Home-Made Laundry Detergent VS. Tide

Welcome to the first edition of VS here on A Real-Life Housewife, where I take a look at home-made/diy compared to what you could buy at the store! I will be breaking down the cost of home-made and considering whether the effort is worth it as well as sharing my thoughts on quality for both.

Today, let’s talk about laundry detergent! Exciting, huh?! It’s been about a year now since I made the switch from using Tide to making my own. When we moved and were sharing a washer and dryer, I used what my in-laws had, which happened to be Tide. Around that same time I had the opportunity to try out and review Tide Pods. I really enjoyed the convenience of purchased detergent! So when we got our own washer and dryer, I seriously contemplated whether or not to start making my own again.

Since cost was the major factor in my decision to switch over in the first place, and because I had added oxygen cleaner to the mix, I reevaluated the cost. Take a look:

So-about a 5 dollar margin between the two. Not a huge savings, but enough that I could instead get a pedi and mani once a year!

Let’s next consider the effort involved in making your own laundry detergent. I generally make enough for around 25 loads which consists of mixing together the following:

  • 1 cup Washing Soda
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 bar Fels-Naptha grated
Note, that I don’t mix in the Sun Oxygen Cleaner. I find it easier to just add a scoop to each load of laundry along with 1-2 tablespoons of the aforementioned combination. Mixing a few things together is not a big deal, but be prepared to spend a good 10-15 minutes grating the Fels-Naptha bar first!

I used to grate the bar on the big side of the grater and then use my blender to combine all the ingredients. I don’t do that anymore! Grating the bar on the small side cuts out the blender step and produces smaller soap particles.

As far as getting my clothes clean and smelling fresh, I honestly think the home-made detergent does just as good a job as Tide. It even aided pomegranate juice coming out of my toddler’s shirt! I thought the stained shirt was a lost cause, especially when I let it sit for a few days (not for experimental purposes, just pure laziness on my part), but the stains disappeared! Overall, I have been very happy with my home-made detergent! It may not be quite as fragrant as Tide, but it gets the job done.

So…what are your thoughts? Are the small savings worth the small effort of doing it yourself?

For now, they are to me. But if ever I don’t feel like making my own detergent, I’m not going to sweat it. It’s only 5 bucks!

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  1. says

    I’m so excited about this series!! I have often wondered if it’s really worth going homemade from the cost perspective… for me, with your calculations, I figured we might save $35-40 a year, and to me that isn’t worth it. Thanks for easing my guilt for buying store-bought!! :)

  2. says

    A few years ago I made my own laundry soap for quite a spell. Same ingredients, though without the oxygen cleaner, and I was making the liquid kind. (I quickly learned that was a big waste of time, and messy, and inconvenient.. powder is the way to go.)
    I have gotten away from it.. Sometimes when there is a great deal on laundry soap, I stock up- often at Menard’s, I get a lot of our household & cleaning supplies there.
    Their sale prices just can’t be beat.
    We also had hard water, and I felt that the homemade soap just didn’t work quite as well.
    However, we just installed a water softener system, and I’m considering trying homemade again when my store bought supply runs out.
    Then again, now with our new soft water, I need less soap, so there is that factor as well.
    I think it’s a toss up!
    The biggest advantage I saw in making my own liquid soap was the elimination of trucking / shipping / hauling of all that liquid that could come from my own faucet.. and the elimination of all those plastic jugs. With the powder you may be trading packaging for packaging though.
    I still use my stock of Fels Naptha on stains – I keep it in a soap dish by the laundry sink – it works great!

  3. Wendi says

    I made this and the DIY dishwasher detergent and was really disappointed. Stains and smells didn’t come out of clothes nearly as well as they did with the store-bought detergent. (And I use the cheapest I can get–Tide is a luxury I can’t afford!) I had to scrub the dishes before I put them in the dishwasher and my clear plastic cups always had an opaque film on them that only came off when I went back to store-bought detergent. i was really disappointed that the homemade stuff didn’t work!

    • Jodie says

      I recently got a great deal on Tide and All. I’m down to only one bottle now, so I decided to mix up this batch and use it to extend the Tide and All. Now, be aware that typically you don’t need but about half of what the manufacturer calls for — so right there you can cut your cost in half. But also, the homemade laundry detergent is a great laundry booster, so IF you still want to use your own stuff, smoosh some of it into any special stains, use half the going amount, then supplement it with a tablespoon of the homemade stuff! For clothes that don’t need the extra detergent boost, use your regular two tablespoon amount of the homemade stuff.
      And if you want the SMELL of your favorite softener without having to spend nearly as much, make up the vinegar-based, hair conditioner one — remember, plenty of yummy smelling conditioners only cost $1 — or, find a light scented, $1 conditioner and then throw about 4 ounces of your favorite softener brand right in with the homemade stuff!
      In my opinion, if you want all the benefits of the store bought but want to save on money, make up the homemade stuff, then just add it as a supplement. Your wallet will thank you later!

      • Jodie says

        Oops! small “edit” – I meant smoosh your favorite brand (like Tide) into the stain as a pre-stain treatment before adding to the laundry.

  4. Kathy says

    I have been making my own laundry soap for about 5 months now. I do ALOT of laundry…still trying to figure out if we’re the messiest or cleanest family in town. Anyway, I can tell you that I have gotten more than 120 loads out of my homemade soap. I am still using the original batch that I made back in August! My recipe is the same as above with the addition of baking soda. I wouldn’t go back to using store bought. And for those that think that it is too time consuming, I can grate that bar of soap in just a few minutes!

  5. Keg says

    I have been using home made laundry soap for 6 months now. I have never owned a dryer & hang all of my laundry outside. I cannot tell a single difference in the store bought & the DIY kind. I am confused on your cost break down though. I omit the Oxyclean bringing my total cost to 4 cents per load…? Point being…I love it!

    • says

      If you subtract the cost of Oxi at $5.47 from $15.49, that = $10.02. Then divide that by 120 (loads) and you have about $.08 per load! That’s an even better deal :)

    • says

      Keg, I too am a bit confused on the breakdown. If this was the cost of doing my own I would probably not opt to doing my own if it was only about saving money. But since part of my reason for making my own is my children’s eczema, well I will never go back! I also do not use the oxyclean, and I use Zote instead… it has a pretty pink color. Anyhow, my breakdown comes down to $1.54 for ten gallons. I use a 5 gallon bucket, and since it’s so concentrated I just use half of what I would normally use. And it works great! Better, in my, opinion than store bought =)

      • says

        Oh I see! This post is about powder DIY laundry detergent! duh! silly me… =) I did my first batch of liquid detergent using Zote instead of Fels Naptha, and it yielded me 10 gallons for under $2. I keep it in a 5 gallon bucket, so just use half cup full instead of adding 5 gallons more of water. Thanks for the post!

  6. Karen says

    I have been using this recipe for a couple of months and I do think it does a better job than Tide. I found that when I was using the Pods I would toss in two sometimes if my clothes were really dirty. The real savings you get is by substituting white vinegar for your fabric softener. Use the same amount as you would your softener. The clothes do not smell like vinegar at all and come out of the dryer soft and smelling very fresh. If I think I may have static problems I just spray a couple of squirts of Static Guard on the wet clothes then turn on the dryer. Love it!

  7. Keya says

    I was told the washing soda is really bad for PVC pipes in the home, that it deteriates them over time. Anyone know if this is true?

  8. Pam says

    Can you/do you use this in an HE washer? I’ve made the liquid laundry detergent before, but not the powder and would love to try it.

  9. jeff says

    you do realize the homemade soap materials you say makes 120 loads @ $15.49 would make around 25 gallons of liquid soap. I have a family of 7 and use the liquid recipe. If we do around 400 loads per year and only make this recipe twice per year I am getting more than 120 loads out of it and more than a $5 dollar savings. The liquid recipe is less time consuming to make for me.

  10. Jenny says

    i just made my first batch of liquid detergent, it cost me 7.59 and i have enough supplies to make at least 2 more batches. i have about 3 gallons of detergent! it was very rewarding and cant wait to try it!

  11. Christi says

    Sorry to say but the cost is off and the amount. I do the liquid. Using 1 bar of soap, the soda, and the borax, plus you can add in an essential oil, runs around $12 or less and that gives me about 5 gallons on liquid. So it’s over 260 loads for $12. I’ve had closer to 300 loads depends on what I’m washing. Takes maybe max of 45 minutes to make that huge batch and then just use the smaller containers to store. Very insightful information though.

  12. Kat says

    I think the supplies and cost are off too.

    But just because people are getting more liquid quantity doesnt mean more soap, it just means more water is in it to start. You use less powder soap (1/4 or 1/3 cup dry) vs 1/2 or 1 cup liquid detergent per load.

    Other than that, Dear Mom, I implore you to get more than one manicure a year! The fact that you said that and considered it such a luxury stuck with me more than this detergent comparison entry!

  13. dave dennis says

    I have a family of 8 and even buying All got too expensive. I use tis basic formula that works real well and is super cheap.
    1.5C Borax
    1.5C Arm and Hammer washing soda
    1 bar Fels Naptha
    Gives me a 5 gallon bucket, costs less than $3. Equals to pennies per load.
    I used to add liquid bluing and an oil scent, but stopped because of my wifes eczema

  14. Maodk says

    Your calculations are all wrong! You didn’t take into consideration that the manufacturers, when they list the amount of loads on their packaging, they are referring to the smallest load possible (but they don’t want us to know that). Most people are assuming that they will be getting that amount of loads even though they do large loads. Not so! For your homemade detergents, the amount you need for a large load would be approx. what is required for a small load of store bought detergent. Less then half actually. Check the instructions for large loads vs small loads, and you will see what I mean. So, you are saving a LOT more then you think making your own.

  15. smiley says

    They need to take into account that you don’t use the entire box of borax or a whole tub of oxyclean. That said you are left with extra for later mixing. The initial cost to get the supply is the most.

  16. Detergent extender says

    I mix 2 boxes of the Arm & Hammer super washing soda or regular baking soda in with the Tide which extends the number of loads to close to 240 loads. You will not have the strong smell from the straight Tide SCENT however, the washing is done just as well as straight Tide.

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