5 DIY Laundry Detergent Recipes

by Ashley Marcin on 30 January 2014 3 comments

Grocery shopping is one of my favorite activities. I'm relatively confident when picking and choosing my whole and packaged foods. I can evaluate freshness, scan labels, and quickly figure nutritional contents through much practice and passion. When it comes to buying household cleaning products, though, I become rather paralyzed. (See also: Best All-Purpose Cleaners)

In those final grocery store aisles, I can spend what seems like hours scrutinizing items like dish soap, glass cleaner, and laundry detergent. I choose based on brightly packaged promises and then play an exchange game based on which one has the best unit price. Seems like no matter how hard I've tried, I've never developed tried-and-true mainstays that meet all my criteria.

Eventually, I grew tired of these shenanigans. I favor a simplified routine anyway, but a lot of natural cleaning products are pricey. So, I decided that making my own is not only easier and less toxic, but it also saves my family money. (See also: 8 Green Cleaners You Already Have)

In fact, my mom — a DIY detergent goddess — has always told me there's no better place to start than with laundry detergent. She's been making her own soaps for years and, through trial and error, helped me discover these five great DIY "recipes" to try.

Basic Powder

  • 1 bar laundry soap (like Fels-Naptha)
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda

Grate the soap bar either by hand or in a food processor. Then combine all ingredients in an airtight container and mix to evenly distribute.

Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per load.

Basic Liquid

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner's)
  • 1/2 cup borax
  • 1/2 cup washing soda

Combine the borax and washing soda in a bowl or tub. Pour in the hot water and stir until everything is combined/dissolved. Then pour into a gallon container and slowly pour in the castile soap. Gently tip up and down to fully incorporate (without agitating too many bubbles). Allow to cool, then add cold water to container until full.

Use 1/4 cup per load.

Cloth Diaper Safe Detergent (Liquid)

  • 1/4 cup borax
  • 1/4 cup washing soda
  • 3 tablespoons Dawn Dish Soap (must be "original" kind)
  • 5 cups hot water

Combine the borax and washing soda in a bowl or tub. Pour in the hot water and stir until everything is combined/dissolved. Then pour into a gallon container and slowly pour in the Dawn Dish Soap — which cuts grease, meaning it won't build up in cloth diapers. Gently tip up and down to fully incorporate, then allow to cool. Fill container with cold water until full. (See also: Having a Baby Without Going Broke)

Use 1/4 cup per load

Note: While stripping my cloth diapers one afternoon, I learned that original Dawn is a powerful weapon. So, I searched around and found a great laundry soap recipe which includes this key ingredient. Over time, I adapted it to the one you see above by adding in more of the active ingredients.

Borax-Free Detergent (Powder)

  • 1 bar laundry soap (like Fels-Naptha)
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup washing soda

Grate the soap bar either by hand or in a food processor. Then combine all ingredients in an airtight container and mix to evenly distribute.

Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per load.

Borax-Free Detergent (Liquid)

  • 1 cup liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner's)
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup washing soda
  • 5 cups hot water

In a large container, combine the hot water and washing soda. Stir until dissolved. Then add in the baking soda and, again, stir until dissolved. Pour into a gallon container and fill container with additional cold water until almost full. Then slowly add the castile soap. Gently tip up and down to fully incorporate.

Use 1/3 cup per load.

Making It Smell Good and Other Extras

You can jazz up the liquid recipes by adding drops of different essential oils. My favorite scents include lavender, eucalyptus, and even peppermint. In addition, you may choose to add sea salt as an extra water softener if needed (though washing soda alone usually does the trick). For a boost in whitening and brightening, add some vinegar to your rinse cycle. It's all about experimentation. (See also: Weird and Wonderful Ways to Use Vinegar)

As far as how these laundry soaps work on HE machines versus standard, it's a bit of an experiment. My mom says liquid is best for her HE machine, which accords with most HE detergent advice I've found. I use mostly powders in my standard washer. A little testing should help you discover what's best in your situation.

What's your favorite homemade laundry soap recipe?

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Guest's picture
Jill

Help! I just tried making the liquid soap with castile and it turned into a huge lump! What did I do wrong?

Ashley Marcin's picture

Oh, no! Did you fill up the gallon the rest of the way with water after combining the active ingredients? That should thin out the rest of the ingredients to keep it all liquid.

Guest's picture
Jill

Hi Ashley,
Thanks for responding! I did fill it up the rest of the way with water. I ended up cutting the milk jug to get the mass out. Then I put it all in a pot and heated it up. That seemed to work better. I let it cool and now it looks like egg drop soup :)