Green & Simple | Laundry Detergent

If you are anything like my husband, you might be thinking, “why in the world would I make laundry detergent when I could just buy Tide from the store?”

I swear I don’t just sit around thinking of all of the things that I should start making from scratch.  It started the same way most of my other homemade ventures have.  I wanted something that just isn’t available here.  I try to choose all-natural or eco-friendly options for any household products that we buy.  I actually don’t use any cleaning products at all…but that is another story.  Before we moved down here, we stocked up on all types of all-natural, unscented laundry detergents (all natural detergent is a necessity for washing cloth diapers).  Anyway, fast forward until we used up all of our all-natural detergent.  I ordered it a few times online, and then heard about making you own.  Since I am always game to cut more chemicals out of our lives, I decided to try it.

All you need to make your own eco-friendly, all-natural laundry detergent is:

Please forgive the mangled looking boxes.  They traveled a long way to get to me.

Grate the bar of soap.  This is really the only part of this process that is time consuming.  And it only takes a few minutes.  It takes even less time if you can get someone else to do the grating for you.  :)  The original recipe called for Fels Naptha soap.  I made the first batch this way, but wasn’t in love with the scent.  I prefer the unscented castille soap.

After the soap is grated, mix it together with a cup of washing soda and a cup of borax.  As you mix the 3 ingredients, you will see the little grated pieces of soap start to integrate into the mixture, until you can’t see them anymore.  Pour it all into an airtight container and you’re done!

My little helper got home from school just as I was finishing to do a little quality control.  Her verdict:  I passed.  My verdict:  I think it is great.  It works just as well as any other detergent, and I feel good about not bringing any more unnecessary chemicals into our house.  The Borax and the Washing soda are super inexpensive, so this is cheap to make.  If you do the calculations, it comes out to be just a few cents per load.  Much less expensive than the eco-friendly store-bought brands that I was buying.  My husband’s verdict:  “Why can’t we just buy detergent at the store like normal people?”  Because we aren’t normal.  Duh.

A few notes:

  • There are a ton of different recipes out there for detergent.  This one came from my sister-in-law.  Thanks Robin!
  • I have heard of some people using a few drops of essential oil to make their clothes smell nice.  I have never tried it, but I think I will next time.
  • For cloth diapering parents: forget the expensive Charlie’s or Rockin Green.  This works so much better!
  • Although Borax is all-natural, and has been around forever, I recently read a few things that made it seem like it wasn’t safe to have around.  If anyone knows more about this, please share in the comments!
  • kati - my thoughts: i’m too hooked on mrs. meyer’s baby blossom scent (and may or may not be too lazy) to do this but i am impressed, kaley!

    the castile soap is cuter than fels naptha for these pics but as far as i’ve ever heard, fels naptha is unbeatable for stains. i don’t know, try both!

    don’t know about borax. seems like every chemical in powder form, whether natural or not might not be great.ReplyCancel

    • kaleyann - This baby blossom scent sounds heavenly – I think I might have to try it!ReplyCancel

  • WhitMc - I have never thought of making my own detergent, this looks great! We have recently switched to using a laundry ball, which just changes the PH of the water to clean the clothes without soap. It is amazing! Although we started using it after our Cloth Diaper days, so I may be calling on your recipe when those are back in circulation.ReplyCancel

    • kaleyann - oooh – a laundry ball? I must learn more!ReplyCancel

  • Robin - Love that you shared this recipe! I accepted a long time ago that I am very far from normal ;) but think that everyone should be making this stuff! So easy, incredibly cheap, and works soooo well! Seeing that we use it on disgusting muddy sweaty mountain biking clothes and it gets all the dirt and stink out, I actually thinks it works even better than most other detergents we’ve tried!

    Some things I’ve found that work well:

    – If you need to pre-treat a stain, just add a little water to a spoonful of the detergent and make a little paste. Works wonderfully!

    – Sometimes I’ll add a tablespoon or so of baking soda to the load if I have an extra smelly/dirty load.

    – I usually keep my mix fragrance free, but lavender oil makes a lovely smelling addition, or grapefruit essential oil make a really fresh smelling detergent and is also naturally antibacterial!

    – Here is my favorite choice for the bar soap: http://www.drbronner.com/DBMS/OBBA05/BabyMildOrganicBarSoap.htm
    This bar is unscented and super mild, which makes it great for sensitive baby (and adult) skin!ReplyCancel

    • kaleyann - I am trying all of your suggestions. Once I get some grapefruit oil… :)ReplyCancel

  • Robin - oooh I actually have a little container of grapefruit oil that we got just for you!ReplyCancel

  • AK Mama - if Mrs. Meyers makes the baby blossom scented bar soap, you could use that. I use 3/4 Mr. Meyers bar soap and 1/4 Fels Naptha. The Meyers soap is strong enough to not smell the fels naptha and it works great!ReplyCancel

  • {kaley ann photography} Baby Essentials | The Registry List - [...] using toxic chemicals.  You can use simple eco-friendly or homemade alternatives.  Try this all-natural laundry soap and clean with vinegar and [...]ReplyCancel

  • Marissa - Borax is only harmful when ingested in the dry form. I believe it’s toxic in the physical makeup not the chemical. Hope that helps!ReplyCancel

    • kaleyann - yes, definitely helps! Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • ana - Hi,

    Every time I read your page you impress me even more with your creativity. Avery is one lucky little girl (so is your husband). Can’t wait to see you guys. Love AnaReplyCancel

  • MJ- hearth parenting blogger and doTERRA IPC - I was looking for alternative to felt naptha and came across your site.i also did research on borax and i am sad to tell you tht this is a pesticide! EWG is a trusted site and this is where i took the information. the title or the article isBorax: Not The Green Alternative It’s Cracked Up To BeReplyCancel

    • kaleyann - Thanks, MJ. I have always been a bit worried about the Borax! Do you happen to know of any alternatives?ReplyCancel

  • Juan garcia - Thanks very much for your Eco friendly homemade detergent recipe.I have just bought an,not cheap,ecofriendly brand but once it will be finished,I’ll go for the recipe.
    Cheers,JuanReplyCancel

  • Rachel - I found this blog about borax extremely helpful. It set my mind at ease about using it.
    http://www.crunchybetty.com/getting-to-the-bottom-of-borax-is-it-safe-or-notReplyCancel

  • Spiros - Hello from Greece.. I use this handmade detergent some months now and about the borax I have read many things and I don’t know either if it is good or not. But the amount of borax in this mix is not so much and remember that the laundry uses a lot of water so I don’t think it is harmful for the laundry! personal opinion of course!ReplyCancel

  • Furballmum - How much do you use for a medium load?ReplyCancel

  • Nicoleta Ganea - Oh, this is great. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, not to use chemicals anymore. ThanksReplyCancel

  • Sandi - The chemical formula of borax shows it is a combination of sodium, boron (mineral mined from the ground) oxygen and water. It is only harmful if mixed with other chemicals none being any product I have seen on the green cleaning supply lists.ReplyCancel

    • kaleyann - Thanks Sandi, that is so good to know!ReplyCancel

  • jamilah - Do you put this mixture directly on clothes or can you put it in the area where the detergent goes for front loading machines?ReplyCancel

    • kaleyann - Hi Jamila,
      I have done it both ways. When we had a top loader, I just threw it right in with the clothes. Now I put it right in the area marked detergent on our front load washer.ReplyCancel

  • Jamie Seaton - I have made this a few times with fels naptha, and have been very curious about using a castille soap instead. The EWG database shows FN as being somewhat toxic and concerning. However, with a toddler, I need mega stain removal, and worry that castille soap won’t do what I need it to do.

    As far as borax, I researched extensively, and my mind is definitely at ease about it now.

    One mistake I made because I saw it online, and then mindlessly did it was to add some downy unstoppables for scent. Well I did some research and they are rated as a an “F”. I won’t be doing that again. However, some people make this for the cost savings vs the green or natural reason, so in that case, I suggest using purex crystals, which are rated as a C.

    Love the look of your website!ReplyCancel

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