Homemade Laundry Detergent Tabs

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Homemade Laundry Detergent Tabs

Laundry detergent pods and tabs seem to be catching on quickly, and I can see why: they’re awfully convenient. Unfortunately, they also happen to be awfully expensive. And the thing is, they don’t have to be. There’s really nothing special about them. They’re just pre-measured laundry detergent.

I can make them, and so can you.

I spent some time playing around in my kitchen, and I came up with a recipe for homemade laundry detergent tabs that I really like. It cleans well; it smells nice; it’s affordable; and it’s easy to make. I took all the ingredients that are commonly found in old-school laundry detergent recipes; and I modernized them by using them to make tabs.

Want to try them out for yourself? This video shows you how to make them …

And here’s the recipe all written out …

Laundry Detergent Ingredients

Homemade Laundry Detergent Tabs Recipe

What You’ll Need:

Half of a Fels Naptha bar
1-1/2 cups Borax
1-1/2 cups washing soda
3/4 cup vinegar
15-20 drops of essential oil (optional)

What You Do:

Grated Fels Naptha Soap

Finely grate half of a Fels Naptha bar. A heavy-duty food processor makes quick work of the job, but you can also do it by hand.

Mix the Dry Ingredients Together

Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl.

Add the Vinegar

Then, add the vinegar. It will foam a bit.

Mix the Detergent

Mix everything together, until it’s well combined.

Mold the Laundry Detergent Tabs

Then, press your detergent into a mold to form your pellets. I’ve tested lots of different molds (ice cube trays, metal tart pans, plastic soap molds, etc.), and I’ve had the best results with silicon candy molds. They’re easy to fill; the tabs are easy to remove; and the mold is easy to clean afterwards. I use this peanut butter cup mold to make my laundry detergent tabs and my dishwasher detergent tabs. It gives me nice tablespoon-sized tabs. Each mold makes 30 tabs. Since this recipe makes 53 tabs, I use two of these molds.

If you decide to use something that you already have, just try to stick to tablespoon-sized tabs.

Laundry Detergent Tabs

Allow your homemade laundry detergent tabs to dry. Then, pop them out of the mold, and transfer them to an air-tight container.

Laundry Tabs

How to Use Homemade Laundry Detergent Tabs:

Just drop one tab in your washer for a small load (or a HE load) and two for a big load. These will work well in both top and front loaders.

Cost per load: $.04 for a small or HE load; $.08 for a large load

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    1. Yes, these will work in a HE washer. Just use one tab per load, and you should get great results.

    1. Hi Mary Jo,

      I only run cold loads, and so far I’ve been very pleased with the results. We’ve been using this recipe exculsively for several weeks.

  1. I really want to try making your dishwasher and laundry detergent tabs. I was hoping to buy only 1 silicon mold instead of 2. Do you think you could modify the quantities in your recipes so that they only fill 1 mold? (Only if it’s not too much trouble.)

    1. Hi Diane,

      If you cut the recipe in half, it’ll fit in one silicon mold. I just use two because I prefer to make my tabs less often.

    1. Really well, actually. Fels Naptha is a great stain remover. In fact, it’s an excellent pre-treater, too. If you have tough stains, you can wet the area, and rub a Fels Naptha bar over it before you throw it in the wash.

      1. I discovered Fels Naptha 46 years ago when people were still using cloth diapers. At that time I pretreated the diapers by rubbing a bar of the soap over every discolored inch of diaper. Those diapers were still blinding white when my youngest was born. In fact, the fels naptha kept them so white I was able to pass them on to another growing family. They were kind of skeptical when I told them they were 12 y/o ‘second hand rose’ diapers that had already ‘serviced’ 5 kids (my 3 and a friend’s 2). Thank you Fels Naptha. I still use Fels Naptha.

  2. Our dishwasher seemed to quit cleaning dishes well all of a sudden and we found out the EPA had forced the reduction of phosphate content. Do you have a formula that adds phosphate for cleaning better? It is nothing more than a part of fertilizer.

    1. I don’t, I’m afraid. I actually try to avoid phosphates in my home because they get into the waterways and hurt fish. But, I did come across this article which mentions a woman who found a way to add them back to her dishwasher detergent. This might be what you’re looking for.

  3. Erin, when I shred the Felts Naphtha I’m realizing that 1/2 of a bar only shreds to 1/2 a cup of soap. however your picture shows a cup of soap. I’ve made this recipe before and loved it, but it didn’t make as many as yours did. I’m wondering if the amount of soap I have shredded has anything to do with that.

    Thoughts? Thanks for sharing your great recipes!

    1. Hey Kari,

      If you’re shredding half a bar, you’re using the right amount. The measure is going to vary based on how finely you grate your soap, and it actually settles quite a bit, if you don’t use your grated soap right away. Hope that helps to clarify ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I am so happy that I ran accross your site a few weeks ago. I can not believe how much money I am saving, ON THINGS i USED TO PAY FULL PRICE FOR!. Thanks so much for the dish washing detergent idea. And the laundry detergent idea is absolutely wonderful as I am the “washer maid” in our household. I always cringe when I have to pay $24.00 for Tide detergent. This is just great.
    Thanks again,
    Washer Maid
    Michael Straus

  5. whats the best grater to use ? we have a baby bullet that we don’t use anymore , would that work ? if not so ideas would be helpful ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. It’s probably a little small for the job. A food processor would work better. It might be worth picking up a cheapie at a thrift store. When I was at Walmart recently, I happened to see that Zote now sells laundry flakes (i.e. already grated soap). I haven’t done a price comparison to see how more it costs that the regular bar, but it might be something to check out.

    1. Hi Tracey,

      You said you’d made similar tabs, did the recipe you made have washing soda, like these? I tested a bunch of baking soda-based shower melt recipes, and I had that problem over and over. That’s what led me to develop this recipe that includes washing soda. It makes for a much harder melt, so it’s far less likely to crumble, and doesn’t dissolve as quickly in the shower. The only drawback is that washing soda dries the melts very quickly, so you have to work fast. Otherwise the mixture will set up on you before you get it into molds.

  6. Is there any other soap we can use instead of the fels naptha? we are from NZ and can not locate that stuff

    1. There’s a stain removal soap, brand name Exit Soap, which seems to have similar ingredients to Fels-Naptha. The bars are less than half the size though. I think its available in NZ as well as Australia. I’m using it here in Oz.

  7. Would this recipe work to make laundry powder rather than tabs? I just made a batch, and I think I’d rather just measure when doing a load of laundry than make the tabs. You mentioned “modernizing” old-fashioned laundry detergent recipes to make the tabs, so maybe I just need to find one of those recipes. I love your site — it re-inspired me to do more DIY things around the house. Thank you!

  8. So if I leave out the vinegar & keep the powder in the jar, I would just put 1 tablespoon into the wash? That is enough?

  9. I was wondering if I could substitute a type of liquid soap instead of the fels Naptha bar. Do you have any recommendations?

    1. Hi Cass,

      You can definitely make homemade laundry detergent with liquid soap. It just wouldn’t work in these tabs. I recommend doing a Google search for “homemade liquid laundry detergent.” You’ll find all sorts of results.

  10. Good morning Erin. Do you use this for wool/silk etc delicate loads too or do you a recipe for something that would work?
    Thank you

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