Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

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
  • Funnel
  • 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:

  1. Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil and pour into the bucket.
  2. Add the borax and washing soda and stir to dissolve into the water.
  3. 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.
  4. Pour the melted soap into the bucket with the already dissolved borax/washing soda mixture. Stir very well.
  5. Add the last gallon of boiling water to the bucket and stir to mix.
  6. Let the detergent cool down a bit (about an hour or so) until it looks like this…
  7. 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
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Ingredients
  1. 2 gallons + 1 quart Boiling Water
  2. 1 bar castile soap, grated
  3. 2 cups Borax
  4. 2 cups Washing Soda
  5. 3 gallon bucket/garbage pail
  6. Empty jugs to store the detergent
  7. Funnel
  8. Mixing Spoon
  9. Cheese Grater
Instructions
  1. Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil and pour into the bucket.
  2. Add the borax and washing soda and stir to dissolve into the water.
  3. 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.
  4. Pour the melted soap into the bucket with the already dissolved borax/washing soda mixture. Stir very well.
  5. Add the last gallon of boiling water to the bucket and stir to mix.
  6. Let the detergent cool down a bit (about an hour or so).
  7. Using the funnel, pour the detergent into your empty jugs.
  8. Use between 1/4 to 1/2 cup per load. (around 1/4 cup for HE washers)
Nature's Nurture http://naturesnurtureblog.com/

 

Some Important Notes:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

Ingredients

  • 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)
Instructions
  1. 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.)
  2. 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. 
  3. Fill the rest of the gallon container with hot water and stir to mix.
  4. 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!


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Sarah UmmYusuf is a former school teacher turned stay-at-home wife and mama with a passion for all things simple, natural, and homemade. She loves the natural world, and believes the solutions to many of the world’s ailments lie in nature. Her blog, , began as a way to document her family’s journey to a greener home, but has since become a thriving community and resource for those wishing to take small steps towards a more eco-friendly, natural and sustainable lifestyle. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Comments

    • Sarah says

      Aww thanks Debbie! I’m so happy you’re finding the site useful :) Castile soap can be found at any health food store that sells natural and organic products. The brand I use is called Dr. Bronner’s and it comes in many different scents. Sometimes (not always), you may be able to find it in regular drug stores like Walgreens. If all else fails, you can also purchase it on Amazon for a good price too.

      And of course, if you’re really in a bind, you can always just use Ivory soap, which is sold everywhere. Hope that helps!

    • Zxk says

      And why use such an organic soap when your putting borax in it?? Considering most soap contains only glycerin and sodium….

      • says

        There is lots of talk about the safety of borax, and personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m comfortable using it in my cleaning products.

  1. Jenn says

    I would really like to try this, but I’m from Canada and I’ve never see Washing Soda before, would Baking Soda work?

    • Sarah says

      Hi Jenn! No, baking soda is NOT the same as washing soda and they cannot be used interchangeably. Although, I believe you can cook baking soda in the oven and it will turn into washing soda – but I have yet to try it, so I can’t offer any advice there.

      We just recently moved to Canada (Toronto) from the States, and I’ve been dreading running out of washing soda because I don’t see it much around here either! But I just did a quick search and found this thread where folks were sharing different places they’ve found it in Canada: http://www.diaperswappers.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-613588.html

      Hope that helps! And please let us know if/where you do end up finding it! Thanks and good luck :)

    • Sumer says

      Also how is this with removing stains? I have 3 small children.. and their clothes can get quite dirty sometimes. I currently use oxi-clean but have been looking for an all natural alternative.

      • Sarah says

        I’ve been using it on our son’s clothes since he was born (he’s now 10 months) and haven’t had issues with stains. However, depending on the stain, I usually pretreat (even if that just means rubbing it with some liquid soap before the stain dries).

        If you’re looking for an alternative to oxi-clean, I found a homemade version that people are raving about but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet. I’ll blog about it once I do. Here’s the recipe if you want to try it: 1 cup water, 1/2 cup baking soda (or washing soda), 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide. Mix it all together and keep in a dark container.

    • Sarah says

      Hi Sumer,

      You can use liquid castile soap, just not with this recipe. I’ll edit the post right now to include an alternative recipe using liquid castile. Thanks for your question!

  2. Rebecca says

    I just wanted to share, that I made my own homemade liquid laundry soap. You can add “essential oil” to the liquid to give it a scent, if you like! :) What I’d really like to share is that I have a HE washer. 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! :)

    • Sarah says

      Hi Rebecca, thanks so much for sharing your experiences with the HE washer! At the time of writing this post, we had a top-loader, but as of a few months ago, we now have a front-loader at our new place. But, I’ve been using my homemade powdered detergent lately, so never thought about what issues may arise with the HE washer. Thanks again, I will add your comments to the post, so others can take precautions :)

  3. Alana says

    Hi there! This is great! I was just wondering about the liquid laundry soap using liquid castile soap…. There isn’t any borax or washing soda in the recipe? Just baking soda and the salt? I’m just asking before I give it a whirl (ha!) as it is quite different from the other recipe. :) Thanks!

    • Sarah says

      Hi Alana, I actually haven’t tried that recipe. I posted it because a reader had asked for a variation using the liquid castile, since that’s all she had on hand. I can’t remember exactly where I found this recipe, but it’s a pretty common one found on many different sites. I do know that you can use either baking soda OR washing soda in the recipe (I’ll edit it to reflect that), but yes, no borax at all. Hope that helps!

  4. says

    When I added my washing soda to the warm water and salt, it was fine for a while but now it has turned into rocks. Anyone else notice this? Not adding the Bronner’s till tomorrow. Too tired to sit here and shake the rocks around in the water! LOL Maybe they’ll dissolve.

  5. Lorna says

    I use scent-free, dye-free liquid detergent (such as Sun Free) because many products cause rashes on my skin and powdered soaps cause respiratory issues. I tried this liquid soap, but I get rashes from washing soda. I’ve even tried washing my clothes with dish soap before. Any suggestions for ultra-sensitve folks like me?

    • Sarah says

      Hi Lorna, I’m so sorry washing soda causes rashes for you! I’ve never run into this before but I’d be glad to look into it for you and email you with whatever I find. Just give me a few days :) Thanks!

    • Sarah says

      Hi Merle, I just checked online and looks like they’re not the same thing. That part in the post that says to get it from Walmart was actually shard by a reader so I haven’t actually done it.

      But I have found the Arm & Hammer brand of super washing soda at Walmart in the laundry aisle near the oxi-clean type of products.

      If all else fails, you can also find it on Amazon. It’s listed in my Amazon store under cleaning supplies here: http://naturesnurtureblog.com/nature-shop/amazon-store/

      Hope that helps!

    • Sarah says

      Hi Ren,

      Yes of course! I’ve definitely seen a few people use Sunlight for this recipe without any issues. Good luck! :)

  6. Lynn says

    Hi, I just purchased some natural goat milk soap,& laundry detergent bars. I can’t wait to give this a try to turn the laundry bar into a liquid ! ! I just came across your site and I am addicted already!! You have so many TIPS , I can’t wait to give them all a try !!

  7. Leah says

    I found one of the old style cheese graters with a crank and I found it MUCH easier to grate my soap and still got fine flakes.

  8. Alexandra says

    Hi! I’ve been looking for a way to make my own laundry soap and stumbled upon this post, and so glad I did because you actually explain HOW to mix everything together, not just list the ingredients and say mix it all in a bucket! I’m having trouble finding washing soda and I noticed that one of the main ingredients in Oxiclean is sodium carbonate …is that just another brand of washing soda? Would that work? Thanks in advance!

  9. Abbie says

    Can you use fels-naptha in the liquid laundry detergent instead of castile soap? I just noticed that you can use in your dry recipe and I’ve always loved fels-naptha, so I’m kind of partial to using it if it will work.

  10. greenfreak says

    i made a batch of this & followed the instructions exactly – it worked great but was lumpy ….i didnt know i should expect lumps so i re-boiled everything to try to thin them out & now its solid! (not hard, but not viscous)
    any suggestions on how to keep it from lumping up?

    • Sarah says

      Sometimes, as it dries it gets a little lumpy, so I keep a long wooden spoon nearby the laundry area to kinda break apart/stir the detergent a bit and then give the jug a good shake to break it all up before pouring into the washer.

  11. JoAnn says

    Is that washing soda/vinegar floor cleaning trick safe to use on wood laminate floors? I wasn’t sure about putting the vinegar on those kinds of floors–afraid it would eat the finish off or something.

  12. amber says

    Would you recommend this recipe for use on baby clothes? Is it mild enough, I mean it has to be better than Dreft right?? Would it still be mild if using ivory soap instead of the castile soap? I am due in a few weeks, and I have a lot of baby clothes to launder! :) Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Amber, congrats on the baby! I’m expecting #2 at the end of July! :)

      I actually started making my own detergent when I was pregnant with my first child, which is what sparked this post. So yes, this is mild enough to use on baby clothes, as I’ve used on my son’s clothing since before he was born and never ran into any problems. However, he has eczema now, which although is food-related, it can be exacerbated by environmental conditions (like detergents, certain diaper brands, etc.). The only thing in this recipe to worry about is the borax, which although is considered safe, it can cause problems for those with sensitive skin.

      For that reason, I’ve stopped using this recipe on his clothes and have been using a laundry ball like this one (http://naturesnurtureblog.com/2012/11/28/smartklean-detergent-ball-review-giveaway/). It’s funny that you commented on this today though because this weekend, I’m going to make a batch of the alternate liquid castile version that’s listed at the bottom of this post, which doesn’t use any borax at all.

      Hope that helps, and if you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Congrats again! :)

  13. Phabeanna says

    Thanks so much for the recipe! I just made my first batch using Yardley English Lavender soap I had on hand and with baking soda-turned-washing-soda from your post on baking soda. Looks and smells great! I stay broke due to medical bills from two cats with cancer and I wanted so bad to make the detergent since I just ran out and with $4.80 to last me a week, I turned to the internet for a recipe that may not include baking soda since I didn’t have washing soda on hand. That’s when I stumbled onto your site. What a God send! Thanks again! :)

  14. Leslie Ann says

    When you say “Ivory” soap, is that the bar of Ivory soap which is 99% pure and floats in water ? I’m a newbie to this and I really want to make my own soaps free of chemicals. I live in Quebec in a very small community with few stores, so finding all that I will need to start making my own soaps may be difficult. I love your blogs and will definately be posting questions and maybe if I get good at this might even have some suggestions. Thank you Sarah

  15. Macarena Uribe says

    Hi!, I was reading about how you maneged your kids Excema, and saw you use Borax in your home made laundry soap. Be very careful with Borax, because it is a poison (used to kill rats), and it is toxic, – either throu skin contact, swalowed or breathed (the powder). I saw some time ago a coment over it of a guy that is a profesional Chemist, and he was so upset about the whole fashion of using Borax as a safe non toxic way of cleaning mold and other house hold uses. Borax doesn´t expell fumes as clorine, thats why it is an alternative to it in mold removal for example, but it is toxic in low dosis. So be careful, and think maybe your home made laundry detergent can also be acusing the excema in your kid or other future problems (like infertility, etc).

  16. says

    I would love to make my own detergent, but I can’t make a decision on borax. Have you looked at the test results on ewg.org? If you’re aware that it got a grade of F, then how do you reconcile that? Is there something that I’m missing? For 2 gallons, you’re only using 2 cups of borax, so maybe it’s safe at that amount.
    And if you weren’t aware.. will this change the recipe you use, I wonder? So far, I’ve asked every hippie Mama and none of them really have an answer =/ There’s a post about it on CrunchyBetty. She’s analyzed the studies and decided it was safe. I have a hard time with that though, because I figure the science team at ewg knows more than me, and if they say it’s an F then who am I to dispute that? I’d love your opinion. I’m not being confrontational.. I’m really curious to learn if there’s something I’m missing. Thanks!!

    • says

      I’ve read the Crunchy Betty post as well, and tend to fall on that side of the spectrum. I figure I’m using it in my detergent and it gets washed out of our clothes, so I don’t worry too much about it. That being said, there are now lots of recipes for detergents without borax too!

    • says

      Yes! I’ve used in hot and cold washes without a problem. If using cold water, I like to start filling the washer with water, add the soap, then swish it around a little to help it dissolve, before adding the clothes.

  17. Kory Knauf says

    I made this last night and thought it turned out great, but this morning its all clumpy and thick. Do you have any idea what i would have done wrong? Would like to try again but dont want to waste my ingredients again. Thanks!

    • says

      Have you tried breaking it up and mixing/stirring it with a wooden spoon? Or shake it up if it’s in a bottle or jug. It will naturally get chunky as it sits, but should break right up once you give it a good shake/stir.

  18. Senior Chief says

    Little late to the party.. too many comments to read.. you can convert baking soda to washing soda by baking at 400 degrees until the structure changes. Keep an eye on it and stir frequently. Also, we have used Fel’s Naphtha grated soap instead of Castille, although both work well.
    Additionally, using soda tow wash clothing and/or dishes is beneficial to your septic tank, as it neutralizes the acidity released by bacterial action, allowing more effective decomp.

  19. Lorraine says

    Just tried your liquid version, and washed sons muddy rugby kit – came out just fine…easily as good as any shop detergent, without the chemicals!!
    PS I put some fresh lemon juice in mine instead of essential oils as shouldnt really use EO in plastic bottles and my detergent bottle is plastic….plus lemon juice has a lovely fresh smell and some extra cleaning power!!!!

  20. Elizabeth says

    You mention using baking soda and vinegar to freshen laundry. I have an HE washer (front loader). You can’t mix liquid and powder in the soap dispenser; so, do I make powdered detergent and add baking soda to it? Or, is baking soda and vinegar enough to clean laundry in an HE washer?

    • says

      I don’t have an HE front loader anymore. But when I did, I only used powder detergent and baking soda in the soap dispenser, and I used vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser.

      And as for baking soda and vinegar being enough to clean laundry? That’s exactly what I use when we’re traveling and need to do laundry! It works in a pinch, but I don’t like using it longterm. It’s just really convenient because you can always find some baking soda and vinegar no matter where you are. :-)

  21. Julie says

    I have found another recipe and you use liquid castile soap and the borax and washing soda, I NEVER get a film or build up in my HE and have been using it for two years, almost daily. Just letting you know.

  22. nadianeva says

    I have a disaster on my hands today. First I had trouble dissolving the washing soda and salt. I made sure the water wasn’t too warm. Then i added more cooler water and it finally dissolved after working on it for a long time.. When adding the Dr. Bronner liquid soap, i ended up with this thick jello formula with pieces of soap. I couldn’t even put it in the detergent container. Big chunks of soap. I put it in large glass jars when diluting and I’m shaking away, still big chunks of soap. Haven’t had time to read all the posts but don’t know what i did wrong. So dissappointing…i ordered all the stuff and wasted a full cup of my $16. Dr. Bronner. Help! What did i do wrong?

  23. says

    Oh no, I’m so sorry nadianeva! I’m assuming you tried the version with liquid castile soap, right? Admittedly, I haven’t tried that recipe – I found it online from Apartment Therapy and added it for those who were asking about using the liquid castile, instead of grating a bar soap.

    A quick search right now and I found a similar recipe from another blog, but this one has a disclaimer to dilute the castile soap first, before adding it to the salt/soda mixture. I think that’s where things went wrong. Again, I’m so sorry about what happened and please let me know if you happen to try it again! Here’s that other blog, in case you’re interested (I’ve also updated the info on this post as well): http://www.cheekybumsblog.com/2012/01/homemade-laundry-soap/

  24. nadianeva says

    Thank you Sara for the link on the liquid detergent. I decided to use my clumpy batch anyway. We shake it before using as it tends to separate but seems to work! The laundry is clean and i’ve yet to see any glumps on the clothes. I will try this improved method next time.

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