DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent – Cheap and Green {free printable}

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.

Homemade Laundry Detergent with Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap

Now updated with a free printable label – it’s pretty and you never have to look up the recipe again

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!

Homemade Laundry Detergent Ingredients and Supplies

Just 3 ingredients – Super Washing Soda, Borax & Castile Soap (optional use of an essential oil like Lavender for fragrance)

 

How Cheap is this Homemade Detergent?

1 box of Super Washing Soda (where to buy) (55 oz.) = $2.69 (at Wegman’s) 
1 box of 20 Mule Team Borax (where to buy) (76 oz.) = $3.99 (at Wegman’s) or 4 lb. Bob’s Red Mill Baking Soda (where to buy) = $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. 

WOW!

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.

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.

Supplies

  • 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 or larger (I used my old mop bucket)
  • Funnel to pour the detergent from the bucket into the containers (not necessary but certainly helpful!)
  • 1 hand blender or immersion blender

The Secret? Mix with a Hand Mixer or Immersion Blender!

I have experimented with how to keep clumps from forming for years with this recipe and I finally figured it! I used to boil it down on the stove, make the powders dissolve with hot water (doesn’t work at all!), and stir like crazy. I finally got smart and decided to try my immersion blender. Perfect!

Homemade Laundry Detergent Using Castile Soap
 Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap is the BEST – it is organic, pure, contains no SLS (sodium laureth sulfate) or any other sulfates so it does not dry out the skin and is gentle on both skin and clothes. I love the company – they are uber crunchy and fight for things like the environment and animal rights!
Homemade Laundry Detergent - Measure Out the Soap

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 – 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 I do have an HE washer) and 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 nature and our health.

4.9 from 16 reviews
DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent - Cheap and Green {free printable}
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Laundry Detergent
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Take your two gallon bucket and pour lukewarm to cold water in the bottom of it, about an inch high of water
  2. Add the dry powders (baking soda, super washing soda, borax (if using borax)
  3. Add more water if necessary to cover the powders then take your hand mixer or immersion blender and blend the powders for a few minutes, or until it is fully blended and there are no clumps.
  4. Fill your two-gallon bucket up almost all the way with tap water (the temperature doesn't matter).
  5. Add the castile soap (this helps it not to bubble up), and stir with a long-handled spoon.
  6. Using the funnel, pour into your containers.

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About Sara McFall

Sara is the owner and founder of My Merry Messy Life, which started in 2011 as a way to chronicle her journey to a natural, chemical-free lifestyle and to share her passions of mothering, real food, homeschooling and crochet. She is a mama to three precious and energetic little boys and wife to a university professor who loves to sing, dance ballet and ballroom, and live simply and naturally.

Comments

  1. Hey! I’m curious if there is some kind of reaction going on that makes this detergent better than just adding 3/8 teaspoon soap and a quarter teaspoon washing soda and borax to the machine directly? People are talking about clumps and goop and all I have is essentially water. Am I missing something?

  2. I’m having the same results-very watery laundry detergent. I just did my first loads with it and some of my clothes seemed clean and others still smelled like body odor. There are definitely still food stains on the baby clothes. I really want to stick it out. Any tips?

    • Very watery is normal, Kay, that is the consistency of this recipe. It is a lot different than the consistency of commercial detergents, but that’s because it’s 100% pure. As for the stains, I do have to use stain remover before washing for most stains, but not all. It depends on the color and how long it’s been on the clothes. But I had that same issue even with Tide before.

    • I make my own laundry bar actually I have three types pure castile, Bastile and pure coconut soap. Coconut soap I used it as stain remover. All white or stain clothes I hand wash them and soak for 1 to 3 hours before I put in washing machine. No stain remain and my white became white without bleach and other substances to make our clothes whitier.

  3. I make my own liquid castile soap. It is very very easy. I love Dr. Bonner’s but castile soap is a staple in my home & over $50.00 a gallon gets pricey. You can buy Dr. Bonner’s bars or even the Kirk’s castile soap bars is what I use. I grate the bar, boil about 2 cups of water, then add the soap till it is melted. Then I add it to 10 more cups of water. One bar makes about 64 oz. (I put it in a juice jug.) For detergent it is roughly $0.80-$1.00 per 2 gallons for me instead of the $2.88 estimated here.

    • Great tip, Micka! Yes, grating it is another way to make your own soap. I chose not to because of the extra effort.

      • Just wanted to add that I make my own liquid castile soap too following a recipe simalar to Micka’s above. You don’t have to grate it! I use Kirk’s castile and it is a very soft soap, so I just cut it into small pieces with a knife (literally takes 2 mins and no clean up beside your knife..which is already covered in soap lol). I then transfer the soap into a jar, add boiling water on top of it, mix it up a bit, let it sit for about 20 minutes and.. viola, liquid castile soap.

        • Hi Niki, how much water do you use when you make your liquid castile soap? I’m finding that people do so many different things. Some add 10 c to 1 bar, others only add 3 cups…

    • I can see how melting down the bar would be less expensive. Again, aren’t you simply paying for the water (not to mention the shipping for the 64 oz. jug)? I got the almond Dr. Bonner’s liquid at Wegman’s (for anyone in the mid-Atlantic region) their price was better than any of the others and I prefer the scent of the almond.

      By the way, I also used it to make insecticidal soap after finding mealy bugs on a rather pricey small topiary fig I had recently bought . It took a week or so to rid it of them and I really coated the plant and the soil but it worked beautifully and is non-toxic.

  4. Well, I goofed up and dumped the whole box of super soda… tried to salvage it. Am running my first load now. Thanks for the great tips! :-)
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  5. I buy the Dr. Bronners peppermint liquid soap in the 32 ounce bottle at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s and it is cheaper than buying the gallon.

    32 Ounces at Trader Joe’s (Peppermint only)- $10.99

    32 Ounces at Whole Foods (Peppermint only)- $9.99

    Since there is 128 ounces in a gallon, that means you need four 32 ounce bottles to equal one gallon. $9.99 times four is $39.96

    Just a helpful tip!

  6. I have a stinky teenage boy who likes to wear his clothes for at least two days straight and I have found my homemade detergent gets his stink out without needing to pre-soak. I am quite amazed and so happy! Not only does this save on money and water, it saves on time.

    I use the bar soap and shave it down with a knife. I also make mine as a powder, the liquid is a hassle.

    • Hi Amanda, Will you share your recipe and how much to use? I think I’d rather do the powder form vs. the liquid. TIA!

  7. Followed directions for your laundry soap, complete disaster. 2 cups of boiling water and then pour in that much soda and borax, I don’t think so! had to add more hot water. Once having done that poured in Dr. Bronners castile soap-lumpy. I then had to heat everything up on the stove to dissolve all lumps. Was able to then put in containers. This morning, ready to do laundry- it has solidified! Very disappointing! The only thing I know to do at this time to salvage is cut the plastic away and reheat with added water. HELP

    • Hi Wanda! Oh dear, I’ve never had mine solidify! Let’s see…did you add water so the volume was two gallons total? I didn’t boil my water for very long – got it just hot enough to boil, then added everything in and turned off the heat. Then I take that mixture and added it to nearly two gallons of water, stir, then pour into containers. It stayed liquid for about a week, then made small clumps. The baking soda is what makes it clump, but it doesn’t affect the effectiveness of it at all. It still cleans well.

      • followed directions exactly. dry ingredients of 55oz. soda and 76 oz of borax to 2 cups of water plus 1 gallon of Dr. Bronners is more than 2 gallons. When I added the dry ingredients to only 2 cups of water it was immediately evident I had to add more water. I am under the impression the recipe is in need of much more water. This evening for my laundry I cut off the top of one of the gallons of product that is solidified to a soft enough gel that I just scooped out 1/4 cup of what I am sure is more concentrated for a load that is currently going.

        • Hi Wanda, okay, you wrote that you used 1 gallon of Dr. Bronner’s. Is that a typo? If not, that would be the problem. You just need 3/4 cup. If that’s not the issue, then I’m not quite sure what’s going on because I’ve made this recipe exactly as it’s written many times and have never had it solidify. Wanting to help you figure it out, though! I know you don’t want all of that to go to waste. I think you can salvage it by melting it back down on the stove and adding it to another two gallons. You’ll have a ton of detergent, but the bright side is you won’t have to make it again for many months, depending on the size of your family!

        • Stephanie says:

          Wanda, I think the issue here is the “how to make detergent” tab is above the printable which is where you will find the correct measurements for the ingredients. It calls for 1/2 cup of baking soda/ borax & 1/2 cup of washing soda & 3/4 cup of castile soap. It sounds like you used the whole box of each dry ingredient & the whole gallon of soap. Holy crap! That would definitely solidify! I can see how it’s confusing. I had to scroll down to get the measurements before reading the how to make instructions. My advice, go straight off the printable.

          On another note, I just made my first batch! I was concerned about the few lumps & solidifying but once I added the soap mixture to the 2 gallon bucket it seems to not be a problem. Excited to use this tonight!

          • Good to know that the post is a little confusing, and thank you for your feedback, Stephanie. So, you’d rather see the recipe up towards the top with the directions below? How’d the detergent turn out for you?

            • It turned out great! I’m just getting ready to make my second batch! I boiled a bit longer than I probably should have the first time because I was expecting the sodas to dissolve more but it all worked out fine. For those confused with the blog write out, my suggestion would just be to specify the measurements of each ingredient as you are describing the cooking/mixing process. As you have said in other replies, I too use a stain remover. But between this detergent recipe, my scented vinegar fabric softener, & my dryer balls I’m saving a ton on laundry supplies! Thanks so much for sharing your recipe!

          • Ok this answers a lot of my questions, so follow the actual “recipe card” I guess, that’s the way the cost comes out so cheap, because I was adding up the cost of all that, can I just make this more concentrated by just adding 1 gallon of water.

  8. Two gallons seems like an awful lot of detergent. We are empty nesters, it’s just the two of us. The last jug of Gain detergent I bought at the beginning of the year, I just used the last of it today. I guess I could half the recipe. All that being said to ask a question! 😉 Should I (we) use distilled water to make the laundry detergent?

    • Hi Zhanna! It’s not necessary to use distilled water if the water from your washer is not distilled, it won’t make a bit of difference! Yes, you could definitely make half the recipe since you don’t need very much. I can use up two gallons in a month or two!

      • Thank you! :) I have opted for the powdered version for my first try at DIY detergent. My first load is in the washer now! :)

  9. Christina says:

    Hi Sara,
    I was wondering what, if any, do you use for fabric softener?

  10. Can this be used in a HE washer?

  11. Is this safe to use for newborn and baby clothes?

  12. So, I love the extra cleaning power of FelsNaptha. Have you ever tried to incorporate it? If so, I wonder what the best way would be? Thanks!

    • Hi! You’d have to grate it, and then melt it on the stove and use it in place of the castile soap. I chose not to go that route because it is much harder to make it that way, but it does work!

      • GingerBeachy says:

        I had about 1/4 bar of Fels Naptha that I added to the 2nd making of Sara’s recipe, which I halved to make a 1 gallon size (that’s the only container I had). It was a nice added boost, but had a few clumps because I just used super hot tap and skipped the boiling step.

        I like Sara’s orginal recipe a lot too. :O) I’m making another batch and may try Borax, Washing Soda and baking Soda!

        Thanks for the recipe Sara, I used to do the grate Fels Naptha and make a 5 gallon bucket, but prefer this smaller sized recipe!!!

  13. For removing stains you have to apply to Dr. Bronner’s soap directly or soak in Dr. Bronner’s soap and hot water works well in cold water also I use in place of Woolite.

  14. Hello! I was wondering just how watery this detergent is supposed to be? I made my first batch and messed it up a bit by not turning off the heat once it got to boiling. It boiled over and I lost a bunch of suds (I.e. Soap) and now my two jugs of detergent are basically two jugs of murky water. There’s no thickness to it at all. Is there supposed to be? Help!

  15. The Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda has sodium in it, which isn’t good for your garden if you’re using greywater to water plants (and I do). Do you know of any plant-friendly substitutions for Super Washing Soda in this recipe? I’d love to try them out! Thanks so much.

    • That is awesome, Debbie! How do you collect the water? Is baking soda okay for plants? Because you could just double up the baking soda and add more Dr. Bronner’s. It’d be an experiment, as the Super Washing Soda is very effective. But it’s totally worth a try so you can save your plants!

    • I’m so happy that finally someone else has realised this.

      And sadly, baking soda also contains salts (HINT: washing soda is made from baking soda!).

      Let’s not forget that vinegar is also harmful to soil and plants too… so many of these ‘green’ cleaning recipes are so far from it for those of us who recycle greywater or have septic tanks.

      I just use Dr Bronner Sal Suds and hot water for everything in my house now (my hard water causes castille and water to solidify) and bar castille for me.

  16. I would like to know if this recipe Ida safe for a front loader.

  17. Is this recipe safe for front loaders?

  18. Is this cloth diaper friendly?

  19. I read on another sight where quite a few people wrote in that they had issues with Dr Bronners fading their clothing. Has anyone experienced that?

  20. Can I make a concentrate by just using 1 gallon or 2 quarts of water instead of the 2 gallons since it seems from comments that it comes out quite watery as it is, but i’ll probably find out on my own by the time I get the answer, If it’s to thick I’m sure I could add more water.

    • That’s a great point, Lori, you could start off by making just one gallon, and add more water if you want to. It is watery, but it doesn’t really matter as far as cleaning power goes. We are just all so used to the thick detergents that are loaded with chemicals. Natural things have different textures and consistencies. It’s much more economical to make the two gallons, but it’ll work either way!

  21. I just found this recipe (and your site) after a depressing visit to the EWG Heathly Cleaning guide. I was very depressed to find that the Biokleen detergent I grabbed at our local co-op (??) in a pinch gets an “F”. Bummer. Super bummer. After spending some time berating myself I went on the search for something that would get an “A” and decided that what I needed was a Dr. Bronner’s recipe for my front loader. I have fond memories of a post-collegiate trip to Germany when I washed my clothes by putting them in the bathtub with Dr. Bronner’s lavender and walking on them to agitate – but I digress. I already have the soap around the house and love the scents, so I was really excited to find this. I have all the ingredients here and can get straight to work. Thanks so much for sharing this! We have extremely hard water, so it’s encouraging to know that it works for you. Can’t wait to give it a try.

  22. I was just wondering if it would be possible to combine this recipe with an enzyme-based recipe (like this one http://www.reviewed.com/science/diy-make-your-own-enzymatic-laundry-detergent)?
    I have absolutely no clue where you would add it in, if it would react oddly or what.
    I also suppose this would mean you’d have to refrigerate your detergent as well, which might be a bit inconvenient haha.

    Anyhow, I figured I would ask.

    • Hi Amanda! I really have no idea – I’ve never used a detergent like that before. What would be the purpose of combining them?

    • I was kind of wondering the same thing….since enzymes are actually needed to break down the feces. I wonder if you can add regular detergent to this, like a small amt, if it would make a difference? Or use a stain remover with enzymes on the poopy diapers. Maybe add biokleen to this detergent or in a soak before washing the diapers?

  23. For he washing machines, how much of it do I use? Thank you! just finished making my first batch b

  24. I’m confused. Some comments mention boiling, but the recipe just mixes with an immersion blender. Am I missing something as far as the boiling?

    • No, you’re not :). My post has changed several times as I continue to perfect the recipe. I did try boiling it all on the stove for a while, but it still ended up with the same consistency later, so it was a waste of time and dirty dishes, so I changed it back. It was a great idea from a reader and I thought it would work well, but it didn’t make a big difference.

  25. Would this recipe work if I adjust it down to .25? I don’t need to make 2 gallons of laundry detergent and as a college student who is living in a tiny dorm, I can’t store it. Will it still work if I adjust it?

    • Oh yes, for sure! You can adjust it however you need to.

      • i’m confused by this too. 2 gallons seems like a ton of water for such a small amount of other ingredients. Is there any reason why you wouldn’t do 1 gallon (or less) with the same ingredient proportions and just use less in each load? Is there a benefit to having the solution more diluted when you put it into the washer?

  26. I bought a bottle of unscented liquid castile soap to wash my chickens (ha) but I’d also like to use it to make this laundry detergent. I don’t like majorly smelly detergent, but would like a little scent. Can I use essential oils in this recipe? If so, how much should I put in?

    • Hi Ali! Okay, I added about 20-50 drops to each batch (which makes roughly 2.5 gallons), but I stopped doing it because it really didn’t change the scent much. So, I took it out of this recipe. Instead, I add essential oils to my drying load – click here to read that post!

  27. I just made my first batch under your new guidelines of blending the powders & water. …no boiling! Right off the bat, much better result on consistency! Can’t wait to start using my new batch!

  28. I’ve been using this recipe for at least 8 months and I love it. HOwever, I’ve discovered we have hard water and my cloth diapers are coming out smelling not so nice. Even after being stripped. Vinegar isn’t going to help because it’s actually advised NOT to use it with hard water. I was reading a little about the fact that ENZYMES are what breaks up the feces in the diapers and if this detergent doesn’t have enzymes, the poo is just building up on the diapers growing bacteria. EW! What is your recommendation? I know RLR is a good softener to use 1-2x a month. But what can I use in addition to this detergent? Something to make it stronger and more effective? I really don’t want to revert to buying commercial detergents that are not great for the environment.

    • Hi Amy! I would suggest Oxiclean, I don’t know if it has enzymes, but I use it to boost this detergent when I have a stinky, stubborn load and it helps a good deal.

    • Maybe biokleen bac-out? I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of using it with cloth diapers before, and it has enzymes. Maybe add a capful to each diaper load?

      • Hi Shanda, I have been wondering the same thing, adding some kind of enzyme additive to boost stain fighting. I wonder if we could add both the Oxiclean, AND something like Biz enzyme formula. Have you tried it yet? We have very hard water here too.

  29. On the original website post with this recipe it says that the first few loads may leave a residue on your clothes so add vinegar.
    Did anyone else experience this? I also read above about hard water and vinegar bad combo. I definitely have hard water, so maybe the residue wont occur?

    What you think?

  30. Did you know that baking soda and washing soda are the same thing? If you take baking soda and put it in the oven at 400 degrees for I think about 30 minutes it changes over to washing soda. You can google it to fine the real recipe. I do love your ideas though. Thanks for your post.

  31. Hey there! No one has mentioned this, but you listed BRM baking soda as an ingredient, but it isn’t in the recipe. How much should I use?

  32. I just purchased a 40 oz. bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Castile (18-in-1 Hemp Peppermint) soap at Costco for $9.97. I think that is the cheapest price I’ve seen listed anywhere. I mixed it with my liquid hand soap in all my pump bottles and it works great. Smells and feels wonderful.

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