NOTE: I’ve personally stopped using homemade laundry soaps altogether. I know many people still have great success with them, but they started leaving a film/residue on our laundry. Might be our hard water, or maybe just the powder version, but I wrote a whole post diving deep into this issue here.
I’ve been meaning to try this out for so long now but for various reasons, never got around to it. But with the arrival of our first child on the way and faced with the need to wash all of his clothes and bedding, I finally got the push I needed to finally make my own homemade laundry detergent with all-natural ingredients!
This homemade laundry detergent not only keeps nasty chemicals away from our family, it’s also a more frugal, sustainable, and greener alternative to commercial products. What’s not to love?
Ok, so on to the project!
What you need:
- 2 gallons + 1 quart Boiling Water
- 1 bar castile soap (or Ivory), grated
- 2 cups Borax
- 2 cups Washing Soda
- 3 gallon bucket/garbage pail
- Empty jugs to store the detergent
- Mixing Spoon
- Cheese Grater
I use (Dr. Bronner’s) Castile Soap, which is a natural soap made from vegetable oils and hemp. But you could just as easily use Dove bar soap or your favorite soap bar. You can find Dr. Bronner’s products at any organic store like Whole Foods and I think I even remember seeing it at some Walgreens. I found the borax and washing soda in the laundry aisle of my local supermarket.
What to do:
- Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil and pour into the bucket.
- Add the borax and washing soda and stir to dissolve into the water.
- Bring 1 quart of water to a boil and add the grated soap to it. Keep stirring (whisking) until the soap is completely melted with no chunks.
- Pour the melted soap into the bucket with the already dissolved borax/washing soda mixture. Stir very well.
- Add the last gallon of boiling water to the bucket and stir to mix.
- Let the detergent cool down a bit (about an hour or so) until it looks like this…
- Using the funnel, pour the detergent into your empty jugs. I used empty juice jugs and milk gallons that I washed very well.
Liquid Laundry Detergent
Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil and pour into the bucket.
Add the borax and washing soda and stir to dissolve into the water.
Bring 1 quart of water to a boil and add the grated soap to it. Keep stirring (whisking) until the soap is completely melted with no chunks.
Pour the melted soap into the bucket with the already dissolved borax/washing soda mixture. Stir very well.
Add the last gallon of boiling water to the bucket and stir to mix.
Let the detergent cool down a bit (about an hour or so).
Using the funnel, pour the detergent into your empty jugs.
Use between 1/4 to 1/2 cup per load. (around 1/4 cup for HE washers)
Some Important Notes:
- You could prepare the entire mixture in a bucket with a cover and just use the bucket for storage instead of pouring the detergent into smaller jugs, but I found that it’s easier to handle later on if the detergent is in smaller containers so I can just pour out what I need into my measuring cup (an old Tide detergent cup).
- You’ll want to use between 1/4 and 1/2 cup per load of laundry, depending on how large/dirty your load is, and also if you’re using cold or hot water. Experimentation is key here.
- I use cold water to wash our clothes and this recipe works great. Just make sure that after you pour the detergent into the wash basin, that you swish it around a bit with the water to help it dissolve first before putting your clothes in.
- Over time, this recipe will begin to thicken and resemble a gel/jello-like mixture, which is normal. What I do is just shake the jug vigorously until the mixture loosens up. If it’s too thick to shake, just use a long wooden spoon to break it up and then shake it.
- Of course this laundry detergent has no scent so your clothes will not come out of the wash smelling like roses or sunshine or any other chemically-formulated fragrance, BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t have fresh smelling laundry! Check out my post on how to naturally freshen your laundry for more tips!
For HE/Front-Loading Washers
Since this detergent is low-suds, it’s PERFECT for HE/front-loading washers, but you just want to use less detergent (around 1/4 cup). Also, one of our readers (thanks, Rebecca!) shared her experience about adding the detergent to an HE washer, and had this advice:
My soap dispenser became plugged by the liquid soap. I had to run HOT water through the dispenser to dissolve the soap and “fix” the problem. I have since been adding the soap to the drum, letting the first little bit of water run in, stop and then add my clothes. It really surprises me that the soap would plug in the dispenser since it actually dissolves rather quickly and easily once the water is added and the drum makes a revolution or two. HOWEVER, I would caution others to add the liquid to the drum and not the dispenser! 🙂
See? That wasn’t so bad, was it? Try this once and I guarantee you’ll love it. It’s homemade, contains all-natural ingredients, and when compared to commercial laundry detergents, saves you a ton of money every year! Plus you can rest assured that you’re not adding all kinds of nasty chemicals back into the water supply.
Since I’ve started using this recipe, I really can’t even stand the smell of walking down the laundry aisle at my supermarket. I’m all of a sudden extremely aware of everything that goes into making all those products smell the way they do – from the bleaches and dyes, to the colors and fragrances – a whole lot of artificial ingredients that come into contact with and stay on my clothes, towels, and bedding…No thank you!
So try this out and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear about your experience and how it worked out for you!
Alternate Version with Liquid Castile Soap
If you would rather use liquid castile soap, you can still make homemade laundry detergent, but just use the following recipe:
- 1 cup Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap (any variety)
- 1 cup baking soda OR washing soda
- 2 cups + 3 cups hot tap water (plus more to top off the gallon)
- 1/3 cup of sea salt, or other coarse grained salt
- 1 gallon container (any clean jug or milk bottle works)
- In the gallon container, add 2 cups of hot water and stir in the baking soda and salt until dissolved. (It won’t dissolve completely.)
- In a separate container, add the castile soap to the 3 cups hot water, stir and pour into your gallon container. Pour it in slowly, stirring constantly to break up the gelling that will happen.
- Fill the rest of the gallon container with hot water and stir to mix.
- Use ¼ cup of laundry soap per load.
Please note that I haven’t personally tried this version with liquid castile soap, so if you try it, please let me know how it goes! The recipe directions above have also been updated to include more tips from this recipe.
Where can you buy washing soda? Here are some tips on where to find washing soda (which is NOT the same as baking soda!)
- in the laundry aisle
- in the pool cleaner aisle at Walmart, brand name is AquaChem. Just make sure the only ingredient listed is sodium carbonate!
- call this phone number 1-800-524-1328 and have the UPC code 33200-03020. The service will ask for your zip code and then tell you places in your area that sell the item.
- you can make your own by cooking baking soda in the oven until it becomes washing soda!