Homemade Laundry Soap Tutorial

Homemade Natural Effective Laundry Soap Recipe Homemade Laundry Soap Tutorial

Making your own laundry soap is so easy and inexpensive that I encourage everyone to try it! Even if you aren’t concerned about the health benefits of switching to a more natural detergent, this recipe will save money and time! Once you have the ingredients, it takes about 20 minutes total to make five gallons of laundry soap, enough for months for most families!

This was my cost breakdown: Total Cost for Ingredients was $4.30 and at 1/2 cup per load, one batch would wash 160 loads. That works out to a little less than $0.03 per load! By comparison, the cheapest I have found any semi-natural store bought detergents breaks down to about $0.20 or $0.25 cents per load. A natural substitute at a savings of $0.17 cents or more per load!

Ingredients for Homemade Natural Liquid Laundry Soap

  • 1 cup Borax (sodium borate) found as 20 Mule Team Borax on laundry aisle of most grocery stores
  • 1 cup Washing Soda (sodium carbonate or soda ash) is available on the laundry aisle of most grocery stores
  • A bar of natural and organic bar soap like Dr. Bronners, or homemade soap

Optional Ingredients:

  • Sal Suds (new product from Dr. Bronners- a good grease cutter)
  • Liquid Castille soap for extra cleaning power and scent
  • Essential Oils for scent

To make Homemade Natural Liquid Laundry Detergent (Environmentally Friendly)

  1. Ask your local bakery, Sam’s Club/Costco or grocery store for any leftover five gallon buckets with lids. They will give these to you for free.
  2. Grate the bar soap with a cheese grater or food processor.
  3. Put 4-4.5 gallons of warm or hot water into a five gallon bucket
  4. In a medium sized sauce pan, heat 2 quarts of water until simmering.
  5. Pour grated soap in and slow slowly until dissolved
  6. Pour hot soap mixture into the five gallon bucket and stir well.
  7. Add optional ingredients if you plan to and stir well.
  8. Put lid on tightly and keep in corner overnight.
  9. The next day, remove lid and stir again.
  10. Pour into empty gallon jars or bottles and store by washer.
  11. Use 1/2 to 1 cup per load, depending on how dirty the clothes are.

Important Note: I have heard people express some concern with the use of Borax. Borax is an ingredient in most natural and eco-friendly cleaners, including Seventh Generation and Biokleen, so it is difficult to find any product without it. Though it can be toxic in high doses, especially if ingested, in the dilution used in this recipe, it appears to have little or no health risks. If you are concerned with the use of Borax and prefer not to use it, use an extra 1/2 cup of washing soda or 1 cup of baking soda in its place. You could also substitute 1 cup of Liquid Castille soap.

Does Natural Laundry Soap Work?

In my experience, this laundry soap works better than store bought detergents (which aren’t even actually soaps at all but mixtures of chemicals!). This soap does not have a distinct smell like many conventional laundry soaps, though you can scent it with essential oils if you like. I use this as a pre-treatment for stains also, and it works well when pre-treated for up to 1 week.

What is your laundry secret? Tell me about it below!

Reader Comments

  1. Barbie Shannon Wood says

    concerning the natural laundry detergent…..Borax is from Boric acid and it is not a safe thing to have around the house. It is not a “green” product, even though it is marketed that way. I just learned this myself….look into it.

    • says

      I’ve read stuff on both sides of this issue too. There is actually a link to the safety info on Borax above. In my opinion, it is safer than bleach and other ingredients in conventional cleaners, but certainly precautions should be taken, especially when using it around children. Thanks for the comment!

      • Leah says

        Just a tip on the Borax powder, it actually does wonders for getting rid of ants and roaches. I was able to get rid of roaches from a duplex I rented by putting borax powder in any nook or crevace I could find and sprinkled it under every sink. I also mixed a small amount of sugar and borax powder and left it under my sink by a huge hole in the wall to tempt the roaches to take it back to the nest as food. Within a month there were no more roaches……

    • says

      From what I understand, front loading and high efficiency washers just need a non-foaming, or low-foaming detergent or soap since the suds can prevent clothes from getting clean and can harm the machine. I don’t have a front loader personally, but I know several moms of big families that use this recipe with front loading washers, and in researching it, everything seemed to indicate that this recipe would be fine since it doesn’t foam. There was even a tutorial on one site that showed how to make your own high efficiency soap with essentially the same ingredients, so I’d think it would be fine.

      • Brittany says

        I was wondering, concerning the front loaders : where do you put it? In with the clothes, or in the pull out tray where you’d normally put the he detergent? Thanks! Love your website by the way!

        • LJ says

          I put it in the pull out tray. Works great!
          I used it dry, just grated it all in my food processor. Saved all the melting steps and storage issues. I use 1 T. Per load

  2. Kilty says

    Sorry, I may be missing it, but when in the numerical order do you add the borax and washing soda? Or are the lumped into the #7 “add optional ingredients”? Thanks!

    • says

      Could just be the soap you are using. It will actually still work and
      be stronger as a gel. I usually use a hand blender to make it smooth
      though and then pour if possible, or scoop into laundry.

  3. says

    I’m excited to try this recipe!  I was just thinking about trying to find a cheaper alternative to the Seventh Gen laundry detergent we’ve been using.  And then I randomly stumbled upon your site.

  4. says

     This sounds like a great alternative to what I have been using that is almost gone. One question though, we have one of those high efficiency washers that is supposed to only have detergents marked as HE. Do you know if this would qualify?

    • says

      I don’t have a HE washer, but several readers who do have commented
      that they have used it with no problem. You might be able to us a
      little less though.

  5. says

    I made my laundry soap yesterday and used it today.  My soap is very, very thin.  Not sure why.  I used the exact amount and brands mentioned in the post.  I washed a load of cloth diapers this morning and they seem to be just as clean if not cleaner than when I was using my store bought detergent, so I guess it’s working! It’s just hard to get over the paradigm (like it is with most natural, holistic things :) of laundry detergent being viscous and creating lots of suds.

    • says

      It is definitely thinner than store bought, but like you said, it
      works better. you can always add more bar soap in future batches if
      you want a thicker soap, just make sure to use a little less of the
      finished soap per load.

  6. Kristina says

    I can’t wait to try this! Cost savings? YES please! I’ve, through coupons, gotten detergent for around $7 for that many loads, and that’s (good) commercial cleanser but I have no doubt I’d like this more. I recently bought some washing soda to add to loads and have gotten great results, so just making it all from scratch is going to be exciting! Also want to try making toothpaste and a ton of other things you’ve got on here. !!!

  7. M. Smith says

    Katie,
    I make my own detergent using your first 3 ingredients: bar soap, borax, and washing soda. I don’t have room for a 5 gallon bucket of liquid soap! i put the powdered soap in a sealed container (like a pretty jar or an old yogurt container)and just use 1 tbsp per load. Works great!

  8. Nora says

    Have any of you added essential oils or Liquid Castille Soap for scent?  If so, what measurements have you used, and what scents?  I’d like to have nicely scented laundry soap, but I’d rather learn from your experiences than risk botching it on my own!  Thank you!

      • LJ says

        Since I have never heard of the different and therefor “safe SLS, I googled it. This is what I found. So, I will be avoiding all SLS.

        Where Do They Come From?
        What if the label says the ingredient comes from coconut?
        What they’re talking about here is where they’re getting the raw materials—in this case, the lauryl alcohol. Getting back to chemistry, SLS is synthesized in the lab by treating lauryl alcohol with sulfur trioxide gas or chlorosulfuric acid. Lauryl alcohol can come from petroleum, but it can also come from coconut oil. The oil is put through an elaborate process, however, that liberates the fatty acids, then hydrogenizes the oil, then pulls out the lauryl alcohol.
        No matter where the alcohol comes from, it’s still mixed with the other chemicals to produce SLS or SLES or other forms of the ingredient. The result is still a chemical that is a long way from the original coconut oil. We may feel better having something that originated from coconut oil rather than from petroleum, but that doesn’t mean the chemical will not be irritating to skin or hair, or that it will not be contaminated from manufacturing processes.
        How can we be sure of the extent of the contamination? We have no way of knowing. Companies can “vacuum-strip” ingredients to take the 1,4-dioxane out, but you won’t find anything on the label telling you whether or not they did that.
        The whole “coconut-derived” or “from coconut oil” or whatever verbiage you see on the label is a marketing gimmick to make you believe that somehow the ingredient is more natural. Don’t fall for it! Choose instead products that have REAL natural ingredients rather than chemicals they’re trying to pass off as “more natural.”

  9. Joyce says

    I was thinking about substituting the baking soda for the borax.  Have you tried that?  Do the clothes come out as clean?  I’m thinking they would, but was just wondering.  I have children and we deal with allergies and asthma.  I am looking for the safest way, but want clean clothes!  Thanks!

  10. Ashley Sidell says

    A few questions:1.  How much Sal Suds are used?  2.  Is it possible to make this into a “concentrate” using less water, therefor using less product?  I am trying to find a good cloth diaper “stripper” that is more natural than say… Dawn. <—Ick!  Thanks!

  11. williford says

    Have been using baking soda for cleaning sinks and bathtubs for couple years now and it works good or better than store bought cleansers.

  12. Rebekah Huling says

    Hi!

    I made this recipe recently and the consistancy of the detergent didn’t turn out as I expected.  In your picture, it looks kind of creamy.  The consistancy of mine was like water with chunks of clear jelly.  I still used it in my luandry and it worked fine.  I just want to make sure I’m following the recipe correctly.  Any suggestions??

    • says

      That’s definitely normal… mine sometimes does that too… I think it depends partially on temperature. Sometimes I use an immersion blender to smooth it out, but no need to at all.

      • Rebekah Huling says

        Ok thanks!

        I also wanted to ask you about using the Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap… Can you use it in adition to the Dr. Bronner’s bar of soap?  How much would you use? And when would you add it?

  13. Scott Capurso says

    Can these be used with low water effiecient washers? We always use concentrated tide liquid. Dont want to wreck my new washer.

  14. Gilda Meyer says

    Can I use this detergent for all kinds of clothes like delicates or hand washables?
    I found thisso I was wondering if any of these ingredients are too harsh or just not needed…although well I have been using chemical loaded detergents until now so….just curious…
    http://www.thebudgetfashionista.com/archive/cleaning-with-essential-oils/
    Fine washables laundry detergent – Combine 1 ounce liquid castile soap with 1 cup of rosemary infusion (or 3 drops of rosemary essential oil).

  15. Ashley says

    My detergent won’t stay mixed. It works great! I just have to shake before I use it each time and was just wondering if this is normal?

    • says

      Unfortunately, yes, since there is no chemical agent that keeps it the same consistency. I’m playing around with a natural way to keep it mixed,but so far, nothing has worked really well. I’ll definitely update if I find some way to keep it smooth!

  16. Doyo says

    I just want to tell you that I really like your blog! I’ve been reading a lot of homemade/ natural blogs and yours is one of the best! I recently  made my own powdered detergent and it is the best detergent I’ve ever used!! I really like your comment on borax, I saw a comment similar to that, but the scary “Don’t use this or it’ll kill your family” type comment, and it made me freak a little because I’m preggo and have a 2 year old! But after a lot of research I found out that you would have to eat it, everyday… for a few months to see the effects they were talking about.  I don’t plan on eating it, or making anything with it that my children would play with (I recently saw a recipe for slime) so I think we’re good! And as far as it being a pesticide/ herbicide, I have lots of things in my house that can kill bugs and plants.. vinegar, cinnamon, a jar, salt, my foot.. it’s all about using it responsibly. My hubby and son also have eczema and so far haven’t had any reactions to anything that has been washed in the homemade detergent. Next step dryer balls!

  17. Shelly says

    I finally was able to make a batch of this stuff yesterday, and after letting it set overnight last night I stirred it real good (lovely congealed mess this morning lol) and bottled it up. I tried it out on the dirtiest/smelliest laundry load (cloth diapers!!!) today and it worked better than the Seventh Generation detergent I was using. THANK YOU!!! :)

  18. Natalie says

    Katie, this is a great recipe!!  I can’t wait to try.  But here’s my issue, I don’t have a 5 gallon jug to make in or 5-1 gallon ones to store the final product.  I was thinking “concentrate”.  Is this at all possible?  Maybe I could use 1 gallon glass jar and combine it all in there and let it sit overnight and use it from there, 1 tablespoon per load???  Any advice on this? :)  Now that I think about it, I think I’ll cut the recipe in half and still make it in 1 gallon jar.  Yes? :)

    • says

      That would work. YOu can omit a lot of the water and it will make a concentrate, but you really won’t need to use much at all in each load. Just make sure you add enough water that you don’t get a gel that won’t dissolve!

  19. Jill says

    I am disappointed. I really wanted to like this soap and have tried making both powder & liquid versions but my clothes haven’t been getting clean. I am wondering if I need to change something. We have really hard water and i think that makes a big difference. What can I do to make this get my clothes clean?

    • Ashley says

      I agree. I like it though. I’ve been using half a cup of the homemade and half a cup of tide and it works great and still saves money :)

        • Cortny says

          I just came across this post, but started making this very recipe a year ago and LOVED it. I have an HE machine and very hard water, and it took six months, but it did eventually gunk up my washer to the point that it was no longer effectively washing anything. I’ve heard of others using it with no problem, but just thought I’d give you a heads up! I’m still trying to find something else to use that I like as well as this – especially for my 18 month old who seems to be allergic to all detergents except this!

  20. says

    Does anyone know how to make lemon scrub hand wash? Or has anyone seen a recipe for it on wellness mama? It’s supposed to be a moisturizer, hand exfoliatant and wash. Please let me know. thank you so much.

    • kayla says

      1/3 cup olive oil
      2/3 cup white sugar
      2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice
      + a pinch of lemon zest

      It keeps longer if you put it in the fridge!

  21. Angela says

    Wellness Mama I sure do love your blog! Thank you for all the great recipes. I was wondering if you can make this laundry detergent without the ingredient borax?

  22. Shayna says

    I made this soap with just washing soda, Dr. Bronner’s liquid castille soap, and a touch of baking soda, and after one test run in a load of laundry, I love it! I stored some in a laundry soap bottle and I was wondering if I need to shake it before each use. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  23. Grace says

    I’ve been using this soap for months and I’m in love! It’s been almost five months and I have about half of my mixture left. BEAUTIFUL.

    I’m wondering if any of you put vinegar in during the rinse cycle? I’ve heard of this but I’m not entirely sure of it’s purpose or if the vinegar scent would remain on my clothes?

  24. Aryn says

    My husband works in the HVAC industry and does a lot of recreational work on cars. In other words, his clothes are greasy and dirty beyond repair. I just want to throw them away every time he wears them! I saw that you said Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds is good for grease… How much would you recommend for normal clothes and how much would you recommend for my husband’s incredibly dirty clothes? Maybe I could put an extra shot of it when I wash his clothes? Thanks! You’re blog is great!

    • Kristi says

      I have used this for years. I also have a 7 year old and a 2 year old. I’ve never had any issues with it but like any detergent, you should watch out for any signs of a reaction when changing.

  25. Asnere says

    Just tried the liquid version with feels instead of Bronners. I’m noticing some spots that look like oily spots. They look wet even though they are dry. I can’t say it’s from this but I did just notice it on my clothes and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there before. Any ideas? I have hard water so I added a touch more of each powder as you suggested. Thank you!!

    • Jennifer says

      I dont know for sure but I think it sets better. I didnt close the lid like it says too and mine set pretty well. When you stir it the next day, it is real thick on top but the more you stir, the thinner it gets.

  26. Lauren says

    I’m considering adding both liquid Castile and sal suds to the original ingredients. If adding to the 5 gallon batch, how much of each do you think is safe for a front loader? Also, how much EOs do you add to actually give the laundry a scent? Thanks!

    • Kristi says

      I would add 1 cup of the sal suds and 1/2 cup of the dr bronners. As for the EO, I would skip that and use distilled white vinegar as a fabric softener and add 3-4 drops of EO to it for scent. You would need more than a bottle to add to 5 gallons to get enough of a scent.

  27. Jennifer says

    I just made this for the first time a couple days ago. I did a few things different to the liquid batch which may help some people. I added 1/2 cup more washing soda and borax and less liquid. I only added 4 gallons instead of the 4.5. This was pushing the rim of the bucket and I had yet to add the 2 quarts of water with soap. I used a almond soap which I will not use again, I will use the fels naptha. Bar soap doesnt clean as well. I did not close the lid because it traps moisture and doesnt allow the liquid to evaporate properly which is why some people may have more runny batches. I left the lid on, but only half way on to keep dust from getting in it….and toys and mini hands, you know…the usual. My liquid batch was very thick on top after setting overnight but once you stir it, it does thin out and become chunky. I added Downy to my detergent to boost the smell. When I do the powder, I am going to add the purex crystals and baking soda. I dont think it cleans as well as tide or gain, but it does do it’s job. I suggest keeping a name brand detergent around the house for those really dirty kids clothes. I found that this detergent doesnt get the dirt and food out of clothes as well as the other detergents and lets face it, if you think moms like me have time to take Shout to all my clothes and soak them before I wash them, I dont. So, my take on this detergent is that it works great but you have to get the feel of it and figure out what works for you.

  28. Jane says

    I made the liquid laundry soap today, but I’m not sure how much a ‘cup’ is. I put in 125 g each of borax and washing soda and I’m hoping this will be okay! Please could you give me some indication of the weight of a ‘cup’ – grams or ounces is okay – I may have to add some more.

    Thank you for your amazing website. I found it about a month ago and have started making my own cleaning products and toothpaste from your recipes and they all work brilliantly! It’s not always so easy to get the products in the UK (e.g. no borax on the supermarket shelves), but thank goodness for the Internet.

  29. Eirini says

    Great recipe! I love your blog! Just wanted to know how much of the optional ingredients you are adding.

  30. Courtenay says

    I would love to try this recipe as well but would like to know what measurements to use for the 3 optional ingredients you mention in your recipe before I do. Sal Suds, Liquid Castille Soap and Essential Oils.

    Thank you!!

  31. Caitlyn says

    Hi Katie,
    I was just wondering how much of the optional ingredients I am supposed to use? I wanted to add all of them, and bought all of them, but I wasn’t sure how much of the sal suds, liquid soap, and
    essential oils to add. Thanks!

  32. betty says

    I made the liquid laundry soap and it was chunky & slimy so I added a 1/4 cup more of both the borax and washing soda and a few tablespoons of baking soda then I mixed it with a mixer attachment for a drill and after a while it was not chunky or slimy. I am thinking that for those who are saying it’s chunky or slimy that its not mixed enough. And can this same detergent be used to wash dishes? I think its almost the same recipe.

  33. Lj says

    I kept it simple and made it dry. It was so much easier to make, use and store. I used the “S” blade of my cuisinart to grate the soap and processed the other 2 ingredients to the soap to make it powdery. I use 1 T. Per load. So far, so good.
    Love you Wellness Mama for this great idea!

  34. Danielle says

    Im going to try this recipe for the first time. I wanted to add a scented oil to it but Im not sure how much to add to the mixture. Which oil ( if you use any) would u recommend?

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