Homemade HE Laundry Detergent Recipe (Laundry Soap)

Katie Wells Avatar

Reading Time: 6 minutes

This post contains affiliate links.

Read my affiliate policy.

Homemade Laundry Detergent - HE safe - natural
Wellness Mama » Blog » Natural Home » Homemade HE Laundry Detergent Recipe (Laundry Soap)

Laundry detergent is an easy switch from store bought to homemade. DIY alternatives are often just as effective and much less expensive. I’ve shared my Homemade Laundry Soap but this variation is formulated for high-efficiency washers.

I first considered the idea of homemade laundry detergent when a friend’s mom made hers while I was visiting their house 15 years ago (wow, I just felt old!). Once I started doing my own laundry, I experimented with recipes for laundry soap. This HE version is an updated take on my original creation.

Laundry Detergent vs. Laundry Soap

It is important to note that laundry soap and laundry detergent are not the same thing. A soap is by definition a mixture of fats and oils with an alkali or base, like this recipe for crock pot soap that uses a mixture of olive and coconut oils with a lye and water base.

Detergent, on the other hand, is typically synthetic (at least partially) and is typically designed for a specific purpose, such as to dissolve even in hard water or cold water. Most recipes for “natural” laundry detergents are almost always talking about soaps, and recipes for actual detergents are seldom natural.

Since store bought versions are called “laundry detergents,” I’ve opted to call this tutorial a DIY Laundry Detergent recipe, though it uses a soap base.

Natural Detergent (That Works)

Detergents are designed to work in hot or cold water and to clean inside the fibers of clothes effectively. Depending on water quality, some people find that natural laundry soaps don’t work well on their clothes. Others may notice build up or a dingy color over time.

There is one natural cleaner (not technically a soap) that I’ve found is highly effective and that works as well as high-end commercial detergents. Instead of laundry soap, using 2 Tablespoons of Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds per load gets clothes really clean without the added fragrances and harmful chemicals.

High Efficiency Safe?

That is the question I’ve gotten the most in the 100+ comments on my original laundry detergent recipe tutorial. I don’t personally have a high efficiency washing machine but have heard from dozens of readers and friends who do and they’ve used this in an HE washer with no problems.

The main concern with a high efficiency washer is creating too much suds, so a low-suds soap or detergent is suggested. This recipe is low-suds by definition and should be safe for HE, but always check with the instructions that came with your machine to make sure before using.

Safe Laundry Detergent Ingredients

Many readers questioned the safety of Borax in my original recipe. After much research, I (still) feel completely comfortable using Borax in laundry soap and other uses that do not come in direct contact with food. Here’s my take on Borax but do your own research and make sure you are comfortable with it (or any ingredient) before using!

Borax-Free Option

A simple borax-free option (that doesn’t require grating) is:

  1.  2 Tablespoons Sal Suds
  2. 1/4 cup baking soda OR 2 Tablespoons washing soda (optional)

Just add those at the beginning of the wash cycle. For an extra boost, add 1/4-1/2 cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle. This step is entirely optional but seems to help keep clothes from pilling and looking worn.

Why Natural Laundry Detergent?

I switched to natural homemade laundry detergent/soap to avoid the harsh chemicals, fragrances, colors, and additives in many regular detergents. It turns out that homemade is also much less expensive and incredibly easy to make! I also started making my own linen spray.

Even if you’re just starting out with natural living and wouldn’t dream of making your own deodorant, laundry soap is a simple switch you can make without much effort and without expensive speciality ingredients.

Laundry Detergent Ingredients…

This homemade laundry soap recipe uses three basic ingredients:

  • Borax: A naturally occurring mineral- I get mine here.
  • Washing Soda: Also called Soda Ash, this helps remove oils and residue. Available at most local grocers or here.
  • Grated Bar Soap: Like Dr. Bronners or homemade. I now use this coconut oil laundry soap recipe for our homemade detergent. Many recipes call for Fels Naptha which works well but has some questionable ingredients so we avoid it. I personally think the coconut oil laundry soap works better anyway.

Optional Add-Ins: I’ve also experimented with adding Oxi-Clean or oxygen boosters to this recipe. I’ve found that they don’t do much good when mixed into the recipe, but can be great when added to especially dirty loads of laundry along with the homemade soap.

Another optional addition is essential oils for scent. I prefer lemon or lime essential oils added to the powdered recipe, though most of the scent is gone after drying.

Clean Laundry: Two Ways

This recipe can be made two ways: as a powder or a liquid. The powder is much faster to make and requires much less room to store, but the liquid is more effective for stain treating. The liquid also seems more effective for those with hard water.

I currently use the powdered version and use other natural products for treating stains (see below). Both recipes use the same natural ingredients, so just pick the one that is most convenient for you. This recipe is my powdered version, and the liquid version is in this post.

Laundry Soap Ingredients

How to Make Laundry Soap

  1. Grate the soap using a hand grater or food processor. Grate into fine particles so it dissolves easily.
  2. Carefully mix with the washing soda and borax (use gloves or a spoon as these can by drying if used directly on skin)
  3. Add essential oils and stir.
  4. Store in an air-tight glass jar.
  5. Use 1-2 tablespoons per load. Add 1 tablespoon of oxygen booster if needed… I use this on white loads.

Natural Stain Treatment

small Wellness Mama Stain Treatment Laundry Guide smallHomemade laundry detergent works well, but it won’t work as well as chemically formulated stain-release and cold water formulas from the store. I keep a variety of natural stain treaters in my laundry room and use them depending on the stain.

This post has the full list of natural stain treaters and a printable chart to keep in your laundry area.

I also keep a small bottle of diluted Sal Suds in my purse for immediate stain treating on the go and it has worked really well. Even on wine. And mustard. Or red clay from the baseball field. And… well, you get the idea.

Bottom Line: Which to Use

Confused by all the options above? Here’s a simple way to figure out which method will work best for you:

Simplest Natural Option

Want the fastest & easiest method with no extra work required? Do this:

  • Use 2 Tablespoons Sal Suds (here’s where I get it)  per load just like you would a regular laundry detergent
  • Add 2 Tablespoons washing soda or 1/4 cup baking soda if you want to for an extra boost (you can actually do this with any laundry soap or detergent)
  • If you’re feeling like an over-achiever, add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle.
  • Voilà! Clean laundry!

Inexpensive Natural Option

Want to save money and avoid the harmful ingredients lurking in many traditional laundry detergents? Use the Laundry Soap recipe above. Just note that it may not work for all water types and you may need to experiment with soap/washing soda combinations and ratios to find out what works best.

Favorite Pre-made Laundry Detergent Brands (More Expensive but Convenient!)

Homemade may be the least expensive way, but over the years as life has gotten busier, I’ve often bought my laundry soap. Here are some of my favorites:

  • My Green Fills Laundry Detergent – Smells fantastic, works well on dirt and stains, and cuts down on plastic waste with concentrated refill packets so you can reuse the same bottle.
  • Ecover Zero Laundry Detergent– Works well, relatively cost effective and low/no risk of developmental or reproductive toxicity and cancer according to the EWG.
  • Emma Eco Me Detergent – Also rated well by the EWG and cleans up to 64  loads for $12. Good scents.
  • Planet Natural Detergent –  Relatively eco-friendly and cost effective at $9 for 32 loads.
  • Branch Basics – Not only is this a great for laundry, it is also a basic cleaner that you can use around your house. Multiple functions in one!

Obviously, the most frugal option is to make your own, but these natural alternatives are a good choice if you aren’t able to make your own or don’t want to.

Best for Really Hard or Soft Water

If you have really hard or really soft water, the Sal Suds method above may be the best bet.

Do you make your own laundry detergent yet? Will you consider starting now? Share your experience and recipe if you already do! 

This homemade laundry detergent uses coconut oil soap, borax, washing soda, and optional essential oils to naturally clean laundry effectively. HE safe.

Sources
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

207 responses to “Homemade HE Laundry Detergent Recipe (Laundry Soap)”

  1. Rosa Maria Debroy Avatar
    Rosa Maria Debroy

    Is there something I can susbstitute Sal Suds for? I can’t get them where I live. Thanks

  2. Ej chronister Avatar
    Ej chronister

    Sal suds has sodium laural sulfate first ingredient. You have said that it is a chemical.

  3. Mama J Avatar

    I’d like to use the Sal Suds/baking soda method for its simplicity, but I see it contains sls. Isn’t sls a no-no? Or is it just in certain applications? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

  4. Chava Avatar

    Hi. Is the 2 tbsp sal suds the amount for a regular machine or he ?
    Than ks!

  5. Mariana Avatar

    According to the HE recipe: 2tbsp Sal Suds per load (64tbsp in 32oz), that’s only 32 loads in a 32oz Sal suds bottle. Each bottle costs approx $15 on amazon. $15 for 32 loads, am I missing something?

    1. Ellie Avatar

      Fast forward 4 years to 2024, and now Sal Suds costs anywhere from $20 – $36 per 32 oz. bottle. Even less of a bargain than when you posted in 2020.

  6. Lindsay Avatar

    My daughter and I made our own laundry detergent following this recipe, and we LOVED it! Move forward a year or two, and the pipe leading into our septic system from her washing machine blocked up. My husband broke off chunks of concrete like substance from inside the pipes that we could reach. I don’t want to even mention the thought that I don’t know what our newish septic drain field could look like!!
    A year on from this her washing machine drum was moving forward and stopping itself from spinning by rubbing against the door seal. My husband has bought numerous new parts to replace as the machine is apart anyway. Come to find that between the drum and the spider, the thing that holds and rotates the drum, is the same concrete like stuff, distorting the drum, hence pushing it forward and making it catch on the door seal.
    Washing soda is very corrosive, so corrosion has also played a part in this. This is just so that everyone is aware of issues than can arise when you mix compounds on your own.
    We now use Dr. Bronners.

    1. Katie Tombre Avatar
      Katie Tombre

      Thank you so much for this! I ordered everything last night but was able to research it and cancel it just now after this comment. I appreciate it!

  7. Sherri Avatar

    Hi. I make the liquid laundry detergent all the time but what would you suggest for washing newborn clothes and things in?

  8. Anissa Avatar

    I’ve been using the dry soap method for 5 – 6 months now. Bronner’s almond scented bar soap is my favorite. I’ll make it in bulk every time I make it using 4 bars of soap which will last several months (family of 4, at least 6 loads/week). Borax and washing soda are cheap and last quite a while so the only purchase I make extra is the bars of soap which is ~$3.50-4 / bar. The biggest pain is grating each bar which takes FOREVER. I don’t have much experience with using a food processor so I’m unsure i would go that route. I debated on using the liquid method but it seems you need to grate a bar anyways. I wonder why you couldn’t use the Bronner’s liquid soap? Has anyone ever tried that?

    1. Debra Graham Avatar
      Debra Graham

      I make the liquid laundry soap and I use 12 oz. of liquid castile soap to make five gallons of soap. I found the calculations here:

      https://www.lisabronner.com/liquid-vs-bar-in-dr-bronners-pure-castile-soap/

      Volume of actual soap
      I don’t know how to de-math this, but people who put together their own recipes for cleaners might want to know this. Bar soaps are 5% water; liquids are 61%. The chemistry is a little different for both, but considering that a bar of soap weighs 5 oz, and thus 4.75 oz of it is soap, you would need 12.18 ounces (a little over 1 ½ c.) of liquid soap to equal the soap content of a 5 oz bar. Doing the math the other way, 1 cup of liquid soap equals approximately 2/3 of a bar (or 3.64 oz.) of Dr. B’s bar soap.

  9. Tracy Avatar

    Is the recipe for the liquid version of this recipe also HE friendly? Probably a silly question, but I wanted to confirm. Thanks1

  10. Ena Avatar

    I got lost in the recipe……
    How do you turn it into lliquid instead of powder?
    How long can you store the liquid?

  11. Herbert Avatar

    Hello,

    Curious to know if it is okay to use a bar soap made with Saponified Coconut, Olive & Soy Vegetable Oils, Soy Shortening and Essential Oils for laundry soap if I grate the soap and add washing soda and borax? My friend does this and it seems to work great but I’d like your opinion, please! Many thanks 🙂

  12. Kim Medved Avatar
    Kim Medved

    Has anyone made the powdered version of laundry soap? I’m wondering if it leaves “powder” on your clothes? We have a lot of black clothes and I’m afraid to make it and it not work. Any insight will do. Thank you in advance.

  13. Jenna Avatar

    Hello, I’m looking forward to trying this powdered version! Question about the oils: can we use any favorite essential oil? I have Rose, or frankincense. Or does it need to be the citrus for a particular chemical reason? Thanks.

  14. Kaleena Spaleny Avatar
    Kaleena Spaleny

    What would the recipe be if i used sal suds and Molly suds whitener?

  15. Cynthia Miller-Higdon Avatar
    Cynthia Miller-Higdon

    I have been making my own laundry detergent/soap for several years and have been pleased with it. I have added essential oils from time to time or left it plain or unscented. Recently I read an article that was posted on fb that says that making your own does not really clean your laundry and that there is a residue left behind and that it can ruin your washing machine. I would think that the laundry detergent companies use the same type of ingredients. I would like to know your thoughts on this please. Thank you so much. Cynthia

  16. Serenity Avatar
    Serenity

    Can someone please recommend the least toxic laundry detergent in the market (that actually works). I used to buy ‘All’ free and clear but I’m sure it isn’t! I don’t have the time, energy, etc to make it myself.
    Thnaks!

  17. Katherine Avatar
    Katherine

    Hi, I’m here looking for some advice, or any suggestions on where to go in my situation.
    I’m having a lot of problems finding something to wash laundry with that my skin won’t react to.
    I can’t use any commercial laundry detergents as I am allergic to most surfactants (‘sensitive’, ‘natural’, etc tend to be the worst for me)
    I get mild skin reactions when I have used soapnuts and soap based products (castille soap, soap bars etc).
    Most recently I have been using a 50:50 mix of washing soda and borax substitute (borax isn’t available in the EU, it’s chemical name is sodium sesquicarbonate) and this has given me a reaction worse than some of the commercial laundry detergents.
    Do you have any suggestions what else I could try to wash my laundry with, I really feel like I have run out of options!

    1. linda Avatar

      What do you use for personal hygiene, could you use that? Have you tried doing a pre-wash stain removal and then washing in plain water. Have you tried distilled vinegar, bicarb or bicarb and vinegar? Have you tried giving everything a double or triple rinse?

  18. Reign engram Avatar
    Reign engram

    Can this be used on cloth diapers cover, cotton prefolds, bamboo and microfiber inserts?

  19. Lindsay Avatar
    Lindsay

    Is there a reason why you specify a glass container for storage?

  20. Jasmine Avatar
    Jasmine

    I made the Liquid laundry soap today , I read it wrong and ended up putting 2 cups of Borax and 2 cups of washing soda with 1 bar of soap.. Will it still be ok to use?

    1. Jasmine Avatar
      Jasmine

      I went and melted more soap and added to my bucket , I just hope it will be ok. We will see. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *