Making your own natural, homemade laundry detergent is one of the easiest parts of a transition to natural living. This natural laundry soap recipe a great way to save money on laundry detergent and is incredibly easy to make. This homemade laundry detergent post is an updated version of this recipe that addresses high efficiency washers and borax safety.
Why Switch to Natural Laundry Soap?
Conventional laundry detergent is loaded with chemicals like sulfates, fragrances, phenols and more. Many brands contain things like petroleum distillates, which are linked to cancer and lung disease. Fragrances in these detergents are made of a mix of harmful chemicals. (This is also why I make my own linen spray.)
Luckily, making your own laundry soap is an easy and fast process! You only need three basic ingredients to make either a powdered or liquid laundry soap:
DIY Laundry Soap Ingredients
- Washing Soda (Arm and Hammer Brand available at most stores)
- Borax (20 Mule Team Borax available at most grocery stores)
- Bar Soap (Dr. Bronner’s, Ivory, or other natural, unscented bar soap) – If you have ever made your own soap, the laundry version of this coconut oil soap recipe is hands-down the best bar soap I’ve ever found for making laundry soap.
Washing Soda and Borax should be available at your local grocery store on the laundry aisle. Natural bar soaps are in the health, beauty, or organic sections of the store, or online. You can also add a couple tablespoons of baking soda to help freshen clothes.
Wonder What’s in These Ingredients?
Borax is a naturally occurring mineral made up of sodium, boron, oxygen, and water. It is an ingredient in most of the natural soaps available now (Seventh Generation, etc.) but it is much more inexpensive to make yourself. There are some concerns about the safety of Borax, but here’s why I feel comfortable using it, especially for laundry.
Washing Soda, sometimes called sodium carbonate or soda ash, is made from common salt and limestone or found as natural deposits. If you can’t find this locally, you can make your own from plain baking soda with this tutorial. Here are some other great household uses for washing soda.
Dr. Bronner’s soaps are fair trade and made with vegetable castile soap and pure organic oils.
Natural Laundry Soap Recipe
- 1 bar soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Bar Soap or homemade coconut oil soap)
- 1 cup washing soda
- 1 cup borax
- Grate the bar of soap or chop it in a food processor until finely ground.
- In a large bowl, mix together the grated soap, washing soda, and borax.
- Store in a sealed container.
- To use: add 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup of soap per load of laundry.
How to Make Liquid Laundry Soap
- Grate one bar of soap with cheese grater or food processor.
- Put grated soap in pan with 2 quarts water and gradually heat, stirring constantly until soap is completely dissolved.
- Put 4.5 gallons of really hot tap water in a 5-gallon bucket (available for free in bakeries at grocery stores, just ask them) and stir in 2 cups of borax and 2 cups of Washing Soda until completely dissolved.
- Pour soap mixture from pan into 5-gallon bucket. Stir well.
- Cover and leave overnight.
- Shake or stir until smooth and pour into gallon jugs or other containers.
- Use 1/2 to 1 cup per load.
These recipes are also a great way to save money on laundry. By my calculations, I am saving over half on my laundry bill by switching
A Note About Soap vs. Detergent
As mentioned above, there is chemically a difference between soap and detergent. The advantage of conventional laundry detergents is that they are formulated to work specifically in washing machine environments. Many soaps are designed for skin and are not as strong. Some sources suggest that over time, natural soaps can leave buildup in washers.
I’ve found that while this recipe works well for me, it isn’t suitable for all water types and washer types. If you’ve used natural laundry soap and experienced clothes getting dingy, this may be the reason.
I’ve found one natural detergent that works brilliantly and can be used alone or in combination with homemade laundry soaps like this one. I often add 2-3 Tablespoons of Dr. Bronners Sal Suds per load as a natural detergent. Sal Suds gets out tough stains and odors and is still a natural product (though technically a detergent/surfactant and not a soap).
Don’t Want to Make it?
We usually make our own detergent, but for times when we are traveling or I haven’t had time to make it, I’ve found a few good brands of eco friendly laundry detergent that actually work (all received an “A” by the Environmental Working Group):
- My Green Fills Laundry Detergent – Just a warning… after you try this laundry soap, you may be ruined for DIY forever. This is the best smelling non-toxic laundry detergent I’ve tried and it works well on tough stains and dirt. Similar to my favorite all-purpose cleaner, a huge bonus is their eco-friendly approach. The detergent comes concentrated in a small refill packet (hence the name) which you add to warm water in the provided bottle. Super smart!
- 2 tablespoons Sal Suds + 1/4 cup Baking Soda or Washing Soda (highly effective and super simple!)
- 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.
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.
Have you tried making your own laundry detergent? What ingredients did you use?
Discussion (885 Comments)
Help! We made the liquid soap yesterday & today I stirred it, but it is very watery. Is it suppose to be that way?
Also, when I used a cup of it, I fill the washer a little with water & put soap in before laundry. It did not suds up at all. Should we have used more of something?
It is normal for it to still be pretty liquid and not to suds much (this makes it also safe for HE washers) but it should still work well!
Lisa Langford Courson
How much liquid laundry should I use in HE washer, recipe says 1-1/2 cup & one of these posts a woman says 2 Tbls, that a big difference, thanks
2 tablespoons is about right!
Can I use half the water to make it more concentrated? and then how much to use per load?
So I keep reading Noo homemade soap is bad for mold in clothes makes them sticky can you tell me why I’m seeing this .I been buying h m soap from a lady but it’s so spendy Help I’m out od soap I ALSO HAVE HE WASHER FRONT LOADER I BELUEVE IT WAS SOAP THATS THE ISSUE I READ
There is a misconception that more soapy suds means things will get cleaner. The soapy suds are made by sulfates, and in fact, do nothing but make suds, and do not add to the cleaning power of soap at all. The suds in commercial laundry detergent are more for “show” to take advantage of people who think that suds mean powerful cleaning. I have switched to the home made laundry detergent recipe and use white vinegar as my liquid fabric softener, and my clothes have never been cleaner, softer or fresher, even though there are less suds in the washer. Less suds to me means less residue left in my clothing later, as well.
I’ve switched to sulfate free shampoo as well (haven’t got around to making my own shampoo) and although the suds are not as plentiful, my hair is just as clean.
I hope this helps anyone who worries about not enough suds, because I was fooled by that for a long time as well until I started looked at healthier ways to care for myself and my home using less toxic and natural products.
Speaking of laundry softener, I make a scented softener. It is 4 cups of epsom salt and abput 20-25 drops owhatever essential oil you like best. It make ts the clothes smell great even with my unscented homemade detergent. You just dump a little in the washer with the clothes and don’t need to put dryer sheets or anything like that later.
You indicated you put the Epson salt and essential oil in the washer with the cloth. I have an HE machine, can I use the fabric softener dispenser or just put the salt inside when starting the load. Fabric softener is liquid and I am not sure the salt will dissolve if putting it into the dispenser.
Hallie Walker Mitchell
How much do you use?
I used to make the dry recipe on this site years ago until I got married and my husband insisted on only using Tide (we use Tide Simply). Now that I am getting back in touch with my formerly natural self I am coming across this same recipe again but imagine my surprise when I scroll down a little and see the recipe for liquid laundry detergent! I already made the dry recipe from memory, but the shredded soap is lacking residue in my washer. Can’t wait to try the liquid recipe!
THIS is what I’ve been looking for for ages! Thanks for posting Layla. Can’t see any point putting essential oils in the wash cycle as they just wash away. They’re needed in the rinse cycle.
How much vinegar do you use for a load of clothes when you use it for fabric softener?
I have an HE washer and I put the vinegar in the rune agent spot next to the soap dispenser.
I meant rinse agent spot!!
I’m planning to make the laundry soap. Not the liquid. You say to store it in glass air tight container. Does it need to be glass or is that just preference? Thanks for sharing all your recipes and advice. I’m finding it very useful starting out on my journey to leading a cleaner life.
But you didn’t say if you use a cup and a half or 2 tbs. That was the real quandary, not necessarily how many suds. LOL I would agree with you about the sulfates on everything but dishwasher! And they took them out of the dishwashing liquid my dishwasher never worked well after that it left a white residue on everything especially plastics! I bought a new washing machine last year for by Christmas gift for my folks and it was $1,000. I got a stainless steel insides with three levels and the dishes come out worse than they did with my twenty-year-old cheapo! I’ve never had such bad buyers remorse!
Hi Melanie. i also use white vinegar but have very hard water so towels and washrags are very stiff. any advise?
Late in the game, but have you tried wool dryer balls? You toss them in the dryer instead of softener sheets.
For more than 5 years I haven’t used shampoo. I mix roughly 1/2 cup baking soda with really hot water and pour it over my hair and massage into my hair in the shower. Then mix same amount of vinegar in hot water and essential oil for scent as conditioner. Works great, and no more “poo”
How much white vinegar do you use as a softener
Is this recipe say for newborn clothes?
Washing soda and borax say they are detergent boosters. So is the soap in this recipe the detergent?
I think they’re detergent boosters when using a commercial detergent. The ingredients work together to create a detergent that doesn’t need additional boosters.
Help I think I messed up…..I am not sure if I read the instructions right for the powder version of the laundry soap. I mixed 6 cups of borax, 6 cups of washing soda with 3 cups of grated bar soap. Would that be correct for a 2 part : 2 part :1 ratio? If so do I still use 1/4 cup per load?
That does work for the ratio, and yep, still use 1/4 cup per load, though you may need to adjust slightly up or down depending on your washer.
awesome thank you!!!
I’m planning to make the laundry soap. Not the liquid. You say to store it in glass air tight container. Does it need to be glass or is that just preference? Thanks for sharing all your recipes and advice. I’m finding it very useful starting out on my journey to leading a cleaner life.
What size load do you use the 1/4 cup?
I just made some of this and started my first load. I usually run a large load and am thinking 1/4 c is not enough?
I grated the Ivory (seems like such big pieces but I didn’t like the idea of using my food processor) and am using cold water.
It does NOT stink up the food processor at all. I first use the grate blade. Then, I put the S blade in, with the grated soap still in there, put in the powders and use the S blade to finely mix it all together to the same consistency powder. Never any glumps or clumps and we have well water and front loading, HE.
Can you use a bar of reg soap instead of laundry soap bar?
I use about 2-3 tablespoons in my HE washer.
couldn’t you use Dr. Bonner’s liquid castil soap instead of grating up a bar for the liquid soap?
You can, In my opinion, it isn’t quite as good for stains, but it cleans well otherwise.
so how much liquid castil soap would you use if you chose to go this route?
I would also like to know the answer to this please.
hi! did you ever find out the answer as to how much liquid Bronners soap to use for homemade laundry degergent? trying to make it soon. Thank you!
Does it have to be pure castille soap? I make natural bar soaps but none are pure castille, would they work too?
They would probably work also. I haven’t tried them personally, but
know people who have success making this even with dial or other
store brand soaps, so it should work just fine.
I use “Fels Naptha” or “Zote”, both are a large bar soap made for the laundry and they don’t suds up as much as regular bar soaps. The Zote has a very nice scent and you can buy it at WalMart already grated up. You can also add some essential oils to enhance the fragrance. The savings on this home made laundry soap is a shocker. I have 3 friends now making their own. Good luck!!
Just to give heads up for others those soaps use animals fat do be aware
I use my own coconut oil bar soap with 1.5% superfat to make the liquid soap. I’ve done this for about 2 years now and I LOVE it! The only thing I didn’t like too much was that my soap never really gelled. It looked like it had feathery things in it and I had to shake it up in the gallon jugs I put it in every time I wanted to add to the wash machine. Today, I tried using a stick blender in it and it worked like a charm! I was so excited I’m thinking about making another batch right away. By the way, since I go through a lot of vinegar, I rinse those out to put the laundry soap in, so it works really well.
I am also wondering about HE machines? Any ideas on that?
I use it in my HE machine. I only put in one tablespoon of soap. the recipe I use is one bar of soap to one cup or borax and one cup of washing soda.
I have read through all the comments and am still not sure how much of the liquid detergent I should use in my HE washer. I could not fit even 1/2 cup in my dispenser let alone a full cup. How much does everyone else use?
1-2 tablespoons is sufficient.
I usually just fill the little slot up in my HE washer if the clothes are really dirty. If not, I fill about half way.
What kind of soap do you use? How can you add scent?
Have you tried adding a few drops of essential oils?
Essential oils can break down fabrics over time in the wash.
I just mixed up my 3rd batch, I love this stuff!! I should mention that that is my 3rd batch since I started making it at the beginning of January 2014!! I do use about 1 1/2 cups of 20 Mule Team Borax and 1 1/2 cups of Washing Soda, about 3 TBSP of baking soda, a bar of Fels Naptha AND 1/3-1/2 bar of ZOTE (finely grated with a cheese grater) AND essential oils, Lemon this time. (someone mentioned essential oils breaking down fabric over time but I haven’t had a problem, but it’s not like I dump a whole bottle of essential oils in there either…I used maybe 20-30 drops in a 5 gallon bucket). Maybe we’re just lucky, we haven’t had any skin reactions, nothing. I love that I don’t have to spend craploads of money on laundry soap anymore. I can still get probably 2 or 3, maybe even 4 more 5 gallon buckets out of it. Thank you so much for posting this, I tell everyone I can about it…
I laughed out loud when I read your comment about spending “craploads of money” on laundry detergent! So funny….I’m getting ready to try making my first batch of dry detergent. I can’t see myself stirring a bucket full of wet slime — I’m too old.
I just put mine into the machine with clothes instead of the soap slot. So far no problem with discolor.
Does this liquid recipe work in HE machines? If so, how much per load? Also, is it safe for washing cloth diapers? Isn’t Borax very toxic?
borax is only toxic if you are a roach. we don’t have the same systems that are affected by borax, you probably wouldn’t wanna eat it, but who eats laundry soap? I have always added it to my laundry as a detergent booster, along with baking soda, so did my grandmother… seems like a good recommendation to me heh.
Borax is on the EU REACH list as “a substance of very high concern” with some potential health risks but most of which are rashes and general dermatological issues. Still arguably safer then the majority of sulfates and distillates in common laundry products.
Borox is boron which is a mineral our bodies NEED! Myself and lots of others put small amounts in our drinking water and drink it! It’s a great shampoo, body wash, cleaner, ect! I haven’t been to a doctor for an illness in over a decade and I’m 50 and post menopausal!
We don’t need boron – we need the RIGHT AMOUNT of boron. Too little and we have a deficiency, too much and it’s toxic.
We need salt but too much is bad. We need water but drinking too much can kill you (hyponatraemia). Same with copper, manganese, etc.
The dose makes the poison.
I tried borax in our laundry years ago and one of our sons broke out in a rash. It was the only change we had made to our laundry procedure. So many people include it in diy laundry soap recipes, but I have always felt a reservation about it b/c of son’s reaction. Today, I came across a 20 mule team review that pointed me to the Environmental Working Group where this product receives an F. Apparently, the sodium borate and sodium borate, anhydrous are a high concern for developmental and reproductive toxicity in humans. On a recent PBS program, they were talking about a huge decline in frogs around the world. I’m wondering if borax could be among the things in water runoff that could be affecting water life including fish and frogs. I hope everyone will check out even things considered “healthy” or “sustainable” thoroughly before signing on. The person negatively reviewing borax says they just use Arm & Hammer Washing soda for their laundry. The EWG gives it a grade of A.
thank you for all the information on the natural laundry detergent. i just purchased the items to make my own and after reading the reviews, i will stay clear of the borox for now. especially with eczema.
My daughter reacts to all sorts of chemical stuff and has eczema and does just fine with this detergent!
My son has very sensitive skin and get mild eczema when our weather turns dry and he’s had no reaction to this detergent. We’ve been using it almost 2 months now.
I was just going to comment on this and say the same thing about the EWG.org (Environmental Work Group) rating Borax with a grade of F. Everyone should check this site when deciding what products they are going to try in their home next. It has really been a helpful, eye-opening guide for me and my family!
So are you saying you use Arm and Hammer Washing Soap as called for but then also add an additonal amount of Arm and Hammer to make up for the Borax?
Last time I made this I couldn’t mix it in the AM because it was so thick. I didnt use enough water because I have a 3.5 gallon bucket. Can you skip the leave overnight step and just jar up the liquid detergent and shake it the next day??
borax is a natural form of boron. Look closely at the studies that you read..who performs them…who funds them…boron is actually a trace mineral that we need,,,it is an essential element that the body needs and many swear by its internal uses for things like arthritis…same goes for iodine..they same it is bad for you, but 95% or more of the population is iodine deficient…ALL diseases are caused by a mineral deficiency as minerals are needed as co-factors for EVERY function of our bodies…as for the rash someone mentioned…it may be (and probably is) a detox effect from switching to toxic detergent to nontoxic…same happens when you switch from store bought deodorant (even the natural stuff) to homemade deodorant
I found this on Crunchy Betty: Borax, also known (most predominately in the way we’re talking about right now) as sodium tetraborate, is a boron mineral and salt that’s mined directly from the ground.
Borax is not boric acid.
That’s where the majority of the online confusion appears. With no surprise; at least half of the studies I’ve found and citations I’ve read have listed their testing matter as “either sodium borate or boric acid.”
The difference between the two is: Boric acid is produced when borax is reacted with another acid (like sulfuric or hydrochloric acid). The result is an acid structure (pH of 5.0), rather than alkaline, as borax is (9.3 pH). (I’m not going to get into the “is boric acid safe or not” question here, because that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.)
Borax and boric acid are found together in many places, especially volcanic areas where the borax has naturally reacted with sulfur. You can also find both compounds in seawater.
Thanks Carey for reminding everyone of the monumental diff between borax and boric acid – enjoyed the insight.
You are right, they are not the same thing.
That still does not mean Borax is safe or eco-friendly. I encourage everyone to do their own research and seek the advice of trained professionals in the field if you still are unsure. .
Everyone has to decide for themselves what level of “Unsafe” or “Ungreen” they can live with. Some people have a bigger grey area than others. It is bothersome though, that Borax is always lumped with “Green alternatives”.
Actually, EWG also warns against using Borax. See https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2011/02/borax-not-green-alternative-its-cracked-be
My daughters and I are very chemical sensitive. We discovered that we are intolerant of boron. Thanks to those new sparklers that produce the smoke, that helped us figure it out. Also reacted to it in an all natural makeup product. Of course, my body attacks itself on a daily basis and I’m allergic to EvErY thing. So in my world, naturaul or not, makes no never mind about whether or not my body defines it as foreign and toxic. So, no borax options would be helpful.
I live in California and have toured the area where Twenty mile mule borax is mined, it’s in the SB desert. I have spoken with people who live there and they seem healthy with none dropping dead from being around boron. I have used borax as a booster in my wash for 10 years, my family has done fine with no allergic reactions. I am very skeptical on who funds the studies and what their agenda is so just researching a product study isn’t enough for me. I have also made my own detergents and cleaning products long before the internet 🙂 : ) 🙂
I grew up about 50 miles from the town of Boron – yup, the 20-mule team place. Being a math nerd, I competed against kids from Boron High School.
My best friend lives in Clearlake, CA, near a smaller lake called Borax Lake – yes, borax was mined there too for a while.
Borax is natural – so is lead, mercury, cadmium… they are all elements.
But I can tell you, nothing grows where there is a lot of boron, it is toxic when there is a lot of it.
The quantity you are using in a laundry product is a lot more concentrated than you would find in soil in most places.
This matters if you are using the “grey” water from your washer to water your garden – you shouldn’t use wash water with borax products for your garden, even it you are using it only on ornamentals because it will build up in the soil.
Thanks for these recipes! I’ve been meaning to try this – but when you use the dry variation, wouldn’t you have to wash everything with really hot water to make sure the soap dissolves and doesn’t leave soap scum on the clothes?
Good question, I’ve never seen any residue or soap scum, but I do think the liquid stuff gets clothes cleaner, not to mention it goes a lot farther.
I have no soap scum on my clothes but have a 4″ band on my washer I can’t get completely off. Need to try something else think it may be the Castile soap.
if you make sure to grate the bar soap in a food processor very fine then there should not be a problem. I use it in cold water with no problem.
I keep a cup and a small whisk an dissolve the detergent in hot water before putting into my loads, especially when I’m washing with cold water.
I use the immulsion mixer before putting it in milk containers and there is no need to wisk before using.
I did everything that the liquid detergent called for, but when I pour it from the container, it’s really watery, not goopy at all. Is this normal? I feel as though the water settles on bottom. (I’m reusing a liquid detergent container that sits on its side and has a spout.)
I had the same thing happen till I found out its the water used. I live in the city and with ever thing they put in the water non of our homemade stuff was working right. So I started using distilled water its only $0.68 per gallon and now as it sits over night it thickens up. Now use distilled water in everything made and keep 4-6 gallons on hand. Hope this helps.
I run a small amount of hot water in my washer first, add the detergent and agitate it for a minute, then fill the rest of the way with warm or cold water.
Any of the consistencies work great, my mom and i have been using this recipe for over a year and the consistancy does change from gel like to liquid and both work great in any water temperature. The clothes get extremely clean!! Also, its well worth the swith!! Love it. The consistancy is not that you did something wrong, but believe me it does not work any different no matter what consistancy.
yep i had soap residue so im switching to the liquid version. im wondering if the difference is whether you grate the soap manually or in a food processor? mine was manually so the soap bits weren’t that small
Excited to try this! Thanks.
Want to try your recipe soon! Thanks so much. Hope to see you soon.
Hi, Katie, thank you very much for sharing us your exp. I want to try your recipe which you
mention like: two parts washing soda, two parts borax and one part graded bar soap .
I just wondering what means two parts or one part? Is that means 2 grams or two ounce or 2 drops? I will be appreciated for your advice thank you. Best Regards
Katie - Wellness Mama
It can be whatever measure you want, just make sure it is the same one: 2 cups to 2 cups, etc
I had the same question. So it’s two parts BY VOLUME, not two parts by weight? If by weight, that would produce a very different recipe with approximately 4x the amount of bar soap 😉 Thank you!
Even by volume two to one for the bar of soap would require a great deal more soap. Could you please clarify?
I use Dr. Bronner’s bar soap when I take a bath. I’ve noticed it makes soap scum very similar to other bar soaps I used many years ago. Wouldn’t that scum be a problem when washing clothes in your homemade laundry detergent, or do the washing soda and borax help to eliminate that problem?
Would love to try the liquid laundry detergent but I have an HE washer – can I use it for that and, if so, how much per load?
Yes, just use the same amount.
Yes it makes a horrible soap scum about 4 inches wide at the top of your washer I just noticed that that’s what has occurred in mine I tried everything to clean it and it’s not coming off very easily I knocked it down only about halfway need to use something else because this is a problem. Any suggestions?
Can I use baking soda instead of Borax? Can I also add the liquid castle from Dr B for extra clean power? if so, How much do you think of each?
I would also like to hear the answer to these questions. It seems it would be much easier to use the liquid soap. It seems that I saw a recipe using both.
baking soda will turn to washing soda if placed in the oven at 450 for 10-15 min.
Borax is a mineral and has been shown to be safe to use. It is NOT the same as boric acid. If that’s what you’re concerned about. (Crunchy Betty has a fantastic write-up about the confusion around Borax, if you want more info.)
That said, baking soda is not the substitute for the Borax. Borax is the whitening and stain removing agent (think OxiClean, as it’s very similar). Baking soda is the substitute for washing soda, as they’re nearly the same (and can be converted between). However, washing soda is more effective at its job (water softening, removing grime) than baking soda, due to the higher sodium content, though baking soda is easier on delicate cloths, due to dissolving more easily in water and being less abrasive than washing soda.
Baking soda and washing soda are usually substituted one for one, though you may need to increase the amount of baking soda you use if you have hard water.
Adding liquid castille soap is rather redundant, as the recipe already contains soap. Additionally, you run the risk of creating too many suds and overflowing your washer, creating a huge mess.
I’ve been using this recipe for years and have never really had the need for “extra cleaning power,” except when my son was still in (cloth) diapers. During that time, I added 2 parts OxiClean to the batch.
If you really want more soap in it, then I recommend using a low-sudsing soap, like Fels Naptha. That way you can add as much as you want. Personally, I’d see about softening the water before adding more soap, though. Too much soap and you could get residue deposits. It really doesn’t take much to get clothes clean.
I’ve read you can substitute a Dr Bronners solid bar for the FelsNaptha, or Zote. Dr Bronners bars are avail in scented varieties. I wish more of the recipes found online gave ounce or weight of the soap, since bars of soap may weigh differently.
I am making my first batch right now!! using Zote.
One website that I’m trying to find again said you can skip both the sodas and borax (she recommended making a batch w/out soda or borax for delicates- not grimy clothes) and that one of the powders was a bit harsh on cottons and increased fading. I think it was borax- but my friend who has made laundry soap for years uses borax and hasnt noticed fading.
I use liquid Castile Soap in place of grating the bar soap. I have found my clothes to smell funny. My husband hates it and wants me to buy detergent again. Could it be that I replaced the liquid soap for the grated?
So its one cup of grated soap, to one cup borax to one cup washing soda??
No, it would be one cup of grated soap, 2 cups of borax and 2 cups of washing soda. However much you use of the grated soap, you’d use double the amount of washing soda and borax (which is what’s meant by one part to two parts).
For liquid soap
If you use bar Castile soap can this recipe be used in the dishwasher? Just in a smaller amount like a tablespoon? Thanks Kaleigh
I want to try this but I hav very bad ezcema will this be good for me be harmful?
I have eczema too. Try dr bronner’s baby mild for the bar. It is unscented.
I use it and we all have sensitive skin and eczema. I use zote!
eczema is an allergic reation to something you are using. for my son it was laundry soap for my daughter it was something in our old towns water.
Hi Katie, I want to make a big batch like you suggested in step 3, using a large bucket. If I mix a full box of Borax and a full box of the washing soda, that will not be equal parts. Since the box of Borax is about 20 more ounces than the washing soda. Hope that makes sense. Should I just use a measuring up and measure out equal parts until I run out of the washing soda and save the left over Borax for the next batch I use?
I just did the measuring. 2 bars of Fels-naptha, entire box of Washing Soda and almost the whole box of Borax and it made a 1 gallon ice cream bucket full. This will last my husband and I about 3 or 4 months and we are landscapers so our clothes get REALLY dirty.
Remember too, you can use the Borax for other cleaning around the house!
I was wondering if I could use the liquid castile Dr Bronner’s soap for the grated since you have to melt it anyways. I use it in a spray bottle in the shower as a gel and it works get diluted. Thanks for your recipes Katie and your blog…I just love that we all can have natural stuff without spending so much money.
Laurie – I am wondering the exact same thing!!
Thank you, Katie! I just LOVE your site!!! My friends and family now call me the medicine woman because all of the products I have been making from your site actually work!! Don’t worry – I am sure to give you the credit and then show them your site whether they ask or not 🙂
Thanks again – Erin
Hi, I am also wondering the same thing. I already have a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap 18-in-1 Hemp Peppermint Pure Castile Soap. Can I use that for the liquid laundry detergent recipe?
Hi there Leslie,
SO I have been searching and searching for an answer to this question on this blog. I haven’t seen any and got a bit frustrated that no one was addressing it so I did some research and according to Lisa Bronner’s Mom Blog: lisabronner.com, she very clearly marks the difference in dilution. You need only adjust the recipe to these ratios to substitute liquid for solid soap, though cost wise, it does appear it would be more cost efficient to use the bar soap if gotten at a decent price. However, if you already have the liquid soap and don’t mind the extra cost here is the answer for all of us Dr. B liquid soap buyers:
“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.” – Lisa Bronner (lisabronner.com)
AT LAST. Hope this helps!
Thanks WellnessMAMA Katie for sharing this recipe, been using it for a year and half!
NO commercial detergents contain BORAX and WASHING SODA together. It’s an either/or. Powder is washing soda. Liquid detergents have borax, usually with alcohol. End of story. My guess is that washing soda loses its poop over time in water and borax doesn’t. Borax is fine, but if you’re having trouble getting things CLEAN (which is not the same as WHITE), replacing borax with washing soda will make it more powerful. If you want to make liquid detergent, washing soda may not be a good choice, however, I have no idea how that alcohol/borax thing works out.
I recently discovered Tide Oxy-Clean and I’m a big fan of it, however, I’m not a fan of the fragrance (my son looks like he has some sort of communicable disease, like chicken pox, when his face comes into contact with clothing that’s been washed in it) I’m wondering if you know of a clothing detergent recipe that uses hydrogen peroxide. It works so well at getting stains out…. Thank for your input and for your amazing website, I LOVE it!
Just for the record, we’re Tide Oxi Clean free now and every other store bought laundry product (except soap nuts) My son looks like he’s healthy again. Thanks for the recipes!!!
Hello, I just happen to stump on your website. I was looking on how to make soap for wash & dishes. I can remember making soap as a child & teen with my mom.
You are doing great please keep it up……If more people would make there own supplies the world would be in a better way..
parts are equal amounts of whatever measurement you are using. so if you are making 3 cups 2parts is 2 cups and 1 part is 1 cup.
Hello! I tried your recipe for liquid laundry soap, and it turned out to ‘watery’. I followed the recipe for 1 Cup or Borax and 1 Cup of washing soda, and grated the bar of soup and dissolved it over the stove. I stirred in both Cups of the powders into 4.5 Gal and dissolved it, but it still did not solidify any more. Any advice.
Katie - Wellness Mama
It will be more watery than regular gel detergents
Hello, I have used the powder detergent recipe for several months and love it!!! Trying the liquid for the first time – it’s now ready to be poured into containers, but instead of just being watery as some people have experienced, I’d describe it as slimy-chunky gelatinous with various thicknesses. Haha! Is this common? Did I maybe do a step wrong? Thanks!
Katie - Wellness Mama
That is normal since it isn’t commercially made. Just whisk it a little before storing and I usually shake before using.
If you use Zote soap in the liquid it does not gel as much. You can’t really grate it since it is soft just cut it into small pieces to melt. Follow all other instructions and it works great. Hope this helps.
I just made the powder detergent today and absolutely love it! I bought all my ingredients at Wal-Mart. I searched the internet to find better prices (even bulk), but Wal-Mart was the best by far! Boraz was $3.97/ 76 oz., A & H was $3.24/ 55 oz., and Ivory was $.97/ 3 bars. I made the recipe as posted and it turned out just as described. I chose to use 1/4 cup of detergent and it equals out to 16 loads for $2.10!!!!! I am thrilled! My next endeavor is to find a stainless steel or glass container large enough to make several batches (I’m trying to get rid of plastic dependency in my home). Thanks Wellness Mama!!!!
Mine came out with globs and the water separating. I used an immersion blender and it mixed the globs with the water nicely and didn’t make a crazy lather or anything. It was perfect and gel like. I did use a little less water than it called for (something went amiss in my conversion to metric and halving the recipe). The water didn’t separate out again over time after I used the immersion blender. Love this stuff. Since I used less water, I just used less in the washing machine… more concentrated 🙂
If you have access to a powered hand drill…affordable purchase of a paint mixer from home depot is a good trick. Just make sure its long enough to reach the bottom if a 5 gal. bucket. It will homogenize the gel in no time
I tried this recipe and mine turned out very Gelly, like it’s not stiff stiff, but it is quite consistent. Should I just add hot water?
Also, my one mistake I made, I mixed up both recipes, so I heated the borax and washing soda with the bar of soap, put that in the pail with water, and then heated the rest of the soap and added to it. Does that make a difference?
Thank you! Can’t wait to actually try it 😀
It should work just fine. I have made a similar mistake before. I have been using this for over two years and it works great.
I just made mine and when I was pouring the 4.5 gallons of hot water into the bucket, it started looking a little full so I actually only used about 4 gallons of hot water or a little less because I still had to pour the 2 quarts of soapy water in the 5 gallon bucket. I have been adding washing soda or borax along with the detergent as well. I grated a bar of almond and oatmeal soap but it doesnt really smell that strong so I added fabric softener in with my laundry detergent and it works great!
How was the consistency of the soap? I see others on here saying it’s watery – do you think using 4 gallons instead of 4.5 is the key here?
I make half the recipe and converted to metrics because the largest bottle I have is a 10 liter. The solutions gels up with NO problem at all!
I have a recipe that I use that requires 2 bars of ivory soap or one big bar of Zote soap. The Zote soap will be thicker and tends to be clumpy but will dissolve just fine when placed in the washing machine.
You grate your soap and then put it into a large cooking pan with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook until soap is completely melted. Then add 1 and 1/2 Cups of Borax and 1 and 1/2 Cups of washing soda. I then dump them in, stir and cook on med. heat for about 15 minutes. While this is cooking (when there is about 4 minutes left), I dump 1 gal of hot water into my 5 gal. bucket. When cooking this mixture you have to watch it and stir often so it doesn’t burn or cook over. If it starts to boil over, then reduce your heat.
When the time is finished, dump this mixture into the 5 gal. bucket on top of the 1 gal. hot water. Stir and then add another 3 gallons of cold water. Stir this mixture with a whisk, once an hour for 3 hours. I keep the lid on to avoid pets getting into this. Let this sit 24 hours before using.
I then stir this mixture and take a plastic bottle and dip it down into the mixture to fill it. (I use the other, old detergent bottles from the competitors and fill them up.) This helps when measuring out the amount to use — 1/2 to 3/4 cup — and I can shake up the bottle before using. I used to have to take a long dowel and stir the mixture before using it that day and I was tired of messing with this mixture this way. The bottles are so much easier.
The Zote soap is thicker but I like the ivory soap the best.
Thanks and enjoy!
I have the same problem, it keeps coming out like water. how do I get it to gel? I follow the recipe exactly and does not thicken up
I thought it was 1 cup soap, 2 cups of borax and 2 cups of washing soda? One cup of the two latter ingredients might be why it was so watery.
Let it sit with the lid for 24 hours before using and it should congeal more. It will look similar to egg drop soup.
One bar of soap, 2 cups of EACH powder. Might be the reason since you didn’t cut the amount of water.
i am excited to try this. can you ad any essential oils for a scent?
Yes! Add your favorite essential oil!
I recommend putting a drop or two of oil into the mix right before you use it. Unless you store your mix in a glass or stainless steel container, I’d be concerned about the oil interacting with the container and leaching chemicals.
HDPE is good for this purpose, buy a 5 gal food grade bucket at Home Depot for mixing, then use glass or HDPE jugs for the liquid. I am repurposing my empty Meyers laundry detergent bottles, nice and sturdy, too.
I tried this recipe, and I had to put 3 cups of this liquid detergent to clean the clothes and make them smell better. I was disappointed.
You are not going to get a result that smells like tide or anything that has heavy perfumes with which we are all so familiar…but I have had no problem with how clean my clothes are, but, I do use more than a cup on laundry that is more soiled. Either way, you are still using much less money to wash your clothes!
Can vinegar be used in the rinse cycle or added to the wash. This will take care of odor.
Thanks so much for this! Last night I changed my bed sheets that had been washes with normal (and toxic) laundry detergent and I just couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t figure out why. I have suffered from insomnia for quite some time now but I only really figured out what was causing it until last night.
You see, I was lying awake for hours, my skin felt kind of itchy and I could feel weird stuff going on in my brain that was really freaking me out. It was scary. And this has happened before and I only just worked out that it’s because of whatever weird chemicals that I’m breathing in from my so called clean bed sheets.
It suprises me that these things are even allowed to be on the market.. I don’t know what damage that stuff has been doing to me.
I have experienced the same problem when going off of my meds suddenly. Scouring my environment of toxins was the first best step.you were right to wash the poison from your bed!
This could be very helpful-I am having terrible skin problems but only where my clothing fits tight to my body! I remember my mom saying she used to rinse the laundry twice because we were allergic to Cheer detergent some 55 years ago! I forgot about that until this came up. Thank you so much- and yes, essential oils will go well with this recipe ?
Yes, I just researched Tide ingredients, and this is what the website lists (notice the borax is present as well, so if you’re going to use commercial products, you still get it; may as well make your own and shorten the list
INGREDIENTS BY FUNCTION
Added to help make clothes appear brighter and whiter.
Disodium Diaminostilbene Disulfonate
is an optical brightener that makes
clothes appear brighter and whiter.
Help other cleaning agents such as surfactants by
softening hard water and balancing the pH. Builders
can help to keep soils from re-depositing on clothes in the wash.
is a salt of boric acid used in detergent to capture soils.
adjusts the pH of a detergent
for optimal cleaning results.
Diethylenetriamine Pentaacetate (Sodium Salt)
captures soils in the water and helps remove stains t
hat are rich in color, such as tea, coffee and red
Added to lend individuality to the product, or dram
atize a special additive contributing to product
is a colorant used to add aesthetic ap
peal and to differentiate between products.
Naturally occurring, highly biodegradable proteins us
ed in detergents to break down complex stains and
soils, including protein-based stains (grass and bl
ood) and starch-based stains common to many foods.
Enzymes can also improve the appearance and feel of
fabrics by helping to maintain whiteness or keep
is an enzyme that breaks down starch-based soils an
d stains such as sauces, ice-creams and gravy.
is an enzyme that breaks down guar gums, which are us
ed as thickeners and for gel texture in foods such
as ice cream, barbecue sauce and salad dressing.
is an enzyme that breaks down pectin-based so
ils and stains such as fruit juice and jelly.
is an enzyme that breaks down soils and stains cont
aining proteins such as collar and cuff soil-lines,
grass and blood.
Provide pleasant scent to det
ergents and washed fabrics.
is used to provide scent to detergent and clothes.
Added to help vary the pH balance of detergent for optimal cleaning results and performance.
helps adjust the pH balance of detergent for optimal cleaning results.
Used in liquid detergents to form a layer over remain
ing soils and stain particles, lifting them out of the
fabrics. Other polymers help care fo
r your clothes and provide softness.
Diquaternium Ethoxy Sulfate
is a polymer used in detergent to lift clay soils out of fabrics.
is a polymer used in detergent to lift
stains and soils out of fabrics.
Additive that helps contribute to the performance
and efficiency of other ingredients in the product,
including stabilization and the prev
ention of sudsing in the wash.
is the calcium salt of formic acid which
helps to stabilize enzymes in the detergent.
is a clear, odorless organic liquid used as a solvent
to ensure that ingredient
s are evenly distributed.
is a silicon-based organic polymer used to prevent excess sudsing.
(pure alcohol) is used as a process aid to help k
eep other ingredients in the product in solution.
is an organic liquid that helps the different types of
surfactants remain evenly di
stributed in a concentrated
is a biodegradable, colorless, odorless liquid used
in detergents as an enzyme stabilizer and solvent to
ensure that ingredients ar
e evenly distributed.
Sodium Cumene Sulfonate
is a clear liquid used in detergent to improve emul
sifying and dispersing functions. It also helps the
different types of surfactants remain
evenly distributed in the detergent.
is the sodium salt of formic acid used to balance the electrolytes in the detergent.
is a processing aid added to detergent to help dissolve some of the ingredients.
Wetting agents that help make liquids spread more eas
ily, and play an important role in extracting stains.
Surfactants consist of two parts, whic
h first penetrate and extract stains from fabric. They then suspend
those stains in water to help prevent the particles fr
om being re-deposited onto garments in the wash.
is a low-foaming surfactant that helps penetrate stains and extract soils.
is a surfactant that helps penetrate stains, extract
soils and suspend stain particles in water to prevent
them from being redeposited. It is especially effective in hard water.
is a low-foaming surfactant that helps
penetrate stains and extract soils.
Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate
is a general-purpose surfactant t
hat helps penetrate stains, extract
soils and suspend stain particles in
water to prevent them from being redeposited.
Sodium Fatty Acids
are familiar to everyone as soap, a natural way to clean many kinds of soils.
Hi – I’m very tempted to try making my own laundry detergent. One big question: for the bar soap, would Fels-Naptha work?
Hi Karen I have read that soap would work as well. Try it, you will not regret it. Just make sure to let it sit for 24 hours, you will see how the liquid thickens overnight. I could not believe the amazing results. I use a 5 gallon water cooler bottle with a handle so I always shake it before use. I thought the clothes would come out rough (as they do with all detergent and you then follow-up with fabric softener) and amazingly the clothes were not hard. They do not come out super soft, but soft enough that you do not need the softener, and so fresh and clean, I was truly amazed. Oh and now that I am using this I have noticed black rings in the washing machine, which means it is thoroughly cleaning the clothes!!
IF YOU ADD 1/2 CUP OF VINEGAR DURING THE RINSE CYCLE IT WILL SOFTEN YOUR CLOTHES.
I use the fels-naptha with no problems.
I’ve used Fels-Naptha for years and it works great. And no soap scum like some of u have complained about.
I made laundry detergent but not happy with how it turned out. It is like jello, what did I do wrong
I’ve not tried making laundry soap yet, but I didn’t read anywhere about what consistency it should or should not be. So I wonder, what’s wrong with jello. Maybe its supposed to be that way?
Mine also turned out like jello. I wouldn’t think this is right since it means I cant really pour it anybody have suggestions as to how I may be able to fix this or what I maybe did wrong?
I can find Borax at Family Dollar, Dollar General or in Fry’s Grocer for $4.00. Zote bar soap (14 ounce ) for 99 cents most anywhere and Fels Naptha for $1’49 most everywhere. but washing soda (aka soda ash) is variable in price. Ranges from $3.59 to $4.29 in two places that i have found it.
Would the Dr Bronners baby mild bar soap work for this? Thank you!!!
Yes, someone mentioned earlier in the comments that the baby mild soap would work as well. I have not personally made this recipe with the baby mild soap, but that commentator has.
Hi we make homemade laundry soap but the nappa soap make the mixture clumby after it sits over night .. How can fix it?
The best way to get your homemade laundry soap to a more recognizable texture is to get a 5 gallon paint mixing attachment for a power drill and use that. It mixes everything up better and you can reach all the way to the bottom of the bucket. It will separate over time because it doesnt have extra stuff to keep it blended. Even in the “watery”, “jello”, “egg drop soup” form, it cleans great.
Just stir or shake well before using. I fill a washed-out empty dish soap bottle full of my liquid laundry detergent so I don’t have to deal with the large bucket every time I do laundry. I just shake the bottle and squirt the appropriate amount into my machine’s dispenser (LG front loading he machine). I didn’t use the softener crystals, so I just put white vinegar in the softener dispenser which, I think, also helps rinse soap residue away and helps with our hard water. BTW, the recipe I used called for a total of 3 gallons water, 1 bar of soap, 1 cup Borax and 1/2 cup washing soda. I used Ivory soap. Next time I will try equal parts Borax and washing soda and Fels-Naptha soap to see if greasy dirt is more easily cleaned. Also, the recipe I tried (from another website) said to use only 2 tbsp/load in high efficiency machines, which wasn’t nearly enough to clean the clothes.
Tip: use a vegetable peeler to shave the soap into the pot of hot water; much easier than grating! And, don’t boil the water & soap; just keep it very warm/hot until the soap is completely melted. Also, don’t use an aluminum or iron container, pot or stirrer/spoon; use stainless steel, enameled steel or glass for the pot; plastic for the mixing bucket or storage; steel, plastic or wood for stirrer/spoon. This is to avoid any possible reaction between the ingredients and iron or aluminum.
This is the second time I am trying to make the liquid soap. Fingers crossed!
First time there was a mix up. Dad got regular baking soda instead of washing soda. I didn’t realize the mistake till the next day when there was the mass of gelled soap floating on the top of the bucket and underneath that was basically water. Oops. Live and learn. I just peeked at it and it seemed some of the more solid stuff had started to settle towards the bottom so I gave it a quick stir. Hoping I didn’t screw it up again. Lol
What do you think about Puracy Natural High Efficiency Liquid Laundry Detergent, 10x Concentrated, Free & Clear, 24 fl. Oz.?
IVe been making my own Landry detergent for about 2 years now? and its the best. My daughter is allergic to certain soaps and as soon as I started doing my own it immediately cleared up. its safe for all washers and doesn’t fade my clothes at all. Its saves money to and its fun to make so, Ill never buy laundry soap again.
I read crunchy Betty’s comments re:borax but disagree. Please read what the environmental working group says about borax in laundry detergent and not ingested: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/2507-20MuleTeamBoraxNaturalLaundryBoosterMultiPurposeHouseholdCleaner
I agree about concerns with regular use of borax (once in a while, no big deal).
Also, you cannot use laundry soap that contains borax if you use the grey water from the washer in your garden.
Boron is an element is does not chemically break down into something simpler, so it builds up and is toxic to both plants and animals. It is a necessary element for health, but like many minerals (chromium, manganese, iron for that matter) a tiny amount is essential for life (usually as a component of an enzyme), more is toxic.
Borax is disodium tetraborate, in other words two sodium atoms with four boron atoms bonded to it with some oxygen atoms, and some water molecules thrown in too. The common chemical formula is:
I happen to have grown up not far from the town of Boron, CA – where the 20-mule team borax mine is located.
A good friend of mine lives in Clearake CA, which has a smaller lake nearby called Borax Lake – they also extracted borax from that location. Some people in Clearlake can’t use the water from wells on their property to water gardens because it contains too much boron, but their clothes come out of the wash looking good..