (i prefer purex to the rest, not only cheaper i just like the scents better) to the batches and hopefully it will change up the smell!!!!

  33. Christine says

    I will be trying a version of my own, loosely based on this and the Duggar mom’s recipe, it will have baking soda, washing soda, an off brand oxy clean, and fels-naptha.

  34. Michelle says

    We have used our homemade detergent for at least 6 months & we really like it. We add a few drops of lavendar essential oil. We make the liquid version.

  35. jenniF says

    I used 4C Borax, 2C washing soda, 1 bar of Zote, and 1 C of oxy clean (or $1 store brand) I found it worked just fine. I did use Liquid fabric softener. We have extremely hard water here.

  36. Jessica Y says

    Here is an interesting article. Apparently, the founder of Seventh Generation says you don’t really need detergent at all for most loads. I have an HE washer and use the tiniest fraction of some liquid eco/natural detergent from Sam’s for every load. I add a little more and some vinegar for the undie loads and everything seems to be clean. I bet the bottle of detergent is going on 6 months for a family of 6. That has got to be as cheap and definitely easier than making my own.

  37. mandy says

    Don’t hang it up yet! I’m on my 3rd kind. The first one I quit because it wasn’t getting clothes clean. The 2nd one I loved but had to make more almost weekly. The third one is perfect! I can tell you, one with fels naptha ks the key!

  38. leah says

    Too bad! I’ve been making my own soap for over a year and a half and love it!
    I use:
    1 cup Borax,
    1 cup washing soda
    and 1 finely grated soap bar (ivory) – mix it all together.
    I use it as a powder detergent, about 1 tbsp per load (soI think the proportions are a bit different than your recipe) and then use white vinegar for fabric softener in every load. (*in an HE washer)
    Figured I’m saving around $200/year (up here in Canada)
    Last fall I ran out of ingredients so grabbed some Tide that I had left over and my husband thought I had put away his work clothes without washing them – it was pretty bad. Glad we found something that works on work clothes and baby/toddler ones too! Hope you find something soon too :)

  39. Andrea says

    I have used homemade detergent for 8 years and have never had that happen…………My recipe does not have baking soda in it and I use a liquid one. I would never go back even taught my kids how to do it in case I end up sick! I do when I have it add essential oil to the laundry soap too………..usually lavender but I have not had any for a long time now.

  40. Leah Blomberg says

    I use the fels napatha bar (grated), hot water, 1 c of washing soda, 1/2 c of borax in mine & so far I havent had a problem with our clothes. I have been using this recipe since september. Hope u find something that works.

  41. says

    I’ve never made laundry detergent. I buy a big box of powdered laundry detergent at Sam’s Club, but I have been wanting to make my own. Did you make the liquid kind or powdered? I’m leaning more towards making powdered if I ever get around to it.

  42. Kim W says

    I’m sorry you had a bad experience with DIY laundry soap. I use it and love it. I have learned a couple of things over the year I’ve used it. I much prefer liquid over powder. I felt that the powder did a very poor job at cleaning. Fels Naptha is WAY BETTER than Zote. I thought the Zote left a residue on our clothes. These are just my thoughts. I know people who love the powder and hate liquid. If you want the recipe it’s the one on the Duggar family website. The ingredients are borax, waging soda, fels Naptha and water. The fels Naptha has a pretty strong scent but it doesn’t seem to still be there when the clothes come out of the wash.

  43. Danabeth Suber says

    I have used this same recipe for about 8 months. It works for us. I do ad the store brand/OxyClean to the recipe. I used The Duggar’s liquid recipe before this one. I like the powder better.

  44. Christie says

    I wonder what recipe you are using because i’ve been using my home made stuff for about 2 months too and its worked great and doesnt have a weird smell at all.

  45. Christie says

    Oh by the way, you are supposed to you WASHING soda… not baking soda.. its a HUGE difference… Its definitely not the same thing. Also I used Fels Naptha

  46. Jenifer Beck says

    Have you considered trying soap nuts? I have started using them in the last 2 months and LOVE them! They even leave my baby’s cloth diapers clean and without any smell. You can add essential oils to them if you enjoy the smell but my son has sensitive skin so we don’t.

  47. Donna says


    I’m personally loving my detergent and have been using it since mid November. I have three kids and do a TON of laundry and not once have I had my clothes smell sour. I will say, that the clothes don’t really have any smell at all….sour or exceedingly “fresh.” They are, though, clean. I’m coming to the end of the first batch I made (will have lasted me 5 months…which works out to about $3 per month) and will def. make another. I did use the Fels-Naptha soap and Arm & Hammer baking soda…dont know if that made a difference.

    • rachel says

      I have used homemade detergent for two years and clothes have never smelled sour. I agree with Donna’s description. My recipe uses Fels Naptha bar soap and washing soda( not baking soda).

  48. Andrea says

    I have to agree with both people who posted above me. Swap the baking soda for the Are & Hammer Super Washing Soda and you should be good to go.

  49. Diana says

    I have used a version of this and have had wonderful results. I used Ivory Soap and not Zote because I like the smell and it seems to rinse better. We also put a bottle of purex crystals in it, to help with static, but I do like the smell. I am sorry it didn’t work for you, we love it. I have a static issue and read about putting balls of aluminum foil in the dryer. Sounds odd to me but we are willing to try it. Thanks for your blog. Love it.

  50. says

    I make ours by dissolving borax, washing soda, and fels naphtha soap in water. I’ve used it for months and it works great! I’m pretty sure that you’re not supposed to put baking soda in a washing machine. I can clog everything up. I add about a quarter cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle too. I takes away all smells and is an awesome fabric softener! I’ve never had a sour smell issue though.

    • says

      I also use the borax, washing soda and fels naphtha kind with 1/4 cup vinegar “softener”. I’ve used it for four years and haven’t had an issue. Between making batches (because I’m a procrastinator :) I have just used baking soda and vinegar and that actually works just as well. I just like the smell of the fels naphtha… it makes it more “laundry” smelling.

      I do know that I have extremely hard water. Not sure if that makes a difference?

  51. Bridget says

    I’ve been using a similar homemade detergent for a few months now. I’ve liked it, clothes come out clean and fluffy. I noticed that there was no scent which I like so I started using a liquid homemade fabric softener in the washer. I have small children with lots of stains on their clothes and even without using my homemade stain remover their clothes come out mostly stain free. I usually let theirs sock for a few hours. The only time I have noticed a sour smell is when I’ve left them damp for too long, and I’ve only noticed that on my towels.

  52. says

    Kimberlee- I was thinking the same thing about the Zote. We use Fels Naptha bars in ours. We’ve been using it for 4 months now, and truly love it! What I have found interesting and opposite of what you found is that if I let the clothes sit in the washer ( and I have on multiple occasions), they really don’t smell like mildew. That was surprising, because with Tide, I would easily smell that mildew-y smell. Also maybe take out the baking soda. Here is the blog where I found the recipe I use. It is probably the same one many people use… Hope that helps! (Oh and we still use generic dryer sheets, and occasionally use bleach on our whites).

    • Jenn says

      This is the recipe we use too – the dry mix at the bottom of the post – and have never had a problem with it (sour smell-wise). I use plain old white vinegar in my Downy ball as a fabric softener, and a Bounce bar in the dryer for static – both leave no scent at all on our clothes (we all have sensitive noses so can’t do scents). I have found that whites do tend to get dingy after a while so need an occasional bleach wash. Otherwise, I love it, and it is lasting forever.

    • Tammy H. says

      I use Fels Naptha in ours as well, and love it! I have 4 children under the age of 6, and a back yard with lots of dirt, and have had no problem getting play clothes clean. I do, however, use bleach on the white socks, but have decided that the next time I buy socks for playing in the back yard, they will be black! I never had to bleach my kids’ socks until we had a back yard with lots of dirt.

  53. Michelle Lubbers says
    Above is the liquid recipe I use, and I have never had a problem with smells? I love my homemade detergent almost as much as I love the price. I use it in my HE front loader with great results. I don’t even add the essential oils most of the time or any fabric softener (no sheets in the dryer either, they gum up the sensors). It’s too bad you couldn’t make this work out for you.

  54. says

    I am so anxious to try this but other recipes I have read suggested to grate a bar of my favorite soap for the added scent. Maybe worth a shot. But ill repost when I’ve competed my batch. Good luck!! =D

  55. Jessica says

    I’ve been using homemade laundry detergent for over a year.
    My recipe uses
    1 c Borax
    1 c Washing Soda
    1 bar of soap (I normally use Bronners because we try to do Fair Trade when we can)
    In my HE front loader I only need 1 TSP per load so it goes a long way. I also use vinegar as fabric softener.

    No problems with smells in our laundry, except if I’ve left them in the machine for to long!

    For those who commented that their clothes were dingy after using homemade – that’s because homemade detergents don’t have optical brighteners in them. Basically commercial detergents put in stuff that makes you think your clothes still look bright, optical illusions. Using homemade long enough will strip your clothes of that and leave them how they actually are.

  56. Claudia Lewis says

    When I purchased my current washer, I was told to only use powdered detergent. Don’t really remember why but I have done what they say.

  57. Jessica says

    Try THIS recipe hun:

    1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated
    1/2 bar Ivory soap, grated
    (*hint, 1/3 bar Fels Naptha is the same size as 1/2 bar Ivory!)
    1/2 cup Borax
    1/2 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda)

    Use 1 Tbsp per load (a heaping tbsp for extra large/dirty loads) and a double batch of the recipe fits perfectly into an empty coffee tin!

    I’ve been using this recipe for more than a year (still have my ORIGINAL boxes of Borax and washing soda, though they’re getting LOW!) and I’ve never had my clothes smell funny or not feel clean.

    The Fels Naptha is a “tough” soap that’ll get out the dirt and grim and the Ivory is a “soft” soap that’ll keep things feeling nice and soft.

    OH! And I broke down the costs! It was about $10 upfront for everything. The finished recipe makes about 2 cups or roughly 30 tbsp. Each batch of recipe costs about $1.50 so that breaks down to about $.05 a load. For my area, the cheapest store bought liquid detergent costs $.25/load and the cheapest store bought powdered detergent costs about $.21/load. So 4 to 5 times what my laundry detergent costs me! Good luck!

  58. Melanee says

    I love my DIY detergent! I use Zote soap, Washing Soda, Borax & Oxi Clean in my mix…. I also use a liquid fabric softener that leaves my clothes smelling yummy & super soft.

  59. peggy cooper says

    The ingredients I use are 3 bars of Fels-Naptha soap, 3 lb. box Oxi-Clean, 4 lb. 12-oz. box Mule Team Borax, 3 lb. 7-oz. Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda for the basics. I then added a bar of Irish Spring for extra scent and a 3 lb. 4-oz. box of powdered laundry detergent such as Surf or Gain. I use about 1/3 of the scoop that came in the Oxi-Clean box per load. I have always heard that suds in the washer are not always best. I have used this for over two months and I cannot even tell that any was taken out of my container. For my fabric softener, I use the Suave conditioner, vinegar and water. Vinegar is good for clothing. My clothes smell fresh whether hung out or put into the dryer. But I do use more than the 2 Tbsp. suggested on Pinterest. I have made this for friends who love it as well. It works for me and I hope you can get it to work for your family. I don’t think I could go back to buying it in the store again. When making your own fabric softener, I use the 22.5 oz. Suave conditioner, 3 cups distilled white vinegar and 6 cups of water. The everlasting sunshine conditioner makes the laundry smell like it hung out on the line even when put into the dryer. I think that just using a little more detergent will help.

  60. says

    I’ve made a liquid version with fels-naptha, washing soda, and borax. It works great on my cloth diapers (although I still use oxyclean in that load). I don’t normally add oxyclean to my other loads and they all come out great. My mom and aunt have been using it as well and are happy with it. I use vinegar as a softener on my diapers, but not in other loads. I have not noticed my clothes having a smell.
    My mom and I have always used the perfume free, dye free detergents due to sensitive skin and have had no problems with this recipe.
    You can find the recipe I used here:

  61. Abbigail says

    I use fels naptha in mine and love it. I was still using fabric softener but just ran out so next trip to the store I’m buying vinegar to use as a softener. It’s hard for me to get used tothe fact that there is no definite smell but no sour smells here. And I spent 7 dollars total for 1 bar and the 2 boxes of course I’ll have to keep buying the .97 cent bar but I made my first batch beginning of november and I’ll prob use till end of April. So cost is about 2 $ for 6 mths. I have 4 kids and a stinky dog I do lots of laundry. Sorry that didn’t work out but I would try and find a recipe that does work it’s worth the savings.

  62. Natasha says

    I use the Duggar liquid recipe, with Fels Naptha soap, and I’ve loved the results this past year. I gave my grandmother some, but she said it gave her clothes a smell. She stopped using it. I have city water & she has well water…idk if that could be the difference. Lots if people I know use this recipe & love it.

  63. says

    I am so a fan of just using a little and making it stretch. So happy to see some “back up”…It takes me a ton of time to get through a big bottle of cheap stuff. I do take a bar of soap, any soap in bar form, and scrub fresh stains. BEST EVER. I am not sure why but it even gets off baby poo, my toughest stain! Thank you for sharing. Love your blog.

  64. Chris says

    I don’t have time to read all the comments, so someone might have mentioned this already. I had the same problem. (I make only dry detergent, don’t cook or add water. You only have to use about 1 or 2 tablespoons per load. I don’t like the idea of having a big 5 gallon bucket setting around.) Anyway, after a few months, my laundry did not smell clean. I just used whatever soap I had. Now I use fels-naphtha. It smells much better.

  65. kadee says

    I tried homemade laundry detergent. I made at least 3 different batches, both powder and liquid. I really, REALLY wanted to love it, but I couldn’t even like it. I never had an odor problem, but my clothes never looked clean. They were dingy and stains wouldn’t come out. I tried oxy-clean, different amounts of the detergent, different brands of soap, and we even have a water softener. My mom had the same problems. I reallly wish I liked it, but for now, I’m sticking with the store bought kind. :-(

  66. Christina Butler says

    I use the liquid form with fels Naptha and have been using it for a couple of years and love it. My clothes come clean. About every second or third load I add brite White whiter to my white load. I tried the vinegar as softener but felt like it weakens my clothes over time so I went back to dryer sheets. I tried the powders but didn’t feel like my clothes got as clean.

  67. Amber says

    I used the powder for a long time, then I ran into a problem. We have a septic tank (because we live in the country), and it backed up. When we had it pumped, there was a layer of powder across the top. Our septic guy said that no one that has a tank (rather than a sewer) should be using any type of powder because it kills the good bacteria that helps decompose our waste. So I am stuck with the liquid. I do use as little as possible with each load. I may have to try the homemade liquid detergent

  68. Nicole Abrazian says

    Sorry that it didn’t work out for you. I have used homemade laundry detergent for almost a year (recipe courtesy of the Duggar family). I have never encountered the smell problem even if I do “forget” about them in the washer.

  69. Rach says

    I have used my recipe-ivory, washing soda, borax-for over a year. My clothes either smell great–or don’t have a smell at all. I also,however, add vinegar and baking soda to my laundry when needed. My hubby is VERY picky about the cleanliness and smell of his clothes and he has never complained—that says alot!! We have used it for well water and tap water. I have many friends who use the liquid kind and have for several years and have no problems either. We can only use All-free and clear–so it has saved us a ton of $$$.

  70. says

    For my detergent I use a box of borax, a box of super washing soda, 3 small tubs of the sun brand oxy and 2 bars of fels naptha. Maybe it is the baking soda? I haven’t had the issue with a sour smell at all

  71. Rach says

    I agree about the Zote-I think I’d try something else… and I have never seen a recipe that called for baking soda either. Just a thought…

  72. Courtney Brand says

    I’ve been using a DIY soap for about two months too, and I LOVE it! I used Fels Naptha, Borax, Super Washing Soda, Oxy Clean, and I use 1/3 of a cup of vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser. We have EXTREMELY hard water where I live, so the Baking Soda seriously helps.

  73. says

    I have been using my own homemade laundry soap for about a year and haven’t had any problems. I use washing soda and Fels Naptha instead. Maybe that is the difference. The first few weeks you could tell a huge difference in the softness. I have some very, very dirty clothes to wash I might add. My husband works in the oil field and some days….oh boy. If it works on my laundry, it’ll work for anyone. When I was researching laundry soaps to find out how I wanted to make mine, I ran across some interesting information about commercial detergents and decided to make the switch not just because of cost. Many of them have petroleum surfactants and some of the powdered detergents even have saw dust as a filler. I strongly encourage you to try some more recipes until you find something that works for your family.

  74. Angie says

    My family (extended family which includes 8 people) have been using the liquid for a year now. We JUST now used the end of our powders and have to replace. I didn’t do the math, but it doesn’t take alot when I compare it to the 20 dollars a bottle of the only stuff we can use due to allergies. My sister has even taken to using it for her dishwasher (good results, except spotty glass. She hand washes any she uses. I will be doing the same.) and using it in her carpet shampooer (with great results!).

    We also dilute our softener and spray on a old burp cloth (left over from baby-days) and use it for our dryer sheets. The bottle the used to not even make it a week lasts 3 months now! We also use dryer balls to shorten drying time.

    I hang MANY of my clothes (things I’m afraid of shrinkage on) and they turn out perfectly fine, unless you are apt to leaving them sit in the washer. Then, as with any detergent you get a sour smell.

  75. Cristina says

    I have made my homemade laundry detergent and used it for 2 months and love it. I did use dryer sheets when I dried them in my dryer. However, this is the recipe I used…
    1 bar of soap (original Ivory or I used Dove)
    1 cup Arm&Hammer WASHING SODA (Walmart’s Detergent Aisle)
    1/2 cup Team20 Mule BORAX (Walmart’s Detergent Aisle)
    Shave down 1 bar of soap ( I used a cheese grater)
    Add shavings to 6 cups of boiling water and stir for 10 minutes
    Turn off heat and let sit with lid on for an additional 10 min
    Add 4 1/2 gallon of warm water to a 5 gallon bucket and stir in WASHING SODA & BORAX
    add in soap mixture and stir well
    Let sit for 24 hours (this is important, the mix needs to thicken)
    Mixture with have a thick overlay the next day
    If you put the mixture into a container with a dispenser, just make sure to shake well before each use because it does settle!
    The mixture should be a little lumpy and a cloudy white color.
    I made it in February and just now made my second batch for when I finish my first. I like it!

  76. Jennifer Rooney says

    Hi Kimberlee,

    I too use The Duggars Family recipe for liquid laundry detergent and love it. You only use Borax, Washing Soda, and Fels-Naptha soap. I keep it in a 5 gallon container in my laundry room and fill up my dispenser ( an old detergent bottle) with 1/2 of the homemade detergent and 1/2 hot water…shake and I am good to go. It took me about 5 minutes to make and the scent is wonderful. I also notice that if my clothes sit for a long time in the washer they still smell wonderful not mildewy. You should try this recipe!!!!

  77. Jennifer says

    I used it for about 3 years. But then I had to stop. I used the liquid version and my whites were turning a weird shade and I felt were not getting very clean. We have well water and use a water softener. I now use Tide Free and Clear and am reasonably happy. It is very difficult these days where I live to find powder from any company. I definitely miss the cheapness of making your own, but when your clothes aren’t getting clean…

  78. says

    I’m also thinking it is the soap. I’ve been using this recipe for several months now and we like it better than the store bought. No sour smells (and I’m bad about leaving things in the washer). The Fels-Naptha doesn’t leave that build-up when grated like the zote appeared to do. For a test run here’s a smaller recipe: 3 c. Borax, 2 c. baking soda, 2 c. washing soda, 1 bar Fels-Naptha (grated)

  79. Jackie Arza says

    I have been using homemade detergent for about 8 months. I too have found no smell really at all with our recipe. I got my recipe from my sister-in-law, who found it on the Duggar’s website. I don’t have kids, but my husband hunts and does a lot of work outside and it gets the clothes clean.

  80. Beth says

    I love soap nuts. I have used them for about 3 years. I love them and since I have totally converted all my laundry to them my husbands eczema has vanished. I will occasioanally add a bit of vinegar to the laundry for really gross clothes from my young kids but mostly just use plain soap nuts.

  81. Manddi says

    We use SA8 Bioquest(through what used to be Amway) and I spend only $41 for a box of powdered detergent. It says 150 loads but I have a HE washer and use only 1/4 a scoop of detergent so the box last me just over a year normally.

  82. says

    I am so happy I stumbled upon your blog. I have truly enjoyed the information you have to share :) I really wanted to let you know that like many others I use a homemade recipe with Fels Naptha soap that is dissolved in hot water. I found the recipe @ The great thing about Jillee is that she does all of the trial and error for you. She has many great home made cleaning solutions and she tries each one out and tells you what her results were. A lot of times she will even try something new if her first attempt doesn’t work and give you the new results. I like to refer to her as a genius. I wanted to take this opportunity to share what I feel is valuable information with you and your readers since making your own soaps can save you so much money.

    In addition, I too couldn’t handle the fact that the homemade soap doesn’t have a fragrance. I went to Michael’s and purchased some essential oil for about $2.49 and you only have to use a few drops to make your laundry smell fabulous again.

  83. doris hargrove says

    I have been using it for over a year now, as do my 2 grandaughters and their family. We love it. I put about 1/2 cup white vinegar in the fabric softener place in my washer. Try that and see if it helps the smell. I have used both ivory and fels naptha. however, i think i like the fels naptha better.

  84. Rebekah W says

    I used the homemade soap for awhile (washing soda, borax, fels naptha) and my clothes, too started to smell. It was awful. Then my son’s eczema flared up horrible and I have no idea which ingredient was the cause. I’ve gone back to Arm & Hammer free & clear.

  85. Mandi says

    if you re-try this recipe using all the above advice of swapping out the baking soda for the washing soda, and you find you still don’t like the clothes…. try swapping out the fels naptha for a cup of oxy booster such as oxy clean (walmart carries the Sun brand version of oxyclean for about 1/2 the price). And I completely agree on rinsing with vinegar. I mix up a batch of a 15 oz bottle of suave conditioner, 2 cups of vinegar, and 2 cups of water. Whisk together and store in empty 50 oz Downy jug. Works great!!

  86. Mandi says

    And if forgot one more thing….if you want to finish using that huge batch you made so as to not waste it….add oxy booster to the rest of it, 1 tbsp per load. this will get rid of the smell.

  87. karen b says

    I too have used homemade laundry detergrent. I will have to say, not totally impressed either. I have noticed a smell also. My recipe doesn’t call for the baking soda, so that wouldn’t be my problem like for some others. I have used it off & on for over a year & what I do is use it for about a month then switch to arm & hammer powder(one of the only kinds we can used due to allergies- some of us break out severly bad) for about a month. I too have noticed a smell w/ fels-naptha & thought about switching to ivory. Also my husband is a dairy farmer & his clothes doesn’t keep as clean looking when I was exclusevly using the homemade. I HATE dingy looking clothes. Will have to say I will continue to use it some because of the cheap factor. Good luck in finding something your comfortable w/.

  88. lacey says

    I also tried the homemade powder detergent and hated it, my whites started looking off-white. So now I mix the homemade powder with store bought powder detergent 50/50. I also mix fabric softener 50/50 with vinegar. My clothes come out smelling clean and keeps costs down.

  89. Beth says

    I still use my homemade laundry detergent. But mine is not a powder. I make it a liquid (or gel). I do not use the zote soap you have in the picture so I don’t know if that makes a difference or not. I have used the Fels-Naptha but I am currently branching out into pretty smelling soaps just to see if I like it more.
    The biggest change I made to my homemade soap was adding a scoop of Oxyclean to the recipe. This definitely gave it a more sudsy appearance.
    However, the loads do not smell wonderful like Tide did. I DO USE DOWNEY to help w the static, softness and of course the wonderful smell we all crave.
    I am trying out a new homemade fabric softner but the vinegar, although a 50% mix is still not a desired scent! I will probably go back to Downey.
    I have tried cheaper store brands in the past and 1)I did not like the scent, 2)they did not clean well, 3) they left a powdery residue on the clothes.
    So. I am content w my DIY laundry soap. I will probably keep tweaking it but overall, I am happy to be saving at least $20 a month!

    • Wendy C. says

      I use Fels-Naptha too. I like it’s fragrance. I also use vinegar in the rinse. I haven’t had any problems with odors. I don’t get the overly perfumed smell that you get with some detergents, but that’s a plus for us since some of my family members have allergies.

  90. Vienna Brewer says

    That’s strange you were getting a bad smell. Borax is a wonderful deodarizer. I use Ivory bars. I love the clean smell. Did you try different bar soaps?
    I love my homade recipe. I guess I eyeball equal parts borax, washing soda, and grated Ivory soap bars. Really I would try a different barsoap before I gave up. You can even use the pretty stuff when it goes on sale at Tuesday Morning.
    I’ve made it in liquid form and used it in the dishwasher with great results. Maybe you were using too much?

  91. Melinda says

    we use the Fels-Naptha too, but I splurge on the Downy liquid softener because I like it and gives just enough scent…we have used this soap for two years and only turn to mass produced because I didn’t make the homemade in time for laundry day…we have five children and hubby is a welder and no complaints or bad reactions…we eyeball the Borax and washing soda to and also make the liquid because our washer is old and doesn’t handle powder detergent very well…we’ve tweaked the recipe for our needs…

  92. Jessica says

    I put vinegar in mine and use a bar of Dr. Bronner’s hemp soap (comes in different scents) and also use some Fels Naptha. I measure out the ingredients and have found that I don’t need fabric softener except for in unusual circumstances and that everything comes out clean and fresh smelling. We’ve been doing this for 3 months now and have saved a lot of money. We have a family of 6 and it’s gentle enough that no one gets the “itchies”. Here is what I use:
    Laundry Detergent


    1 C Borax
    1 ½ C Baking Soda
    1 C Super Washing Soda
    ½ C White Vinegar
    1 bar grated Castile Soap OR 1 ½ C Fels Naptha
    Essential Oils for scent (or can use scented castile soap and skip essential oil)


    On medium-high heat, in a large pot, simmer 1 quart of pure water along with the grated castile soap, stirring continuously, until melted. Do not allow to boil. Remove pot from heat and add remaining ingredients stirring vigorously until dissolved. Pour contents of pot into a 5 gallon bucket and begin to slowly add 2 gallons of pure water while continuing to stir. Let laundry soap sit for 24 hours prior to use (this allows it to thicken).

    **Use ½ cup of laundry soap per load**.


    After the 24 hr thickening period, you may use a funnel to transfer soap into alternative storage bottles or leave in 5 gallon bucket.

    This is a low suds recipe and is completely safe for high efficiency machines.

    After soap has cooled, it may be too thick for your liking. You can add water until desired consistency, remember that it is supposed to be gel-like.

    For the brightest laundry, pour white vinegar in fabric softener compartment with each load.

  93. Allison says

    I’m not sure if anyone has posted this…

    The likely culprit of the smell is your fabric softner. It leaves a coating on the inner drum of your washing machine, the residue builds up and mildew flourishes. To get rid of it, obviously you have to stop using liquid fabric softner…. Run a few loads of hot water through your machine with nothing but borax and vinegar. Repeat periodically. If you want a fabric softner in your wash use vinegar. As for scenting your soap, use essential oils. Personally I use dryer sheets to add a little clean scent. I’ve been making laundry detergent for almost 4 years and now when I’m on a walk in my neighborhood and someone is drying their clothes… All the perfume that comes out of their vent makes me sick. Similarly when I have borrowed a friends washer and had my clothes covered in her Tide detergent, had a headache all day and actually grew frustrated with the constant smell. You will be shocked how you loathe Store bought laundry detergent once you become accustomed to the homemade version. Hope this helps and you give it another try!

    • says

      Thanks Allison. I don’t personally use liquid fabric softener, but this is a helpful tip for those who do. I added about a tablespoon of the Purex Crystals to some of my laundry loads when I used the homemade laundry detergent to make the clothes smell better. It didn’t really help. :)

  94. Allison says

    Here is an interesting forum on cleaning your washing machine, definitely check out the pics one of them posted.
    I should also add, that I use oxiclean to get the grime out. I have a 1 and 3 year old… Rarely do I have issues getting their clothes clean. Currently I am using the concentrated soap cream on pinterest, had been using the Duggar’s recipe. I use Kirk’s Castille soap and it’s an HE front load washer. To answer the person who asked if you can use it in an HE, yes, it’s low suds, just use 1/2 the recommended amount in your washer.

  95. Mandy Martin says

    There is a recipie I use that I adore, it works great. It’s from makes 10 gallons though we leave it concentrate 5 gallon buckets. after almost 4 months, with the same bucket, no odd smell or anything.

    1/2 C Borax
    1 C Soda Ash (Washing Soda, same thing)
    1 Fels Naptha bar.

    That’s it. Grate and melt the bar in 4 C water on stove, In 5 gallon bucket ad the Borax and Soda Ash, half fill with warm water, stir till disolved, add the melted bar mix, stir, then fill the rest of the way with water.

    After 12 hrs, stir and put some in clean empty laundry jug. 1/4c per load, shake well before each load.

    Fabric softenr, I won’t give up my sheets and my dryer so I take my fav liquid, in air tight container put 1 part liquid fabric softner to 2 parts water, add a couple inexpensive sponges cut in half (Ocello has the best for this). When you toss clothing in the dyer, give the sponge a couple squeezes (not enough to dry it out, it still needs to be a bit damp) and toss in the dryer. Works great, and it’s cheap.

  96. says

    I have been using The Duggars recipe for over a year now. I recently noticed that sour smell on some of my clothes, so I took the recent $2 wisk coupon and bought a bottle of wisk. I am not sure, but I think some of the clothes I washed with the wisk also have the sour smell. I hope to figure it out soon so my kids will quit bringing me more laundry that smells bad.

    • Linda says

      My son is on well water and I am on town water and we both had our laundry smell sour after washing with the homemade laundry detergent. What is making this terrible smell? We had to wash our laundry again. That is not saving money if we have to do this. Please does anyone know what to do when this happens. I have made my soap using water. Now I am going to try using it dry. Please give me any suggestions.

  97. Garry says

    I wonder if those getting the sour smell are using water that’s too cold. The homemade detergents aren’t formulated for cold water the way the store bought ones are.

      • Frances says

        We use the liquid product. It actually leaves my clothes feeling cleaner but not as washed out looking as regular liquid. We use warm water for every wash except towels. We use hot for those because towels are breeding grounds for nasty things. I will never go back to regular detergent. :)

  98. Christy says

    Hmm – I have used homemade detergent for 4 years (except for the 9 months that I used 20 bottles of Wisk I got for free with coupons – lol).
    The only time I noticed a sour smell, I cleaned the washer and it was gone after that.
    I also mostly use cold water – except for whites and towels.
    The detergent I use is 1 box of borax, 1 box of washing soda, 1 small container of oxy-clean, 2 bars of Ivory soap – grated. I also added some Purex Crystals to the last 2 batches. I mix it in a 5 gallon bucket and then put it into smaller airtight containers.

  99. Anne says

    I have used the powdered detergent for about 4 months now. It is all I use. I won’t go back! However, my recipe doesn’t have baking soda in it. I use oxyclean poweder instead of the baking soda. I never have an issue with smell.

  100. says

    I have been using a similar recipe, only without the baking soda. I also use Fels Naptha Soap, but I am not sure if that has anything to do with it. My washing maching smells stinky after a while (could be the hard water we have in Florida), so I clean it every other month. I run it on a hot cycle with two cups of bleach, one hot cycle with two cups of vinegar, and one cycle with just hot water. I also happen to use homemade fabric softener, and I think the vinegar may help break the soap down better.

  101. Jennifer says

    I can tell you that, along with the others above, I’ve been using our own detergent for about 3 years now! I am also a couponer….and won’t even take laundry detergent if it’s free! I know our clothes are cleaner! I’ve never heard of someone’s clothes coming out ‘sour’ smelling….that’s weird! I don’t know if it is the baking soda you’re using along with the washing soda….but borax, washing soda (or we use pH UP for pools, same thing…sodium carbonate!!) and fels-naptha and I’ve got laundry detergent that works better than Tide will EVER work! I’ve done a side by side comparison too! My husband spilled chocolate ice cream all down a good shirt….and I thought this is the best opportunity to test it…if it doesn’t work, I’ll just buy him a new shirt! We washed it with Tide…stain was still there! Then I washed it with the our soap…and it was GONE!! I couldn’t believe it….so, I was convinced there! I really wished it would have worked for you….it’s good to know what is REALLY in your soap and what is being put on our skin! Thanks for all you do….I enjoy the blog and your menu planning….it’s got me motivated to menu plan and actually cook, which is totally new for me! lol God bless!

  102. Nicolette says

    I make my own powder with ivory, borax and washing soda, but I still get the “dirty” smell on our clothes, my husbands cologne still stinks on clean clothes and my daughters accident pee smells are still on them. I’ve use vinegar and apple cider vinegar in rinse and I’ve tried in the wash too- still no dice. Any suggestions? I’ve also threw in lavender oil into the rinse cycle and helped a little bit… I don’t know what the deal is. With my cloth diapers too I have to double rinse and boil and hang dry them to not smell like ammonia! I’m thinking I might have to boil our clothes at this rate! My kids have horrible allergies too so no softner and no scented anything unnatural… So weird I can use essential oils. Can anyone help?

    • says

      I don’t know if you saw my update Nicolette, but we have stopped using the DIY detergent and have returned to using ALL Free and Clear for the family members with allergy symptoms (I wash their clothes separately). Everyone else uses the cheapest powder detergent, which in our area is Sun. Hope this helps.

  103. Chrisha Dolan says

    Hi, I just wanted to say that I have been using homemade laundry detergent for about three years now and haven’t had any issues with smell. My only concern is I think colors fade a bit faster but that may be my choice of cheaper clothing. I have used, Oil of Olay, Fells Naptha (not my favorite scent), Dr. Bronners Castile and several others. No smell issues….I have also added essential oils to mine for fragrance but I don’t think it is necessary. I won’t be going back to store bought unless I get really lazy or busy.

  104. J.D. says

    I use Sun and add vinegar and baking soda to it. It works like a charm.
    I also use vinegar as a fabric softener, an added benefit beside being so inexpensive is that
    your can use it on your towels and they soften without loosing their
    water absorbing ability, as many fabric softeners seem to add a coating to the cotton that affects that.


  105. Sarah says

    AGREED! I had a sour smell as well. I had to soak in vinegar overnight and rewash with a store bought detergent to get the smell to go.

  106. Sarah N. says

    I use home made laundry soap too and have never had a sour smell but I use the following recipe:

    1/2 cup of Dr. Bronners (unscented liquid soap, you could use scented)
    4 cups Baking soda
    1/4 cup Soda ash
    1 cup Hydrogen peroxide (I think this is the active ingredient in oxyclean but am not sure)
    Then just enough water to moisten everything together. Store in a bucket/bottle with a lid. Scale the quantities up to make more. 1 cup is equal to 16 tablespoons. I use 1/8 cup of detergent per load or 2 table spoons per full load of laundry.

    We have “hard” water so the baking soda softens it. If you have soft water you may not need as much of it.

    Also that “funky” smell on your clothing may be from the following:
    1) Too much soap in the wash that doesn’t completely rinse out. That is why when using store detergent you have to “strip” cloth diapers and towels periodically.
    2) If your water heater is set low and it is cold (so your pipes are cold) the water may not be really good and hot by the time it gets to your machine in the morning. Since you do one load a day in the morning it could be in lukewarm water. Check your water heating setting and turn it up (uses a bit more gas $) or run the washer after showers.

  107. Amber says

    I made that same exact recipe. Unfortunately, I put the OxyClean in it & I hate it! It makes ours clothes looks so faded! I’ve had to buy numerous color boosters to keep our clothes looking nice! I do not have a problem with the rest of the recipe, though. I used fels-nappa (spelling) bars instead of site, though. Smells clean and clothes seem to be clean. Lasted about 6 months so far. I’ll be making it again without oxyclean. Is there stain remover that I can add to recipe that isn’t oxyclean, I wonder?

  108. says

    I used the duggars recipe for liquid and found I was using waay to much to get them clean and that the sour smell happened. I think I discovered it was because of our hard water. Borax helps, so I tried adding more Borax and it helped. I haven’t kept it up, but since I have most of the ingredients I am hoping to try it again after we move. I also use Dr. Bronners soap, because the fragrance of the felsNampa was too much for me when I was grating!

  109. Lori says

    I save on dryer sheets. Use a square piece of fabric and spray 5-9 squirts of fabric softener on it. Place the cloth dryer sheet in the dryer and reuse/respray as long as the cloth holds up. Periodically wash the dryer sheet to get rid of buildup. One bottle of fabric softener will now go a LONG way.

  110. Jessiqa says

    For years I used Xtra laundry detergent because it was the cheapest liquid detergent I could find. About 9 months after moving to our new house (with its own used washer) the washer itself took on that terrible smell, and it would not go away even after 2 rounds of commercial washing machine cleaners (Afresh and Tide) and running it with just hot water and a whole bottle of bleach. Since switching to my homemade laundry detergent the smell is gone! Here’s my recipe: Place 1 cup borax and 1 cup washing soda in a clean 1 gallon milk jug, fill halfway with HOT water, and shake until dissolved. Add 3/4 cup liquid dish soap (any brand should work, I use Mrs. Meyer’s in rosemary because I like the scent and it’s all natural), then fill the rest of the way with cold water. I use about 1/4 cup per large load.

    • Tamala says

      Jessica – When you say “liquid dish soap” do you mean the type you wash dishes by hand with? Or liquid dishWASHER soap? Just want to make sure because this recipe sounds very doable! Thanks!

    • Michelle says

      Does the dish soap create a high sudsing action during the wash cicle? I’m asking because I have a front load HE washer.

  111. says

    I’ll throw my hat in the ring on this one.

    Like many others, I’ve made the DIY laundry soap for years. In the beginning, there was an issue with a smell, but I quickly learned that by adding some OxyClean and regularly cleaning my HE washer on a hot cleaning cycle, I could rid myself of that odd, lingering sour smell.

    With that said – many people I personally know have also tried to make their own laundry soap, and it seems that every person’s experience is different. I tried tracking who had an HE washer, who washed in cold water, who cleaned their machines, who had hard water, etc. The variables were so numerous, I gave up.

    I did notice that those with very hard water typically had the least desirable results. Our water, I discovered isn’t just hard – it’s downright *crunchy* on the water hardness scale.

    Now that I’ve learned how to tweak it for our circumstance, I love it and will probably never go back to commercial detergents unless I am too sick or too lazy to make it!

  112. kathy says

    have been using the liquid homemade laundry soap. i have used both zote and fels naptha. i have had no problems at all. i no longer need to use fabric softener at all.i made the diy wool dryer balls and they are great. my clothes just smell clean. my husband and son dont want to smell like lavender or lemons. no sour smell at all.

  113. Savannah says

    I have tried using homemade laundry soap both as a liquid and the powder. I first started using the liquid and noticed that I was getting spots on my clothes so I changed to the powder and I seem to still be getting spots on my clothes. Any ideas? Anyone else experience spots on their clothes?

  114. Brandy says

    I absolutely love this recipe. I have been using it for months and find it no different than the other detergent I used to buy. It is definitely cheaper and lasts a lot longer than other detergents. I would highly recommend this recipe for anyone wanting to save money. I have become a frugal person also. I’ve made my own febreeze, cleaners and cook most of our food from scratch.

  115. Adrienne says

    I didn’t read all of the comments, so I don’t know if anybody else mentioned it, but I read at Natural Mom’s Talk Radio that she had the same problem with the weird smell and she found that putting a couple drops of tea tree essential oil really helped. I did the same thing and it worked for me too.

  116. sandra says

    I’ve never had the weird sour smell and I have been using homemade detergent for a few months now. However, I use the liquid kind.

    I use 2 cups of Borax
    2 cups of washing soda
    1/2 cup of Dawn or Gain dish detergent
    Downy Unstoppables to give it that fresh smell.

    I mix all of this up in a 5 gallon bucket with hot water. Once it’s all mixed up, I pour it into 1 gallon jugs and wait for them to gel up.

  117. Susan says

    I used the homemade laundry detergent and after 6 months of using it my whites are very dingy!!! Time to go back to Tide pods!!!

  118. Sandy says

    Hi Kimberlee! I have just started following you.. THANK YOU so much for sharing so much of your struggles and experience! My children are grown, but we have always struggled and I am making the plunge to become more financially free! I am writing you because I already implement a lot of the same things you do, but you have given me some more great ideas.

    I make the laundry soap for almost a year now, and I use Fels Nappa. However, I make the liquid version. We love it! The only thing I do different is I have a Downy ball that I put vinegar in to the fill line and throw in the wash. I still use cheap dryer sheets. Our clothes are clean and smell great! I also discovered if I use the double the amount needed in a SMALL load, my husbands’ dirty grimy work shirts come out cleaner! Hope this helps….It has been a serious money saver for us.

  119. Mary G. says

    I don’t have problems with odors on my clothes, but my teen does. We solve the problem by adding an extra 1/2 cup of baking soda to her load, use warm water, then once the machine begins to agitate, we shut it off for 30+ minutes and let the clothes SOAK.

    I add white vinegar to both the wash AND rinse cycles too. No need for fabric softener that way, so the washing machine doesn’t get that nasty greasy build up, and the dryer stays clean too.

    Also, leave the lid OPEN when not in use, so it dries out thoroughly!

  120. Nicki says

    I, too, have hard water…horribly hard water!!! I have used every recipe out there and eventually stopped using my homemade detergent b/c of the sour smell and dinginess. I have decided to try it again and have made 2 gallons of dry detergent in a large glass canister but this time added 2 bars grated Fels Naptha, 2 bars grated castile soap, 1 box borax, 1 box washing soda, and a container of oxyclean free and clear. I am really hoping for good results.
    I also made the suave conditioner/vinegar fabric softener recipe and am using that with it. I had never thought of the fact the homemade stuff was not really formulated for cold water. I will wash with warm and see if that makes all the difference this time. If I still have problems with our hard water and detergent I will add a container per gallon of purex crystals to the mix. Here’s to success!

    • Terri H says

      this recipe has worked to take the sour smell out of towels for my BFF when she was having the sour smell issue that even regular store bought detergent couldnt get rid of ….she has hard water as well,,this combination has worked ..Ive been using it for months and it works good for our family and many of our friends use this as well..we alternate with the liquid as well too!! try it the baking soda and oxiclean should make a difference with your hard water….:)

      1 (4 lb 12 oz) Box of Borax- laundry booster -Borax will: whiten your whites, soften hard water, remove soap residue from your clothing, neutralize any laundry odors, disinfect clothing, increase the stain removal ability of your detergent
      1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda adds extra cleaning and freshening power remove stains especially greasy stains
      1 (3 lb) Container of OxyClean- brightens laundry,helps to remove odors
      4 (14.1 oz) Bars of Fels Naptha Soap-soap removes stains and powerful cleaning of clothing
      1 (4 lb) Box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda-give you whiter whites, brighter brights, and odor free clothing.
      2 (55 oz) Bottle of Purex Crystals Fabric Softener- (If you are okay with no scent in your clothes, you can omit this)- helps clothing smell so yummy!!

        • amey mcwhorter says

          this is the recipe me and my friend have been using for about 6 months now. we were just visiting and started talking about our soap seems to be leaving our clothes smelling really bad. we live in north florida have hard water so im not sure if thats our problem or not. i have decided to try zote instead of fells naptha next time. she tried ivory soap instead of fells naptha and still got the awful smell and went back to store bought detergent. i still want to try to tweak it somehow cause it saves so much money.

  121. says

    I made the liquid/gel with Fels, but I have been reading that using too much will cause a build-up. For that problem, use Vinegar as a rinse or right in the wash.

    I also have read that some of the smell problems are from front load washers–mold gets in various parts of the gasket seal on the front door and can cause problems with smell. If that is the case, I don’t think going back to regular store bought would solve the problem.

    As for the soaps–Fels and probably Zote contain detergents–not just soap. Ivory doesn’t so I can see where it would work differently. Any skin soap (even if it does contain a detergent) probably doesn’t contain the same high amounts of detergent.

    From what I gather in researching, soap is only one small component of cleaning clothes–there’s an important pH that is really doing most of the work. The soap contains oils that allow the soil particles to stay agitated in the water and off the clothes. Thus, soap bubbles are not important.

    I am quite sure I never get water hot enough to dissolve the bar of Fels. I melted it in water on the stove and that took 15 minutes of very hot water and stirring–so I can’t imagine that the washer would always get the soap part dissolved. I wash in cold a lot and dry on a line.

    I used a “whipped” recipe to keep the finished liquid “gelled.” (You can’t use oxyclean in the recipe if you are whipping it–you have to add it separate if you want it.

    I don’t particularly care for the heavy smell of Fels so I will probably try zote next…even though the smell doesn’t necessarily stay on the clothing, just working with it is such a strong smell!

  122. Sandy says

    Hi Kimberlee! Was just going through your Pinterest boards and saw this pin and read it. I also make homemade laundry detergent. I make the liquid and use Fels Naptha soap. It is made for laundry and is a great stain fighter/treatment. My sister tried the powder form and reported similar results to yours. However, I use a downy ball with vinegar in every load. Been using this almost a year now and have had no trouble with sour or bad odors. Might want to try it again using the liquid and vinegar. I also use dryer sheets for the dryer.

  123. says

    I’ve had increasing issues with the smell as well. Initially my husband thought it was just fleece and that maybe there was a reaction with something in the homemade detergent (we use Borax, Super Washing Soda, baking soda, Fels Naptha and OxiClean). But I’m noticing the smell now on tanks and camis and my fitted Old Navy tees. Does seem like maybe there are some fabrics that are worse. We wash everything in warm/cold except for towels and undies, which we wash in hot. We have soft water. I really don’t want to give up my detergent so hoping to find a solution!

  124. Elizabeth says

    I have recently came across on how to make laundry soap I have been doing loads of research mainly the only reason I’m looking into making my own is because my daughter an I both have extremely sensitive skin and the fragrance free soap is well just overly priced.. I come to the conclusion that I’m going to try several different recipes making about a weeks worth to start out with of each one. But for the smell I have found that one thing that is common in store bought soap is a for of Salt, hydrogen, Ammonia, a couple of other ingredients that cut grease.. But not only grease but mold that can build up over time in the drum of your washing machine.. With the dirt, grease, and mold these can get back into your clothes and cause the smell that you had.. Like many other people suggested that it could be your washing machine that is true.. I suggest take and turning your washer to the hottest setting and pour two cups of ammonia, 2c. Epsom salt dissolved , and 1c. Washing Soda without any clothes run it on a cycle that has a long soak this should help clean your washer and remove build up of the bacteria in your washer. Because even using store bought soaps you can still get bacteria build up that can lead to a dingy(sour) smell.. think about it mold build up in your shower if you don’t clean it regularly it can happen to your washing machine and dishwasher and the build up can cause several problems.

  125. leslie says

    ok, I made the recipe of 1 box each of: borax, washing soda, baking soda, 1 bar zote…blended till fine powder. i used 2 tblsps for large load children’s clothes. warm wash, cold rinse. used 1/2 c vinegar for softener.

    this is my first ever load…tonight. It reeks to high heaven in my whole house like….old cat pee. I have no cat. but golly, the washer is front loading he, less than year old. Never ever ever had smell before. It’s kinda nauseating.

    put load into dryer anyways…this is supposed to work…on a wing and a prayer…dried without any bad smell. no smell good or bad…just no smell and superb softness i have ever felt. static gallore tho. threw it back in on steam cycle and whoa — the bad smell came back.

    i am heart broken. what gives?

    • says

      If you read my update, that was my finding too. I don’t know if it is from the fat in the soap or what, but I am definitely not using the homemade detergent anymore. Hopefully you can get the smell out by using regular detergent.

  126. Tina says

    I have been making my own laundry detergent for a little over a year now. I have made liquid laundry soap one with Zote and the others with Fels Naptha. And I can tell you DO NOT USE ZOTE. It doesn’t have a good smell. I think someone said it smelled like cat pee and that is true. So I dumped that detergent out and went back to Fels Naptha.

  127. Shelley Burge says

    I know many people with front loaders have a terrible problem with sour smells and mold in their machines. The machines must be washed a certain amount of cycles (depends on model) with Hot water and a special cleaner. But what most fail to do is clean the gaskets of the soap scum and mold build up, so it comes right back in no time.
    I have a HE top loader and we leave it open between washes so it can dry out and we run the “pure cycle” (which is our models version of the clean cycle) which uses “VERY HOT” water and we put some vinegar in the drum for added disinfecting power.
    I have been making homemade detergent for over 6 months now and have not experienced any sour smells. My machine has a “ECO warm” setting for water temp and I use that on all washes except for towels and bedding in which I use “VERY HOT”.
    I have tried 2 different recipes, one with ZOTE and one with Fels Nappa. I preferred the Fels Nappa better. I am about to make a new recipe, this time with Dr. Bronners liquid castile soap.
    Regardless the DIY recipe I use white vinegar in rinse cycle for every wash!
    I have read that a dash of salt works well for hard water issues and is also good for color brightness.
    I do not use bleach at all anymore, I use homemade bleach with Hydrogen Peroxide.
    If you still use bleach, DO NOT use vinegar in the cycle. They have a chemical reaction!
    The biggest change I have tried and LOVE is wool dryer balls! No more chemical filled dryer sheets (although I love the way they smell!). You can buy wool dryer balls or make them yourself. Either way they are 100% wool, they suck the dampness out of the clothes and cut down your drying time. The wool balls also eliminate the static cling problem!!! I use Lavender Essential Oils on the dryer balls and keep them in a air tight container between uses to infuse the fragrance, cause EO are expensive! If you do not use the EO, I found my clean clothes come out smelling like the hot dryer drum and were less than yummy.
    Between the DIY detergent, “ECO warm” water setting, the vinegar for rinse cycle/fabric softener, and my 100% wool dryer balls infused with Lavender EO…… I love the way my laundry smells (especially the towels & bedding), I love the way my laundry looks, I love the fact that I am eliminating chemicals from our home and earth….and I am especially loving my grocery bill savings!
    I do know this….everyone’s PH balance is different and will react differently to these homemade recipes. That may be why some people still have arm pit stains or smells in their work clothes. You may have to experiment till you find what works, make smaller batches as trials.
    For me personally, I have allergies and asthma, and my husband and daughter have eczema. The Borax seems to make the eczema itch like crazy (and it is not even dry winter yet) and there is a lot of debate on health concerns of Borax. For my next recipe I will try without the Borax, although I wonder if my clothes will come out as clean? I adore the way the washing soda makes the laundry smell, but the powder of the washing soda really stirs up my asthma every time I scoop it into the washer….that is why I am trying a liquid version this time around. Wish me luck!

  128. Michelle says

    I realize this post is older, but I am going to throw in my two cents. I have used the Duggar Recipe for the powder in the last two washing machines I have had. The first time I tried, I was living in town with a top-loader, and now, I live in the country with another top-loader and well-water with a lot of iron. Both times, I can honestly say that I haven’t had any problems. I use the homemade on sheets, towels, every day clothes, and then I save my “good” detergent for my dress clothes, special care items, etc. I use plain Ivory bar soap, super washing soda, and borax. I don’t use anything fancy. I read on another website that for whites, you can add about a cup of peroxide in the bleach dispenser for extra stain remover. I do wash everything on “warm” though and use my “good” detergent for things that need washed on cold. I still use dryer sheets. Once my dryer sheets are out though, I want to make those wool balls.

    I choose to make detergent because I live about 30 miles away from the stores, and I find it easier to keep the ingredients on hand rather than to have to buy big containers of store-bought detergent when I get groceries.

  129. Merrie says

    I didn’t take the time to read all the comments so maybe someone already told you this: Adding white vinegar to the final rinse will remove all odors. Bonus is that it makes your clothes super soft and you don’t need softener. I do NOT like Zote soap, I use 2-3 bars Fels Naptha. I also DO NOT add baking soda. Just the box of borax, and a box of washing soda. I microwave the fels after cutting into chunks for about two minutes and let it air dry for a day or two and then pulverize it in my ninja. It takes seconds and makes a fine powder. Smells really good and works great! Just add it to the water before you put the clothes in if you have problems with it not disolving. Ive been using it for over a year and will never go back to using THE BIG NAME brand. I found your blog through your Frugality vs Poverty post on Pinterest and couldn’t agree more. Love your blog!

  130. Julie says

    Wow, I can’t see me ever going to all that trouble, and I’m also very picky about smells. I have found if I go to Big Lots Outlet Store, I can get a fragrance free detergent — 125 loads for $6. I used to buy my detergent at Giant Eagle for $6 and it was a much smaller bottle.

    I normally wash one load a day, so that is going to last me 2 months. I think it’s a good deal. The problem is that it’s an outlet store, so it may be gone next time I go. Maybe I should have stocked up.

    I always wash my clothes with warm. The reason I choose warm, is the water comes out faster. If I choose cold, a small stream of water is going into the washer, and it takes forever. But I might switch to cold. I do use hot for whites.

  131. Cherryl says

    It’s the ingredients which clash with each other. Baking soda is a very weak cleaner. You really only need the borax, super washing soda, and the soap. Really, you only need borax if you have hard water. I also use Fels-Naptha instead of Zote soap. My recipe is for mom’s super boss laundry sauce that comes out like whipped butter. This seems to allow the ingredients to more easily dissolve in the wash. Without needing vinegar in the rinse my clothes come out smelling fresh, and then I hang them outside to dry–double-fresh!
    I noticed that you followed a recipe but omitted ingredients. I think it takes a couple of tries with any recipe before you can tinker with them successfully. I do like Zote soap for dishwashing, just never tried it for my laundry yet. It has citronella, which could become a bit funky smelling.

  132. Cherryl says

    It’s the ingredients which clash with each other. Baking soda is a very weak cleaner. You really only need the borax, super washing soda, and the soap. Really, you only need borax if you have hard water. I also use Fels-Naptha instead of Zote soap. My recipe is for mom’s super boss laundry sauce that comes out like whipped butter. This seems to allow the ingredients to more easily dissolve in the wash. Without needing vinegar in the rinse my clothes come out smelling fresh, and then I hang them outside to dry–double-fresh!
    I noticed that you followed a recipe but omitted ingredients. I think it takes a couple of tries with any recipe before you can tinker with them successfully. I do like Zote soap for dishwashing, just never tried it for my laundry yet. It has citronella, which could become a bit funky smelling.

  133. Margaret says

    Hi! I’ve been making this laundry detergent for about 8 months and we were all very happy with it until the last couple of washings. Our clothes started to smell “musty”. The only thing that I forgot to add to my last batch of detergent was Biz and the dollar store oxyclean. I plan on getting them tomorrow and adding them to my detergent. I’m hoping that will put an end to the stench!!

  134. says

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Josh. I had the same problem and I believe I have narrowed it down to using Zote although I do live in an area with hard water so that may also contribute. I have heard the same from other moms concerning ZOTE and I have also heard that the gel recipe is more effective and cheaper but I have never tried homemade laundry detergent since.

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