Homemade laundry detergent

Most of my cleaning supplies are homemade, but for some reason I never ventured into the art of laundry soap making — until now.  I have been looking for ways to cut back on spending, and thus when my last bottle of pricey Seventh Generation detergent was gone, I decided that now was the time to experiment with homemade laundry detergent recipes.

There are dozens of powdered and liquid detergent recipes available on the web.  Most of the powdered versions call for various ratios of washing soda, borax and grated soap.

Washing soda is the conventional name for sodium carbonate, an alkaline ingredient that has a multitude of domestic and industrial uses.  It acts as a water softener when added to the laundry.  Therefore, you can adjust the amount used in your recipe depending on the softness or hardness of the water in your home.  You can usually find it in the laundry section of your grocery store.  I did have to visit a few stores before I found one that carried it.

Borax is a natural boron compound obtained from mines predominantly in California.  It is reasonable to question the ethics of purchasing mined products, but borax is supposedly a leader in social responsibility in comparison to other mining industries.  While it is generally safe to handle, borax can be toxic if ingested, so you will want to store it out of reach of small children.

In the book Green Clean, my usual go-to source for homemade cleaning ideas, only borax and washing soda are called for in equal proportions.  I decided to follow that basic recipe, using about 1.25 cups each of borax and washing soda, and then added one bar of grated castile soap.   I used Dr. Bronner’s citrus scent.

I started by grating the soap into a fine powder using a grater, but that became a little too tedious.  I cut the rest up into small chunks and ground it in my mini food processor.

I found an old measuring cup in my medicine cabinet and made marks to denote one and two tablespoons.

After a few experimental loads, I found that with my high-efficiency, front loading washing machine and soft water, I need less than a tablespoon for a regular-sized load.  For other washing machines, up to two tablespoons might be necessary.

The results?  My clothes came out incredibly clean and fresh-smelling, lightly scented with citrus.  There was no discernible difference between my homemade laundry soap and the expensive eco-friendly brand I had been purchasing from the store, and at about half the price, I will never go back!  I am totally sold on homemade detergent and encourage you to give it a try as well.



4 thoughts on “Homemade laundry detergent

  1. Pingback: Spring cleaning with Castile Soap | Bounteous

    1. bounteous Post author

      Since writing this, I have also read the EWG’s stance on borax and have decided to stop using it as a cleaning agent. I just use castile soap now, plus some oxygen bleach. I find the washing soda unnecessary because my water is not too hard.
      I am not sure castile soap is safe for cloth diapers because it is oil-based…but I am not an expert. Might be worth a try! It seems everyone has a different opinion on The Best way to clean their cloth diapers so just do what works for you.


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