Save Money with Semi-Homemade Laundry Detergent

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I’m sure you’ve seen all of the homemade laundry detergent recipes all over the internet. Liquids, powders, with Borax, without, you name it.

I’ve used them, and they generally seem to work pretty well, but are they a better alternative for your laundry than a premium laundry detergent? They may not be.

Semi-Homemade Laundry Detergent

Here’s the thing: homemade laundry detergent recipes typically contain soap like Fels Naptha or Zote, not detergent. This is great for your wallet but maybe not the best option for your clothes or your washing machine.

Because of this, I thought some more and came up with a semi-homemade laundry detergent recipe with both surfactants and enzymes for a better clean.

This DIY enzyme laundry detergent mixture stretches my laundry detergent for a more economical laundry option, doesn’t put soap in my washing machine, and has surfactants essential for clean laundry.

Semi Homemade Laundry Detergent Ingredients

Why Use BIZ Instead of OxiClean?

BIZ is a laundry booster, much like OxiClean, but unlike OxiClean, it is made with enzymes. Enzymes are necessary because they eat away at organic matter such as food particles, blood, grass stains, and more, which results in a cleaner load of laundry.

Why Use Foca Instead of Fels Naptha or Zote?

Foca is a detergent, not a soap. Soap is made from oils and/or fats; detergent is not. This means that it won’t leave soap scum on your laundry or in your washing machine, and it also contains surfactants, which are also crucial for getting your laundry clean. In addition to surfactants, it also has enzymes.

I chose Foca because of the package size, cost, biodegradable, and phosphate-free, but you could use any powdered detergent you like.

To err on the side of caution, it may be best to use Fels Naptha and Zote for what they are marketed for: as a stain pre-treater. 

Note: Foca is not designed for HE washing machines. This wasn’t an issue for me since it is mixed in with other ingredients, so the full amount isn’t used per load.

I haven’t had any problems with too many suds, but if you have an HE machine and aren’t comfortable using a non-HE detergent, you can replace it with another cost-effective powder such as Tide Free & Gentle or All Free & Clear detergent. 

semi homemade laundry detergent

How to Make Semi-Homemade Laundry Detergent

Get a big bucket with a lid; I used an empty kitty litter bucket, but you could use a pet food container, storage container,  or any other 5-gallon bucket of your choice. 

Open all the ingredient boxes and dump them right in the bucket. Yes, all of it. I mix it up as each new ingredient is added to ensure it is combined evenly.

Why Bother with Extra Ingredients, Anyway?

If I’m using commercial detergent anyway, you may wonder why I would want to go through the trouble and not just use commercial detergent. That’s a fair question, and the answer is that this method cleans our clothes while stretching out our laundry dollars.

Also, when you live in a hard water area as I do, using detergent alone may not leave your clothes looking as clean as you may like. Borax and washing soda softens the water while boosting the cleaning power of your detergent.

Semi homemade laundry detergent

For ease of use, I fill my glass detergent jar to keep in the laundry room, along with a 1/4 cup scoop. I use 1/4 – 1/2 cups of detergent depending on the size and soil level of my load. The small jar helps with storage so that I can keep the large bucket on a shelf in my garage instead of in my laundry room. 

This homemade laundry detergent with Foca recipe cost me just over $18 for about twenty pounds of detergent that will last for months. I consider that dollars well stretched.

A new twist on homemade laundry detergent. This is a detergent and enzyme formula and costs just over $17 to make a big bucket.

A New Twist On Homemade Laundry Detergent

Yield: 245 oz | 150+ loads
Active Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Difficulty: easy


  1. Add all of the ingredients to a large container with a lid and mix to combine.
  2. Add a scoop


1. Foca is not designed for HE washing machines. For me, this wasn't an issue since it is being mixed in with other ingredients so the full amount isn't being used per load. I haven't had any problems with too many suds, but if you have an HE machine and aren't comfortable with using a non-HE detergent, you can replace it with another cost-effective powder such as All Free & Clear laundry powder. 

2. You can also add a 2lb box of Arm & Hammer baking soda. I made a batch with and without and preferred the batch without the baking soda, but this is a personal preference.

My first version of this used one box of washing soda and a box of baking soda. For my second batch, I took out the baking soda because with the baking soda I felt like my laundry felt a little gritty. With just washing soda I found that I can use less detergent and my towels feel softer.

Natural Fabric Softeners

Many people looking for a DIY laundry detergent prefer using more natural products. In my cloth diapering days, I tried out several different kinds of natural fabric softeners, which work quite well.

If you want a natural fabric softener, I highly recommend Ecover. Mrs. Meyers and Seventh Generation are also good choices.

This post was originally written on February 24, 2015, and was updated on January 20, 2020

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  1. I have been using your recipe for years!! Thanks so much! I just came back to print out a new copy to make sure I had the proportions right. Have you doubled the amount of Foca from what you used to use? I have been using your old recipe in an HE machine for the last year without any issues…I’m hoping that doubling the Foca up to 4lb per batch won’t be an issue since I just mixed it all up and it looked more ‘blue’ than I’ve had in the past.

    1. I found that in my hard water adding some more detergent worked better for me. If it’s too much for your water and your machine, making it with half of the Foca is totally fine too.

      If it was too much, I’d just add all of the other ingredients again without more Foca so it’s just a double batch.

      I will also make a note in the post.

  2. I read you use 1/4 – 1/2 cup, but approximately how many loads of laundry can you wash with this recipe?

    1. Hi Tara,

      I’m sorry to say that I have never measured how many cups are in a full recipe, but a container lasts us about three months.

  3. Do you replace biz for oxyclean, and foca for fels naptha and leave out baking soda. Does foca produce alot of suds
    Thank you
    Patti McLoughlin

    1. Yes, I used Biz instead of OxyClean because it has enzymes in it. I used Foca because Fels Naptha is a soap, not a detergent so there is the possibility of it voiding your machine’s warranty. The baking soda I used on and off. I added it to the first batch I made but found that my clothes sometimes felt gritty so instead, I left it out of the mixture but kept it in my laundry room to add to smellier loads. I didn’t find that the Foca was super sudsy when it had the Biz mixed in.

    1. I haven’t used it for wool or delicates. I would stick to a more mild detergent for those items.

  4. If the foca was doubled instead of the washing soda do you think it would be possible to use less detergent per load or would it harm a top load HE washer?

  5. Thank you, I have an HE front loader so was trying to figure that out.

  6. Are the measurements you gave above per load for a top or front loader?

    1. I have an HE top loader. If you have a standard top loader, you would probably want to use a bit more.

    1. I still use it sometimes when I can get my act together and buy all of the stuff because it does seem to save money in the long run. But I do get lazy and just use the powdered detergent alone and add washing soda and/or Biz separately as needed.

  7. Is there a reason you use two washing soda? Is just to delute more or is there an actual reason.

    1. At first I also used a box of baking soda and a box of washing soda like a more typical homemade detergent. I replaced the baking soda with washing soda because washing soda is better at softening hard water and has more cleaning power than baking soda. I should revise this again though because the last time I used just one box of washing soda and all was well. So in the end, I just don’t personally think that baking soda is necessary.

      Also, when I replaced the baking soda with washing soda my towels felt softer and I found I could use less detergent since the washing soda is more powerful.

  8. Out of curiousity–why all the extra stuff? Why not just use Foca? It’s a pretty decent, and super cheap laundry detergent on its own.

    1. Legit question. I have used other detergents besides Foca as well. I can’t use straight Foca because it’s not HE detergent, but with other detergents it stretches it out to be less money. If you buy a 3 lb box of Tide for example, for an extra $6 or so you can have a bucket of detergent. Also I live in a very hard water area so the Borax softens the water.

  9. I’ve tried making my own detergent but have been looking for a new recipe. I like the idea of using enzymes, and I especially like the not-having-to-grate-fels-naptha part.

    1. I have never washed my kids clothes in separate detergent. Most of the ingredients are natural and mild but the Foca does have some perfume and little dye in it but you could use any powdered detergent you like. There are some mild detergents that come in powdered form and even if they’re more pricey than Foca it will still keep the cost down since it will be stretched further 🙂

  10. I’m really interested in making my own detergent- I love that your new recipe has ingredients with enzymes. I’ve never heard of Foca, did you buy it in a store or have to get it online?

    1. It’s at Walmart in the laundry aisle. So far I am finding that with my water 1/4 cup works best for general laundry. For whites I put an additional amount of oxy bleach (Biokleen).

        1. Yes, I use oxygen bleach on diapers too. Every load and I hardly had any stains. Biokleen and the Kroger store brand work the best for me; less fillers than OxiClean.

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