Homemade Laundry Soap made with Dawn

Making your own laundry soap isn’t hard, but you do have to set aside a little time.   And it’s not the time it takes to measure or mix anything either.  That’s the quick part.

It’s the time for that pesky part of the chore known as “The Grating Of The Soap”.

My favorite homemade powdered laundry soap recipe uses one grated bar of Fels Naptha soap and one grated bar of Ivory Soap and it just seems like there’s no quick way around that part of the process.   A hand grater still seems to work the best for me  (Although I’ve resorted to microwaving soap to try to speed things up).

So for those times when life is super busy, or those times when I’m just lacking in patience (yeah, that happens to me sometimes), I like to fall back on this recipe, that requires . . .


Homemade Laundry Soap made with Dawn



To create a homemade laundry soap without the grating, you can try this recipe that substitutes Dawn dish soap.   It’s still a good money saving alternative to store bought laundry soaps, and because it’s in liquid form you get to skip the tedious process of grating.

Dawn is known to be a great grease-busting soap which of course is wonderful for your dishes, but can also be really helpful for laundry (Dawn is is a key ingredient in my favorite homemade stain remover too!).  I also wrote previously about Detergent vs. Soap and wondered if Dawn might have more detergent properties that helps it rinse off clothing in the laundry better than soap does.

I’ve used this recipe several times now and it works  just fine on laundry and mixes together quickly.  I adjusted the washing soda and borax up slightly from the original recipe I followed so the ratios would be closer to the other homemade laundry soap recipes that I use.


The first couple times I made this recipe I used a recycled plastic gallon milk jug.  Turns out though that plastic gallon milk jugs are really too flimsy for this job, primarily because you need to use really hot water for the first step in this recipe and the hot water makes the plastic milk jug feel too  “soft”.

If you’re going to use a recycled container for this recipe, look for a container made of harder, sturdier plastic like a gallon vinegar jug or gallon orange juice jug.  You could also recycle a store bought laundry soap container, although it’s nice if you know your container is a gallon size so you can just top it off with water and know you have the correct amount.

After not being happy with my flimsy gallon milk jugs, I decided to just go ahead and buy a gallon sized Rubbermaid drink container with a nice pour spout so that I would have the perfect sturdy container for the job.  Kind of out of character from my usual frugal and thrifty self, but life can sure go easier when you have the right tool for the job.

Homemade Laundry Soap made with Dawn dish soap


You Will Need:

  • 1/3 Cup Washing Soda

  • 1/4 Cup Borax

  • 2 Tablespoons Dawn Dish Soap

  • 1 Gallon of Water

  • Sturdy Gallon Size Container

Fill your gallon size container about 1/4 full with VERY HOT water.   Add the washing soda and the borax.  Gently shake and swirl the contents around to help dissolve the washing soda and the borax.  (You may want to put the top back on your container for this step).

Next add the 2 tablespoons of Dawn Dish Soap.   Swirl it around to help mix it in.

Finally you will add the remainder of the water.  It can just be cold or room temperature water from the tap.

If you add the rest of the water slowly, the mixture will not bubble up as much.  However it will still bubble a little bit, and that’s OK.  Add enough water until you have a gallon, and just let any excess bubbles overflow.

Homemade Laundry Soap made with Dawn dish soap

Swoosh away the bubbles, put the top back on your container and if you want, you can tip it and swirl it a little more for some additional mixing.

Use about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup per load.  It will be a thin liquid, but it does the job.

Update:  You may want to read this follow up article on mixing homemade Dawn laundry soap with bleach:  Can You Mix Dawn Dish Soap With Bleach?



Need a few more bright ideas?
Sign up for the monthly email newsletter to learn about my latest content and tips for frugal homemade living.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    1. I don’t have an HE machine, but my understanding is because this mixture is low sudsing, that it is OK to use in HE machines.

  1. I am researching diy laundry soap/detergent and am glad I found this! Is there any reason why Dawn couldn’t be added to the soap/borax/soda mixture? Would that solve the problem with that diy recipe?

  2. I would love to know if this still works. I went through a spell where I made my own laundry soap with fels naphtha, borax, and washing soda. I soon noticed that my towels were stinking and my clothes were dingy. I alternated amounts, quantities in the wash, the whole nine. I want to make my own detergent, but I’m afraid of what it will do to my clothes again. Has anyone else had this issue?

    1. I find that because Dawn is a liquid soap rather than a grated bar soap, it rinses away better, which in turns helps to prevent the dinginess and towel problem you found with the Fels Naptha recipe.

  3. Free & Clear, Borax-Free Liquid Detergent Made with Baking Soda and Cold Water Formula:
    I see this thread from OP is 7 years old but still getting comments. I thought I’d add my two cents which uses a
    free and clear (fragrance free, no colorants or harsh chemicals) formula that is Borax-free and mixes up quickly using COLD water right in the sink. I can’t use perfumed items like Dawn and it’s so harsh, and this detergent (a true detergent, not soap) works well in our very hard water. I add 1/4-1/2 c baking soda to loads that are particularly dirty and use white vinegar in my fabric softener dispenser, plus wool dryer balls or hang on the clothesline year-round if dewpoint is low enough. Results are incredible, and I’m saving so much money since I can usually buy the dishsoap on sale for $2 with coupons at our local grocery.

    15 T (tablespoons) Seventh Generation Free & Clear liquid dishsoap (a detergent, not a soap)
    18 cups of cold water (I fill the 12-oz cup from my Arm & Hammer Free & Clear detergent cup 12 times)
    3/4 cup baking soda (you could use washing soda*, which has a higher strength, but I don’t bother)
    essential oil, such as lemon (optional, NOT fragrance oil)

    *washing soda has tougher cleaning properties, and you can make your own by converting baking soda to washing soda in a 400 degree oven on a cookie sheet for 1 hour. I always have baking soda on hand though, so I don’t bother with this step of making (or buying) washing soda, as the baking soda and detegent alone work great!

    1)In a pitcher at my utility sink in basement, I add 18 cups of cold water from the sink. Warm water is not needed.
    2)Next, add 3/4 cup of baking soda. Swish to stir. It will dissolve fairly quickly, even in hard water.
    3)Next, using a tablespoon measuring spoon, add 15 tablespoons of Seventh Generation liquid dish (detergent). 4)Stir to bottom of container. Mixture may be cloudy.
    5)If desired, add 15-20 drops of essential oil of choice. Stir. May be slightly bubbly.
    6)Pour slowly into an old detergent container. I simply refill my A & H empty container. Put on lid, and gently shake in a rolling motion (will suds up if you shake too vigourously) for a few seconds. That’s it!
    7)Shake slightly before use, but I find it’s really not necessary. Product does not separate.
    8)To use in HE machine, use 1 large capful from laundry detergent (12 oz) for a full load, or use a little more for heavily soiled loads. Use less for smaller loads (I always do full loads). Works in all temperatures. Minimal sudsing, due to baking soda in formula.
    9)Use white vinegar as your rinse aid, and wool dryer balls with essential oil or hang on clothesline.

    I hope someone looking for a “free & clear” and Borax-free detergent that is easy to mix finds my fomula helpful.
    Thank you!
    Greener Goods

    1. I have read that using vinegar in your washing machine actually ruins the rubber because of the acidity and will cost you in the long run by having to buy a new washer.

  4. This sounds great! I’m going to try it today. Thank you for sharing!
    FYI, to those who are commenting about using vinegar and not getting the best results- this recipe is a ‘base cleaner’ recipe- all of the ingredients are either neutral or basic, not acidic. Adding oxiclean will work because it is also a base type cleaner.
    However, if you add vinegar to the wash or to the recipe, you are adding an acid to your base, which can actually neutralize some of the cleaning properties. Vinegar will work very well, however, if added to the rinse cycle. Just not added directly with the detergent. Happy cleaning everyone!

    1. My understanding is that yes, you can use this soap in HE washing machines because it is very low sudsing. I do not personally have an HE machine so I can’t speak from experience, but my research shows that it is OK to use.

      1. Is there anything you can use instead of the washing soda. I don’t have washing soda at home and would love to try this recipe out

  5. HI Beverly, I love the idea of homemade laundry soap. Do you think it would work if I used liquid castille soap such as Bronners? Thanks

    1. The Dawn dish soap has good grease cutting abilities which make it good for the laundry too. I don’t think castile soap has that same ability to cut grease so it might not be the best substitution.

  6. Since Dawn detergent is very toxic can other detergents be used in this recipe. Why do all the no grate detergents call for Dawn?

    1. Dawn dish soap is good at cutting grease so it’s often used for these types of mixtures for getting clothing clean too. Other dish soaps can be used, but look for something for cutting grease (as opposed to a soap that’s about being antibacterial or moisturizing for instance).

  7. Hi Beverly, Pardon the typo. I was writing the above post on my phone. Thank you for posting the recipe because it works wonderfully, and there is no need to grate bars of soap.

    The sentence should read as, “completely rinsed the pot.”

    1. I suppose you could leave the borax out, but it is a nice laundry booster and does add some cleaning power. I have never tried the mixture without it, so I’m not sure if the mixture would be effective without it. Maybe you could try using only half the amount of borax first. If you still have clumping you could try leaving it out, but maybe add just a bit more washing soda to compensate.

      1. I boil a portion of my water on the stove, and then measure in my Borax and washing soda. I stir it until it is completely dissolved. Then I let it sit for a bit to cool off, and then I funnel it into my chosen container. Next, I add the remaining water to my pot, in about a quart at a time, swirl it around to mix it with the remaining Borax, washing soda and water residue, and funnel it into my soap container,, until I have competelco rinsed the pot. Now, I add my dish soap. I cannot use Dawn, but. I have found regular Pamolive works fantastically for regular dirty clothes, and for super dirty clothes, I make another gallon jug in the same exact way, but substitute Pamolive Oxy Power Degreaser Dish Soap (using the same amount of dish soap as I use for the non super dirty clothes). I put the cap on, and give it a really good shake.This method works wonderfully, and I do not need to shake the bottle before using it as it stays coalesced!

        1. Thanks so much for sharing your process. It’s also good to know that Palmolive works good too, and the Palmolive Oxy Power Degreaser version sounds like a very good substitute (because it’s the degreasing that’s key!). I will remember this for making future versions of this DIY laundry soap too. 🙂

    1. I have always used this mixture in warm water, however I think this mixture would do OK in cold water because there are no soap flakes that need hot water to make them dissolve. Also the borax and washing soda are already dissolved in the mixture too.

    1. I have not seen any fading of my clothing when using this mixture. If you are still concerned, you can try using a little less Borax than what the recipe calls for.

  8. I just use Dawn DishWashing Detergent for my Laundry needs. One Tablespoon for a Small load and Two Tablespoons for Large loads. Try it! You just may be surprised!

  9. Just to let you know, I love this stuff. I have always been one of those “Only Tide” kind of women and am happy to say this seems to work just as well for everything I’ve tried it on. I mix it in old liquid laundry detergent containers and use 1 cap full (just under 1/2 cup) for light loads and 2 cap fulls (just over 3/4 cup) for soiled or stinky loads like dirty rags or my husbands stinky jeans. Sometimes I do an extra rinse cycle and I add vinegar and essential oils for extra non-stink since my washing machine is old and can leave clothes smelling if I let them sit in it long when it’s finished (even with Tide), but I don’t see any need for this when I’m there to move the laundry right away.

    1. If you use 3/4 cup per load, you should be able to do about 20 loads from a gallon batch of this homemade laundry soap. If you use a 1/2 cup per load you’ll get about 32 loads from your gallon.

  10. I have a large family so I really like the 5 gallon bucket idea of laundry detergent. I say “idea” because I have yet to find a mix that consistently cleans well. Have you had any experience with mixing your recipe in large quantities?

    1. I’ve only made this 1 gallon at a time, however, I think you could make 5 gallons at a time if you wanted too. When I do the math for a 5 gallon batch I come up with, 10 Tbl of Dawn, 1-1/4 cups borax, 1-2/3 cups washing soda and 5 gallons of water. I think it would work!

  11. Hi! I want to try this. I’ve made other versions (fels naphtha, washing soda and borax) and my mixture separates. Does this also happen with this version?

    1. It seems like the Fels Naptha flakes do always want to separate out a bit from the mixture. I always keep my mixture in a large shallow container (rather than a tall jar fox instance) so that I can easily stir it up again whenever needed.

  12. Beverly, I have been using this for almost a year and I love it more than I can tell you! It is fast to dispense and mixes in without trouble, and I usually use 1/2 of what you even recommend with good results. If my laundry was heavily soiled, I would use more but I rarely see the need. Still spot treat, but that’s normal. I often use white vinegar for my rinse. I love the fact my clothes are lovely and clean for really pennies.
    One thing that I saw that was disturbing online was the fact the thick gooey commercial liquid laundry products can contribute to mold growth in even toploaders because of their formulations. I just saw this morning on Youtube, “How to Fix a Stinky Clothes Washer Machine”by fireman7753 what can accumulate under the lid of even a normal old fashioned toploader. (Don’t watch it before lunch.) It made me grateful for your very liquid laundry soap that probably won’t add to gunk accumulation factor. There are also Youtube videos on how to clean your washers (top and front) and how often you should do it.
    So I wanted to thank you so much! Have a great day with your super site.

    1. Thanks so much for your feedback! I always love to hear how these recipes are working out for other people too. I’ve also seen some of those internet articles about all the stinky clothes and washers and stinky towel problems and wasn’t sure what that was all about because I’ve NEVER had any kind of problem like that. I’m still kind of confused on how that’s happening . . . I thought it was HE washers with their tight fitting seals.

    1. Vinegar is helpful with fabric softening, but I’m not sure if it can do that much to help brighten whites. It might, in the sense that it could help rinse away any remaining soap residue.

      1. I know it does whiten quite a bit…it got the yellow out of my husbands white shirt. I am more wondering if you can chemically mix with this stuff….is it going to do something weird?

        1. You should be able to mix the vinegar OK with this Dawn liquid laundry soap mixture. There should not be any bad chemical reactions.

  13. I’ve been making a concentrated version of this for over a year. In an HE machine I use 2 T with little or no sudsing. The only thing I have noticed, is that either the washing soda or the borax alwayse seems to settle to the bottom of the jug over time, forming a hard sheet. I boil all the water first, but it still seems to do that. The stuff does work, but when this batch is gone I think I will go back to making the dry. Easier is not always better.

    I have used bleach with this without any problem. The concentration of the dish soap is so small. I haven’t died yet from any toxic fumes!

  14. Hi. It’s really great idea. Specially for my kids food stained clothes 😉 I am currently using home made powder but sometimes feel like using some liquid. Lol. Just wanted to ask if it’s ok to use any washing up liquid? I live in UK and didn’t find Dawn here.thanks

    1. Dawn is known to be quite effective on removing grease which is why it’s a good choice for laundry soap. However if you can’t find that where you live, then I would look for another type of dish soap that might say on the label that it’s also good for cutting grease.

      1. Hi. Thanks for your reply. I’ve just mad et he first batch and can’t wait to do a laundry tomorrow. . Which never happened. Lol. Will leave a review after. Thanks again.

  15. Oxiclean now has a liquid spray that also comes in a large refill bottle. I sometimes pour a a couple of tablespoons in with the Tide I use.

    I want to try your homemade liquid and was wondering, could you add some of the Oxi liquid to the recipe? If so how much?

    1. I think if I was going to try the liquid Oxiclean in this recipe I would start with about 1/4 cup (as that’s an amount that’s about the same proportion as the other ingredients that are being added to the gallon of water.

  16. Greetings,Bev; I had a bad result; Here’s the skinny: I washed a load of whites(underwear and socks) mixed in with towels and shirts and cut-offs. I used warm water,full load. One pair of underwear was stained pretty bad so I gave it a shot of Oxy Clean and threw it in with the other clothes.It still had a faint stain. BTW I did not use any kind of bleach.I used a cup of white vinegar. If I were to add more of the powders and the same amount of water and maybe a tad more of the dawn would this help?Or should I wash whites by themselves in hot water?(after all, my mom taught me better)
    Thanks Much Bubba

    1. I think pre-treating can be the most helpful thing for keeping stains from still showing up after a washing. Straight Dawn dish soap can be a pretty effective pretreatment, and I also like my mixture of Dawn and hydrogen peroxide for treating stains too. (here’s the link to that recipe: https://www.themakeyourownzone.com/2013/02/homemade-stain-remover-another-success-story.html) I think pre-treating will help you see more success than how the clothing is sorted.

  17. I use dawn for all sorts of cleaning I also use peroxide and use a mix of baking soda dawn and peroxide as a stain remover… When I was certain clothes you need that oxygen boost in it for stain removal and before making my own laundry soap I would add peroxide to the wash! Could I still do that or even mix it right I to soap as an oxy booster?

  18. Hi, I make this detergent with 3 Tropicana juice jugs. They are clear and sturdy. I have used the same jugs over and over again..I like the clear jugs to see how much I have left and so I can see to shake it up as sometimes the powders don’t all dissolve.. The only difference for me is I split up the whole bottle of Dawn in all three jugs. I have very hard water here this works for me.
    And for Isa wondering about the septic system,when we use such a small amount of this it shouldn’t bother the system. My daughter uses it and there hasn’t been a problem.

    1. I think you could use other types of Dawn. The original Dawn is known for its good ability to cut through grease which is helpful for laundry. However I think other types of Dawn are probably good on grease too. I just like the blue Dawn best so that is always what I use.

  19. Thank you for this recipe, it works great. I use Gain dish soap instead of Dawn, my kids pick out our dish soap (anything to get them to do dishes). I’ve also made it with Palmolive sensitive dish soap for my in-laws, my mother-in-law has extremely sensitive skin. Both of them have told me that since using it there cloths have been cleaner then the other brand they were using. Thank you again for this recipe.

  20. HI! I just tried your recipe tonight, using homemade washing soda that you linked. I just put the first load in and noticed my liquid isn’t blue like yours. It looked like straight water and VERY little suds. Is this normal? I am anxiously awaiting them to be done washing so I can see how it worked! Also, could I add vinegar to this mix? My kids are stinky so I usually add some straight to the wash but it would be super if it was all in one. 🙂

    1. Hi Eugenia – it’s normal for this liquid not to suds as much as store bought laundry detergent. I find it still gets the job done without all the suds. However, I’m not sure why your mixture doesn’t look a little bit blue, assuming you used the blue version of Dawn. That one has me kind of puzzled. Also, I would not add the vinegar straight into this mixture. I know that vinegar and baking soda can kind of neutralize each other, so it might be the same for washing soda and vinegar (especially if you used the homemade washing soda made from baking soda). I would add the vinegar later into the wash water if you want that addition.

    1. I checked out the White Brite website FAQ page (http://www.whitebritelaundry.com/faq.php) and it says their product should not be mixed with bleach or peroxide and because those don’t appear in Dawn dish soap, I believe it would be safe to mix with the diluted Dawn dish soap in this mixture.

  21. I made this recipe and it did not do a good job. I followed your directions. Maybe the laundry load is too big. Is this measurement for small loads?

    1. I use this recipe in what I consider to be average sized loads. I have a 20+ year old washing machine that wasn’t designed for jumbo sized loads (for instance about 5 pairs of guy’s jeans will fill my machine). I have liked this recipe so far, but many of my loads are not heavily soiled either. When I want to pretreat something, I will just put straight Dawn dish soap on the area, or I do keep some store bought laundry soap around for pretreating too. Sorry to hear your results and am also wondering in what way you felt it did not perform for you.

  22. Three ingredients, not including water, this is perfect!

    I made a batch in an old large bottle of Dawn that I got from Costco, I like the spout. It’s more concentrated, but that’s ok with me. I used a funnel so that the subs would not be created and overflow. Worked like a charm. Can’t wait to use it.

  23. My sister told me about your recipe and I love love love it.
    I am just finishing the batch and it gets my clothes CLEAN! I am going to make another batch!
    TALK about cheap (It must be like $.25 for the whole bottle) and it works!!!! If there are Major Men Spots and Grime you can pretreat!
    Has anyone tried it with HE Front Loaders?
    You have a great site, Beverly!

    1. So glad you are enjoying the recipe Carly! I’ve been very happy with this recipe too 🙂 I don’t have an HE washer, but this recipe is low sudsing (which is what HE washers need) so my understanding is it works OK in those type of machines.

  24. Beverly, What a fabulous idea! My only concern is my husband’s tendency to have an allergic response to harsh laundry ingredients. Does this formula rinse out thoroughly?
    I’m particularly thinking of the washing soda possibly being a culprit for people with sensitive skin. Have you gotten any feedback on this type of thing? I’d love to be able to use this recipe, but I have to be a little careful. Thanks so much!

    1. Neither my husband or I has any problem in this area, however my son has sometimes broken out in hives from certain laundry detergents (Wisk in particular). He has never had any reactions to any of my homemade mixtures, so that has been encouraging. I’ve never received any other emails or feedback from readers saying they’ve had any reactions so that’s been encouraging too, although perhaps they are just not telling me 🙂 So that’s been our experience, but of course every person is different and it’s hard to say with any absolute certainty how it might work out for your husband.

      1. That is very good to hear! Thank You for your Reply. I’m looking forward to trying some new laundry recipes–yours included. That is unfortunate about Whisk–used to be one of our detergents of choice until they changed the formula.
        Thanks Beverly!

    1. I did a little research and I think it is OK to use those two together. I don’t believe there are any chemicals that would conflict.

      1. I made the laundry soap and added some Purex crystals. I can not tell that it is even in there. Maybe I did not add enough I have noticed there is not much suds. I am one of those people that prefer more suds. What can I add for more suds

  25. Is there a reason why this wouldn’t work with only a quart of water, without adding the other 3/4 gallon of water?

    Of course, you’d only put about 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) or a little more of the liquid into each load… that would work, wouldn’t it?

    1. I have been wondering the same thing myself. Seems like you could make a “concentrate” and just use less in a load of wash. If you give it a try, let me know how it works. I think I’ll put this on my To Do List also.

      1. I was thinking something similar… using 3 times the amount of active ingredients, but still using a gallon container. I figure 1/4 C. of detergent per load that way…

  26. Another wonderful idea, without grating! Just discovered your site tonight, and it is so pleasant AND helpful! I’ll be subscribing!
    Blessings to you, Beverly!

  27. I’m excited to see this recipe!! We will soon be installing my NEW FRONT-LOADING WASHING MACHINE (front-loading is totally new to me!!) and I understand that you cannot use the powdered version of our homemade laundery soap in a F-L machine. Do you think this liquid version would work??? I sure hope so!!

    1. If the front loader will be an HE machine, then it will need a low sudsing laundry soap. This Dawn mixture will suds a little bit, but should still be OK. I don’t have an HE washer myself to speak from first hand experience, but that’s my understanding.

      1. I use cold water. I am told Borax should not be used because the residue does not come off as well in cold water. What can be used instead of Borax or Citric Acid? I have an HE front loader.

        1. If you want to leave the Borax out, I would just try adding a bit more washing soda to the recipe. I have not personally tried this but that would be the first way I would try to adapt the recipe without Borax.

  28. I was thinking about the “make you own laundry soap” measuring. A gallon container, use a large pyrex pitcher. You say “very hot water”. I have my HWH set @ 120degrees to keep kids from getting scalded. My dishwasher has a “heat water” ooption. The pyrex measuring 2 quart will allow me to heat the water to “very hot”. I keep up with the amount of measured hot water, it is easy to “top it off” per your directions. I have an empty large laundry jug.

    1. Yes, all those strategies will definitely work! That’s the beauty of “Make Your Own” type of recipes. Once you know the basic method, you can use what you have around you to help you make what you need.