Making your own laundry detergent from home is surprisingly easy and cheap, and with this recipe, there is no soap grating necessary! It uses just three ingredients and works like a charm – I know because I’ve been using it for nearly a year and my clothes always come out clean and soft. I provide two versions here – one with and one without Borax.
Making your own detergent also just makes logical sense if you want to save money. Why? When you buy a cleaning product, especially laundry detergent, you’re mostly paying for WATER. $18 for a gallon of mostly water if you buy Tide. Here’s a way to save those dollars and make it yourself at home in just five minutes!
So, once my gallon of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap arrived in the mail from Amazon, I went on a mission to see how many green cleaning products I could make myself using my new, supposedly magical, soap. One of the items on the list was homemade laundry detergent! I wanted something that would be safe for the ground water, environment, cheap and gentle on my clothes. I scoured the internet to find a great recipe, because to my disappointment, there are no laundry detergent recipes in my handy “Clean House, Clean Planet” book (except to use Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds in an undiluted form – NOT cheap). So, I came across this recipe, from the Backwoods Home magazine website, and after two months, am still very happy with it! And I even have very hard water (oh the fun of living in the Marcellus Shale!)
According to their article, this homemade recipe costs a tenth of the cost of store-bought laundry detergent. I’m too skeptical to believe things like that without checking it out for myself, so I set out to see if they are correct!
How Cheap is this Homemade Detergent?
1 box of Super Washing Soda (55 oz.) = $2.69 (at Wegman’s)
1 box of 20 Mule Team Borax (76 oz.) = $3.99 (at Wegman’s) or 4 lb. Bob’s Red Mill Baking Soda = $7.96 (Amazon) or $1.99/lb.
1 gallon of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (128 oz.) = $51.99 (at Amazon.com with free shipping)
To make two gallons of the detergent you use:
Super Washing Soda (you get 13.75 uses out of one box) = $.20 a batch
Borax (20 Mule Team ) (you get 19 uses out of one box) = $.21 a batch or $0.66 a batch with Baking Soda
Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (you get 21 uses out of one gallon) = $2.47
Add it all up, that’s a mere $2.88 for two gallons, or 96 loads if you use the suggested 1/3 cup a load.
Compare that to Tide 2x Ultra Concentrated: 1 container of 150 oz. (or 96 loads) of Tide costs = $17.99
And Tide is not green or safe for the environment. Not only can you help the environment and wash clothes that are safe for your little ones (i.e., hypoallergenic & gentle), you can save $15.11!
You save even more if you compare it to a green (eco-friendly) laundry detergent.
The Recipe – with Borax
- 3/4 cup Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (For laundry, I like to use the lavender, almond, and citrus varieties)
- 1/2 cup Super Washing Soda
- 1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax OR substitute with Baking Soda (if you use baking soda, please see my notes below on how to make it)
- 20-50 drops of lavender (buy at (Amazon or Mountain Rose Herbs)
A note about the lavender – even the bottles of scented Dr. Bronner’s (like peppermint, lavender, and tea tree oil) leave no scent on my clothes. See my post on Natural Laundry Fragrance and Softener to see how I add scent to the clothes.
A Note About Borax
Borax is controversial in green circles and I have found arguments for and against it. When I originally wrote this recipe, I did not know that the EWG gives Borax a rating of F for reproductive and organ toxicity – yikes. Apparently, it does not harm the environment, though, which is good. I use the EWG (Environmental Working Group) to research the safety of many products, so this was quite a find. I have decided not to use Borax any longer based on the EWG’s rating. The good news is that baking soda and super washing soda or a combination of both are excellent substitutes for borax and are readily available in grocery stores.
- 2 one-gallon containers in which to store the detergent (I recycled an old laundry detergent container and a vinegar jug)
- A measuring cup or two
- A two-gallon bucket (I used my old mop bucket)
- Funnel to pour the detergent from the bucket into the containers (not necessary but certainly helpful!)
How to Make The Detergent with Borax
- Take your two dry ingredients first – the Super Washing Soda and Borax or Baking Soda, and pour them into the bottom of the bucket.
- Stir well
- Add enough hot tap water (filtered water is not important here since your washing machine doesn’t used filtered water, unless you have a whole house water filtering system, in which case the water you use to fill it will still be filtered!) to cover the dry ingredients. It’s important to dissolve the dry ingredients BEFORE adding the liquid Castile Soap. Otherwise, it will get super clumpy and your batch will be ruined! (see pic below)
- Then, either add your liquid Castile Soap OR the water. The soap does suds up pretty well, so if you add it first, slowly add water. Otherwise, add the water first, then at the end, add the soap and stir it in with a long spoon.
Note: I used more Castile Soap than what the recipe calls for because I found that some of my shirts were not clean and still had arm pit smell in them (that amount is reflected in the recipe I’ve written for you). Once I added more Castile Soap, the smells went away. I also wash the cloth diapers with this detergent and it performs BETTER than store-bought detergent. The diapers come out with little to no smell when I wash them in the Whitest Whites cycle on hot water!
- Fill your bucket up to the two gallon mark with hot water (or add your Castile Soap), then take your measuring cup and scoop out the detergent and into the detergent container using a funnel. This is a picture of my container before I made the pretty label.
How to Make the Borax – Free Version
Many of you have tried making this recipe by replacing the Borax with baking soda and have found that if you do it with my method, it clumps up into huge rocks and is unsuable. Well, thanks to reader, Jessica, she solved the problem for us! She wrote in the comments to fill your bucket with hot water FIRST (not all the way though, just a few inches on the bottom), then add in the super washing soda and stir to dissolve. Then, add the baking soda and stir to dissolve. Then, add the Castile Soap and stir to dissolve. Lastly, add the rest of the two gallons of water and voila! C’est fini.
How Long Does it Last? How Many Loads?
This batch lasted about two months for a family of four, and even included a three day visit from four girls in my family who love to wash clothes (and have lots of them!). I find it works for about 96 loads, which for us is about 2 1/2 months, so I don’t have to make it very often!
I find this detergent works just as well as Tide, All, and Arm and Hammer’s detergents, all of which I’ve used. The website suggests using it as stain remover as well and I tried that with no luck at all. It didn’t work for me – stains didn’t budge a bit, even after soaking for days in the detergent.
How Much To Use in the Washer:
I use 1/3 cup like the website suggests and do find it’s important to mix the detergent before each use. I swish my container around so it doesn’t get too sudsy, and it works like a charm.
Overall, I love this detergent and how much money I’m saving on it, while doing my part to be friendly to Mother Earth and our health.
- In a two-gallon bucket, pour the baking soda and super washing soda into the bottom.
- Cover with warm to hot tap water and stir to dissolve.
- Once dissolved, fill to the top with water (2 gallons).
- Add the castile soap at the end (or it will get very bubbly).
- Stir with a large spoon to mix in the soap and add the essential oils if you desire.