A popular cost-cutting measure is to make homemade laundry detergent.
- How much cheaper is this compared to store-bought detergent?
- Would the savings be significant when added up over an entire year?
To calculate this, I made homemade laundry detergent according to the recipe I used (see reference 1) which contained the items below.
I listed the equipment and supplies I needed below, along with the price at which I bought them. Costs are in US dollars and include the amount of sales tax. Depending on what part of the world you live in (or even what part of the US), costs may vary. Many of these supplies were available in the dollar store, so will likely cost more elsewhere.
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Yes, you will need to get new measuring cups and a grater for this, even if you already own these for cooking. You do not want to measure borax and washing soda, nor grate Zote soap, with items that come in contact with food! I got mine from the dollar store. I recommend shopping the dollar store for everything on the list, and trying Walmart, Target or a similar store for the items that weren't available at the dollar store.
Up-front costs for making homemade laundry detergent
|5 gallon pail||$4.28|
|Lid for pail||$1.67|
|Tall containers with lid (2 total)||$2.12|
|Measuring cups, set||$1.06|
Total costs vs ingredient costs
So to get set up, the total cost for everything was $20.81. However, note that some of that cost was for long-lasting equipment such as the pail, pitchers etc which would last for subsequent sessions of making homemade laundry detergent.
The ingredients which go into the laundry detergent are not completely used up in one session, except for the Zote soap. In the case of the borax and washing soda, I went on to calculate the amount actually used in one session – this worked out to be only 18 cents for borax and 64 cents for the washing soda. Add that to the cost of the Zote soap at $1.48, and you get 5 gallons of concentrated homemade laundry detergent for only $2.30 worth of ingredients! (Note that I didn’t include the cost of the equipment here).
1. The ingredients work out to only 1 cent per load of laundry!
How much does this work out to be per load of laundry? By knowing that only 1/4 C of the 5 gallons is actually used in one load of laundry (i.e. you are making enough for 320 loads), I calculated the cost to be only 1 cent per load! Again, this doesn’t include the cost of equipment.
The Zote soap can be a little harder to find than the other ingredients, but we have an article for you about where to get Zote soap.
2. In contrast, the cost of store-bought detergent, even for budget brands, begins at 11 cents per load
I calculated the price per load of 3 major brands: All, Gain, and Tide. As well as variation between different brands, prices varied within each brand due to the store, what size of detergent, and so on, but basically all of these major brands were in the range of 11 cents per load to 23 cents per load.
3. Therefore, making home-made laundry detergent is about 10 times cheaper than store-bought!
By paying only 1 cent per load (not including equipment costs), homemade laundry detergent is at least 10 times cheaper than buying cheap store-bought laundry detergent (11 cents a load).
What happens when we account for the extra cost of the equipment (assuming only 1 batch of homemade laundry detergent was made, ever)? This would work out to be 6 cents per load. So even by making homemade laundry detergent once, ever, you are still saving money by only paying 6 cents per load compared to 11 cents per load for store-bought. That is almost half price!
4. How much will you save over the course of a year?
How much saved over a year depends on how much laundry you do: the more laundry, the more you save.
Let’s assume a family of 4 doing a total of 5 loads of laundry a week. The first batch of homemade laundry detergent costs you 6 cents per load (with setup/equipment costs) and future batches cost you 1 cent per load (ingredients only). By the way, the first batch will last over a year! During the first year the homemade variety will cost around $15.00 (I'm not counting the leftover borax and washing soda that didn't get all used up in this first batch). Remember, this cost accounts for the cost of your equipment too. Store-bought will cost you around $30 a year a year. So you save $15 a year when you make your first batch. Then, after you have gone through the first batch, subsequent batches will only cost $4.00 per year. Compared to store-bought, you will save $26 a year for second or subsequent batches. So, the savings are not vast over the course of a year, but they are there.
The reason the savings are lower than you might expect over the course of an entire year is because the total price of store-bought laundry detergent over a year is low to begin with. Yet, there are benefits beyond just price. It can be more eco-friendly to make your own laundry detergent because you will be re-using your plastic bottles and 5 gallon container, and there will be no chlorine or phosphates.
Regardless of what you decide about homemade laundry detergent, if you're looking for other ways to save money, I've got you covered! Here are 7 clever ways for families to save money.
The bottom line:
A family doing five loads of laundry a week can expect to save $15 per year on their first batch of homemade laundry detergent, and will save $26 a year on second or subsequent batches. Those doing more than 5 loads of laundry each week will save even more. More difficult to quantify is the fact of creating an environmentally friendly product without phosphates or chlorine, and with minimal packaging.
Some families may feel these savings are sufficient reason to switch to making homemade laundry detergent. Other families may feel that the ease of store-bought outweighs the savings. Each family has to come to its own decision.
Even though the savings are not huge, I continued to make my own for many years, up until recently. This was not because of the savings, but because of the fact that I liked knowing exactly what went into my own detergent. I also enjoyed not throwing away lots of plastic bottles. And also I never had to worry about running out: since a batch lasts such a long time, it’s one less thing I needed to worry about on my grocery list. Finally, it was actually pretty easy – there’s not much hands-on time needed. It’s not the right choice for everyone though, so if store bought laundry detergent is works for you, go for it. The reason I eventually switched to store bought is that there started to be eco-friendly and unscented varieties available more readily in stores, and the price point of those has gone down over the last several years.
Above I have given a break down of the costs for those who are curious, so that you’ll know what to expect savings-wise. Whatever you ultimately decide, I’m glad I could help you out with this information.
Although the homemade laundry detergent recipe I used originally is no longer on the internet, the recipe below is almost identical - the only difference is that the recipe below uses 1 cup of castile soap, whereas my recipe uses 1 bar of Zote soap instead, grated (this takes awhile!) Zote soap is a specialized laundry soap.
1. Kristin Marr (2022) Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap at Live Simply