Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent with Zote

Make your own homemade powdered laundry detergent made from Zote Soap, Washing Soda, and Borax.  Way cheaper than commercial detergent!

During law school I learned to make my own laundry detergent.  I always made the “liquid” kind.  I use the word “liquid” loosely because it was somewhere between a solid and a liquid.  If you’ve used the liquid version of Fels-Naptha, Borax, and Washing Soda, you know the gelatinous chunks of which I speak.

I originally opted for the liquid version because it made more detergent than the powder for the amount of the ingredients used.  We stored it in a 3- or 5-gallon bucket in our mudroom, then ladled it into an empty commercial laundry detergent bottle.  We just made sure to shake it up before using it.  It worked fine.

Several months ago I ran out of our liquid detergent and I bought some commercial detergent to tide us over (no pun intended) until I could make some more.  That bottle finally ran out.  I had laundry waiting and I had all the ingredients on hand.  It was time.

After the laundry discussion in the comments of the debt discussion on making sacrifices, I decided to try a powder this time, which seemed much less daunting.  I didn’t have a full bar of Fels-Naptha, but I did have some Zote.  After a little research I decided on a recipe.

Make your own homemade powdered laundry detergent made from Zote Soap, Washing Soda, and Borax.  Way cheaper than commercial detergent!

Recipe

  • 1 Bar of Zote, finely shredded (14.1 oz)
  • 3 cups Borax (I use 20 Mule Team)
  • 3 cups Washing Soda (I use Arm & Hammer, but it’s not baking soda.  Note the yellow box)

Thanks to Celeste’s comment (on the post I mentioned above), I decided to make the laundry soap in my food processor.  If I would have thought of that, I would have made it months ago.  Grating soap (and inevitably knuckles) is not my favorite chore.

Homemade Laundry Detergent With Zote

A bar of Zote soap is pretty massive, so I cut it in half and did two batches.  I cut each half into three rectangles so that it would fit nicely into the chute of my food processor.

Homemade Laundry Detergent Powder Between the grating disc and the spinning S-blade, the soap was processed into nice granules.

Homemade Laundry Soap with Zote

I added in 1 1/2 cups of Borax and 1 1/2 cups of Washing Soda and processed again so that it mixed together nicely.  I put that into a container and repeated these steps with the other half of the Zote bar.

It made about 9 cups of detergent.  I use a tablespoon or two, depending on how dirty the clothes are and how big the load is.  Zote has a slightly citrusy smell, which I like better than the smell of Fels-Naptha.  So far it is working well and we are very happy with it.  

Cost

For those who haven’t purchased these ingredients before, they are not that hard to come by.  I can pick up all three at Walmart, which is wonderful since I only have to go to one place and Walmart happens to have the best price around on all of the ingredients.  I have links below to these products on Amazon, so you can see them, but they would be much cheaper at Walmart or the grocery store.  They are all found somewhere in or near the laundry section.  Prices below are approximate (but close), since I already had them all on hand and didn’t run out to the store.

The 55 oz washing soda has about 6 cups and the 76 oz borax has about 9.5 cups.  So the washing soda will last for 2 batches of my recipe and the borax will last for 3 batches.  The cost of one batch (that makes about 9 cups of detergent) would be:

Zote $1 + Washing Soda $1.50 + Borax $1.17 = $3.67

9 cups of detergent x 16 Tablespoons per cup = 144 Tablespoons of detergent

Since it doesn’t have any filler, you only need a tablespoon or  two for a load.  Nine cups of detergent will last you a while!  If you use 1 Tbsp per load it will cost 2.5 cents per load.  If you use 2 Tbsp per load it will cost 5 cents per load.  You will likely have some of each, so your average will be somewhere between 2.5 and 5 cents per load.

Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

 How about you?
  • Is making your own laundry detergent worth it to you personally?  
  • Have you made your own laundry detergent?  What’s your favorite recipe?

 

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53 thoughts on “Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent with Zote

  1. I make my own powdered laundry detergent. I decided to do it on a whim. I looked up a recipe and it said the ingredients cost about $30 for 6-12 months worth of detergent, depending on how often you used it. A friend split the cost and detergent with me. We figured worse case scenario we were out $15 bucks. I fell in love with the detergent. She didn’t care for it. She is a little bit of a brand snob so that could be why.

    My recipe is: One box of 20 mule team Borax, One Box of washing Soda, One box of Baking Soda, One tub of Oxy-Clean, 2 Bars of Zote Soap, and two bottles of Crystal smell good stuff (???? its a laundry scent booster, I don’t know the name but I know what the bottle looks like). The total cost of those ingredients last time I bought them (November) was $32.xx. You could make it without the oxyclean or smell good stuff, but I like it because sometimes we have funky gym/work clothes. I food process all of it together and mix it in a big pot. It then fills FIVE protein powder containers. The scoop from the powder is what I use to measure.

    My preferred brand of detergent before I started making my own was WISK. I would buy it anytime it went on sale for $10 and I was lucky if it lasted me 3 weeks. Current batches of the detergent that I make normally last me 7-8 months, and we make a LOT of dirty clothes.

    Also. If I dissolve the detergent in really hot water it makes an AWESOME carpet cleaner.

      1. I forgot to mention that one of my furbabies has skin allergies. He had allergic reactions to Tide, Sun, Etc. Wisk was the only one that wouldn’t cause him to break out in a rash, until I made my own!!

        It is also low sudsing so it works fine in HE washers, just throw it on the clothes not in the dispenser.

    1. Hi Kristia! We haven’t noticed any problems with our whites. My husband wears white dress shirts M-F for work and Sundays for church. It may depend on if you have hard or soft water. I’m no chemist, but I have read that different soaps interact differently with hard or soft water. If you know what kind of water you have, it might be worth it to do a little research in that direction. Some people add oxyclean to their detergent too, which might help.

    2. Look for a product called bluing. It comes in a liquid and all you have to do is add it to a cup of water. Use it in place of bleach and it will make your white dazzling. If you ever looked into powdered detergent you will notice that it has blue specks, it’s the same thing. All detergents have it added to them. If you hang your clothes out on a line they will be even brighter. I use it and love it.

      Here’s a link to it on amazon, but you may be able to find it in a store.

      Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing

  2. I get my ingredients at Walmart, too! Except I use Dr. Bonners bar soap and pick my scent, which makes my version just a bit more expensive but still cheaper than Arm & Hammer unscented for sensitive skin on sale with a coupon and better for the environment and our bodies.

    We also use Soap Nuts Have you tried these yet? My husband prefers my soap recipe now, tho! Love the soap nuts but they don’t have like a smell….I love scented clothes. Originally, I had made the powder for sheets and feminine wear….but now it’s a staple.

  3. How is it working for you? Does it seem to really clean your clothes? Do they smell nice? Can’t wait to hear your experience with this as yea that is cheap! I am glad you said where to get the ingredients as I have never heard of most of them and would have wondered where to get them.
    It is so nice to meet you, we are part of the same SITS tribe. :)

    1. It works great! I have no complaints. The Zote gives a lemony scent to the detergent, but the clothes themselves are pretty much fragrance-free, which is what we want. You can add essential oils if you want a scent.

  4. Wow! the thought of creating my own detergent never entered my mind. I have little ones and as you well know with kids, you do loads of laundry. My question is similar to Emmy’s does it really get your clothes clean? Is there something special you do for specific stains e.g., grass stains?

    1. We go through lots of laundry, so making our own detergent really saves money! and it works great! For specific stains, I would just google to look for tips! I haven’t dealt with any grass stain lately!

    2. It’s great! You can use a separate bar or what’s left of Fels Naptha and rub it on the stain, it’s a great stain remover. If you just like the idea if frugal, and it’s not strictly about natural ingredients, then Check out your local dollar tree. They sell a cleaner by LA Totally Awesome that’s yellow. It’s amazing for everything & I mean it gets out all diets of stains. I don’t even dilute it like it says… While your there grab some OxyClean. The dollar store tubs hold a little more than two cups & come with a scoop that it’s perfect for regular size loads.

  5. I made my own laundry detergent in November! LOVE IT! I used a box of Borax, a box of Super Washing Soda, a 4 lb box of Baking Soda, 3 bars of Fels Naptha(because I already bought them when I wanted to make the Duggars recipe but never did), a box of Biz, and for extra cleaning power a box of Clorox 2 Powder bleach. For a nice fragrance, I added a canister of Downy Unstoppables.

    I already had the Borax and Super Washing soda on hand. For the other items, I paid around $30. I bought a 5 lb orange bucket from Home Depot to store the detergent and a smaller glass cracker jar from Walmart. I use 2 TBSP per load. I wash in cold water. Don’t wear a lot of whites but haven’t had any issues with the soap not dissolving in cold water. I do have city water though. I love it. Grating the soap WAS a pain though and I did scrape my knuckles a few times! loll

    1. It sounds like you should be set for a while Kelly! That’s a lot of detergent! Making things in bulk saves so much time. I can’t imagine grating three bars of soap in a row though! You’re a champ :)

      Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  6. For stains I use one fels naptha bar. I spray the stain with water and rub the bar on it. It works great for me, and it even works on oils stains (you know the pesky ones that you are never sure how they got there). I have been using fels naptha, but Am going to try Zote tomorrow, if it works like the fels naptha I will be so stoked because it is cheaper per bar!

    1. I’ll have to try FelsNaptha on oil stains! Thanks for the tip. Everywhere around here FelsNaptha and Zote are each around a dollar (though maybe the weight is different).

  7. I’ve been using a similar recipe to make laundry soap for 9 months and I don’t see myself ever going back to using the commercial stuff. I also hate grating the soap and found a tip online to make it easier. Place it in a pie plate and microwave it at high for 1 to 2 minutes (it will make a huge misshapen glob); then let it cool for 45 to 60 minutes. Next, put it in a freezer bag, seal it well, and beat and roll with a rolling pin. Then mix it with your other ingredients and you’re done. The only drawback is it makes your microwave and house smell like the soap for a day or two.

    1. Your comment made me smile Nana :) I just have this image of someone beating a ziplock bag full of microwaved soap with a rolling pin and it’s funny! But if it works, then by all means go for it!! Thanks for sharing.

  8. I have made this recipe with Felz soap though. I won’t go back to store bought again. I am the mother of 4 and all are involved in sports. We mistakenly placed our 4 years old sweatshirt in a load with no pretreatment due to red popsicle all over it. To my surprise, there was not one sign of a previous stain. We have left out the scent booster and rely on our fabric softener sheets. I also use my blender to grate my soap fine and saves so much time. I only make 1 quart size canister at a time which consists of 1 bar of soap, 1 cup of washing powder, and 1 cup of borax.

    1. What a wonderful surprise to have that stain come out so easily! We don’t use any scent boosters or anything since my MIL is sensitive to fragrances. Thanks for stopping by Kathleen!

  9. I tried making the powder laundry soap with the white ZOTE following Wellness Mama’s directions and found the soap so gooey soft it gunked up my blender (note: don’t have a food processor) even when blended with some of the soda to “dry” it. My question is do you have issues with the ZOTE not dissolving in cool or cold water. I had read that this messes with children’s cotton cloth diapers. One of the commenters on Wellness Mama’s posting offered and recommended a no soap version for washing cloth diapers (1 part baking soda, 1 park Oxyclean, 1 part washing soda, 1 part borax). My thought is that if the soap is clogging cotton diapers, wouldn’t it also be clogging other clothes? I am concerned that using an oily castile-type soap, such as ZOTE, in my washer because of its tendency to gunk.

    1. Hi Deborah,

      I haven’t had any problems with the Zote clumping. The bar is a little moist-feeling when you slice it up (and it’s a darker pink on the inside. I set it outside for a bit (after it was cut) so that it could dry out a bit before I put it in the food processor. You can see in the pictures how it grinds up pretty fine. I haven’t had a problem with it dissolving in the washing machine. It rinses out well too.

      Have you tried grating it? I’ve seen that some people do that. It’s more work and it doesn’t get as fine as a food processor, but it sounds like it would work better than your blender.

  10. Hello! I make my own detergent, too! I’ve been using the Fels bars and haven’t had an issue. BUT we recently moved and local stores only have Zote. So, I picked some up and decided to try it out. Only since the bars are bigger, I didn’t know if the measurements for the other ingredients would change. Thank you internet and YOU!

    So, I am now going to try this recipe and see how it works. I probably will still add my “oxyclean” (recently found out there are cheaper brands of it, I know I am shocked I didn’t know this already), some baking soda (sm box), and my own diy scent crystals (1 cup or so of epsom salt plus essential oil scent of your choice (I like clean synergy blend from Eden’s Garden).

    P.S. Incase you need a fantastic stain treatment, I highly recommend 1 part Dawn dish detergent to 2 parts hydrogen peroxide mixed into a squirt bottle/condiment bottle (cleaned, of course, if you’re up cycling it)

    1. Sometimes I throw some oxyclean in with my whites. That’s neat that you make your own scent crystals. We usually steer clear of any scented things since some of us have fragrance issues, but if it’s essential oils (not chemicals), then it might be okay.

      Thanks for sharing your stain treatment recipe! I’ll have to give that a try! With three little ones, I’ll have plenty of opportunities to try it out! :)

      1. You’re welcome for the stain treatment. I have a good friend who’s allergic to most all perfumed things of any sort but she can use my detergent w/o issue. She too, thinks it’s cause of the essential oil and not chemicals to get the fragrance.

  11. I love homemade laundry detergent. I done a ton of research on internet looking at comments & recipes. I never wanted to even try to make liquid detergent. I have read about using a food processor to grate the laundry bar, but wasn’t willing to use my good processor for that task. I have an old stand up hand grater I use as decor that is my soap grater. The first time I grated a bar of soap it took me a good bit of time and the next day my arm was sore from working muscles I forgot I had. For my next batch, I left my next bar of laundry soap out to dry for a few weeks before grating. It didn’t take but about 10 minutes to grate the entire bar by hand.. & I got to exercise my muscles again. I’ve always used Fels Naptha. I’ve had read that it is an excellent stain remover. My cousin grates some, dissolves it in hot water and puts into a spray bottle for a stain spray. Sorry, don’t have an exact recipe. I come across a bar of Zote, so now ready to try it as well. I’ll never use commercial laundry detergent again. This is cheaper and I know exactly what the ingredients are in my detergent.

    1. I was a little nervous about using the food processor too (since it’s one of our favorite frugal appliances), but it hasn’t done it any harm. Though getting a little exercise with the grater isn’t bad either (just watch out for your knuckles)! I love the savings and avoiding so many chemicals too!

  12. I first made my own laundry detergent a few years ago using a box of Washing Soda, a box of Borax and three bars of Fels. I hand grated it while watching tv and was very surprised at how fast and easy that was. I loved how it smelled and was very impressed with what a wonderful job it did. Clothes come out so clean and soft and you don’t need fabric softener.
    This last go around I tried the Zote, because it was also recommended by the blogger whom I got the recipe from and I was curious and wanted to compare. I hate the way it smells. It makes me sneeze violently, so next time I will go back to using Fels.
    A guy at work recommended the cutting it into chunks and microwave it method, which I did try this last time. I let it dry, as my coworker suggested, for about 24 hours before putting it in my Ninja to pulverize it into a nice powder. I used two bars of Zote, and a box each of the Soda and Borax.
    I made it in October. Like nana said, my house smelled like soap for a few days. If you have allergies like I do, smell the bars before you buy them. I found the odor overwhelming and sickening. I will definitely be using Fels from now on, I LOVE that stuff!
    After sharing a canning jar of it with my boss, its been 6 months of me, my teenage daughter and my the college age daughter when she comes home to do a few loads and we still have more than half of it left.
    It does as good of a job as the Fels does, and I have gotten used to the smell. The scent does not transfer to the clothes.
    We have found that if you put the clothes in first before the soap it doesn’t always dissolve. So start the water and put in the soap, it will dissolve quickly- then add the clothes. Patience~ it only takes about 30 seconds.
    We add a scoop of Oxy clean for the whites and a cup of white vinegar in the final rinse for my delicates because of allergies.
    The only reason that we would ever buy premade laundry detergent again is if I had a coupon to get it for close to free.

    1. That’s funny because I like the smell of Zote better than Fels Naptha! To each his own. :) We definitely agree about homemade laundry detergent though! That’s awesome that you shared some with your boss!

  13. I’ve been making my own detergent for awhile now & I’m absolutely in LOVE! I’m so glad I decided to whip up a batch! I’m currently working to replace all my store bought items with homemade versions. So far I have detergent, fabric softener for the wash & one for the dryer. As well as, hand scrubs, body/face wash, foaming soap, shampoo/conditioner, etc… I’ve never had a hobby I was super passionate about until I started making my own products. Personally, I feel that my clothes are cleaner with the homemade detergent & they aren’t fading as fast, especially while using vinegar w EOs as my washer softener. I made a fresh batch & divided it up for gifts this past Xmas to my mom, aunt, older brother & cousin & they LOVE IT, too! My aunt has even offered to pay me for my services & the product. I currently use one that has borax, washing soda, baking soda, Fels Naptha & I usually throw in some dollar tree oxy clean, but not always. Also, you can use Epsom salts alone or w EOs as a fabric softener/smell good part of your detergent. Mix in or add in separately right into the bin as you would the detergent. If you use your food processor, if recommend adding a little of one of the powders in with the soap. This helps for a smother grinding process. If hand grating, don’t be turned off by it! It only takes a minute or two & if you have someone to help you, then that’s even better. This is a great project for kids to help with! I’m going to try Zote now that I realized walmart carries both Fels Naptha & Zote (white & pink). Sorry for the rambling, but one more thing… For those of you with babies or kids with skin sensitivities, this is the way to go. I dont know which soap would be better for your family, but my older sister uses a recipe with Fels Naptha for her house & my niece uses cloth diapers. Homemade detergent is highy recommended for those parents options for cloth diapers as opposed to store bought. This is because of all the harsh dyes & chemicals found in ones like Tide, Gain, Arm & Hammer, etc… The EOs are ok to use too, do some research, read comments (<super helpful) & give it a try. You'll be happy you did!

    1. It is fun to make your own products! Recently I started using dishwasher detergent that I made and I LOVE it. I’ll be sharing my recipe soon.

      That’s a great idea for homemade gifts! Thanks for sharing your experience and ideas!

  14. I’ve been making home made laundry detergent for so long now until I’ve forgotten how long it’s been, but it’s been many years. I’ve done the liquid/gel and now I just make the powdered laundry soap. For me they all clean better than any store bought detergent.

    I’ve got a couple of tips for some of you that are just getting started doing this. Instead of grating the soap, I sit on my couch in front of my TV and use a vegetable peeler and just peel away until the soap is peeled. I do this straight out of the package not letting it dry out. It peels up very nicely and then you can just let it sit a day or two and it will dry out really fast. I then take some of the soap along with the Borax or Washing Soda and mix them together in my food processor. This way the soap does not stick to the blades. I don’t put my soap in the microwave, but I did try it one time and the smell coming out of the microwave almost made me pass out. So I won’t do that again.

    As for a pretreat, not sure if any of you know, but the minute Hydrogen Peroxide is exposed to light it becomes activated and starts working off. This is why it is packaged in a brown bottle. I bought a spay bottle of HP at Wal-Mart and just refill it each time it runs out, that way my HP is always fresh. Once it has activated and worked off it is basically water, so I would not recommend mixing it with any other ingredients. As for Dawn dish soap, my mother has used that for years on stains especially any thing oil based. So what I would say do is spray with the HP and then put a little squirt of Dawn on your stains right before putting it in the washer.

    I read somewhere that Oxy-Clean is basically powdered Hydrogen Peroxide and that makes sense to me in that I know you can’t make the liquid laundry soap and mix the Oxy in with it as they say when it starts working it will explode in the container you have it in. I haven’t tried this and don’t think I’m going to, as I make enough messes without doing this knowing ahead of time it will make a mess.

    My recipe for laundry soap is a little different than the ones listed here, but I do use the same ingredients just make a really big batch each time I make it cause my grown daughter loves it too, so I share mine with her. I’ve tried a lot of various recipes over the years, just to see if one works better than the other and to be honest they all cleaned my clothes and that’s all any of us want.

    Oh almost forgot, for the ones of you concerned about your whites, I do still use bleach on my whites as I want my whites white. I live in Florida and I’m not sure how hard my water is, but I did notice without the bleach my whites were getting a grayish look. My Wal-Mart is now carrying a tablet form of bleach which comes in various scents. Each tablet is equal to one cup of bleach and there are 32 in the bottle which basically equals 2 gallons of bleach. Best part they are only 2 dollars a bottle which is basically cheaper than two gallons of bleach and they take up a lot less room. Another thing I found out over my years of reading about homemade cleaners is that liquid bleach starts loosing some of it’s strength within a couple of months after being bottled, which to me is another good reason to go to using the tablet form.

    Didn’t mean to write a book, but I hope my knowledge from years of doing this will help others.

    1. You made me smile Chris. :) Thanks for your “book.” You shared lots of great ideas from your experience! I’ve never seen bleach tablets. I’ll have to check them out.

  15. This is so cool. I “accidentally” stumbled across your blog post on Pinterest. I have made a very similar recipe that I had blogged about quite some time ago…I LOVE ZOTE soap….it cleans, it smells good and it’s pink :) :) :) Hmm…I also love that you’re working your way out of debt. That’s what I”m doing, too…I actually just have student loans from school to pay off and then I’ll be completely debt free. Do you also have a page on Facebook, too?

    Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :) :) :)

    1. Welcome Heather! :) I really like the smell of Zote too! How “fun” that you’re working on your debt! We just have student loan debt too… it’s just a lot since my husband went to law school and got an MBA at the same time while I was home with our three little ones. We’re making good progress though.

      I do have a facebook page. It’s here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Six-Figures-Under/1424744584415088

      I’m in California too, but a long way from the shore!

  16. One great thing I noticed about homemade detergent is that the washer never stinks. When I used store bought detergent, my washer would get this moldy- rotten egg smell. So, I used to buy special cleaning tablets for my washer. I learned that store bought detergents have many fillers in them, which cause washers to stink. Now, I don’t even have to do any washer cleaning at all. Homemade detergent definitely saves a ton of money.

  17. I generally do (for one batch) one bar of Fels Naptha, one cup of borax, and one cup of washing soda. I use it for all our laundry; including cloth diapers. Hard water is starting to build up crap on the pocket diapers and they need a good stripping. I’m curious if maybe I could add one bar of white Zote to 2 or 3 batches of the Fels Naptha stuff to help boost the wash. The more I read, the more it seems both the borax AND washing soda will soften the water. Which makes me think maybe it’s a little overkill with the Fels Naptha. Or am I just WAY over thinking this? Lol

    1. Hi Amanda! That would definitely be something to experiment with! I’m no chemist, so I’m not sure how exactly the different soaps and ingredients will work together, but it’s worth a try. You could do smaller batches until you find exactly what you like!

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