How to Make Laundry Soap (Liquid or Powder Recipe)

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Liquid or Powder Natural Laundry Detergent
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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 Powder
  • Borax (20 Mule Team Borax available at most grocery stores)
  • Bar Soap (Dr. Bronner’s,  Ivory, or other natural, unscented bar 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

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.

Liquid or Powder Natural Laundry Detergent
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4.13 from 64 votes

Natural Laundry Soap Recipe

This homemade laundry detergent recipe is easy and very inexpensive to make, plus you avoid the chemicals of conventional detergents.
Prep Time15 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Yield: 2.5 cups
Author: Katie Wells

Materials

  • 1 bar soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Bar Soap or homemade coconut oil soap)
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup borax

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

See below for instructions on making a liquid version of this laundry soap.
Homemade liquid laundry soap recipe

How to Make Liquid Laundry Soap

  1. Grate one bar of soap with cheese grater or food processor.
  2. Put grated soap in pan with 2 quarts water and gradually heat, stirring constantly until soap is completely dissolved.
  3. 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.
  4. Pour soap mixture from pan into 5-gallon bucket. Stir well.
  5. Cover and leave overnight.
  6. Shake or stir until smooth and pour into gallon jugs or other containers.
  7. 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

All Natural Laundry Soap Recipes - two ways

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?

Homemade Natural Effective Laundry Soap Recipe

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?

This homemade laundry detergent recipe is easy and very inexpensive to make, plus you avoid the chemicals of conventional detergents.
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

897 responses to “How to Make Laundry Soap (Liquid or Powder Recipe)”

  1. Kate Avatar

    These recipes sound like some of the easiest I’ve read online. I’d recommend using a mini-cheese grater with tiny holes when you grate the bar soap, to get the finest shaving of your bar of soap right off. Then if you need to make it finer, or it isn’t ‘melting’ in cold wash water, you can pulverize it finer in a blender.

    Kate

  2. Rachel Avatar
    Rachel

    Do you have any suggestions for ready-made powdered detergents? I’m looking for a completely non-toxic detergent for my mom, but she really doesn’t like liquid ones.

  3. margaret Avatar
    margaret

    Borax is a toxic chemical. According to the EWG it is a skin & eye irritant, suspected hormone disruptor, and toxic to children. I’m sure you won’t allow this to be posted, but it states you have a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. You’re giving followers a false sense of security with your “credentials” and not following through – there’s plenty of research now available on the use of borax in laundry detergent…

  4. Jessica Avatar
    Jessica

    Most or all my clothes are black. Would this detergent work on black clothes?

  5. Reggie Avatar
    Reggie

    Do you use the same food processor for both food and crafts, or do you have two separate cups/bowls/blades for the separate uses?

    Thank you!

  6. Jasmine Avatar
    Jasmine

    Is it possible to add essential oils to the dry laundry soap to scent it? At which point in the process would this work best? Thanks so much.

  7. cheryl Avatar

    We have hard water. Could I please hear your thoughts on using this with hard water?

  8. Tony Avatar

    Hi Katie, I was excited to find your website, and recipe to making your own liquid laundry detergent. I gathered together all the ingredients and set out this past weekend to make the liquid version. I even watched your video to make sure I did everything step by step. I sealed my 5 gallon container, and left it in the garage for 24 hours. The garage is heated, and kept at a temperature of 55 degrees. When I opened the container the next day, the top half of the solution had turned solid. Like jello or thicker consistency. I could not even stir it to mix the solution together. Please let me know why this would happen, and what I can do to get the solution into a usable consistency. Thanks, Tony

  9. Kathie Avatar

    Help! I’m confused – after grating one bar of soap, I have 2 cups of flakes. If I use your recipe, do I add all the flakes (one bar) or 1/2 cup (one part) of the flakes to the 1 cup of borax and 1 cup of washing soda?

  10. melissa Avatar
    melissa

    I already made the detergent. It didn’t produce bubbles. Is that okay?

  11. Delia Avatar

    Will the dry recipe work with cold water as well? I have alot of dark clothes and primarily wash in cold water.

  12. Christina Avatar

    Made the liquid laundry soap yesterday and checked it before, it came out perfect!! It gelled and was a bit ‘globby’, so I just stirred and used my immersion blender to smooth it out. I’m trying it on a load as we speak. I left it in the 5 gallon bucket and just have it in the corner of my mud room. It literally right across from my washer. Yay!!

  13. Lydia Avatar

    Question. Can the homemade powder be used in an HE washing machine? And if so, do you just dump the powder on top of the clothes or do you put it into the dispenser like you would liquid detergent?

  14. Jessie M Avatar

    I have been trying to figure out for a while what kind of bar soap to use due to my super sensitive skin, but my favorite soap is actually a local rescue farm’s goat’s milk soap, do you think that would be safe to use or should I steer away because of the milk?
    Thanks for any advice!

  15. Barbara Avatar

    I have used Planet powdered laundry detergent for years and love it. It is mineral based and totally fragrance free. The amount used per load is very small, and a box lasts me for months. It does not leave residue in the washer. Highly recommended.

  16. Nancy Norton Avatar
    Nancy Norton

    You might try putting ice on the wax and then scraping it off if you are worried about burning the carpet. If there is still residue, I’d probably try the iron set on a low setting with paper under it . . . Maybe paper towels would aborb more than brown paper? I don’t think I’d trust a soap or detergent and I’d worry about a solvent destroying the carpet . . .

  17. Nancy Avatar

    You could try soap nuts. They still require transportation (from Africa) but they are truly a ‘natural’ product and provide income to people who harvest them. I use them in my wash along with borax, washing soda, citric acid and oxygen based powdered bleach. They can be tucked in a cloth bag or you can find an aqueous extract that is quite concentrated. I have both, but my favorite is the concentrate.

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