Homemade laundry detergent: 3 ways

Four years ago, I was walking through Whole Foods Marketplace to pick up a small container of natural laundry detergent.  I don’t know how many times I have been taken aback by theexpense.  Being a new mom with no job, I had to cut corners everywhere I could.  I would think of my laundry pile at home and just sigh.  I really did not want to revert back to using those toxic  concoctions of laundry detergent.  My little precious one’s skin was just as sensitive as mine was.  Getting rashes on his skin would create such discomfort for the both of us.  Why wasn’t there a cheaper, better and more efficient alternative?  I grabbed that two quart size laundry soap and went home.

Over the next few days I just couldn’t get this off of my mind.  Surely there was  a way to make your own at home? So I got online and looked it up.  I was amazed to find what I was reading!  People just like me, who were tired of buying overpriced detergent that didn’t last long were fed up and started making there own.  Looking at the ingredient list, I just couldn’t believe how simple it could be.  Only a simple bar of soap, borax and washing soda. That was it! Though the question in the back of my mind was “Did it really work?”.  So that day I decided to see to give it a shot.

My first experience making laundry soap was a bit strange.  I decided to make a liquid form since I didn’t have a bar of soap at home.  I did have a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap.  I cleaned out a 5 gallon sized bucket, boiled 1 gallon of water, mixed in the soap, borax and washing soda.  When the mix was cooled I learned it was a goopy gloppy cloudy ‘soap’.  I was kinda grossed out.  Though, being a new mom you are grossed out a lot in one day.  I threw in my laundry with 1/4 cup soap.  I soon learned that I used way too much! Apparently I was only supposed to use 1 tablespoon. I guess I should of re-read the instructions.  On the bright side my clothes were super clean!

To put the laundry soap to a ‘real’ test, I asked my roommate to try the soap out.  He was a doughnut maker at Voodoo Doughnuts.  His work clothes smelled of grease and sugar.  He had a hard time getting the smell out of his clothes till he used my homemade detergent.  We both were ecstatic that it worked so well.  Still to this day he says that was the best laundry soap he has ever used.

I have perfected my recipe over the years to fit our needs.  I have now added baking soda and vinegar to the mix.  Not together!  Our workout clothing which is a ploy mix likes to take on the nasty sweat smell. It can be tough to get it out. After experimenting with essential oils and making a stronger batch I tried out using the best odor reducers I know.  Baking soda and vinegar work perfectly.  I also prefer making a whipped version over the gel (liquid) or powder.

DIY guide to laundry detergent

4.5 from 2 reviews
Homemade Laundry Detergent
  • 1 cup Borax (Sodium Tetraborate)
  • 1 cup Washing Soda (Sodium Carbonate)
  • 1 cup Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate)
  • 1 bar of soap grated or chopped into bits/ 1 cup liquid soap
  • 1 cup Vinegar
Essential oils of your choice:
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Cedar
  • Sweet Orange
  • Grapefruit
Powder Method:
  1. Mix borax, washing soda and baking soda in a bowl. With the fine side of the the cheese grater, grate the bar of soap. The if you choose to make into more of a powder texture you can place it into a food processor/blender. Mix the soap into the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Pour mixture into a jar/tupperware/yogurt container.
  2. In a small jar pour in white vinegar. Add in essential oils of your choice. I use 20-30 drops of each cedar and rosemary. Seal jar with vinegar safe lid. (shake well and dip the measuring spoon when adding to laundry)
  3. Use 1½ tablespoon of the powder and 1 tablespoon of vinegar for a large load. For extra soiled laundry add in an extra tablespoon.
Liquid Method:
  1. Cut the bar or soap into small pieces. In a saucepan combine 3 cups of water and the bar of soap. Bring to a slow boil. Turn down heat and keep stirring till soap is melted. Remove from stove.
  2. If using liquid soap just bring water to boil. *I prefer this method since it doesn't separate from the water.
  3. Pour the powder slowly while stirring. This will clump up so that is why pouring slowly is important. Pour in liquid soap if using. Once everything is mixed, pour into a heat safe storage container. I like my mason jars.
  4. In a small jar pour in white vinegar. Add in essential oils of your choice. I use 20-30 drops of each cedar and rosemary. Seal jar with vinegar safe lid. (shake well and dip the measuring spoon when adding to laundry)
  5. Use 1½ tablespoon of the liquid and 1 tablespoon of vinegar for a large load. For extra soiled laundry add in an extra tablespoon.
Whipped Method:
  1. Use the liquid method except mixing in saucepan pour the hot water/soap and powder mix into a blender. Whip till white and creamy.
  2. Pour into heat safe container like a mason jar.
  3. Cool.
  4. Seal lid.
  5. Use as instructed above.

I like to get my four year old in on making the laundry soap. I have him pour in the water and grated soap into the pan.  Then when that is melted he can help me with pouring and mixing the powders together.  He loves pushing the button on the blender when making the whipped version.  He is really into helping put the clothes in the washer and adding in the soap he helped to make.  Best way to get kids excited about doing laundry!

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  1. says

    We also have a friend who makes laundry detergent with a similar recipe (which we trade for veggies we grow.) However, we just started greywatering our laundry water to irrigate the lawn and I read that borax can kill plants. Do you know of any recipe without borax?

  2. Janny says

    Hi Jessica. I actually have a friend that uses the grey water method too. She does use borax in her laundry detergent and her garden is thriving and very healthy! I do understand your concerns. If you would like an alternative, I have heard using citric acid works okay. Though you may need to do some altering with the recipe to make it as efficient as you like it.

  3. Desiree says

    Really awesome recipe! I have just been throwing in random amounts of borax and/or washing soda, soap nuts, and essential oil. It works okay, but sometimes it’s just not strong enough. I’ve also been making all my household cleaning products for 3 years or so and it’s way nicer than chemicals. I can’t stand the smell of chemicals at all! Yuck. It makes me smile that your baby inspired you to become more wholesome and natural! It’s beautiful knowing what you surround yourself with. Way cool that your husband is studying to be a naturopath – I’m in school doing that too! Love it! Herbs and nature just completely fascinates me. The way everything is in harmony and here for a reason… man, this world is incredible!!

  4. Susan says

    I have a new Samsung front load HE washer and used a homemade soap recipe (it didnt use baking soda or vinegar) in my old front loader and had clean smelling but dingy looking clothes! I also would notice some of my kids clothes would come out with spots (almost dry greasy looking) on them. Is this recipe for a top or front load machine? With 4 small children and another on the way I try to stick with what works but would love to save a bit of money if it works in front loader too! I just don’t want to end up rewashing dingy or spotted clothes! :)

    • Aubrey says

      I’ve never had a frontloading machine but I looked up some recipes online to be sure and they all seemed to include the same ingredients, so I think you’ll be happy with these results.

  5. nita says

    Can you use this laundry soap without the vinegar? My daughter has a problem with vinegar. Where do you find Dr Bronners soap, I’ve been using felsnapta.

  6. Carrie says

    So I’m not sure if I did this right. I used the recipe for the liquid but with the bar soap and the end result that I put in my mason jars was like a dry gritty paste…. Is this how it’s supposed to be? I wasn’t supposed to put the vinegar and oil with the powder and soap was I?

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