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.

If you do decide to use Borax, please take proper precaution and use gloves and a mask for your nose, as the particles can be considered very irritating to some.  I no longer use it in this recipe.

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.

4.6 from 24 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.

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Comments

  1. Amazing recipe. Borax is not so toxic. It is important to prevent children of swallowing or licking it. You could use it only for things which are impossible to swallow or lick. I LOVE YOUR BLOG. Thank you for sharing your post. Best regards!

  2. Hi, I just thought I would add a quick note about borax. The reason it was given a grade of F by EWG was due to its potential, although untested (and I certainly wouldn’t test it!), harmful effect on reproductivity and endocrine production.

    However, just to be clear, borax must be ingested to replicate the harmful effects that lead to its grade of F. Obviously ingestion is NOT recommended, so if you are worried about it being within the reach of children, it may be best to avoid it.

    Borax does not absorb very well through the skin, if at all, and the dilution of borax in the recipe, plus the added benefit of rinsing your clothes during the wash cycle essentially negates the harmful qualities of borax.

    If you are concerned with using borax for non-health reasons, or other personal reasons, that’s completely understandable. I just thought it would be good for readers to know that as an additive to the laundry detergent recipe, the risk posed is almost non-existent…unless you drink your laundry detergent, which would not be recommended regardless of what ingredients were used.

  3. Wish I could post photos here but can’t see how. At any rate, I have such an easy, proficient recipe for laundry soap. Been using it for over a year and my husband’s South Florida Deputy Sheriff’s uniforms have never looked (and smelled) cleaner and brighter. My work suits and career clothing, our T-shirts, shorts, regular lounge and informal wear as well as bathing suits, towels, dog’s bedding and even my ahem “delicates” are looking (and smelling!) fresher, brighter and lasting longer. I’ll never go back.

    LAUNDRY SOAP
    3 T Borax
    3 T Washing Soda
    2 T Liquid dish soap
    8 C Filtered water

    You will also need a 1/2 gallon container. I reused an apple juice bottle. A funnel is also very helpful.
    (1) Measure the borax and washing soda into the bottle you are using.
    (2) Heat up 2 cups of water and pour into the mix.
    (3) Once dissolved, add in filtered water to just about fill your 2 quart container. Shake it up good. There will be no lumps or “floaties”.
    (4) Top off with 2 TBLS Dawn Dish Soap and just gently turn the jug a few times to get a good mix. The original article I learned this from said to use 1/4 to 1/2 cup per load in the HE washer. And that’s just what I do!

    I use vinegar for the fabric softener cycle and there is no need to add fabric softener sheets to the dryer. If you want a bit of scent, a drop of two Lavender Essential Oil in the (vinegar) rinse is lovely.

    We have a 2 person home and strangely, do a heck of a lot of laundry. This jug lasts always one week and most times into the second week. Making a fresh supply takes all of 3 minutes.

    Laundry Day is Every Day in the Strine Household.

    • Dawn dish soap is completely full of chemicals. Can you just sub the liquid castile soap for people who want a natural toxic free option??

      • Hi Melissa! The liquid castile soap I suggest in this recipe is completely natural and non-toxic, I don’t suggest using Dawn in this recipe. Are you referring to a comment that was posted?

    • Melanie Ward says:

      Liquid dish soap has Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in it. Extremely toxic. Google the MSDS and SLS!! You will quit using it.

  4. Hi all
    I see others are talking about boiling their laundry soap to make it. I don’t see this in the recipe. Should I have boiled mine?
    Thank you

    • Hi Eina! Well, I’ve gone back and forth on boiling it and at first, it helps to really emulsify the soap, but later, as it cools, it separates again and I still have to shake up the container before using. So, there really isn’t a need to boil the water.

  5. Hi there 🙂

    Wonderful recipe!!

    Thank you so much for sharing, very much appreciated!!

    I made mine 12 hours ago (very exiting 🙂 !!

    I only used 1 gallon of water (16 cups)

    Is it ok to add the extra water I missed when I use the liquid (eg double the amount of liquid by mixing it with water)

    or would it be better and necessary for the recipe to work to pour all the washing liquid back into the bucket and add the extra gallon? Or id it too late for that?

    Many thanks 🙂

    • Correction:

      I mean halving the amount of detergent recommended and thus adding /doubling it with the extra water I missed

      OR just pouring half the recommended amount of detergent straight into the washing machine as mine is now more concentrated?

      Complicated 😉 Sorry!!

  6. Nicole cent says:

    Any thoughts about how this should go into the washer? I have the kind where you load the detergent into a little tray. Should I do that with the homemade soap or just pour directly into the machine with the clothes?

  7. I pour the detergent into the machine. I put vinegar in the softener spot in the tray.

  8. I have tried multiple laundry recipes at this point, and this one was a variation on the original that I’d tried. I found that the powders were not dissolving no matter how much I mixed with my mixer. So, I started over and threw the measured amounts in a mason jar with a lid and shook it until they dissolved.

  9. Thank you so much for this! I’m wondering how it works for you with dark colors?..
    i’m trying to find a natural recipe similar to woolite…
    Do you have any suggestion, please?…
    Thanks and God bless 😉

  10. All of my questions setthed-tlanks!

  11. Love this! Have been using this recipe since August 2015 and haven’t looked back. Thank you so much!

  12. I really like your recipe, but I don’t have a hand mixer or immersion blender. Do you think shaking it in the mason jar as suggested above would be enough? I realize I would probably have to shake it before I measure each time, but thinking that may work. What do you think?

  13. If you replace the Borax with Washing Soda, are you using 1 cup of Soda in this recipe?

  14. I just did this and it turns out very “liquid-y”/watery. Is that how it is supposed to be? Purchased liquid detergents are SO thick so I was sort of expecting it to be like that. Did I do anything wrong? It pours more like water than like syrup. And I only need to use about 1/3 cup per load? Thanks for any help

  15. Yvette Rose says:

    I don’t understand why you add baking soda to your recipe. Washing soda is nothing more than baking soda that has literally been baked to change the molecular structure. I’m not criticizing, I just want to understand. Thank you

  16. Just wanted to report back at how wonderful this recipe is! I did not have an immersion blender so I just used the container my previous laundry detergent came in and filled the bottom as the recipe calls for and I just shook it real good and all dissolved. Then I added the rest, and it is just wonderful! Smells great and cleans the clothes just fine. I am so happy to be making my own, and knowing what is in it. Thank you for this recipe!

  17. Mine does not dissolve at all! I tried boiling, stirring, and shaking. It crystallized and got really hard. What am I doing wrong?!

    • I’m really not sure, Laura, I think I’d have to know more about your process. It does not dissolve completely, that is true. But it shouldn’t harden or crystallize unless there is too little water.

  18. Kristen Dickerson says:

    What if you don’t have a hand blender or immersion blender? Is there another way to mix it well or do I just need to break down and buy one of these?

  19. NatureLover says:

    Hi there!l

    Thank you so much for your posts! Because of your post with the essential oil drops on wash cloths out clothes actually smelled nice yesterday! So thank you so much!

    I would like to make this detergent but we always like to add a up of Epsom salt mixed with drops of peppermint to soften and sanitize the socks, it works so well it actually brightens them! If I add that in the washer with this recipe, will it set it off balance? Is there a way to add my cup in with this soap recipe too? If at the very least for the softness the Epsom salt gives…(if you’ll tell me that the peppermint soap could replace the essential oil 😉

    Thank you so much!

    • Hi NatureLover! I’m not sure how that’ll work, to be honest, but I do think adding the Epsom Salts and peppermint will be totally fine with this detergent. Try it and see! I love that you use that to brighten and sanitize the socks – great idea!

    • Did you try the recipe with the Epson salt added?

  20. I have a dumb question – I have been looking for a recipe for a liquid (only because I have some liquid Castile soap that needs to be used up) laundry soap that does not contain water. I believe water kills the shelf life of any DIY product, is this true? I don’t have kids or a hubby, so I don’t have to do laundry every 3 days. Is it possible to just add a little Castile soap and washing soda to the water before putting the clothes in? Would that work? If so, what would the amounts be? Thanks for you help!

    • Sure, you could do that, but I’ve never read that before or heard that… I’ve used this recipe for years and it’s still going strong, water and all!

  21. Is this safe for HE washers?

  22. Hello! I am trying to go completely cruelty free and have been looking for a good laundry degerent. I have read that both arm and hammer as well as 20 mule team borax DO test on animals. Is there another alternative to these. I see baking soda Can be used instead of borax but is there an alternative to the arm and hammer washing soda?

    • Well, you can make your own washing soda by baking the baking soda, so if you find a brand of baking soda that is not tested on animals and bake it, you’d be set! Where did you read that they test on animals? I’d like to see it – I don’t like that either!

  23. I was wondering what you used for a fabric softener?

    • I don’t use one, haven’t needed to since this is a soap and not a detergent, so it’s less abrasive and the clothes remain soft. For scent, I do add a washcloth to the dryer that’s sprinkled with Thieves or Purification essential oils from Young Living.

  24. Dalila ward says:

    Wondering if this receipe is good in cold water only washing? Also, if one has allergies or psoriasis?
    Thanks so much for your help. Dalila

    • Hi Dalila! It works great in both hot and cold water, and it’d be excellent for those with allergies and psoriasis because it is free of toxic chemicals and synthetic fragrances (which are very toxic!).

  25. Is this mix tested/good for HE washing machines too?

  26. Susan O'Connell says:

    I do not have an HE washer. Should I still use 1/3 cup of detergent?

  27. Loretta Dyches says:

    3/4 cup Castile soap
    1/2 cup borax
    1/2 cup washing soda
    Does this make 1 gallon or 2 gallons?

    I can’t wait to try this recipe.

  28. Made this yesterday and almost ended up in the ER from excessive vomiting and borax exposure. I’m disappointed since I was excited to try something new and that this appears to works for so many others. I personally will not be following this recipe again. I wanted to take a minute to hopefully prevent anyone else from experiencing my mistake and/or ask you to place an additional disclaimer about the use of borax. While you currently list that borax is an “option”, I think that there needs to be clearer instructions on how to handle it in this specific recipe (i.e., being liquid) …such as to use gloves and a face mask, or to mix in a really well ventilated area.

    I’ve made the powdered version of this for years, (grating the hand soap, gently mixing the borax and washing soda with a whisk) but using an immersion blender or hand cake beater to blend these chemicals is extremely dangerous when releasing fumes into the air. I understand you are not completely responsible for my carelessness, (I should have used a mask or nixed the borax completely), but if there are others looking to replace their powdered detergents with this– and using borax as they may be used to in powdered recipes– you are responsible as a blogger to explain any additional risks. Leaving the reader with “borax is controversial and I don’t use it” isn’t enough for those who have used it before and are expecting similar results to the powder. Since I haven’t experienced anything nearly as traumatic with the recipe I’m used to, I didn’t think I’d need to take extra precautions based on your direction and the onslaught of positive comments. If this post didn’t come across as an alternative / time saver to those who make powered detergent, I’d take full responsibility for my actions, but since it appeals to that kind of audience, want to clarify for others that this isn’t a replacement– it’s a completely different use of the same chemicals with greater risks. I suggest moving forward, that you remove borax completely as an option in this blog post, especially if you personally don’t use it or come in contact with it anymore.

    • Sarah, I’m so sorry you had a bad reaction! I’ve never had that kind of problem with Borax before, but it can affect some people. The recipe has evolved over the years, so I’m always tweaking it. I can add the extra note about Borax.

  29. When I try to mix the powders with the water they turn into a hard blob. What am I doing wrong? I don’t have a blender so I am mixing in a jar.

    • Yes, that does happen sometimes. Do you have an immersion blender? You can also break it apart with a fork. Or, dump it out and start over by pouring the powders in under running water and then stir vigorously until it dissolves.

  30. Hi, Sara,
    I am in the process of labeling my bottles for your recipe using Dr. Bonner’s Castile soap. I don’t want to call it detergent, because it isn’t. So I am calling it Liquid Soap, for now. I might add the word miraculous after I try it. I love your blog. Kudos.

  31. Rosalba Gordon says:

    Thanks so much for this recipe, it works beautifuly.

  32. Thanks for the recipe! I live a very nontoxic lifestyle, but the toxic Gain is the one toxic thing I’ve been holding on to, lol. I’m going to start making my laundry soap, trying this recipe first. I have 2 questions, 1. I am an overpourer when it comes to laundry, I usually always double the soap, do you know of any problems with the soap rinsing out if it’s more concentrated (and probable also doubled lol)? And 2. How is this on taking care of odor? My son has offensive feet and my sister made us some soap at one time (probably castile based) and it just didn’t do it for me with the stinky socks, we also use vinegar when washing. Thanks so much!

    • Of course I didn’t mean to rate it 1 star and I can’t edit it 🙁

    • Hi Jane! Overtime, I have found that I need to strip my laundry when using a homemade detergent, otherwise, there is a smell on the clothes. So, to be honest, I’m now using Young Living’s non-toxic laundry detergent – Thieves Laundry Soap. It’s working really well and I haven’t noticed a smell after a year or so like I usually do. I use GroVia Mighty Bubbles to strip the laundry – throw 3 packs in a bathtub full of hot water along with clean laundry and let sit for 4 hours or so, then remove and wash on a hot water cycle, so soap and dry then use like normal.

      • Serena Lamla says:

        Oh Boy!… now I”m REALLY confused…. !! Hi Sara… I (JUST) made my first two gallons of your recipe… had been waiting excitedly to use up the commercial detergent I was using… NOW: after stirring this natural brew… I noticed.. even though I already up’d the ante on the Bronner’s … I noticed that there are absolutely NO suds produced once your washing machine has filled with water … NOW: I am a person who (like Jane above) likes to overpour (I do this with other things as well.. such as food or drink.. it’s my generous side.. lol…) BECAUSE I like bubbles and have the strange feeling that laundry in water that’s practically “empty”.. isn’t gonna get a good yummyly clean wash… NOW: I was just about ready to write to you about this.. when I saw Jane’s post and your reply to it: am I understanding right when you say that you ARE now using a “real” (i.e. commercial if ecologically aware) detergent?.. And what about the “stripping” process?… Frankly, I have never heard about this (“stripping”.. other than re. a completely different affair… LOL>>>) before… and.. quite honestly.. I wouldn’t want to go through the hassle… I mean… I gladly whip up the Bronner’s+Sodas+Essentila Oils mixture in my cauldron… HOWEVER.. there are limits to what I desire to do when it comes to chores… (and.. BELIEVE ME.. I am quite OCD’d )… SO… I guess it’s going to be my own evaluation (?) to determine whether or not this is worth the time spent… BUT: I sooo would love to know.. if you yourself have now switched back to using bottle ready? Having said all this, I appreciate your output and look forward to your input regarding the above. Thank you and Aloha! Serena

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