Why is homemade laundry detergent or soap bad? (Explained)

Homemade laundry soap is often made with ingredients that may react with minerals in hard water. Therefore, it may leave an unwanted residue behind after washing.

Furthermore, certain ingredients in homemade soap may be harsh on your clothes. For example, many recipes call for borax, which can be tough on delicate fabrics.

If you are looking for a natural and gentle way to wash your clothes, consider using a standard laundry detergent that is specifically formulated for washing clothes, or you may even consider plant-based detergents.

Key Takeaways

  • You should avoid using homemade laundry soap on delicate fabrics.
  • It’s best to avoid using homemade soap with hard water.
  • Homemade soap may include harsh ingredients that can damage your clothes.
  • Homemade detergents lack optical brighteners (required to make your clothes appear brighter).
  • Detergent manufacturers have to follow safety standards, so they are much safer than homemade detergent.

Is homemade laundry detergent better than store-bought?

Regular detergent bought from the store is superior when compared to homemade detergent. This is because commercially available detergents contain a formulation that is not only effective in hard water but also adheres to safety requirements.

It means the minerals in hard water do not affect the clothes negatively when mixed with commercial detergent.

Another common problem associated with homemade laundry soap is that it doesn’t contain any optical brighteners.

These brighteners help to keep your clothes looking their best by balancing the yellowing that can happen over time.

Without a good-quality detergent, your clothes may start to look dingy and feel less soft in the long run.

Lastly, most homemade laundry detergents have a history of leaving a patchy residue behind.

What are the benefits of using store-bought laundry detergent?

There are many benefits to using store-bought laundry detergent over homemade soap.

Some of the key benefits of using a regular detergent instead of homemade detergent are:

It works with hard water

Store-bought laundry detergent is formulated to work well with hard water. This means that the minerals in hard water are less likely to react with the detergent.

Formulated to be gentle yet effective

Commercial detergents, in most cases, are specifically formulated to be gentle on clothes. This means that it will not damage delicate fabrics.

It contains optical brighteners

As mentioned earlier, store-bought laundry detergent contains optical brighteners. An optical brightener is a chemical that is added to detergents in order to enhance whiteness and brightness.

Effective cleaning

Modern-day detergents are thoroughly tested before being sold at the store.

They are proven to be more effective in cleaning your clothes and, at the same time, much safer than homemade detergent.

Can homemade detergents be used in a washing machine?

As long as the homemade laundry detergent does not contain a sudsing agent or a formulation that produces excess suds, it should be safe to be used in most washing machines.

However, it’s highly recommended to use a standard detergent suited for your washer, i.e., the one that you buy from a store.

This is because regular detergents go through a lot of rigorous testing to make sure they are compatible with washing machines.

On the other hand, homemade laundry soap may not be as effective in cleaning your clothes, and it may also damage your machine in the long run.

So, there are some definite drawbacks to using homemade laundry soap, especially if you have a high-efficiency washing machine.

Do homemade laundry detergent clean clothes?

Homemade laundry detergent not only damages your washing machine but also affects the clothes negatively in the long run.

The leftover residue that builds up on your clothes also builds up inside your washing machine, making your washer less effective over time.

So, not only is homemade laundry soap bad for your clothes, but it’s also bad for your washing machine.

In a nutshell, homemade detergent may not be that effective in cleaning your clothes, especially if you are located in an area where there is a hard water supply.

Pros and Cons of homemade laundry detergents or soap

There are both advantages and disadvantages to using homemade laundry detergent or soap.

Let’s take a quick look at both the advantages as well as disadvantages of homemade laundry detergents.


  • Can be cheaper: It’s cheaper to make your own laundry soap than to buy it from the store.
  • Control over ingredients: You can control the ingredients when you make your own laundry soap. For example, you can exclude borax if you don’t like it.
  • Less toxic:  Most store-bought laundry detergents contain toxic chemicals. By making your own laundry soap, you can avoid these chemicals.
  • Control over fragrance: You can make your detergent as fragrant or non-fragrant as you like by controlling the ingredients.
  • Saves Money: You’ll have to spend a fair bit of money on store-bought laundry detergent, especially if it’s a plant-based or natural detergent.


  • It is inconvenient and takes time to make: Making your own laundry soap takes time. This may not be the ideal choice if you’re short on time.
  • May not be as effective: Homemade laundry soap may not be as effective as store-bought detergent, especially if you have hard water.
  • Can damage your washing machine: If not made correctly, homemade laundry detergent can damage your washing machine. The leftover residue just builds up inside your washer, therefore degrading the performance.
  • May leave patches on clothes: Homemade laundry soap can leave patches on your clothes. These patches are difficult to remove and may require special care.

Household items that can be used to make your DIY detergent

There are many household items that can be used to make your own laundry detergent.

Here are some of the most common ingredients used to make DIY laundry soap or detergent.

Soap flakes

Soap flakes are a great way to make your own laundry soap. You can use any type of soap flakes and combine them with baking soda or borax to make your own laundry soap at home.


Borax is a natural laundry booster and can be used in your homemade detergent.

Washing soda

Washing soda is a powerful cleaning agent, and it can also be used to make your own laundry soap.

Lemon juice

Adding lemon juice to your soap recipe is a great way to not only add fragrance but also boost the cleaning power.


Vinegar is a natural cleanser and fabric softener. It not only cleans your clothes but also removes adamant stains from them.

Furthermore, it also brightens your clothes and helps to remove any lingering odors.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, it’s a wise idea to use a commercial detergent instead of homemade soap or detergent.

When we do a cost-benefit analysis and look at the benefits that you get by paying for regular detergent in terms of convenience, time-saving, and effectiveness, it’s definitely worth the money.

Furthermore, believe it or not, commercial detergents will save you on the maintenance cost of your washer and also keep your clothes in good condition in the long run.

Personal Thought: Homemade laundry soap may be a cheaper alternative, but it doesn’t offer the same level of effectiveness and safety as regular detergent.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does homemade laundry detergent work in cold water?

Homemade laundry detergent works in both cold and hot water. However, its effectiveness depends on the quality of the water. The harder the water is the less effective it will be.

What are some alternatives to borax?

Some alternatives to borax are baking soda, washing soda, and lemon juice. All of these ingredients are natural and will not harm your clothes.

Can I use homemade laundry detergent on baby clothes?

Yes, you can use homemade laundry detergent on baby clothes. Just make sure to use a mild soap recipe so that it does not irritate the baby.