Homemade Laundry Detergent
Natural cleaning recipes

We (hubs and I) started our homemade laundry detergent adventure a while ago and it has been a wonderful journey with unexpected but fantastic results. First of all with kids running around the house piling up laundry like there’s no tomorrow (or even a yesterday when I already washed away a giant load) we were buying laundry detergent almost by the barrel. That’s a lot of money going to Detergent Central instead of to our family getaway piggybank

On top of that we were getting more uncomfortable by the day with the harsh chemicals and additives in regular detergents (even most of the ‘eco-friendly’ ones). In short it was long overdue that we started to figure out how to make laundry detergent and how to properly use it. That’s basically when our detergent adventure began

We have the recipe you bring the energy
…and the ingredients plus some kitchen utensils please

And you know what; it was much easier than we thought and we could also save enough money to buy our dream house on the Cayman Islands…uhuh, really?…well, that’s what they always want you to believe in DIY land. It’s all sooo inexpensive or downright cheap; you could send your kids through college with the money saved by hand knitting your own 401(k) portfolio. We gladly accepted the challenge!

What's the difference between laundry detergent and laundry soap?

Like a lot of my friends and family I always thought laundry detergent and laundry soap were more or less the same. Well it turns out they’re actually very different. Detergent is, to a certain degree, synthetic. "It’s a mixture of surfactants with "cleaning properties in dilute solutions." These substances are usually alkylbenzenesulfonates…" and that’s where Wikipedia almost sent me into one of those classic classroom doze-offs, almost lost me… I checked further and what it comes down to is that detergents are synthetic that work better with hard water

Now soap - wait for it - is salt of a fatty acid. Wash yourself with that! They produce it by treating natural vegetable or animal oils and fats with lye, which is an alkaline solution. It’s more natural than our detergent friend. In short, they’re different but the same, they clean your clothes


The term ‘laundry detergent’ is more commonly used for most clothes washing products, while ‘laundry soap’ is more or less a natural product. So the following homemade detergent recipes take the best of both worlds, the more commonly recognized name with the more natural approach. A sort of Frankenstein soap based homemade laundry detergent if you will. Hey, we’re going homemade and natural here, so choices had to be made, consequences to be suffered…

Powder vs Liquid:
the laundry detergent dance-off

Then there is the choice between powdered vs liquid. It’s your choice. We will give you recipes for both. We choose the powdered homemade laundry detergent for practical, time and money saving reasons, but you’re free to choose whichever suits you. We put some pros and cons together for you


Powder pros:

  • Easier to prepare, and therefore
  • Faster
  • Takes less room to store

Powder cons:

  • Less effective if you have hard water
  • Slightly less effective when cleaning particular stains

For this I use our natural stain treatment chart; it shows how you can treat or pre-treat nasty stains with natural products. This way I’m sure my laundry will come out clean and bright no matter what my little monsters have been rolling around in


Liquid pros:

  • More effective when cleaning stains
  • More effective if you have hard water

Liquid cons:

  • More complicated to prepare, and therefore
  • Takes longer
  • Takes more room for storage

Are these homemade laundry detergents cost effective?

...Check...Double check!

We will spare you the exact math but believe us when we say that making your own laundry detergent is definitely cost effective. Store-bought detergents will cost you about $0.20 to $0.50 per load depending on brand and quantities you use

A homemade laundry detergent however will go as low as $0.05 per load up until $0.25, also depending on the ingredients you use and how much of the finished product you use per washing (depending of course on how soiled your laundry is. I use the very ‘scientific’ method of the increasing-spot-density-o-meter …i.e. my eyes and experience

No you won’t save enough to buy your dream home, but that piggy bank marked ‘family getaway’ WILL get a substantial financial injection ;-)

Can homemade laundry detergent safely be used in HE washing machines?

We’ve got no reason to believe that it is not safe. Heard no complaints, read no expletives anywhere about exploding or burning HE washing machines when people used their homemade detergent. You will be okay as long as you take the following into consideration when making you homemade HE laundry detergent:

  • Always use a low-sudsing laundry detergent recipe. Since these recipes are all low-sudsing we do not foresee any problems with HE washing machines
  • For HE machines always make sure you grate, cut, grind (or whatever method you use) the bar soap very finely, even more than you might normally do
  • As with regular detergents, they recommend to halve the amounts when you use it in an HE machine

But to make absolutely sure, please check the manual of your machine before you use any homemade laundry detergent

Natural cleaning recipes
Finally, the homemade laundry detergent recipe

Okay, waited long enough, you’re right. We’ve brought together 3 different recipes for laundry detergent, 2 powder versions and 1 is liquid

What about ingredients?

How to make laundry detergent with a list of ingredients that is surprisingly shorter than what you read on the labels of the store-bought versions? Well it is surprisingly easy. You can buy the ingredients at your local grocery store, supermarket or Walmart etc. or simply order them online, that’s up to you

I'll first give you the most basic recipe laundry powder that has proven to work. Below that you will find some possible additions with their own specific functions and characteristics which will give the recipe something extra

Average preparation time

Average preparation time for your DIY laundry detergent powder*:

By yourself or with spouse/ partner

10-15 min, incl. coffee, cupcakes, a laugh and a Facebook post about your current natural homemade detergent fun activities (don’t forget to mention us)

With little knights in cardboard armor  running and screaming around the house asking for help fighting dinosaurs and putting out fires in their ‘space castle’ with homemade cookies

3 h 47 min and counting…(blessings of course ;-)

*As timed in our Natural Home Remedies for Life field research laboratories (read: our kitchen and laundry room…okay, okay, closet, spacy laundry closet… ;-)

How do I store my homemade detergent?

The powdered version can be stored in a sealable jar while the liquid version can be stored in a sealable plastic bucket. Main concern is keeping it sealed from the outside so as to not let it turn lumpy

Think positive, happy thoughts and relax...

this is actually half the secret of all recipes!

Enjoy and have FUN!

Natural cleaning
Homemade laundry detergent recipe #1: Classic powder

What do you need:

  • 1 cup of washing soda Sodium carbonate or soda ash, this helps remove oils and residue and odors. The most obvious choice Arm & Hammer washing soda
  • 1 cup of Borax* - A naturally mineral that helps removing stains and brightens your laundry. The one most widely used is  20 Mule Team Borax
  • 1 bar of laundry soap - Removes grease and oil. You can obviously use a homemade soap or use one of the following:

  • Zote laundry Soap
  • Fels Naptha
  • Kirk's Original Coco Castile Soap
  • Dr. Bronner's Castille Soap

or the very surprisingly pleasant

  • Goat’s milk soap

(We prefer the Goat’s milk soap lately but that’s really just a matter of taste, all of these soaps work perfectly well)

Because of its popularity they are now selling these products together in homemade laundry soap kits. There is one with the Fels Naptha soap, and also one with the pink Zote soap, pretty smart idea

How to do it:

Grate the soap bar with a box grater then transfer these soap crumbs to a food processor. (don’t use your regular one, buy a simple one that you only use for these kind of homemade DIY recipes). Grind it further until you get a very fine soap powder (this is especially safe for use in HE machines and fine particles also solve easier even in cold water). You might want to drop a towel over your food processor during grinding, this to make sure the fine soap particles don’t escape into your work space. Also wait a few seconds before taking the lid off the processor after you stop as to let the fine soap powder settle

Put the soap in a container and carefully add the Borax and Washing soda. Mix it thoroughly (you might want to use rubber kitchen gloves and/or a big spoon because the Borax might irritate your skin on direct contact …so better yet, break out your Walter White cooking outfit…(no Breaking Bad fans here?) ;-p

You’re done! 15 min. are up; did you enjoy your coffee, your laughs and your Facebook post? Or are you still counting… ;-)

How to use it:

Use 1 to 3 heaping tablespoons per load, depending on how dirty your laundry is of course

If you have a top loader and you are washing with cold water it is better to first dissolve your homemade detergent in warm water first and put it in the machine, then add your laundry

Possible additions

Possible additions to your DIY laundry detergent and what they do with your clothes and other fabrics:

  • Lemon or lime Essential oil. Works well as a stain remover and de-greaser. Lemon has the acidity that can clean stains the same way as borax. Add up to 5 drops in the tray or just put a few drops directly on stains and wash it with the rest
  • Lavender essential oil. For a nice smell add up to 5 drops in the tray
  • Vinegar. Add up to ½ cup of vinegar as a rinse to each load. It dissolves excess detergent and salts, also resetting pH level of the alkaline detergent. This is what you want if you have someone with sensitive skin in your family. Also gives a fresh scent to your clothes
  • Hydrogen Peroxide. Brightens your whites. Per load add half a cup of the 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide (That’s the one you use for first aid, NOT the 35% strong version that bleaches hair!)
  • Coarse Sea Salt. Add a table spoon of coarse sea salt per load. Helps prevent your clothes from  fading and functions as fabric softener
  • Baking Soda. Add half a tablespoon of baking soda per load. Supports the washing soda
  • Oxygen Booster. Add recommended amount especially when you have very dirty laundry
  • Oxi-Clean. Add recommended amount especially when you have very dirty loads
  • Purex Crystals. Although we have not tried it yet, we heard that for a nice smell you can also add Purex crystals or of course any store bought scent booster

*About Borax in homemade detergent

We still use Borax when we make laundry detergent. It is safe to work with as long as you don’t eat, drink, sniff it or rub it in your eyes or skin. You see, Borax is a natural product, but natural does not automatically mean perfectly safe, just as many other natural products

I assume you also don’t want to sprinkle freshly grained black pepper into your eyes, drink a pint of Geranium oil, sniff some powdered cloves or rub a handful of ground chillies into your skin (just in case you feel a YouTube-hit in the making: NO YOU DON’T WANT TO!!) So also don’t do this with Borax. Take precautions when making your own laundry detergent. Keep it safe behind doors, away from children. Only use it in a specific preparation area away from food and mix it gently into the product

If you are still uncomfortable using Borax we also have a Borax-free way to make laundry detergent

Natural cleaning

Homemade laundry detergent recipe #2: Simplified powder

Ahhh, do you feel that…the joy of old fashioned simplicity! Mind you, not all that’s old and simple brings joy (may I remind you of wooden seats on the train or TVs without a remote ;-) But this one does, at least to me

My mother used this laundry detergent recipe when my parents just got married. A bit later she slowly moved to store bought detergents again and it got lost in a box of old stained recipe cards, a stack of vinyl singles and hippie bracelets. When I told her I was looking into how to make laundry detergent myself she dug it up and this is what was on the card

What do you need:

  • 4 glasses of Baking soda
  • 1 glass of Lemon powder
  • 1  glass of Sea salt


How to do it:

Mix the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl and store the finished product in a sealable glass jar or any other sealable container

How to use it:

Use 1 to 3 heaping tablespoons per load, depending on how soiled your laundry is of course

As a rinse that freshens up your clothes you can add half a glass of vinegar per load

Uhoh, suds do NOT mean Clean?!

FYI, this mix doesn’t create any soap suds. And don’t think that means it doesn’t clean, because suds don’t mean it will clean! Most people still think that suds are the secret to cleaning, but they’re really not at all, believe you me, it’s what they made you believe. Suds-capacity is not the criterion by which you judge a good cleaning product, a clean end product is. Hard to believe at first but nonetheless very true

Natural cleaning
Homemade laundry detergent recipe #3: Classic liquid

How to make laundry detergent that is nice, liquid, fun to make and handles like a store bought detergent

 What do you need:

  • 5 gallon bucket (clean)
  • 3 gallons of warm water
  • 1 cup of washing soda
  • Half a cup of 20 mule team Borax
  • 1 bar of soap

You can use a homemade soap or simply one of the following:

  • Zote laundry Soap
  • Fels Naptha
  • Kirk's Original Coco Castile Soap
  • Dr. Bronner's Castille Soap
  • Goat’s milk soap

How to do it:

Grate the soap with a box grater

In a pan bring 4 cups of water to a boil then lower the heat so the water is simmering. Slowly stir in the soap crumbs or curls (doesn’t really matter what size as long as it is small) until it is all dissolved

Get a clean 5 gallon bucket with a lid and fill it with 3 gallons of warm water (from your bath, shower or tap; you don’t have to boil all 3 gallons on the stove like some certain person did the very first time… ;-)

Now gently stir in the water soap mix you prepared and then the washing soda and Borax

Let it cool down a bit, then close the bucket and let it cool down and settle  for the next 24 hours

How to use it:

Most times when you open the bucket, your liquid DIY laundry detergent will be on the lumpy side but you just have to give it a good stir and it will be good to go again

Use 1 cup of your homemade liquid detergent for an average load, add a bit more if it is bigger or dirrrrrtier

As in the first recipe above, for each load adding an additional ingredient to your recipe will improve your washing experience, just choose what fits your style, taste and purpose

Love it now!!

...thank me later ;-)

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