The Original Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

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Homemade Laundry Detergent

Making homemade laundry detergent is easy, inexpensive, and effective in regular and HE washers. Save money and avoid chemicals with DIY laundry detergent.

This is the ORIGINAL homemade laundry detergent recipe, all others only imitate what you’ll find here.
This is a fun project that will save you money and help you rid your home of toxic chemical cleaners. When you’re done making this check out these other related articles:

Note: No time or desire to make homemade laundry detergent? You can always purchase a great natural brand like this.

When we first set out to make our own homemade laundry detergent we thought it would be difficult and time-consuming – turns out it’s neither. Further, making your own laundry powder is fast, easy, and inexpensive.

Why Powdered DIY Laundry Detergent?

We opt for powder over liquid in respect for opportunity cost, storage, and simplicity. Specifically, the liquid variety takes longer to make, requires more storage space, and is more complicated. Finally, years after making our first batch, thousands of others have tried it and loved the results.

Moreover, this powdered DIY laundry detergent recipe requires just three simple ingredients and takes only a few minutes to make.

To illustrate, the instructions and pictorial instructions follow, along with the cost savings breakdown, notes on HE washers, septic tanks, and borax safety.

Note: This homemade laundry soap/detergent works in all HE front-load washers; read more below.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Prep

Total

Yield 32 ounces

Ingredients

Instructions

Thoroughly stir together for several minutes and enjoy the results! You can take this a step further and blend the mixture in a blender or food processor to create a powder that will dissolve easily even in cold water. (Just be sure to let the dust settle before removing the lid of your blender or food processor so you don’t inhale the fine particles.) Store in a sealed container with a small scoop.

Notes

Each batch yields approximately 32 ounces (between 32-64 loads based on how many Tbsp used per load).

Use 1 Tbsp per small load (or 2-3 Tbsp for large or heavily soiled loads).

Homemade Laundry Ingredients

Generally, you can purchase all these DIY laundry detergent ingredients at your local grocery store:

  • A 55-ounce box of Arm & Hammer® Super Washing Soda = $3.99
  • 76-ounce box of 20 Mule Team® Borax = $4.99
  • 10 pack of 4.5-ounce bars of Ivory® Bar Soap

Note on ingredients: use whatever ingredients you are comfortable with. To explain, some people are comfortable with popular brands that are not totally natural, while others prefer to make their own.

Some commonly used bar soap brands include Kirk’s Original Coco Castile®, Pure & Natural®, Fels-Naptha®, and/or ZOTE®. Also, both ZOTE® and Fels-Naptha® are made for and sold as a “laundry bar.”

In contrast, if you’re looking for a pure, natural solution you’ll need to go with a handcrafted soap so you can be sure of its ingredients. Also, you can purchase a natural bar of soap. Because everyone is on a different level we encourage everyone to do what they’re comfortable with.

As previously mentioned, all items can be found in the laundry aisle of most grocery stores. However, if you cannot find washing soda, you can learn to make your own here!

Homemade Laundry Detergent Pictorial Instructions

For visual learners, like myself, enjoy these pictorial instructions.

1. Start with these ingredients and utensils:

Homemade Laundry Detergent 1

2. Shave 1 bar of soap. I used a simple hand grater:

Photo 2

3. My shaved bar looked like this:

Photo 3

4. Add 14 ounces of borax:

Photo 4

5. Add 14 ounces of washing soda:

Photo 5

6. Stir thoroughly:

Homemade Laundry Detergent 6

7. Stirring is complete when you have a powder like this:

Homemade Laundry Detergent 7

8. Store your detergent in an airtight container and enjoy!

Homemade Laundry Detergent 8

Use 1 Tbsp per small load or 2 -3 Tbsp for large or heavily soiled loads. If you have really hard water, you may need to use even more.

You can blend the mixture in a blender or food processor to get a fine powder that will dissolve easily in cold water loads. If you don’t want to do this extra step, you can also just dissolve the detergent in a pint of warm water before adding it to the washing machine.

There you have it folks – simple, easy, fast, and efficient homemade laundry detergent!

When you’re done making this check out our article on homemade fabric softener/dryer sheets!

Note: No time or desire to make homemade laundry detergent? You can always purchase a great natural brand like this.

Cost Savings Breakdown

Prior to making our own, we were using Arm & Hammer liquid detergent.  Here is the breakdown in cost analysis:

Use 1 Tbsp per load, or 2 -3 Tbsp for large or heavily soiled loads.

  • Arm & Hammer® liquid 100 ounce detergent – $6.79 – 32 loads = $0.21 per load
  • Tide® with Bleach powder 267 ounce detergent – $20.32 – 95 loads = $0.21 per load
  • Jabs Homemade powder 32 ounce detergent – $2.98 – 64 loads = $0.05 per load

As you can see, whether I compare against traditional store bought liquid or powder, I am saving $0.16 per load!

High Efficiency (HE) Washers

HE front-load washers require “special soap” for one reason alone – low suds. Because they use less water, they require soap that is less sudsy. The good news is this homemade detergent is VERY low suds. The “special” HE detergent is just another advertising mechanism to push consumers to buy “special soap” for unnecessarily high prices.

Regardless of your washer type, just make your own in confidence.

Safe for Septic Tanks and Fields

This is the best laundry soap to use with septic tanks because it contains zero phosphates and zero fillers (like montmorillonite clay) that cause commercial powder detergents to clog lines. It is also completely non-toxic so it will not harm necessary septic bacteria like toxic detergents and antibacterial soaps. Use with confidence.

Is Borax In Homemade Laundry Detergent Toxic?

After thorough research, I have concluded borax is only as toxic as baking soda or table salt; if you ingest it in high quantities, it may make you sick. If you use it as described in our recipes, it poses no toxic threat.

Just make sure you don’t confuse borax with boric acid, the two are NOT the same. Use borax (I recommend 20 Mule Team brand), and steer clear of boric acid.

For those of you who want more info, read this excellent Crunchy Betty article where she expounds the toxicity levels of borax; I couldn’t have said it better myself – thanks, Crunchy Betty.

At the end of the day, decide for yourself to use it or not, and afford others the same courtesy.

What are you waiting for? Go get the ingredients and make your homemade laundry detergent today!

*******

References and Resources

Matt Jabs

About Matt Jabs

Matt loves to inspire others to save money and live more sustainably. He is passionate about eating local, living simply, and doing more things himself. He also writes about Personal Finance at Debt Free Adventure. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and his +Matt Jabs Google profile.

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DISCLAIMER: Information on DIY Natural™ is not reviewed or endorsed by the FDA and is NOT intended to be substituted for the advice of your health care professional. If you rely solely upon this advice you do so at your own risk. Read full Disclaimer & Disclosure statements here.

Comments

  1. Cheryl says

    Thank you Zi, I just made a batch and am trying it right now.! 🙂 Hope it works out okay, with a family of 5 we are always looking for ways to save money and live as natural as possible.

  2. Zi says

    Hi Cheryl,

    In my laundry soap recipe, I use 1/2 the borax to 1 bar of soap and i cup of washing soda. Then I always add at least 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. Not only does vinegar disinfect equally as well as clorox, but it dissolves mineral deposits in hard water, and removes any soap residue on the clothing.

    Please note, this recipe is extremely concentrated. The recommended amount per load is 1-2 tablespoons, since it has no additives. So you could make a small batch: an ounce of flaked Ivory or Kirk’s Castile (the others have too many harsh chemicals) plus an ounce of washing soda and 1/2 ounce of borax.

    Even if your kid’s skin has a bad reaction, these same ingredients will make great household cleaners. I wish you success.

    I know No-One who has skin as sensitive as mine, and this recipe has saved me. Why not try a very small load just to see if the recipe works for your children?

  3. Cheryl says

    My kids all have sensitive skin and we have always had to keep everything unscented. I was wondering if anyone knows if the laundry soap is okay for sensitive skin. I bought all the ingredients the other day to make it, I can’t find anywhere on the boxes that say they are scented. I also can’t seem to find a recipient for homemade fabric softener without fragrance.

      • Colleen R says

        My husband has sensitive skin with eczema. This soap doesn’t bother his skin. We live in Canada so I use Sunlight bar soap as we don’t seem to have fels naphtha or zote.

  4. Steven says

    PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT FROM WIKIPEDIA’S ENTRY FOR BORAX, UNDER THE HEADING OF TOXICITY:

    Boric acid solutions used as an eye wash or on abraded skin are known to be particularly toxic to infants, especially after repeated use, because of the slow elimination rate. [22]

    Borax was added to the Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) candidate list on 16 December 2010. The SVHC candidate list is part of the EU Regulations on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals 2006 (REACH), and the addition was based on the revised classification of Borax as toxic for reproduction category 1B under the CLP Regulations. Substances and mixtures imported into the EU which contain Borax are now required to be labelled with the warnings “May damage fertility” and “May damage the unborn child”. [23]

    • Zi says

      I went online to search for Borax substitutes, and ended up becoming convinced that it was safe for laundry detergent, particularly since I rinse with white vinegar (as a water softener) as well as set my clothes-washer for an extra rinse (my skin is wildly sensitive; that’s why I went looking for an hypo-allergenic DIY laundry soap in the first place).

      Not only did I learn from many different sites that the toxicity is pretty much the same as table salt, but also that many, many people ingest a very small quantity daily as a remedy for arthritis, lupus, rosacea, hormone-balancing, candida, and osteoporosis, to name a few.

      Below are links and some excerpts from my afternoon’s research.
      …………..
      http://educate-yourself.org/cn/boraxconspiracy03jul12.shtml

      The European Chemicals Agency gave as reason for their reclassification of boron products (paraphrased):
      ‘The available data do not indicate major differences between laboratory animals and humans, therefore it must be assumed that the effects seen in animals could occur in humans as epidemiological studies in humans are insufficient to demonstrate the absence of an adverse effect of inorganic borates on fertility. 17.5 mg boron/kg/day was derived as a NOAEL (no event level) for male and female fertility. For the rat decreased foetal weight occurred at 13.7 mg boron/kg/day, and a safe limit of 9.6 mg/kg/day has been derived.’ (22)

      What they are really saying is this: ‘While we have no human data, animal studies suggest that for adult reproductive functions a daily ingestion of about 2 teaspoons of borax is safe. But to be absolutely sure that no-one is harmed, we will ban it totally.’ Importantly, this ruling is not related to borax in foods or supplements where it is already banned, but only for general use as in laundry or cleaning products or as insecticides.

      Because borax is not readily inhaled or absorbed through intact skin, it is difficult to see how even a few milligrams daily could get into the body with the conventional use. If the same standard would apply to other chemicals, there would be none left.

      The key study in this assessment was published in 1972. Why is this being dug up now to justify banning borax when it was of no concern for the past 40 years? It does not make any scientific sense, especially if you consider that the main chemical in the new borax substitute, sodium percarbonate, is about three times more toxic than borax.

      Acute oral LD50 values for animals are from 1034 to 2200 mg/kg/day (23). Even the commonly used sodium bicarbonate, with an animal LD50 of 3360 mg/kg, is nearly twice as toxic as borax (24). Both of these chemicals have not been tested for long-term reproductive toxicity at the high doses that caused fertility problems in rats and mice.

      The same applies to washing powders [laundry detergents], it has been stated that no toxicity is expected if used in the approved way, or that reproductive tests have not been done. Ingredients in these products are more toxic than borax, why can they be used in the approved way but not borax? And how about really toxic items such as caustic soda and hydrochloric acid? Why do they remain available to the public when one of the safest household chemicals is banned despite the fact that it is absolutely impossible to cause any reproductive harm with the approved use?

      Regardless of the lack of any scientific credibility, the stage has been set for borax and boric acid to be globally removed from public sale at short or no notice. Even low-level and less effective boron tablets are now tightly controlled by the pharmaceutical industry, and may be restricted at any time through Codex Alimentarius regulations. With this, the medical-pharmaceutical system has safely defused any potential danger that borax may have posed to its profitability and survival.
      ……………..
      http://crunchybetty.com/getting-to-the-bottom-of-borax-is-it-safe-or-not
      Looking through the ToxNet studies on the NIH website, I see very few that are concerning for any major danger (unless ingested in high quantities). In addition, the Material Safety Data Sheet lists borax as a health hazard of 1, the same as baking soda and salt.

      Here’s one more bit of info for you:
      Boron is an essential mineral that the body needs for bone building, immune function, and brain function. Plants need it to grow. But, like anything, it’s needed in small moderation. Much like salt.
      Boron is found aplenty in borax. People even take borax as a supplement and swear by it (I am NOT recommending you do this). That’s a little extreme, but I use it as a gauge as to how harmful borax really is.

      I’m putting to rest my late-night concerns about whether – all along – I’ve been using some kind of dangerous(!), toxic(!) poison(!).
      For me – and this is my personal determination after months of searching, wondering, and compiling information – borax is just fine to use in my household cleaning routine. ESPECIALLY as a laundry detergent. It’s also fine to use, occasionally, as a hair treatment … or even in a lotion.

      I’ll just be keeping it out of the reach of kids and my two cats. Not that any of those beings would want to eat it anyway. Ick.
      ……………..
      http://www.earthclinic.com/Remedies/borax_questions.html

      Whether borax is safe or not appears to be the dosage. Let’s see, flouride is at least ten times more toxic than borax, but yet many people use it everyday in toothpaste. How can you explain that? Its toxicity is a bit less toxic than cyanide, and arsenic toxicity is close to flouride. Not only is fluoride NOT an essential mineral, but yet boron or borax IS an essential mineral. Take for instance drinking water in Israel, is several milligrams per liter of water. Most fruits are about 1 mg/liter of borax.
      ……………..
      http://theecofriendlyfamily.com/2011/10/diy-dishwasher-detergent-without-borax/

      Also — and not said sarcastically, but seriously wanting to know…..anyone know what the real deal is with Borax? I keep seeing people say its toxic if ingested….but I wasn’t planning on eating it, I was just planning to wash my dishes with it. I imagine drinking the soap I use to handwash my dishes would probably be toxic if I drank enough of it, too….but I still use it to wash my dishes! Anyone try eating washing soda??? It says on the side that if ingested, you should start drinking milk or water and contact a physician. Just wondering if Borax is getting an unnecessarily bad reputation — when it would be MUCH cheaper to use. Anyone with a chemistry or medical degree that can shine some light on this??

      Reply, February 14, 2012 at 10:37 pm
      As I previously said, add vinegar to the final rinse. That will eliminate the haze left by the alkaline components of your wash mix. The haze is left behind because the alkaline ingredients are not as soluble in tap water that contains high concentrations of minerals and is most likely slightly alkaline itself. Acidifying the rinse water with vinegar will dissolve the alkaline ingredients and they will drain away with the rinse water.

      Cleaning Tip: To remove rust stains from garments, wet the rusty area with lemon juice, rub area with table salt (no it doesn’t matter what kind), and place in direct sunlight. The magic of photochemistry will cause the reduction of the oxidized Iron and the rust stain will be gone.

      DIY Dishwasher Detergent without Borax!
      by Amanda on October 17, 2011
      I’ve been playing around with a dishwasher detergent recipe for a while now, and finally worked out one that leaves my glasses clear and does not use borax.  I am happy to use borax in my laundry detergent, but I feel that using it on my dishes is probably not the best choice.
      For some time now I’ve been stuck using uneco-freindly options, mostly.  I’ve been using Cascade packs with Lemi-Shine.  It was the only thing that cleaned my dished and left my glasses clear from film and yuck.  I have been using this DIY recipe with success.  It used Lemi-Shine, which is completely safe and eco-friendly.  The only thing I wish is that I could buy it in tubs.  I simply will not do a load of dishes without it.

      1 1/2 Cups Lemi-Shine (They come in 12 oz containers, so this is a full one)
1 1/2 Cups Washing Soda
1/2 Cup Baking Soda
1/2 Cup Sea Salt (any will do I’m sure)
      Use 2 Tablespoons per load and if you like, vinegar can be added as the rinse agent in the event that you have any cloudiness.

      A nice Sunday jaunt through the web. Cheers!

      • Steve says

        Well put Zi.
        I know this is the laundry detergent site, but because you quoted Amanda and she mentioned Cascade, I thought I’d toss this in. If you look at the ingredients in Cascade liquid, the #1 ingredient is sodium carbonate (washing soda), next is sodium hydroxide (lye), next is sodium silicate, and then the kicker is chlorine bleach and this is to clean the plates and flatware we eat off.

        • Nicole says

          As for the Cascade remarks wouldn’t you think it’s not such a big deal since it’s all rinsed off before we eat from the dishes? Especially when I consider restaurant dishes, none of those ingredients scare me. It makes me feel safer. 🙂 I mean consider that most people swim in chlorine bleach that goes in their eyes and ears and occasionally their mouths. And doesn’t tap water have tiny amounts of bleach?

  5. Eddie says

    I have been using the base recipe for laundry detergent for many months now and am very happy with the results. I use an Ivory Soap bar shaved on a smaller grater which makes it easier to mix with the Soda and Borax. I know some of you like to do this with your food processor, but I simply spend a few minutes blending everything with my potato masher! Those extra few minutes of hand-blending are worth everything to me knowing that I am saving lots of money in the long run. And, my clothes are just as clean as they ever were with commercial products.

    I do add a small amount of bleach to the wash for my white towels. And I presoak some heavily-stained items, just as I would do for any load when I was previously using commercial detergents. For anything particularly “smelly” I add 1/4 cup of baking soda to the load and that takes care of it.

    I will also add that my laundry is noticebly softer…(particularly my towels), without even using fabric softener or dryer sheets.

  6. Lisa says

    So far, so LOVE! I experimented with a batch of the powder…Kirk’s Castile bar soap is wonderful, but boy does it take forever to grate! I’m hoping the Vitamix will work without making too much of a clean-up nightmare! I use it with the Borax and washing soda and just love the results…fresh, clean, bright. Thanks to all for sharing!

    • Sandie says

      Try cutting the soap in some pieces and freeze for a few hours before putting in the Vitamix – or a regular food processor.

  7. Lisa says

    Angie – do you do anything else besides cut up the soap bar before blending in the Vitamix? How difficult is it to clean the blender after? Thanks!

  8. vicki says

    After doing some research on the laundry soap thing, which I had made a batch just like everyone else, fels naptha, washing soda AND BORAX, it’s almost time to make another, well after looking at the clothes closley they just didn’t seem to be as bright as I wanted, then the researce began, I found out that Borax does no good at all in Cold water wash UMM……it does however work when used in hot then it releases it’s cleaning power, glad I found that info, so when making soap I’m going to try replacing the borax with Biz, just thought I’d let you ladies who wash in cold water know this.

  9. Steve says

    I tried the mixture using the Ivory bar (3.1 ounces vs the 5.5 ounce Fels Naptha bar) and although I didn’t do a rigourus comparison the results were as good or better than the larger Fels Naptha bar.

  10. Angie says

    I’ve been making this laundry soap for almost two years and haven’t looked back. I use the Fels Naptha bars. I bought a case (I think it was 24 bars) and still have 13 left! Of course, there are only two of us in the house, but the savings is incredible. By the way, I use my Vitamix blender to blend it up. I break up 1/2 bar or so at a time into pieces, then pulverize it! I add the soda and borax and mix it all up. Love it!

    I found the site and the book about a week ago. Waiting on my essential oils to come in to go with the other ingredients I just bought to make more cleaning products!

  11. Ken says

    I use Murphy’s oil soap or any old fashioned bar laudry soap and cold water. It works well for most delicate clothing, and for things that are not very dirty or smelly.

    If I need to clean someting dirty or smelly, I bring out the Tide (or equivilant).

    This way, my clothes get clean, not just clean-ish.

    .

  12. Zi says

    Hi Everyone,

    Thank you all for your great and informative comments.

    I’ve been using this recipe with Kirk’s Coconut Castile (Soap Bar) for at least 3 years. Another website whose link I’ve lost, suggested putting the bar on a plate in the microwave. It puffs up and becomes crumbly (once it cools)–easy to put in blender or food processor then. I can’t remember how long to zap it, so I’ve been checking it at 1-minute increments until it’s done. My one BIG suggestion is to do this when you can air out the house and microwave for an hour or so afterwards; it smells great but very strong. By the way, decades ago we used Kirk’s for washing when we camped. It is so non-toxic that minnows would swim up in droves and nibble away at the suds.

    Oxyclean doesn’t bleach clothing unless you soak them in it for a few days (know from experience). My choice on tough sweat smells is to spray the offending fabric area with rubbing alcohol, or even ammonia, and let set for 15-30 minutes, then wash.

    If I have a questionable load, then I’ll drop in some hydrogen peroxide or a few drops of health-food store ‘liquid/food grade oxygen’ which is more-or-less a concentrated version of oxyclean or peroxide. I’ve been using the same bottle for years, so the cost, under $10, is no big deal. Just be very careful to keep this away from children and others with poor judgment. Add this in with the very first washing cycle.

    For folks wondering about cold water washes and whether the DIY recipe will leave a film, may I suggest using less of it? Or using white vinegar as a rinse agent?

    Victoria, why do you use the salt do in your laundry soap recipe?

    Re deodorants: After years of being allergic to commercial brands, and failing embarrassingly with most health-food store brands, I have fallen in love with ‘Tom’s’ deodorant stick. It works fantastically!

    • Sandie says

      Hi Zi – thanks for all the great tips! I’d like to offer one – instead of microwaving your soap bars – cut them in small squares, freeze for several hours and then put them in the food processor with other ingredients. This works even better than microwaving.

  13. Steve says

    I’ve been using the Fels Naptha soap and the bars are 5.5 ounces per bar, but I want to try the Ivory soap and the bars are 3.1 ounces, should I use a bar and a half of Ivory or will one bar be enough? Thanks

  14. Belinda says

    This recipe sounds great – I am wondering about an Australian equivalent brand of soap – am I looking for 100% natural soap bar? I think our “Sunlight” soap might be similar.
    I was also wondering about essential oils, have noticed a few people have asked already – I think you could add a couple of drops to the mix without making it damp. I often use pure eucalyptus oil in my wash to freshen the loads, a capful as it’s not oily like essential oils and it works wonderfully 🙂

  15. Lisa says

    I used Kirk’s Castile soap and so far, so good!! I haven’t washed in COLD yet, but did wash in COOL and all dissolved and really washed better than the environmentally friendly liquid I had been using. I’ll let you know how it goes in cold!

  16. Jennifer says

    A friend rec’d this site because I was looking to make my own laundry detergent so I’m going to give the powder a try (i prefer liquid, but we’ll see). I was researching the different soaps listed, thankfully, because Zote has cocount oil and my son is allergic to coconut. Just a reminder to everyone to check ingredients of products, just in case!

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