Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have been meaning to make my own laundry detergent for…years.  I’m not kidding!  I never did it because I thought it would take too long or be too labor intensive.

Thankfully, I was very wrong about both of these concerns.  It was so, so, so much easier to do then I thought it would be!  My real impetus to actually do it this time is that I need to pre-wash all of our cloth diapers, and most mainstream detergents are not recommended for cloth diapers.  Plus, I had noticed that the “green” detergent I had bought from the natural foods store just really wasn’t doing the trick in taking sweat odors out of clothes.

But this detergent really worked.  That was the other pleasant surprise.  It’s also tons cheaper than buying the phosphate and sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) and scent and dye free detergent.  I needed to use liquid detergent because our water is so hard here, but I don’t particularly care for all those heavy duty plastic jugs that liquid detergent comes in.  This homemade detergent solves that problem, since it is liquid, but the ingredients are dry and mostly come in cardboard boxes.  The only hard part is finding washing soda.  I was able to finally locate some tucked away in the laundry aisle at Publix, but I can also almost always find it at a military commissary.

This is a spin-off from my friend Michelle’s detergent recipe.

Homemade Laundry Detergent
1 bar soap (I used Ivory; I would think it is best to use stuff without dyes, but Dr. Bronner’s probably isn’t a good choice, from what I’ve read, because it is best if there is no coconut oil in the soap, at least for washing diapers)
1 c. Borax (20 mule team, in the laundry aisle of your grocery store)
1 1/4 c. washing soda (I used this much because we have really hard water; 3/4 c. ought to work if your water is soft)
5 gallon bucket (I think the orange home depot one we bought was like $4)
spoon with a long handle, or clean stick

Grate bar of soap.  Hint: your life will be much easier if you use a food processor for this purpose!  Put 4 c. of water in a pot on the stove, add soap shavings, and simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, until dissolved.  I just put it on the stove while I was cooking dinner, then turned it to low heat while we ate, and it made it seem like I wasn’t waiting around for the soap to dissolve.

Fill a 5 gallon bucket almost halfway with hot water.  Add borax, washing soda, and soap+water mixture.  Stir to dissolve all the granules; this really won’t take very long.  Add about another gallon of hot water.  Stir.

Cover, and let it set overnight.  The mixture will be gloppy and kind of gross looking.  Just stir before using.

For this mixture, I use about 1/2 c. per load; if you have soft water, you might be able to get away with a bit less.  It’s a bit cumbersome, obviously, so I keep the bucket in the corner of the laundry room with the measuring cup and spoon right on top. 

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2 Responses to Homemade Laundry Detergent

  1. I am going to try this out (Hey, DDC mama here). The phosphate and SLS free soap here is so expensive. I just have no idea where to find borax here in Israel….. can you point me to a recipe for a powder?

    • Emily says:

      Borax is a chemical compound, much the way that baking soda is a chemical compound. It is sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate. I’m not sure what the mail situation is for you, with shipping costs, but Amazon does carry borax…

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