Laundry detergent isn't the most evil of all the chemicals (see Why You Should Stop Using Bleach for more information), it isn't really all that great for you, your clothes, or the environment. It is something that helps break down the fibers in your clothing, decreasing the health and life of your clothing. It is also expensive and can easily be replaced with a large batch of homemade laundry detergent.

You will need.
To make your own detergent you will need a large pail. A five gallon bucket or pail with a lid is a really good option. You will also need a good size pan, a knife, a spoon, and something that will be long enough to reach to the bottom of your pail (such as a paint stirring stick). The ingredients for the laundry detergent are soap, water, borax, and washing soda. Most of these things are easy to find at the store (in the same section as the laundry detergent), but if your store doesn't carry them you can easily get them online.

Making your detergent.
To make your detergent you will begin by preparing your soap. You actually have a few options. The first is to use all natural castille soap which is made from all plant material oils. This can be a great option because it is all natural and is definitely "soap" (some soaps are actually beauty bars and don't really contain soap). Castille soap can be purchased in the solid or liquid forms. Choose the one that works for you. Your other option is to use body soap. You can pick up some cheap bars and use these or you can collect the small bars and pieces that are left our after you shower or wash your hands. Ivory soap is also all natural if you would like to use that. No matter what type of soap you use you need to take the knife and whittle it into small pieces and place it in the pan on the stove. Fill your pan till it is almost full of water. Many recommend using at least five cups of water. Stir often as the soap melts and try not to let it boil over. You aren't going to want to leave it because it can boil over easily and makes a huge mess. It can also burn to the bottom of the pan. Once all the soap is melted then turn it off and let it cool a bit. If you are using liquid soap then measure out 5-6 ounces of soap for adding to your detergent in just a few minutes.

Add three gallons of water to your pail. To do this easily use a clean gallon size water or milk jug. Add your melted soap (or liquid soap) to the water. To this add 1 cup of washing soda and 1/2 cup of borax. Stir it well. It should be a bucket of soapy water and will most likely be the a lighter color of the soap you used (if you use a green colored soap then you will get green colored laundry detergent, etc.). Put the lid on the mixture and let it sit for 24 hours. During that time it will thicken up and will look completely different when you come back to it. After the waiting period you will want to stir it up (it could look really thick, globby, or even have lumps in it, this is no big deal). You can then use a measuring scoop to scoop up the desired amount and use as normal detergent.

Adding fragrance. If the smell of your soap isn't your thing, or you choose a soap with little to no smell then you might want to add a few drops of essential oils to the bucket. This can make your detergent smell good, doesn't cost a lot, and can easily be mixed with the ingredients involved. Additionally they are all natural in their creation and made from plant materials.

To use.
This is laundry detergent. Your product may look a lot like it or it may be runnier, thicker, or less even. No matter what it looks like, it will clean your clothes. To get the job done use 1/2 cup for a lightly stained load and 1 cup for a large or heavily stained batch of clothes. This will get the job done of cleaning your clothes and will leave them looking good and smelling great.

Powdered detergent.
While many people like liquid detergent, this liquid detergent requires that you keep a 5 gallon bucket near the washer. Not everyone has the space to put a bucket of laundry detergent in their laundry space (I say space because you may have a room, a closet, or your washer and dryer may even be in your kitchen). For the people who wish an alternative you can make a powdered version of laundry detergent.

Carefully shred 2/3 cup of Fels Naphtha bar or another castille soap bar. You can use a knife or a cheese grater to accomplish this. Place it in a large bowl. Then add 1/2 cup of borax and 1/2 cup of washing soda. Carefully mix it all up really well and store. It should be stored in a place that is clean and most importantly dry. You can place it in a bowl that is seal-able or a baggie that has a zipper type of device on it (Ziploc here we come). For using this detergent use a little less then 1 tablespoon per load. If the load is really large or heavily soiled then you may want to use one heaping tablespoon instead. While this doesn't make as large of a batch and many claim that it isn't as good as the liquid stuff, it does take up loads less space and works well. If you have hard water or are noticing that your soap doesn't seem to be dissolving well you may want to put all the powdered ingredients into the blender and blend to make it a finer powder.

A note about high efficiency front load washers.
Some new washers (HE front load washers) require that you buy soap made for their type of machine. This is because they use less water and need a soap that doesn't get real sudsy. Both of the homemade soap recipes are low in suds and can be used in a HE front load washer. However it should be noted that you should always use the recommended amount and not get carried away. You should also note that it is possible that using soap that isn't specially designed for a HE machine may negate your warranty. Check first if this is a concern for you.

Making your own laundry detergent gives you a way to save loads of money (no pun intended) and to have a greener option. You don't have to spend lots of money on it either! Plus it is better for the environment and your family. It also improves the quality of your air (air pollution is often worse in homes then outside). Get started today for a better life and lots of savings.