Homemade laundry detergent is something that catches everyone’s attention– even if they aren’t yet completely sold out to this whole homesteading thing…
Things like rendering tallow or making homemade marshmallows can seem a little bit hardcore to the uninitiated, but once you switch the conversation over to homemade laundry soap and explain how much money you can save by making homemade detergent, people are usually all ears.
I’ve also been pleased with the effectiveness of this soap so far. It seems to clean our clothes (and even cloth diapers) just as well as the store-bought detergent I was purchasing before. Plus, it doesn’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate, phosphates, and all that jazz.
Homemade Laundry Detergent
(this post contains affiliate links)
- 1 bar of soap *see note
- 1/2 cup borax (where to buy)
- 1 cup washing soda (where to buy) (this is different than BAKING soda! Look for it in the laundry aisle (might even be near the Borax) of your local grocery store)
- Essential oils for scent/extra cleaning power – optional (buy wholesale essential oils)
- 5 gallon bucket (here’s my trick for finding cheap 5 gallon buckets)
Coarsely grate the bar of soap with a cheese grater. Place the shreds in a medium saucepan with several cups of water. Heat and stir until the soap pieces are dissolved.
Add the borax and washing soda. Stir until thoroughly incorporated and dissolved.
Pour into a 5-gallon bucket. Fill 3/4 full with hot water. Give it a good stir, then allow it to sit undisturbed overnight.
Your finished homemade detergent will be a chunky gel. Yield = 3-4 gallons, depending on how much water you add.
How to Store Your Homemade Laundry Soap
I like to store the majority of the laundry soap in the 5-gallon bucket in the basement. I then use a smaller plastic bucket or jug in my laundry room.
I love the idea of using a drink dispenser (like this one) to store my laundry detergent, since it is much more elegant than scooping it out of a bucket. However, if you do decide to use a dispenser of some sort, make sure it is glass, not plastic. I made the mistake of using a plastic one, and the detergent degraded the nozzle, causing it to leak all over my laundry room and ruin the paint. It as a disaster! Next time, I’ll be sure to use a glass model with sturdier pieces. 😉
Use 1/4-1/2 cup of homemade laundry soap per load of laundry (less for cloth diapers).
Homemade Laundry Detergent Price Breakdown
This stuff is dirt cheap! Here is the cost per load–you won’t believe this:
Bar Soap = $3.25 (I used the more expensive Dr. Bronner’s soap. Fels-Naptha would be cheaper)
Washing Soda = $8.49/55 oz box
Borax = $3.97/72 oz box
To make four gallons of laundry soap:
1 bar of soap = $3.25
1/2 cup of borax = $0.06
1 cup of washing soda = $0.15
Grand Total = $4.65 for for gallons of homemade detergent or $1.16 for one gallon of homemade detergent
If I use roughly 1/2 cup of homemade detergent per load, the cost is about $0.04 per load. Amazing, eh?
- There are a lot of different soap options you can use for this recipe, (even Ivory will work in a pinch), but I recommend either a laundry bar like Fels-Naptha (where to buy) or a natural bar like Dr. Bronners (where to buy).
- I suggest trying to source these ingredients from your local grocery store–you can probably find them for the best prices there. I just included the online purchasing links if you can’t find the products locally.
- I don’t have an HE machine, but after talking to some readers, it appears this homemade laundry detergent is safe for both HE machines and septic systems. However, there is some question as to whether it causes build-up when used with hard water. I plan to continue to research this!
- I am aware of some controversy over the safeness of borax. It seems to me that some of the issues were caused by confusing boric acid (NOT safe) and borax (different than boric acid). Personally, as long as we aren’t eating it by the cupful or anything, I am comfortable using it in my laundry room, and for some cleaning purposes.
- If you’re looking for extra stain-busting power, I’ve had really good luck with this DIY laundry spot remover recipe.
- My favorite essential oils to use in my homemade laundry soap are lemon (deodorizing), melaleuca (cleansing), and lavender (because it just smells pretty!)
I love homemade laundry soap.. I like to add a few drops of my favorite essential oils…
Do you add the essential oils straight to the homemade recipe or to each load of laundry? How many drops? Thank you. I’m excited to try.
This might be a silly question, but do you know if this homemade detergent is ‘septic safe’? I would assume so, but ya never know I guess!
Not a silly question at all! I am really careful about our septic system too. From the research I’ve done so far, it appears that both the Washing Soda and Borax are considered very safe for septic systems.
Is this laundry soap good at removing body oils and body sweat odors? I’m having the hardest time with my husbands clothes using natural detergents. I wash and the odor stays and effects the other clothes I wash with them.
I haven’t tried this detergent yet, but I have found that adding 1/4 to 1/3 cup of vinegar to my laundry takes all nasty smells out. That’s nasty pet smells out of couch cushion covers, potty training clothes and bedding, and my husband’s body odor. Good luck!
i just read that the dry powder soaps are not good for you septic tanks…causes back up! because of the fat and grease in the soap.
Yes- I’ve heard that too– I always buy liquid soap for my dishwasher as well.
Is that true only of store bought detergents or homemade as well?
I’ve tried using homemade powdered laundry detergent in the past and just didn’t find that it kept our whites white – my husband’s undershirts and some of our other clothing started looking really dingy after a while…any suggestions? I still use it for our cloth diapers but would love to go back to using it on everything again. I wonder if there is something about the liquid version that makes it more effective?
Your website is SO great! I’ve been pouring over it as we prepare to bring our first dairy cow home next week! EEK!! Excited and slightly terrified. 🙂 I just ordered the reusable coffee filter on amazon today for straining the milk. 🙂
We have lived in our home for 35yrs with a septic tank and have never had a problem with pd soaps but I do use rid-x every month
Just wondering if this detergent would work well in a front loader.
I don’t have a front loader, so I can’t say for 100% sure, but the comments on my FB page are saying that it does work in a front loader, and HE machines as well.
My concern would be the sudsing that it does… HE machines are not supposed to have sudding soap in them
Hmmm… I wasn’t aware of that Evelyn. My machine is not HE, so I don’t know much about them.
This detergent does not cause suds.
This soap does not suds much at all.
That is why this soap is great for HE machines, there is little to no suds.
Due to ingredients that are used in homemade laundry soap, they are very low-sudsing which does make it safe for HE machines. I’ve been making my own soap for years and have never had an issue with it
Wendy Smith says
homemade soap does not suds so can be used
I have a front loader machine and have used homemade laundry soap for about 4 yrs now with no problems
Jill Winger says
Good to know!
I have used this recipe on my front load washer for about 5 years. No issues at all!
This recipe works great in a front loader and requires less detergent (1/4 cup or less) per load!
Please share the size (in oz? grams?) of the bar of soap. If using Ivory, there are varying sizes.
Homemade laundry soap is an exciting concept. Thanks for sharing all of your ideas and experiences.
Heather :) :) :) says
This is a great post 😉 🙂 I make my own homemade powdered laundry powder. I’ve not tried the liquid version yet. My dad was a bit nervous about me making liquid laundry soap on the stovetop..so we stick with powdered. It works well.
I can find Fels Naptha everywhere here 🙂 🙂 ZOTE soap, not so much. It is a product of Mexico, so if there’s a Latin American market in your area, you might try there. Otherwise, I ordered mine from Lehman’s in Ohio, just to try it. I really like it. The cost itself for the soap is really cheap…it’s the shipping that g ets you…so I ordered it in conjunctions with other stuff.
oh, about hardwater and mineral deposits. One of the things I’ve read is to add distilled white vinegar to the cycle where the fabric softener would normally go. That seems to really help with any mineral deposit issues from the laundry soap. I’d still use the soap though, because it’s going to be better than a store-brand. You know exactly what goes in it 😉 🙂
I’ve even used Castille bar soap in my homemade laundry powder recipes before. It works great, too, and smells good. Plus, it already has essential oils in it…so if you like that, you don’t have to add any 🙂 🙂
I think you’re cool and I live in an apartment 🙂 🙂 So keep on with your stories and homesteading adventures 🙂 🙂 Have a blessed weekend. love and hugs from Oregon, Heather 🙂 🙂 🙂
What is your powdered soap recipe? I’m not a big fan of liquid soaps–I have no good reason, so if someone can dispel the myth that they aren’t as effective or last as long–I’m open to suggestions. I agree with the vinegar for hard water–we have really hard water where I live–it works well–and I add some essential lemon oil to help as well…I was even wondering if grated lemon rind would help.
Cindy Thompson says
I just found out today from a lady in our church that Ace Hardware carries everything to make homemade soap including Fels-Naptha bars. This same lady is going to demonstrate her soap making technique on Tuesday morning at 9 am. It sounds as if she has the same receipe as you have.
My Mom used Fels-Naptha and Borax in boiling hot water in her wringer washing machine all the time I was growing up. Her clothes wouldn’t dare not to be clean!
I love this laundry soap!
We have a HE front end loader and it works great.
So simple and so frugal. I’m amazed at how long it lasts.
I wish I could find something similar for spot removal~any thoughts?
Jennifer- I haven’t found anything that I really love for spot removal– yet. Will keep you posted, though!
check out stacymakescents.com. I think she has something on her blog about homemade spot removal products.
2/3 cup dawn, 2/3 cup ammonia 6 tbls baking soda 2 cups warm water mix well dissolve baking soda in warm water 1st then add rest of ingredients put in spray bottle. spray stain let stand 10 minutes wash as usaul
Please beware, if you have asthma or COPD, DO NOT USE AMMONIA!
Try rubbing a moist fels-naptha bar on the stains. Even gets out dried in chocolate 🙂
Deidre LIn says
Absolutely! Fels-naptha is fabulous for spot removal.
I also have a front loader. I notice that when I put the soap in the soap compartment it is filled with water after the load is done. Do you have this problem or do you put the soap directly in with the clothes?
I have a front loader and put the soap in the drum with the clothes. Otherwise it tends to gum up the top dispenser. Never had an issue with doing it this way. I also use white vinegar in the fabric rinse dispenser instead of fabric rinse and it works great!
I’m loving what I’m reading! To add to the laundry ideas, first off a man who put in my new septic said to always always use liquid soap for a septic, not powder. That’s what clogs up most tanks. Also, a note, I use straight white vinegar, 1/2 cup, to my rinse water in the washer for fabric softening and anti-static. It works great, no smell when dry, doesn’t clog up anything, good on septics, very inexpensive, and no perfumes. My clothes and towels, etc. come out nice and soft, but it took a few washings to get out all the perfumes and additives from the soaps and fabric softeners. Also, the vinegar is good for the skin too. Looking forward to reading more! L
one cup Epsom salts in wash cycle and removes old residue plus ads to fluffiness of fabric. Safe to use with vinegar and safe for
septic , plus beneficial to grass around lateral lines. Have used for years due to HARD water.
Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm says
I have everything I need to make my own laundry detergent gel, have had for about a year now. I just haven’t made it yet. I keep waiting until I have time, but really, it doesn’t sound like it takes very long. I think I will put it on the list for next week!
Thanks for the inspiration!
Nope, it really doesn’t take long at all. Have fun!
If I were to use the Dr Bronner liquid soap instead of a bar of soap…how much do you think would be equivalent?
Big Dave says
Love your blog!
I make powdered detergent, using a recipe basically the same as yours, minus the water. I do add baking soda, dirt cheap in huge bags @ Costco. Also, to get out stains and emulate the all-in-one detergent, I add a few scoops of Oxy Clean to the mix. Works great. I also use vinegar as a fabric softener. For those who like a liquid non-bleach stain remover, hydrogen peroxide form Costco, or another big box store, is a frugal alternative.
If you use a dryer, (in our neighborhood, it is actually illegal to hang clothes out-of-doors!!!) speed up the drying, and save $$ by tossing a few clean, old tennis balls in with the drying clothes. They fluff your laundry and you can put a few drops of essential oil right on the balls for a pleasant scent.
Some wonderful ideas here! And so sad that it’s illegal to line dry clothes in your neighborhood. What a bummer!
I have been making my own laundry soap for awhile now, but I just mix borax and washing soda in equal parts. I use very little, about 2-3 tablespoons of this powder per load. Maybe that’s why I haven’t had any trouble with the septic as a result. I started doing this after reading an article about how people often ruin their washing machines by gunking them up with too much detergent. The article said you really don’t need any detergent at all, that washing machines will clean your clothes just fine just by agitating them in water. So, I thought I’d use just a little of this homemade stuff. It works great and talk about cheap!!
Lynn Terstegge says
Whoever wrote that article must live in the city!
Do you know how many loads of laundry this would do, provided you used a standard 1/4 cup measure, or whatever ?
Hi Genet- unfortunately I don’t know how many loads this will make. A LOT for sure, though! I guess if you wanted to do the math, you could divide 3-4 gallons by 1/4 cup, but I’ve never taken the time to do that. 😉
For 3 gallons it will make 192 loads. For 4 gallons it will make 256 loads. That is using 1/4 cup per load.
Thank you for taking the time to figure this out! Very good to know.
Your recipe is very similar to mine, except that I use liquid castile soap in place of grating hard bar soap, and I can mix a batch up and be ready to use it in a few minutes! Here’s my recipe, which I mix in an old plastic white vinegar jug, but you could use just about any 1 gallon container: 4 Tblsp Washing Soda, 2 Tblsp Borax, 1 oz Castile soap. Put the washing soda and borax in the gallon jug, slowly pour in hot water and gently shake until dissolved, then pour in the castile soap and shake again gently to mix. Use one cup per load. We’ve got a front loading, HE machine and a septic system and it works great. I prefer lavender scented castile soap, but any kind would work. I think the castile soap maybe puts the cost a little higher than using bar soap, but this recipe takes much less time to put together, which is a huge bonus for me. I keep a cheap plastic measuring cup in the laundry cabinet and use that to measure out my detergent when I do laundry. This recipe is way, way cheaper than buying premade detergent, especially comparing to the environmentally friendly, septic friendly brands I was buying beforehand.
I forgot to say that I wrote the recipe on the side of my plastic jug in a black sharpie, which makes it even faster to make more. I also use a stainless steel funnel to pour in my borax and washing soda since the mouth of my plastic jug is fairly small.
Love the sharpie idea! I always seem to misplace my “non-food” recipes… 😉
Just might have to try this with the castile soap!
I quit making this for a while, since my extremely hard water didn’t seem to like it, but just might have to give it a try again!
Thank you for this recipe. I just made it yesterday and am wondering if it is supposed to be a “watery” not “chunky gel” consistency. This is how mine looks this morning. Your thought are appreciated!
Cathy, how much water do you add to your recipe using castile liquid soap? How much of the detergent do you add to a front load washer? Would you say that this laundry detergent is safe for extra sensitive skin (kids have eczema)?
Lynn Terstegge says
Could you double the ingredients and cut the amount used by half?
I use it in the powder form, 1 grated bar of soap, 1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda. Blend in a food mixer til it is all powder. I mix up the bar from Zote/Castile (coconut), and Fels-Naptha. It works well. We also add vinegar in the rinse (not always, just every few loads or so). I make my own body/hand soap bars, so I should probably just make my own bar soap for this too, but havent *yet*.
How much vinegar do you use in your rinse cycle? White vinegar?
I use 1/2 cup vinegar maybe a little more as I dont really always measure it.
Hi Cathy – Thanks for the recipe. Do you use 1/4 cup per load? I too, have a front load/HE washer.
i just used my homemade soap for the first time today i washed a load of super scummy cleaning rags (yuck) i watched the clock waiting and waiting for that load to be done i’ve never been so excited for the laundry to finish lol my mom was texting me asking how it turned out…. and i am pleased to say they came out wonderful!!! now they did not come out with every stain removed but i wasnt expecting it to but they smelled fresh and looked clean. i’m sure i could get them back to there original whiteness with a little bleach added to the washer but i wanted to see the detergent work with nothing added to it, i have my recipes for shout stain remover and fabric softener and they are my next projects 🙂 thank you so much!!
yahoo! So glad it worked for you! Isn’t it funny how excited you become to do laundry when you are “testing” a new recipe? It always cracks me up. 🙂
I am going to try this with a goats milk soap, has anyone else tried that yet?
KT- I personally haven’t, but from what I’ve read elsewhere, it should work just fine!
How long will a 5 gallon bucket of laundry soap store for? I was thinking about making several 5 gallon buckets at a time and didnt know if they stored for a long period of time?
Hmmm… I guess I don’t really have a definitive answer for you– I’m guessing they would store for a while, but can’t say for 100% sure.
Sonja West says
I wanted to chime in and say that I make my own detergent, but I use it in powdered form. I then put vinegar in the rinse. I have never had trouble with the detergent clinging to my dark clothes. I mix the borax, soap and washing soda into a a plastic bucket, that has a lid, and I use @ 1 tbls. per wash load. It cleans stains better than any expensive detergent I ever used.
That’s great that it works for you! Unfortunately, I had to stop using it with my hard water… Even the simplest stains were no longer coming out… 🙁
Sonja West says
We have hard water, as well. We have a high sulfur content. I don’t let any water run over the clothes (I let the washer fill and then add them. I take the clothes out when it is time to rinse, and let the water fill). Vinegar is a help in keeping out the hard water stains.
So, you find that not allowing the water to run over the clothes helps the detergent to work better with the hard water? I’m intrigued!
Carol Ann says
I thought about making my own laundry products before but it sounds like a really good idea! I have tried for years to find borax here in the U.K. but haven’t been able to, so was trying to find a recipe from a U.K. site. in my search I found this from Hazel Tree Farm.com. A note about borax
Both recipes originally contained borax (sodium borate), which I removed.
Borax is a commonly found, but quite dangerous compound, which has now been identified by the US Environmental Agency as “toxic for reproduction” (will affect and damage reproductive health of humans and other animals). It is suspected of causing genetic damage to humans and other animals, and research is being done in this area.
If borax gets into waterways, it will kill wildlife and plant life. Severe poisoning can cause renal failure in humans, and respiratory problems. It also causes the death of microbes in the soil, and will poison trees and insects.
It is commonly used around the world as an insecticide, but will also poison pets and children if accidentally consumed.
For these reasons, I do not use or keep borax on our organic property, and do not advocate any recipes containing it.
Thought you might find this interesting, Her recipe is pretty much the same but leaves out the borax.
Thanks for the info, Carol Ann.
I’m not 100% comfortable with Borax anyway, and won’t use it in many recipes. And, I no longer make this detergent since it doesn’t work with our very hard water… So, still looking for an alternative that will work for me and also doesn’t use the borax. 🙂
DO you have a laundry “recipe” now that doesn’t use the borax? Since I know it’s used to deter bugs from entering your home, I was concerned about using it the laundry. I also have a child who seems pretty skin sensitive.
I use almost the same recipe but I use baking soda instead of borax and liquid castille soap. For a 6 L jug I use 1cup washing soda, 1 cup baking soda and 1 cup castille soap. I livein Ukraine and we also have hard water so I use vinegar for a softener.
I’m expecting my first child and we’re planning to cloth diaper so I don’t know yet how well it works for diapers but it’s been working fine on our clothes. We have a front loader…
I make my own laundry detergent also. My recipe is a little different as far as measurements go. However I wanted to add that I no longer grate my bar soap……I cut it into thirds & put each piece one a time on a paper plate & pop it in the microwave for 30 second intervals. It melts & puffs up, then I just transfer it into my hot water. So much easier than grating.
Carol Ann says
This is what I’ve found, Home made laundry powder
2 parts of soap flakes – grated home made soap, lux flakes and grated shop-bought soap are all fine (I use lux flakes because I’m lazy)
1 part washing soda crystals – you can buy this in most supermarkets in large boxes, in the cleaning aisle.
Mix the two together really well, and store in an airtight container. Use about 1 tablespoon per wash.
NOTE: If the water in your area is really hard (you’ll know this because it’s hard to get a lather up with any soap!), you may need to dissolve the powder in some warm water first, then pour it into your washing machine.
This recipe works well for both top and front loading machines, and for hot and cold washes.
Home made laundry liquid
1/2 cup soap flakes – grated home made soap, lux flakes and grated shop-bought soap are all fine
1/4 cup washing soda crystals
3 drops eucalyptus oil (optional)
Hot tap water
You’ll also need a clean 2 gallon (8 litre) bucket, a 5 litre (1 gallon) pourable storage container (I use an ex-bulk 5 litre vinegar container with a handle), and a funnel.
Put the soap flakes into a large old saucepan. Fill with hot water, and stir over a medium heat until the soap is completely dissolved.
Add the washing soda crystals, stir until dissolved, and until the mixture thickens.
Remove from the heat, sit your bucket in the laundry sink, and pour the water, soap and washing crystal mixture into the bucket.
Fill the bucket to just over halfway with hot water from the tap, and stir well.
If you choose to add eucalyptus oil, do so at this point.
Let the mix cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Finally, pour the finished product from the bucket to your storage container, using a funnel. Label the storage container, and put the lid on once it has cooled completely.
I use an old plastic quarter cup measure per wash with this recipe. It works well, and can be used on hot and cold washes and with front and top loaders (I use a very old top loader and a cold wash).
For some reason I didn’t make note of where I found this recipe and I haven’t used it yet so can’t say how well it works. There are also recipes that use just soap flakes and bicarbonate of soda but they gave no amounts. Also Bicarbonate of soda can be used as a paste to help get rid of perspiration stains. Hope this helps!
Stains, rub a little dish detergent into the affected area and keep the stain wet. If you keep the stain wet it shouldn’t set in.
For set in stains put the dish detergent on the stain and rub it in (with an old toothbrush even) then soak over night in a water/baking soda solution (I use about half a cup in my 8 liter pail). It got out a formula stain from 2.5 years before.
We have hard water as well, and my laundry was NOT getting clean with original recipe.I did some research, and I needed to add more detergent the harder the water,. Now I use 2 bars Fels-Naptha..3-4cups Washing Soda..3-4 cups Borox.[depends on my mood for the morning] Put bars of soap in crock pot @ bedtime,-cover with water an inch or 2, turn on high and in the morning it’s melted & ready to go! Pour over soda & borox, stir & add more hot water to 3 gal.stir till all dissolved, add cold water to 4 1/2 -5gal. Stir occasionally. This works great for my family’s very dirty laundry! and yes, I always use white vin. in my final rinse 🙂
Another quick and easy recipe that I make in an empty 1 gallon juice bottle is made using 3 tablespoons each of borax and washing soda and 2 tablespoons of blue Dawn dish liquid. Put the powders in the bottle first and add some hot water. Put the lid on and shake to dissolve. Then fill bottle most of the way with cold water. Add the Dawn and fill the bottle almost to the top with more cold water. Do this in the sink and let any suds just flow out as you fill with water. Use 1/2 cup per load. I use this in my HE machine with great results. I admit it took a few loads to accept that a laundry soap that looked like light blue water could get clothes clean, but it does.
Thanks for sharing your recipe Claudia!
I’ve used homemade laundry soap for years. The most important thing, whether using homemade soap or store-bought detergent, is to rinse adequately and preferably twice. Vinegar helps get the residual soap out. Left-behind soap can causes skin irritations, makes clothes less soft and attracts and holds dirt.
Here in Australia, I make my own soap for laundry. I make it from vegetable oils, with a at least a quarter from coconut oil. The coconut oil makes it clean well in both salty and hard water areas.
I grate a 125 gram bar into a saucepan and pour on boiling water. Let it simmer gently while you half fill a 9 litre bucket with COLD water. When the soap has fully melted, add a cup of washing soda, and turn off the heat whilst stirring with a fork. Once this mix is homogenized, pour into the bucket and stir with a cooking spoon. Add 1 tablespoon eucalyptus oil, and one teaspoon tea tree oil, and stir. Both these oils contribute solvent, insecticidal, and disinfectant properties. Fill the bucket to the top with more cold water. Add half a cup of vinegar to bring the ph a little more toward neutral. I find that this mix cleans really well without borax, is low to no suds, and leaves a lovely freshness in fabric, without a cloying fragrance. Some synthetics will smell like cat pee if they come into contact with eucalyptus, so I make a plain one for my very few synthetic items.
I find a half cup of this mix will clean everything well. I would do mechanics clothes with a tablespoon of Borax, however.
I forgot to add that vegetable based soaps don’t leave the build-up that animal fat based soaps do….on your machine, or your clothes. Once every three months, I wash everything in a half cup of plain bi-carb soda and use a half cup of vinegar in the rinse. This get out any soap residue that may be hiding in the fibres, and prevents smells from ”old clothes”, in the wardrobes.
(This is in response to poster Carol Ann.)
I just want to point out that Borax is NOT sodium borate (that’s boric acid) it is sodium tetraborate and is a natural salt mined from the earth in that form. The few studies that actually are on borax are quite dubious as to any harm to humans, unless ingested in high quantities, which is also true of baking soda or table salt. It can be mildly irritating to skin, but when used in these small quantities, and rinsed, should be perfectly safe for nearly everyone.
Borax is also safe for the environment. This is a quote from another site, but I can’t say it better, “Borax is wholly natural. It doesn’t cause cancer, accumulate in the body, or absorb through the skin. It is not harmful to the environment. In fact, the largest borax (borate) mine in the world – found in Boron, California – is considered by many to be the most ecologically sound and environmentally sustainable mine in the United States. This is also the mine where 20 Mule Team comes from.”
I am a nurse as well as a “nature freak,” so it bothers me when people spread misinformation. Good products and ingredients get a bad rep when bad information is propagated. Boric acid is the dangerous item, but even it is safer than the alternatives when diatomaceous earth just isn’t enough to get rid of the pests in your kitchen. Borax is almost certainly safe and effective when used as directed here. Thank you for a great website!
Thank you so much for clarifying that about the borax being safe. I was ready to call my mom and tell her how unsafe it is. She uses it in her homemade laundry detergent also.
cambria memmott says
hi, I googled and found you. I have made three batches of this recipe now and it is not turning out into a gel like consistency. THere is about an inch on the surface that is white soap chunks that don’t stick together. When I make it in the pot it looks all dissolved and good, then after it cools there is the one big chunk on the surface. I am tired of having to mix it around every time. Any suggestions, do I not let it boil, or let it boil? Too much of something? I am worried I might be getting too much soap in one load and not enough in another cause of the big chunk of white stuff at the top of the bucket. Thanks for your help? Any suggestions would be very helpful.
Well, the gel will have a very lumpy consistency, and that’s normal. When you dip some out, you’ll have chunks “swimming” in thinner liquid. It’s pretty strange, but that is how it’s supposed to be, and it still works great. 😉
Lynn Terstegge says
I mix mine well with a whisk then funnel it into an old store-bought laundry soap bottle and give it a shake before using. I measure it into the cap and dump it in!
Lisa M. Schulz says
(TO POSTER JOAN)
I was very excited to come across this information. I was reading all the comments and came to the “poster” that said borax was unsafe, etc… My shoulders then slumped, accompanied by a big sigh, but I kept reading and saw your post clarifying the facts. Thank you so much for that., otherwise, I wouldn’t have tried Jill’s recipe or any of the other’s containing Borax.
Any idea how much soap to use for a large load of whites? Just made my first ever batch of soap and am hoping it works well. Any advice appreciated!
Washing soda is sodium carbonate and is sold in large quantities at pool supply stores as a ph increaser. In my area, it’s MUCH cheaper than buying it packaged as wahing soda from the local ACE or box store.
Good to know Melissa! I didn’t know that.
I used this recipe and I have a front load machine. When I put it in the soap part of the washer and do a load I noticed that when the wash is done, the soap compartment is filled with water. Does this happen to anyone else or do you just put the soap directly in with the clothes?
I also use homemade soap….Same ingredients just used dry.
Box of Borax
Box of Super Washing Soda
3 Fels-Naptha bars grated finely
Mix and use
takes about 2 tablespoons per load (3 if it’s really heavily soiled) comes out fresh and clean smelling and even cuts down on static cling if you’re using a regular dryer. 🙂
Yes, I have yet to try the dry version, but I hear it works just as well!
Do you think you could leave this dry?
I think you could leave it dry- I know a lot of people do. You might want to food process the soap or something, however, to make the pieces smaller.
Lynn Terstegge says
I double the ingredients to the 5gal. bucket recipe except for the water. It is thick and gelled. But I whisk it up and funnel it into an old laundry soap bottle and shake it before using. It pours fine into the measuring lid of the bottle. I use half the amount since it is a double recipe. I have to make it less frequently that way.
Liane Brown says
Just a note on the boric acid/borax controversy. These compounds are essentially the same except boric acid is protonated, meaning that borax in an acidic environment will turn to boric acid. The related toxicity will be the same for each compound. See EWG’s toxicity rating for borax: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/2507-20MuleTeamBoraxNaturalLaundryBoosterMultiPurposeHouseholdCleaner
Jill Winger says
Interesting– Thanks for the link. I will have to check it out some more.
Wendy McKenzie says
I have an update for you on this. I have used Ivory, Fels Naptha and other soaps and had dingy residue in my fabric. After doing more research, and making my own soap, I have found that soap for skin has extra “fats” for moisture, in laundry they get in the fabric and go rancid and get dingy. So I started making a 100% coconut oil, lye, water and orange essential oil laundry bar because coconut is supposed to be the best for laundry/cleaning and the orange for extra cleaning boost. For those that do not feel comfortable with the borax, I have read of people trading the borax for citric acid. Personally I use 1 bar of my soap, 1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda, 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup citric acid – for a whitening booster. I have been really impressed with the results – very clean and fluffy towels – and these are the towels used during kidding baby goats and to clean up in the bottle goat kennel – yuck, but they are SUPER clean, very happy with how it is working, even with our very hard water. As for Fels Naptha, it still has enough chemicals in it to make me nervous – irritant warnings on the label, so I stopped using it years ago. My laundry bar is also wonderful as a stain treatment bar when rubbed into a stain. If you want to make your own soap – make sure you have made soap before or go to soapqueen.com and follow her tutorial, then always use a lye calculator for your recipe. If you want pre-made soap (or detergent) I have some available at etsy.com/shop/UdderlyNaked.com or contact me if you just want more info on making it yourself. firstname.lastname@example.org Hope this helps, even though it is an older thread. Oh, and on a “laundry note” don’t use tennis/plastic balls in the dryer, they release toxins when heated. You can make or buy felted wool dryer balls that are non-toxic and last for years!
Jill Winger says
This is SO helpful Wendy– thank you! I think I am DEFINITELY going to try to make a laundry bar– I’ve been non-impressed with Ivory so far.
Bonni Jones says
I love this recipe have been using it for about a month now. I whipped up some wool dryer balls as well. I have to admit I miss the scent of the Tide pods though lol. I’m getting used to essential oil scents, but there is no great love quite yet. I’ve added orange essential oil to my dryer balls and vinegar in the rinse cup and in the laundry detergent. It all smells great, but the clothes smell is odorless. Not a bad thing I guess. My question is whether I can use Dr Bonner’s liquid organic citrus castille soap instead of the ivory?
Jill Winger says
Yes– I think you definitely could. I’m hoping to come up with a liquid laundry soap tutorial soon!
Hi. I recently found a recipe for homemade diswasher soap, so i tried searching for a homemade laudry soap and found yours and another one. The soap contents and quantities are the same. My question is that yours calls for 3/4 of a five gallon bucket of water, which is about 3.75 gallons, or about 60 cups. The other receipe called for about 32 cups of water total…just curious if your water content is precise or if I should use less than 60 cups…thank you!!
Jill Winger says
It’s definitely not precise, so you can add as much or as little water as you’d like. You just might need to use less/more soap in your washing machine depending on how you dilute the batch.
If you use vinegar as your fab softener, it will help with the “build up” with hard water problem. What do you use to get rid of the build up in your coffee maker or shower head? VINEGAR!!! TA DAAAAAA! I LOVE your tips!!! I check every day for something new!
I have used the dry version of this recipe for about the last month or so. I have a front load HE washer and was having issues with the powder dissolving properly when using the proper compartment so I place the soap right in the washer! We live in a hard water area and have yet to see build up on our washer. The dry version I use is one bar soap (I use Sunlight laundry bars as that is the one I can find easily and cheap $2 for 2 bars at our Wal-Mart), 1 cup each Borax and washing soda. grate the bar soap and add to the borax and washing soda. make sure to mix it well. to do this I use a blender as it makes the soap gratings smaller. I also use vinegar in the fabric softener compartment. I use about 1 tbsp/load and sometimes add Dr. Bronners Lavender to the wash esp for sheets and towels!
Jill Winger says
Very good to know Fiona- thanks for sharing your tips! 🙂
Barbara Huddleston says
Your recipe sounds close to mine. I use:
1 bar of the fels-naptha bar soap
1 cup Borax
1 cup washing soda
I use a fine hand grater for the bar soap, grate the whole bar, then mix in the dry ingredients in a 1 gallon zip lock storage bag. Mix well by rolling and smashing the bag. I put the mixture in a 3 cup container with a lid. For a regular wash I use 1 TBSP and for a very dirty load I use 2 TBSP. Our washer is a HE and it works great for us.
All the research I have done on fels nap and zote soaps indicate that they are NOT safe for use in the septic system. It gels together in lumps clogging the system. Allowing my bucket of home made liquid laundry detergent to sit overnight shows how firm the stuff becomes. It looks like a tub of bacon grease. I love how it does the laundry, but would like to find another “soap” ingredient. Any ideas or other input on septic solutions?
I have a septic system too . Thanks for the warning
Hi Jill, please help! I am unable to find washing soda close by any more. (I did tell the one place that still carries it -Ace Hardware- to keep it stocked as they are the only guys in town that have it), so between trips to town I decided to try the “bake the H2O and CO2” out of the baking soda method. Last time I tried this, my self-made washing soda totally clumped up upon hitting the water!! Total giant clumps. I stirred and broke up most of the clumps and thought I might be ok when I poured the remaining liquid into bottles, but the next morning the bottles were 1/2 filled with the same solid, rock hard clumps. This has never happened with store bought washing soda.
What did I do wrong?
I baked the baking soda for at last 3 hours, is that long enough?
Anyone else have a similar experience?
Jill Winger says
Hmmm… Sorry- I have never actually tried making my own washing soda, although I have it on my list! Hopefully someone else will be able to offer some advice?
Found this info at the bottom of a site about using electrolysis on cast iron, which needs washing soda in the solution.
“Want to make your own “laundry soda”? Take baking soda, spread it out onto a cookie sheet and bake it in the oven at a little over 300 degrees for an hour or so it will drive away a water and CO2 molecule thus making washing soda.
At temperatures above 300o Fahrenheit (149o Celsius), baking soda decomposes into sodium carbonate, water, and carbon dioxide.
2NaHCO3 -> Na2Co3 + H20 + CO2 ” — from this website at the bottom of the article: http://antique-engines.com/electrol.asp
How does it do with your water pipes? I quit using powdered laundry soap because of the build up in my hoses and pipes exiting my washing machine. I use liquid laundry soap now because of that. How does yours do with your pipes?
Can I made this with either Dr Bronners or Irish Spring soap??
Jill, I’m a country girl (more like older woman now!) who loves your website. You are doing all the “back to the Land” things I always wanted to do but haven’t. I have not commented here before, but could not let this go by, in defense of Borax.
BORAX IS NOT HARMFUL, BUT VERY HEALTHY! There are whole books written about it’s success with arthritis. It is a unique anti-fungal and anti parasitic. It’s very alkaline for your body.
At the proper amount, it provides the boron your bones need for health. Natural healers use it to fight metastatic cancer. It raises the immune system by normalizing body hormones. The list goes on. You can make a concentrate of 1 slightly rounded teaspoon in 1 liter of water. (I add a little hot water first to dissolve the borax, then finish with room temp.) Use 1 tsp of this concentrate mixed with drink or food once or twice a day. (yes! I’m talking internally!). It reduces excessive calcification of the pineal gland which is the control center of the biological clock. It is used to detoxify toxicity of fluoridation. It also helps leach heavy metals out of the body. (go to earthclinic.com and read people’s results with borax!) I have an old shepherd who can hardly walk for weak hips and serious arthritis. I am spending $100 a month for Rimadyl, an arthritis pain medicine for dogs that does not upset their stomaches. Even so, she seemed to be in a lot of pain a great deal of the time. However, I started giving her the borax solution a couple of weeks ago and the result is nothing short of amazing. She’s still old with bad hips, but her pain seems to have stopped. Her serious constipation has ceased. I have greatly reduced the Rimadyl (it harms the liver). She is feeling so much stronger and better!
I can’t say enough good about Borax. (I use the 20 Mule Team brand.)
I also make my own laundry detergent. I tried the 5 gal method many years ago. It worked fine, but I didn’t like having to stir it every time or keeping the bucket in my laundry room. I am currently using the powdered.
POWDERED LAUNDRY DETERGENT
1 bar castile soap grated, or Fels-Naptha or Zote. (The Zote bar is so large, I only used 1/2 of it.
It is also a bit hard to grate, but it’s $1.00 or less)
2 C Borax
2 C Washing Soda
1 C Baking Soda
30 drops essential oil, if desired
Use 1 T per load
I am also currently using a liquid version that I like: (from Backdoor Survival)
3 T Borax
3 T Washing Soda
Place those two in 1/2 gal container. Add 2 C boiling water and shake until dissolved.
Add: 2 T Liquid Dish Soap, such as Dawn (I actually add this last to prevent suds)
Add: 8 C water, preferably filtered.
Use 1/4 to 1/2 cup per load. Will be thin and watery but works fine.
I’m sure you could substitute the liquid castile soap instead of the Dawn. This recipe (well, both of them) is super easy, with no grating!!!
Jill, try this tip——I just added a “Household” category to my food Recipe File, and there I keep all my favorite homemade cleaner recipes. : )
Keep up the good work.
I tried your homemade laundry soap recipe and I’m just getting use to not checking my laundry for cleanliness after it is washed because I was so hooked on store bought soap. This recipe cleans as well as any brand including the most expensive. It’s still a little weird not smelling the fragrance of store bought soaps but I can live with that. Thanks for the tip.
Thomas – a new member.
Jill Winger says
Yay Thomas! So happy to hear it’s working for you. If you like scents, you can add in some essential oils, but it’s not necessary. 🙂
I just made this laundry detergent & mine didn’t get gloppy. We used Castille bar soap. Do you think that is the reason & can I still use it? Seems like it should still get my clothes clean. Maybe we added too much water. If so, I can probably just use more per load if it is diluted. Thanks!
Have just made my 2nd batch of this! I LOVE IT! Lasts longer and have saved A lot of money that I normally spend on laundry soap! ( I think it was about $7-$10 for the ingredients on batch # 2 still have plenty to make more! The only difference is I use 1/3 bar of Fels-Naptha per batch and use 2 gallons of water. still works great! better on stains then any soap I have used (without pretreating) also I had an old laundry soap container (that has the spout) one batch is perfect for it! and it is easy shake before use!! (for the clumps!)
What is the difference between Borax and Washing Soda?
Jill Winger says
They are two different compounds. I know if you Google them, you can find the exact chemistry of them both. 🙂
I just finished making my soap and am leaving it alone overnight. Do I need to leave the lid off for it to set properly? Will leaving the lid on make it too runny? Thank you for the post, my fiance is just as eager to try this stuff as I am. 🙂
Jill Winger says
I usually just put the lid on with no problems. 🙂
A friend of mine and myself made this. It took 7 different size containers because neither one of us had a five gallon bucket. I am going to be making this on my own with the help of my fiance’ watching our daughter. I can pass this down to her later (much) she is 13 months old. I refuse to use any other detergent now because of how well this cleans and works.
I just made mine yesterday and today it looked like a watery and the chunks of soap… not a uniform mixture like I see in picture. What did I do wrong? Maybe temp of water? First timer.
I’ve been making this for about three years now and mine never looks like that either, but still works just fine.
Tiarra Nelson says
I was reading that “Soap berries” are a natural detergent that grows on a specific breed of tree. Have you tried them? They are grey water safe and many say they are great. If you like them you could try cultivating them yourself and have a free source of detergent. Some say you can make them into a dish liquid as well. They are very interesting.
Jill Winger says
I have heard of them– they were all the rage a few years back– but I haven’t tried them myself. 🙂
Do you still make this laundry soap? Does it clean barn clothes well? Do you ever have to strip your cloth diapers? We have pretty hard well water. I’ve been using tide on our clothes since I began cloth diapering and Ive read so many articles that say home made soap is not good for clothes or the washing machines because u need detergent to wash clothes not soap. How do you feel about those claims?
Jill Winger says
I don’t really use it anymore. It seemed to stop working after a while for some reason. We have used doTERRA’s On Guard Laundry Soap for several years now instead and I greatly prefer it. 🙂
Thank you for sharing. I’m on my 3rd load and I love it.
Amazing how clueless housewives have been able to outsmart decades of research by thousands of PhD chemists.
Linda Younce says
I have used this laundry liquid soap recipe for over 20 years. I have had a top load washer and a front loader machines. I also am on a septic tank with no problems. I spend $11.36 on the ingredients per year. I have had many compliments of how bright and clean my cloths look. I will never go back to expensive chemical laden laundry soaps. It takes about a half hour to make. I put it in half gallon mason jars. I have also noticed with this laundry soap, I don’t need fabric softener.
Kayla- Prairie Homestead Assistant says
I love this! Thanks so much for sharing your story and experience!
I live in Europe, so I don’t know how useful any of this will be to anyone in the USA, but for laundry soap, horse chestnuts (that’s the round, inedible chestnuts! not the ones you eat! they might be called conkers?) work amazingly well. Horse chestnuts are full of saponins. Here’s how to do it.
Collect horse chestnuts. (Kids LOVE collecting them – simply find a chestnut tree and bring some bags, then go to town and collect as many as you possibly can.)
Wash and dry the chestnuts, then put them in a blender. Empty the shredded contents of the blender out onto a tray/plate/whatever to dry in the sun.
Once they’ve dried completely, put them into containers.
When you want to do a load of laundry, put 2 – 2 1/2 ounces of shredded chestnut into a cup, and pour boiling water over it. let it sit for 10-15 minutes until the water looks milk-like (this should take max 30 minutes.). Then you filter the mixture and pour the liquid into the soap dispenser like you would a commercial laundry soap. The chestnut remains should then be composted.
Catherine Antunez says
Mine turned out very gelatinous. I followed the recipe. I’ve since added water but it’s still chunky. And I’m noticing it’s staining my clothes with residue. Have you had this happen?
Anneli le Roux says
I am from South Africa and I tried this homemade laundry soap. I used my own soap that I made (contains tallow, olive oil, coconut and castor oil)
I left my bucket undisturbed overnight and my consistency is not gel-like. It is still very runny?
What could be the reason for this?
Liz S says
Hi! I’ve recently purchased everything I need and am excited to make this! 🙂 On average, how much of the essential oils would you say you use in one “batch?” And/or what’s your favorite amount/combination to use? Thanks!!
Cris - Prairie Homestead Team says
It will depend on the quality of essential oils you are using as well as your scent preferences. Start with 10 drops, mix and smell, adjust, etc. Try using with a lighter scent and use the detergent that way and then keep adjusting until it’s perfect for you. You can always add more, but it’s a lot harder to take the scent away, so always start small and slowly add more. 🙂 Jill’s favorite essential oils to use in this homemade laundry soap are lemon (deodorizing), melaleuca (cleansing), and lavender (because it just smells pretty!).