Homemade Laundry Powder: 3 Ingredients. 10 Minutes.
I’ve been making a lot of my own cleaning and beauty products over the years, but for some reason, laundry detergent is one that I haven’t given a try until now.
Now that I know how easy and inexpensive it is to make, I probably won’t be going back!
This recipe actually comes from a good friend of mine. Renee and her family have lived overseas as missionaries for years and hope to be back on the field in the near future, so she’s always looking for frugal and homemade ways to do things. Since we both love nutrition and healthy living, we are forever sharing recipes, ideas, swapping books, and planning days to try out new things that we want to make.
Renee’s laundry powder was something that had been on my list for a while, so this week we buckled down and did it. The whole process took us about 15-20 minutes, and that was only because we were chatting and stopping to take pictures. There is no way that this would take me longer than 10 minutes to make by myself.
Does it really work?
Renee has been using this recipe for about a year and a half, and she LOVES it. She told me that she won’t even consider going back to a regular detergent anymore.
This summer she spent a week staying at someone else’s home and used their detergent to wash several loads of laundry. She said that she could actually feel the difference in the clothes, almost like there was a bit of soap residue and that they weren’t as clean.
We were discussing what makes this laundry powder work so well, and this is what Renee thinks each of the ingredients do:
- Borax- stain removal and whitening
- Washing soda- odor removal
- Soap bar- degreasing
She wanted me to note that this powder won’t suds up. This may be disconcerting to some of you, because we’ve been taught to think that bubbles = clean.
That equation just isn’t accurate. You can definitely achieve clean, whether it’s with your laundry or your teeth (think toothpaste without foaming agents), even without those desired bubbles. Look for the results of a product, not for something like suds to tell you whether it works or not.
I hesitate to add my two cents, because I just began using the powder this week, but the first three loads that I’ve washed have been very clean and fresh smelling and my whites look white. I’m excited to continue using this and to see the same results that Renee has!
Here’s what you need to make it:
- 1 bar of soap (Fels Naptha is Renee’s usual brand, or a bar of plain Castile soap also works, like the Dr. Bronners bar that I used)
- 1 cup washing soda
- 1 cup Borax
Of course, you can double, triple or quadruple this recipe to make a large batch all at once. It can just be stored in your laundry room cupboard and will not go bad.
If you’re wondering about my washing soda in the big tub, it’s because I didn’t buy it. I made it. That’s right, you can make washing soda! I had tons of baking soda but no washing soda, so I decided to give this tutorial a try. It worked!
Grate the entire bar of soap.
This is what mine looked like. A nice, fine grate will mix up easier than larger pieces, but you can use any grater that you have.
Add the grated soap to your blender, with 1 cup of either the washing soda or the Borax (it really doesn’t matter which one).
If you don’t have a great blender, you might want to process this in smaller batches. In my Vitamix, I did it in two batches which was perfect.
Basically, you just want to blend it until the pieces are cut more finely, so that you’ll be able to get a good mix of all the ingredients in each scoop, and also so that the soap dissolves easily in the washing machine.
Renee noted that when she uses her older style glass blender, the blender can be difficult to clean, so she puts it into the dishwasher immediately after making her laundry powder.
Add the blended mixture to a bowl, and mix in the remaining 1 cup of either washing soda or Borax.
Use a spoon to mix it thoroughly and break up any large chunks.
This is what mine looked like after I mixed it up. There are still a few very small chunks, but those won’t make a difference.
Can you believe how fast and easy that was?
I stored mine in a glass mason jar. One recipe made almost 1 quart of laundry powder.
Directions for use:
Add 1 heaped tablespoon to the washing machine as you fill it with water (it’s always best to add powder before you add your clothes, so that it begins to dissolve first).
For extra dirty loads, use 2 scoops instead of 1.
Renee usually uses hers with warm water, because that’s just how she prefers to wash her laundry, but she said it still works in cold or hot as well. I’ve been trying it with cold this week and it seems just fine.
This is based on the ingredients Renee regularly buys from Trader Joes. I paid a little bit more than this because I bought my Borax in Canada (I think I paid more like $7 for the box), and I used the Dr. Bronners castile soap bar which was $3.40.
- 1 cup Borax= $0.44 (1 box is $3.99, about 9 cups to a box)
- 1 cup washing soda= $0.44 (same price and amount as Borax)
- 1 bar Fels Naptha soap= $0.97
Total cost = $1.85 per batch
Based on 1 Tbsp this works out to 40-50 loads.
Cost per load: approximately 5 cents!
That’s incredibly cheap for a simple, non-toxic and effective laundry powder. A couple of years ago, I did a review comparing some major brands of natural laundry detergents, and you can see the price comparisons here. Those brands ranged in price from 10 cents to 30 cents per load.
My cost, based on the more expensive Borax and castile soap bar was more like 10 or 11 cents per load.
If you try the soap out (or if you’ve been using a similar recipe) we’d love to hear how it works for you!
What do you currently use for your laundry detergent? Would you try a recipe like this?
This came up frequently in the comments below, so I thought that I would just address it in this post.
Updated: Is Borax safe to use in cleaning products?
Chemically speaking, Borax is “sodium borate”. It is the naturally occurring mineral, and is more like a salt than anything else. The store-bought product Borax is often mistakenly (see here and here) thought to be “boric acid” and then vilified as a toxic and dangerous substance. This is an entirely different chemical. Sodium borate is alkaline, while boric acid is acidic (makes sense, right?).
There is good reason to be concerned with the household use of boric acid. It rates very high on the toxicity scale at Environmental Working Group, is known to be an eye and respiratory tract irritant, and has concerns for developmental and reproductive toxicity. I wouldnt’ want to use boric acid, either!
Sodium borate, however, is a different story. It rates significantly lower on the toxicity scale, with specific mention that it depends on use. And that is what I have come to with Borax… it all depends on use. I would not put Borax in anything that would be consumed, nor do I leave it anywhere that my children can get it. It should probably not be ingested or used in large amounts and should be handled with caution. Another blogger also looked into it, as it was coming up as an area of concern for those with Etsy shops, and her conclusion was that it is safe for household cleaning. I have read comments about it being toxic to animals and insects, and this may be true (now we’re back to ingesting it- bad idea, but one interested thing I noted in my online research was this thread, where a commenter actually posted a close-up picture of a sodium borate crystal, and suggested that it is harmful to insects partially because it happens to be particularly sharp and pointy in shape.
All that said, I can’t and won’t tell you which way to go with it or how you should use (or not use it!) in your home. I’ll just tell you my own personal decision regarding it’s use. I only use it in something that will be rinsed away, so for me, laundry powder is perfectly acceptable. Each scoop (1 load) includes about 1 tsp of Borax (a very small amount!), which is then rinsed away after. I’m absolutely fine with that. I also sometimes use it on carpet stains, which I then rinse and scrub very well. I have a friend who uses it in her homemade dishwasher detergent, because she also feels that due to the rinse and her use of vinegar in the dishwasher’s rinse cycle, she isn’t concerned about any residue (personally, I’m not 100% comfortable with that use). I have chosen NOT to use it in things like all-purpose spray which I would use on counters or tables, because it would leave residue in a place where we eat or cook.
Take this all with a big grain of salt. These are just my opinions, and there are plenty of people out there who have done more research, who understand the chemical compounds better than I do, and who would come to a different conclusion than I have. But hopefully that answers some of the questions about why I have personally chosen to consider it safe! I don’t want the comments to become a huge debate about the safety of Borax, but I did think it was worth it to address those concerns as thoughtfully as I could. 🙂
I have tried using the homemade laundry detergent recipe that is on the 19 Kids and Counting web site. My husband complained that he didn’t think it got the clothes as clean as the usual commercial brand that I normally used. He insisted that we go back to the usual detergent. It had the same ingredients that this recipe has except it had water in it and made five gallons. Maybe I will try this powdered version to see if he notices anything.
Sherry, what your husband may be missing (and making him feel the clothes aren’t as clean) is the scent that most commercial detergents have. A lot of people feel like a lack of heavy perfumes means a lack of “clean”.
SO true! I recently received some old clothes form a friend and was surprised at how perfumed they were. It was just her detergent, but after using this for years, it actually really bothered me!
Very true.Can one add any scent.And how.
I just love the scents in soaps
Hi! Thanks for all the wonderful work you do, I love KOTH and look forward to reading it each morning. I just wanted to give you a heads up in case you weren’t aware that EWG recently rated Borax an F saying that there is hogh concern that sodium borate is toxic. 20MuleTeamBoraxNaturalLaundryBoosterMultiPurposeHouseholdCleaner
Hi Carly! I’m not sure what you mean by rating Borax an “F”. I was just looking at EWG’s site today on the issue of Borax and I can see it as a moderate concern, depending on use. I’ve actually updated the post with some of my thoughts on the safety of using Borax. 🙂
Does this work in a high efficiency washing machine? I don’t know what the difference is really except for commercial detergents specify whether they are HE or not so I’m assuming there is a reason.
I’m not sure personally, since I don’t have an HE machine, but others have commented on how they use it with HE.
I’m scared to try it because I’ve read some things about borax not being the greatest to use (health-wise). If you have info. to share related to that, please do share.
Heather, I’ve updated the post to include some of my own thoughts on using Borax. 🙂
Does anyone have experience using this in the HD machines. Would love to try but don’t won’t to mess up my machine!
If you mean HE machines 😉 I have never had a problem in mine and I’ve used the liquid and dry homemade detergent.
Ooops Vicki that’s what I meant! My my fingers & brain were a little “out of sync!” Thanks!
I know Borax is natural, and a lot of people use it, but I keep hearing conflicting reports about how safe it is to use. Do you have any thoughts on this?
I do. I updated the post with some thoughts on Borax, just because so many people were asking about it. 🙂
I used this recipe a couple of times last year-but bought a huge box of soap nuts…which I love.when I run out-may be in like 2 years-I will decide whether to go back to this or to the soap nuts.
Along with wondering if you can use it in a front loader, I’m curious how this works on cloth diapers. Anyone have experience??
I question the safety of Borax as well…I know it is “from the Earth” but I have read so many conflicting things about how safe it is, so I have cut it out of my cleaning products that call for it. I always like to hear other’s opinions on this as well!
Steph, I actually updated the post to include some of my own thoughts on using Borax, although there are lots of good comments from others to read as well. 🙂
I have always preferred liquid laundry soap, probably from my days growing up where we used powder and our old washing machine ended up caking the dry detergent onto our clothes, which made us have to do the laundry AGAIN just to properly rinse them. But nonetheless, I use these same three ingredients but make a liquid version. I have used this recipe for over 6 months. I also try to hang dry most of my clothing, as it is convenient for me to do so… if you hang dry, (even with regular detergent) they are going to be stiff, so I use a cup of distilled vinegar in the rinse cycle (if I am able to catch it when it gets to the rinse cycle, sometimes I forget).
I enjoy having a toxic-free way of doing my laundry. My clothes don’t make me itch, my sheets on my bed actually feel like REAL cotton vs. synthetic (and we use Egyptian cotton — we splurge on bedding, mattresses and shoes since we are usually in one or the other).
I can’t say how cheap this is compared to other detergents because I don’t look at price as much. Thankfully I don’t have to keep to a strict budget, however, my objective is to live toxin-free and healthy, saving money is just a bonus 🙂
Also, for those who are “preppers” having a few boxes of borax, washing soda, baking soda and fels napthe bars on hand can help prepare you for the “coming collapse” hah!! 🙂 Oh, I also recommend having a couple gallons of white distilled vinegar on hand as well, it is a fantastic cleaning agent.
Here are my thoughts on Borax, since a lot of people are questioning it… it may be a little caustic if you use it on your body.. i.e. in shampoo, soaps, etc that you put directly onto your skin. I believe it is perfectly healthy to use as a cleansing agent for laundry or dishes, as both have a pretty intense rinse cycle before you touch them again. Hope this helps. There are a lot of essential oils, even, that if used properly, have amazing health benefits but you wouldn’t put them directly on your skin, you would properly dilute them with a carrier oil or whatever the recommended use calls for.
I have been using this recipe for the past 3 years. I use it in my HE frontloader (just 1 tblsp) and I use it on my cloth diapers and it works great. My sons like to grate up the Fels-Naptha. My only difference is that I don’t put it in the blender. They finely grate it (although they have thickly grated it before and it worked). I think the finer grating is fine, but I really don’t think you need to put it in a blender. Sorry, those are just my 2 cents.
I would agree that if you are finely grating it, you may not need to put it in the blender. For those who can only grate it in larger chunks, then I think either a blender or a food processor is probably a good idea. It may also be impacted by the temperature of water that you use. I would think larger soap pieces wouldn’t dissolve as well in a cold wash, but would do just fine in warm or hot water.
I started making my own liquid laundry detergent years ago but eventually stopped because I didn’t like “cooking” it or having an open bucket of detergent in my laundry room. Last year I switched to a “no-cooking” recipe just like yours for making my own powdered laundry detergent. I recently tried a bar of old fashioned lye soap instead of fels-naptha and I like it even better. I blogged about making it back in the spring:
We’re living with my in laws and they have a septic tank. Will this mess up the tank? Also, has anyone with hard water tried the detergent? Does it work well?
Debbie, we have extremely hard water! I use this same recipe, except I also add a half cup of powdered water softener (calgon) to the batch. I’ve been using this for over a year and it works great! I do like to add baking soda (maybe 1/4 cup) to a load of whites to keep them from getting dingy, too. Seems to help.
I have made 2 batches of this (5gallon bucket each time full of it) in the liquid version that we used over the past year. there is build up all over the aggitator in my washer that was never there with any other soap. I was concerned because if it’s leaving the build up there what’s it doing to our clothes? I was really bummed as cheaper and what seemed like better ingredients are what we all prefer, right?!
I use white vinegar as a fabric softener, which not only softens the fabric but gets rid of any soap residue. I haven’t had any problems!
Do you add the white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser in the washing machine? When do you add it?
Yes, you put it in the fabric softener part. I do this at the laundromat all the time.
I made this recipe and used it faithfully for over a year, but began to notice that my clothes were getting dingier and dingier. A local friend had the same problem. I miss using it, but felt like gradually our clothes just weren’t as clean.
Based on what I’m reading in the comments, it sounds like it either has to do with having hard water, or that for some, they need to add white vinegar to help it rinse out well without any residue.
I’ve also seen this kind of recipe before but I’ve always avoided Borax because I’ve heard its bad. I read the reply on here about it not being used directly but I do know residue remains in clothes when you wash them. Thoughts?
I use white vinegar as a fabric softener, which not only softens the fabric but gets rid of any soap residue.
I actually updated the post with some more detailed info on my thoughts about Borax use. Hopefully that helps!
I used to use Borax but after doing more reading and research have decided to discontinue using it because it is not a safe product according to the EWG and many other sites. I use washing soda, baking soda, salt and fels. It works just as well.
Looks like an easy-peasy recipe!
This looks so easy!!!! How would you use it in a front loading washer?
I’ve used this recipe! I didn’t grate the soap, though — I just chopped it into about 4 pieces with a knife then threw the pieces, borax and washing soda in my food processor. An entire batch done from start to finish in about 2 minutes!
Oh, good idea! I’m sure a food processor would work well. My friend Renee doesn’t have a processor, so that’s why she came up with using her blender, I guess. 🙂
I love this idea, however, i need to know if this works in an HE washing machine. We just recently in the last 2 weeks bought a new machine after our 19year old machine broke. let me know at my email provided.
I’m not sure about HE, as I have an older style machine. Try reading through the comments, because I think some others mentioned using it with HE.
is this an option for HE washers??? great tutorial– i hope to try it!
I’m sorry, but I don’t have an HE machine and neither does my friend who gave me the recipe. But read through the other comments, I think some people mentioned using it with HE.
I made this same recipe (I also even used a bar of Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild), but liquid, and have been using it since December and I love it. I think liquid is more frugal, because it uses the exact same amount of ingredients, but you can depending on your preference, make between 2 and 10 gallons. I made 5 gallons and I think it works great. I use vinegar as a fabric softener (I put it in the fabric softener dispenser of the washer so I don’t have to keep an eye out for the rinse cycle). I also prefer liquid because I wash clothes in cold water, and I don’t want to have to worry about the powder not dissolving and clogging the washer.
Oh, also, with regards to the concerns about Borax, I feel that because it is only 1 cup of Borax in 5 gallons of laundry soap (in my recipe anyway), that it is a very minimal risk. I think using vinegar in the rinse cycle also helps remove any traces of Borax.
I believe that for HE machines/liquid detergent, you dissolve the ingredients in hot water. Also, I am an avid vinegar user! One thing you can do with vinegar is add your citrus peels to a jar of vinegar to create citrus vinegar. It has great cleaning power and smells great! You can also add essential oils to your soap mix (during blending cycle), but don’t add too much because EO can cause oil spots on clothing. :o) I plan to make a lard/lye soap to use, possibly even scented with EO.
I use the same ingredients but make mine as a liquid. This seems to work better in our front loader where it’s hard to put the detergent in before the clothes. I also prefer to use the Fels Naptha as it seems to clean better than the Dr. Bronners. We love it!
Here is a link to a post I did on making the liquid. This lasts us a very long time 🙂 http://joycomesfromwithin.blogspot.com/2009/10/all-laundry-supplies-are-up-on-shelf.html
I add 1/2 cup oxyclean to mine and grate and mix using my food processor. Super simple! Now I just wish I could get an effective replacement for spray n wash.
How much grated soap does one bar make (in cups)? I’d love to know the specifics.
Thanks for the link about making washing soda. That’s a big help.
I didn’t measure it after I grated it, but it looked like about 2 (loosely packed) cups.
I’ve never tried a homemade laundry detergent, but have recently started using other homemade cleaners and am anxious to give it a try. We have been purchasing organic detergent so this would be a big savings for us – especially given that I have 2 boys!
We have typical suburban city water, and this soap leaves our whites a big dingy. But I love it for everything else we clean. I’m about to try out a homemade brightener (hydrogen peroxide + lemon juice + distilled water) to see if it helps the whites. I keep one commercial laundry detergent on hand for the whites at this point, but everything else gets the homemade powder!
I have been making my own laundry detergent also. I use these same ingredients and add a little lemon essential oil. I use white vinegar in place of fabric softener as well. I find this works even better than my own conventional detergent did. Also, I use mine in a new-ish HE front loading washing machine, and it’s still great!
I have been using these same three ingredients but with different ratios. I wonder about the difference. Anyway, it’s been great. I only make up small amounts at a time as I find the grating a challenge – though now my DH is doing it for me! I use the fine grater bit and then I just mix the other two powders in. It works fine. Thanks for sharing – it’s nice to have my decision on what washing powder to use validated! :o)
I’d love to know your ratios, Elizabeth!
Oh I so want to try this out!! I have seen recipes for this before and just haven’t gotten around to do it yet. I need to try this, thanks! 🙂
We have been using the liquid version of this for about 6 months now, using Yardley Lavender soap and we really like it! It saves us so much money! I have very sensitive skin and am prone to breaking out with a hive here and there, but I’ve noticed that I don’t get them anymore with this soap, so that says a lot to me about the gentleness of it. The only thing I don’t like, as some have already mentioned, is that our whites turn out dingy. :(. Maybe I’ll try using vinegar and see if it helps.
I have been meaning to make this recipe, but have put it off because of cooking and turning to liquid….very excited to try a powder version.
Do you plan to use this on your cloth diapers as well? Has anyone had experience using this for cloth dipes?
I use 100% cotton prefolds and I was happy with it in general. It wasn’t so great on stains (I commented above about that), but I also don’t really care about stains on dipes so that wasn’t a particular issue for me. It was great for getting out stink, though!
I have no idea how well it works on synthetic dipes, so maybe someone else will chime in on that.
I have made this recipe for years, but only for my clothes. The soap will cause cloth diapers to repel water. I also don’t use it on my towels for the same reason. I use Nellie’s natural detergent for those two things. But I do love the homemade laundry detergent for clothes. With a family of 9 who does 4 loads a day, the savings really adds up! I use the ingredients above and melt it all in hot water.
I have been making this same recipe for over a year for my HE machine. The only thing different is I don’t put it through the blender ; I just stir it all together and it has been working great! I will never go back to commercial brands. I also use any soap that is on sale; Ivory works great too!
This sounds great! I hope it continues to work for you. My husband is highly allergic to borax (think inch-tall hives all over). We discovered that when I used borax as a laundry booster 10 years ago. But, if you ever come across a recipe that doesn’t use Borax, I’m all ears!
I know you posted this years ago but in the UK Borax is banned but we do have a borax substitute. I don’t know anything about either of them but might be worth having a google if you are still interested 🙂
I used this very recipe for about three years (with Fels Naphtha) and I liked it a lot better than conventional detergent, but like others who’ve posted, I found that my clothes (especially the whites) became dingy over time and I finally gave up on it with a big, disappointed sigh. Maybe it’s partly an issue of what type of water is used, but I have no idea, and it was too complicated to figure out. So I switched to Charlie’s Soap about two years ago and even though it’s a lot more expensive, my clothes and cloth diapers come out fresh and clean and the whites stay bright. And, how I LOVE that my clothes and diapers literally smell like NOTHING. I do add a scoop of Borax to each load of diapers to keep the stink at bay, and it works really well.
I will say that I’m a bit frustrated that Charlie’s doesn’t do much for stains, but neither did the homemade stuff, frankly. Maybe I just need to use more powder per load to deal with that, but that adds to the already steep cost. 🙁 So, I have to be diligent about pre-treating. I use Zout on grease/oil spots (I know, ew – but it works!), and for other stains I do a soak in Sun oxygen cleaner for as long as it takes – which is sometimes several days for really bad stains. I haven’t tried Bac-Out yet but I need to give that a try.
Oh, I should also mention that with both the homemade stuff and Charlie’s, I have never, ever had to use anything in the rinse cycle – not even vinegar – and my laundry always comes out perfectly soft. And that’s saying something since I’m a former fabric softener junkie.
I make my laundry powder with just the washing soda and soap. 1/4C soap and 1 C of washing soda. I use it on and off when I run out of regular powder and it works fine in conjunction with commercial powders. Both of these are easily available in my supermarket, whereas borax isn’t, and I have concerns about its toxicity mostly in the mixing process.
I mixed this same recipe and used it for about 2 years. The cost savings are unbeatable. Then DH got a wonderful job and we moved. I continued using the recipe because 10 minutes and such savings! But I noticed our whites were dingy. Our darks had soap residue. I started dissolving the powder in hot water before turning the water temp down and adding clothes. Didn’t help. Used less powder. Didn’t help. Used more powder. Didn’t help. Had to rinse all our clothes twice which negated some of the savings (especially considering we have an ancient septic system).
Finally gave up and switched back to the eco-friendly commercial detergents. Our clothes are cleaner now. Sign.
Was it because you moved to an area with hard water? I wonder how that affects it’s cleaning ability, because I know that there were a few commenters who have said similar things. Where I live, we don’t have hard water.
Hard water can be dealt with by using table salt to soften the water. It is commonly used in hard water treatment systems that can soften water for an entire house. In Europe where they have lots of hard water, the dishwashers have dedicated salt dispensers built into them to deal with it. In rural NZ it can be a problem too and we have used salt to break down/soften the light brown scale on our dishwasher so that all we had to do was wipe it off at the end of the cycle.
Try putting some salt, say a teaspoon, into each wash and see what happens and if that works add to your brew.
Hope that helps.
I have used this home made laundry detergent for about three years. I like it a lot….BUT I have learned the hard way not to use it on cloth diapers. I use bum geniuses and when my daughter was about two started to really have problems with odor and infection. After trying all te normal stripping and beach I talked to the people at Cotton Babies. I was told that borax will build up on diapers over time. So know we use Rocken green on diapers and the homemade on everything else.
I’ve used this with cotton prefolds and Thirsties for 2 babies of mine. I have no problems as long as I add vinegar to a rinse cycle afterwards. However, I had to add vinegar to a rinse after using store bought detergent as well. The vinegar strips any detergent buildup off!
I have used the liquid version of this for almost three years now and love it. I do add Oxyclean to my whites, but had done that even with the commercial detergents.
I am excited to try this!
For those of you having dingy whites after using this, you should know that most detergents sold in the store have brightness added to them. They cling to your clothes and give a bit of a reflective look to your clothes. By using the homemade detergent, your clothes aren’t dingy, just not artificially bright. That being said, I add hydrogen peroxide to my bleach cycle with whites and it keeps my whites bright. Oxyclean is a powered hydrogen peroxide.
For those of you with hard water, increase the amount of borax in your detergent and add vinegar to your rinse cycle. Also consider washing in warm water instead of cold. I think you will be pleased with the results.
This looks great and easy! I’ve been using charlie’s soap, and I love it, but I know that with our family’s current situation (we’re working on an adoption – lots of up front cost and then more laundry as our family grows from 4 to 6), I need to continually work on being more frugal! Thanks for this post, your blog is one of my favorites!
This doesn’t have as much to do with the laundry soap as it does with your friend….we just moved to a third world country, and I’m wondering about the best ways to do various natural things here. Like wash produce. I’ve searched and searched the internet, but can’t seem to find people talking about naturally killing parasites….
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on borax Stephaine! I have kept going back and forth on weather to use it or not in laundry soap. I’m going to read your links as well. Thank you for all you do! Blessings!
I make a similar laundry soap, only I make the liquid version. I prefer this because I use cold water in the wash and we don’t have a super fancy new washer. This way I can be sure all the ingredients are completely mixed together. Love it and don’t want to ever buy “regular” laundry soap again!!
Can you use the homemade washing soap in a front load HE washer? How do I use it in the detergent dispenser drawer? How much to use each load?
I use a box of Borax, a box of super washing soda, an equivalent size box of baking soda, and 3 grated bars of fels naphtha. I’m on my second batch and love it. I grate the soap in my food processor (and immediately wash it clean) and mix everything up in a large bucket. I store the powder in various containers (reusing whatever I had around the house) in my laundry cabinet. Lately I’ve added a few drops of tea tree oil, because of my kiddo’s overnight soakers! I love this detergent and find everything together in the laundry aisle at walmart. Oh,and I use 2tbsp per load!
Is this soap okey from HE washers?
Yes, plenty of other commenters have said that they use the same recipe in their HE machines.
Can I use this solution with an energy efficient front loader? Thanks.
I’m wondering why so many are questioning the use of Borax, but not the use of Lye? Isn’t Lye more toxic?
Which helps more with hard water? Vinegar or baking soda?
Actually, Borax is considered dangerous and even illegal in some countries, but that is BS. It is less toxic than tale salt. I have even been mixing borax with water and drinking it for health benefits. That may really sound WEIRD, but if you read this very learned article you will understand the Conspiracy Against Borax. See http://www.health-science-spirit.com/borax.htm for the whole story. Borax can cure osteoporosis and other calcium-deficiency disorders.
THANK YOU!! Agreed! Hopefully no one will take offense to my post as I am not criticising at all… I very much enjoy this site! 🙂
There has been an active campaign against natural remedies and non-toxic natural substances for many decades thanks to the AMA and other greedy corporate interests.
With Borax it’s all chemistry, and the way they try to manipulate those who aren’t as proficient in chemistry is beyond greedy and shows ulterior motives[those being it’s not as ‘profitable’ for big corporations to market it which is why ‘laundry detergent’ is so expensive… Chemical companies profit more from synthetics than natural substances. Natural borax is even used in homemade ‘cold cream’ recipes and skin care. It is not harmful unless you inhale it into your lungs.. Incidentally, sodium ‘bi’carbonate [baking soda which is non-toxic and edible] can be made into washing powder [sodium ‘carbonate a bit toxic if ingested] just by heating it in the oven at 140F/60C until it becomes dull and opaque [this is how I make my own since the shops here don’t have actual ‘washing powder] All it is, is a removal of the water molecules and you got yourselves a different chemical. But it is still safe when used according to it’s purpose!! Just don’t eat or breathe it in it’s caustic forms and you’re ok [common sense, really…]
Here are some interesting facts:
According to conventional medicine it is not known if boron is essential for humans, but research shows that we do need it. The reason why it was difficult to answer this question is the presence of boron in all plants and unprocessed foods. Diets with a fair amount of fruit and vegetables provide about 2 to 5 mg of boron per day, but this also depends on the region where the food was grown and how it was grown.
In reality the average intake in developed countries is 1-2 mg of boron per day. Institutionalized patients may receive only 0.25 mg of daily boron. Chemical fertilizers inhibit the uptake of boron from the soil: an organic apple grown in good soil may have 20 mg boron, but if grown with fertilizer it may have only 1 mg of boron. Fertilizers combined with poor food choices have greatly reduced our boron intake compared to 50 or 100 years ago.
Further, unhealthy cooking methods greatly reduce the availability of boron from food. The cooking water of vegetables containing most of the minerals may be discarded during home cooking or commercial processing; phytic acid in baked goods, cereals and cooked legumes may greatly reduce availability, while gluten sensitivity and Candida overgrowth inhibit the absorption of minerals. All this makes health problems due to boron deficiency now very common.
Due to their content of boron, borax and boric acid have basically the same health effects, with good antiseptic, antifungal, and antiviral properties but only mild antibacterial action. In plants as well as animals, boron is essential for the integrity and function of cell walls, and the way signals are transmitted across membranes.
Boron is distributed throughout the body with the highest concentration in the parathyroid glands, followed by bones and dental enamel. It is essential for healthy bone and joint function, regulating the absorption and metabolism of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus through its influence on the parathyroid glands. With this boron is for the parathyroids what iodine is for the thyroid.
Boron deficiency causes the parathyroids to become overactive, releasing too much parathyroid hormone which raises the blood level of calcium by releasing calcium from bones and teeth. This then leads to osteoarthritis and other forms of arthritis, osteoporosis and tooth decay. With advancing age, high blood levels of calcium lead to calcification of soft tissues causing muscle contractions and stiffness; calcification of endocrine glands, especially the pineal gland and the ovaries; arteriosclerosis, kidney stones, and calcification of the kidneys ultimately leading to kidney failure. Boron deficiency combined with magnesium deficiency is especially damaging to the bones and teeth.
Boron affects the metabolism of steroid hormones, and especially of sex hormones. It increases low testosterone levels in men and estrogen levels in menopausal women. It also has a role in converting vitamin D to its active form, thus increasing calcium uptake and deposition into bone and teeth rather than causing soft tissue to calcify. Also other beneficial effects have been reported such as improvement of heart problems, vision, psoriasis, balance, memory and cognition.
Borax is a naturally occurring mineral commonly mined from dried salt lakes, and is the source of other manufactured boron compounds. The main deposits are in California and Turkey. Chemical names are sodium tetraborate decahydrate, disodium tetraborate decahydrate, or simply sodium borate. This means it contains four atoms of boron as its central feature combined with two sodium atoms and ten molecules (or sometimes less) of crystallization water. All borax is naturally mined, there is no synthetic borax, the difference is only how much crystallization water it contains – decahydrate means 10 water molecules, pentahydrate means 5, and anhydrite means 0 water; chemically it is all the same.
Borax is commonly sold as technical or agricultural grade with 99 to 99.5% minimum purity. Potential impurities consist of sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, bicarbonate, carbonate, sulphate and phosphate but not toxic or heavy metals. This grade includes the borax commonly used as household cleaner. Pharmaceutical grade is not noticeably purer or better.
Borax is the sodium salt of the weak boric acid. Because sodium is more strongly alkaline, this makes a solution of borax strongly alkaline with a pH between 9 and 10 (pH 7 is neutral). When ingested, it reacts with hydrochloric acid in the stomach to form boric acid and sodium chloride. The boron content of Borax is 11.3% while for boric acid it is 17.5% or about 50% higher. Ingested boron compounds are rapidly and nearly completely excreted with the urine. Formerly boric acid was widely used as a preservative in foods but is now banned for this purpose in most countries, and is also banned from public sale in Australia.
Does this homemade laundry powder work alright for high efficiency washers? I would like to try it, but I have always used liquid detergents in my “he” washer because it doesn’t use much water. Just wondering….
Shouldn’t be a problem since this doesn’t suds up like a lot of soaps do!
Can this be used with cloth diapers?
I’ve been using this with cloth diapers for years without problems!
Have you read this about washing soda? http://www.diaperpincorner.com/2002/04/baking-soda-or-washing-soda/
I am second guessing using washing soda. That being said I made it anyway and am so excited to try it out!
I can’t wait to try this recipe. I wondered if anyone had tried using it in the front loading washers or if it would work in those.
do not use the laundry recipe. it is TOXIC and a big waste of time. Borax makes boric acid. go to http://www.ewg.org/skindeep and look at their database of over 2,000 laundry detergents and pick out one that is not toxic. Borax is a 10/10 on the toxicity score, because it causes cancer and infertility.
I use the liquid version of this soap in my HE front-loading machine. I’ve only used this type of soap for 5 or so years now and never had a problem. You shouldn’t have a problem in HE washers either due to the fact that this soap doesn’t suds up like a lot of store bought detergents do.
I have a septic system, not city water. Are these ingredients safe for a septic system?
I’m sorry, but that’s something I’m just not sure about, as we’re on city water.
What if. You do not have a blender? Could I use my Kitchen Aid?
I made it without a blender, because I didn’t want to put those things in my kitchen appliances. I just grated the bar of soap with a fine grater, put it in a bucket and used a spoon to stir in the cup of washing soda and cup of borax. I just mixed it the best I could, and it worked fine.
I’ve been using this homemade laundry soap recipe for a couple months now. It seems to be working great, and I’m loving all the money we’re saving as well. Tonight I stumbled across several websites that say the “Borax” is not safe for us to use. It’s rated “F” on the EWG website. http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/2507-20MuleTeamBoraxNaturalLaundryBoosterMultiPurposeHouseholdCleaner
Anyone else researched this? This is making me consider using store bought laundry detergent again!
Okay, I did some more research on Borax. It should be fine to use as directed on package. I personally would not make the powder version of the homemade laundry detergent, just the liquid. Borax is harmful if inhaled, and in powder form, that is more easily done. Also, there are warnings about keeping it away from food. So, I don’t think I personally will be making any more laundry detergent with Borax using my kitchen utensils and appliances! To ensure it is getting fully rinsed out of your laundry you can use vinegar in the fabric softener compartment. The chemical analysis sheet says to clean up any Borax spills using acetic acid and water. Hope this info helps!
I appreciate the further research. Your first comment made me want to do more of my own. 🙂 It’s interesting, EWG is calling it only a 5-6 on Skin Deep, but giving it an F on the cleaning portion of their site. I’m a bit confused by why they’re rating it in two different ways. But I would agree, inhaling is a problem and I think not using kitchen appliances might be a good idea, just to be on the safe side. Maybe I can just stir the Borax in after mixing up the other two, which would probably work just fine. Thanks for your insights!
I was skeptical at first thinking that one tablespoon could not possibly be enough. I was truly surprised, and VERY happy with the results! Thank You!
You’re so welcome!
I used Ivory bar soap when making laundry detergent. It worked great.
Ivory? Thats good to know because the smell of the Fels Naphta kind of gets to me…
I use Sunlight laundry bar soap. I couldn’t find any of the other soaps mentioned here in Edmonton Alberta and to order them online was too expensive for shipping. It works great and my clothes smell good. After I grate the soap I leave it on a tray overnight to dry a bit..then I put into the blender. Doesn’t stick to the blender as much.
Hi Lynne, I live in Calgary, AB and I buy Dr.Bonners soap at Superstore. They have both the liquid and bar varieties in their natural foods section.
Is the Ivory soap a degreasing soap?
I made and used my first batch of this laundry powder and just LOVE IT…love that I am saving so much money, and love the end results which is super clean clothes! Am off down the road now to buy enough ingredients to make a super big batch cos I am NEVER, EVER going to be ripped off by the store bought stuff which is so highly overpriced! A THOUSAND THANK YOUS and may you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year! Sue
I love and use borax for many many remedies. I looked up the article on borax conspiracy and totally agree. Dr. Clark wrote a book The cure for all disease based on her lifes study and she actually was put in jail for. She speaks of the same things n recommends using borax. It is extremely cruel to say the least the the systems of this world actually want people to be sick to make a profit among a list of other things.
I have been using this recipe for washing powders for months now and I love it. It works great and I also love the money I’m saving by doing so. My cousin told me about it, and she’s been using it for several years… Thanks for sharing.
How can I make it a bit more fragrant? I like to smell that the soap is working, and there’s not a ton of fragrance. Thanks!
I read on another website that if you use Ivory soap for your bar of soap it makes your clothes smell really good.
Would the Ivory bar soap work as good as the Fels Naptha when it comes to degreasing?
I have to say I have been making my own laundry soap for the past year. My family has not even noticed. I add lavender oil and use lavender soap, just so it has more sent. 🙂
Thank you for this recipe and your very well worded comments about Borax. I have been on the hunt for a good homemade laundry detergent, as I am seeking to simplify and hopefully save some money on my household “stuff”. I have read some much about the Borax debate, I appreciated your thought through response to the controversy. Do you have a recipe you might recommend for liquid laundry detergent? I have seen a few with castille soap, but I am not sure about them. I am learning to take baby steps in my simple and more natural homemaking journey. Thank you for the input you have had for me along the way!
Unfortunately I don’t have a liquid recipe that I use, but my friend Crystal has one- http://www.thethriftymama.com/homemade-laundry-soap.html.
To make the Fels-Naptha soap easier to grate put it in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes on high before grating on your hand grater. It will come out as a fine powder. Warning it ends up looking like some kind of weirdly shaped fungus when you pull it out of the microwave. I just made the laundry soap and I am testing it out on some Swiffer type re-usable/ re-washable cloths.
I love love love making my own homemade detergent and wouldn’t go back to buying the other stuff ever! I have been making it for about 4 years now and originally got the idea from Michelle Duggar’s book 19 Kids and Counting (with Fels Naptha). I hesitated because it didn’t seem like homemade detergent would REALLY clean my clothing… and who wants to walk around stinky!? But it works just as good (maybe better)!
Anyway…. I have been doing the liquid version for years and just today made the switch to the powder because it is less work, stores easier, and it more mobil when we travel! Hope all this is a good encouragement for those contemplating the switch.
I just made my first batch yesterday and I am very pleased with the results. I used the Dr. Bronners Castile soap. I paid $3.99 for the bar. Our family uses Trader Joe’s Oatmeal and Honey soap or bathing, it only costs $1.99 for two bars. I’m just curious if anyone might know if that soap would work in the laundry detergent. Thank you!
I am wondering about the Fels Naphtha and how healthy is that to use as I like to save money but get rid of the chemicals as much as possible. Has any research been done there? Thanks for the recipe.
I have not tried this yet, but I would like to. I would like to know if you can use this on front end loaders? Hasn’t borax been used for years for doing laundry?
I have a front loader and it works fine. I put a scoop into the washer instead of the soap compartment. I haven’t had any issues.
I’ve read that washing soda is bad for PVC pipe, is that correct?
You can put Purex Crystals in it to make it smell even better. This is the best laundry soap ever and I can’t recommend it enough to people. It doesn’t matter what washing machine you use, it works with all of them. Also, if you look at the boxes these ingredients can be used to clean your house with. My niece gave me this recipe with two kids under 3 years old and it gets all the stains out!
I made this last week, and I absolutely love it.
I have used this or the liquid version (basically these ingredients plus water) for over 7 years now. The borax in this is much safer than all of the stuff in store detergent and softener (sodium laurel sulphates, for example). They also add chemicals to reflect light-yes they do! And you just think you like all the fragrance chemicals in the store detergent. When you quit using store detergent you will find that 1)your clothes don’t have that gummy/fake soft feel any longer, 2)you will be nauseated by the fake smell of the commercial laundry detergent aisle at the store or by those who love the extra smelly detergents-you can smell them an aisle away (that is all chemicals you are putting all over your body baby! Borax would be the least of your worries) (Fragrance is the biggest addition of harmful chemicals in almost any product you buy) 3) your clothes are just as clean, smell clean-not like perfume and you saved a ton of money, and 4)mysterious skin conditions and occasional itchies in your family will disappear.
I totally agree!!! (with every single thing you said!)
I found a Dr. Bronners lavender castille soap…. ok?? not ok???
Absolutely love this recipe! I won’t go back to buying regular detergent. Thanks so much!!
I just made my 2nd batch of laundry detergent and I LOVE it! I will never go back to store bought. Just a thought: when i add the soap to my food processor, i add a cup of washing soda with it, to balance it out. I also add the Purex scent crystals for some scent. Dump everything in a trash bag and mix it up like that, its easier too, IMHO.
FYI, Fels Naptha is heavily fragranced. I switched to a plain Cetaphil bar (which worked well) and now Kiss My Face. I am not sure if they are “degreasing”, but they seem to work fine. The Castille soap bar is a great idea too.
Although the Fels Naptha laundry bar is heavily fragranced, you can’t smell it on your clothes once they’ve dried. I want that “extra” smell of freshness. Do you have any recommendations? I made 4 batches of the homemade laundry detergent, so I have a ton of it. It just would be nice to have an extra smelly load of laundry.
I have been using this recipe for almost a year with no complaints. As will any heavy stained clothes, pretreat. It works just as good as TIDE, GAIN and DREFT (which we used previous to getting this recipe spent $$KK on as a family of 8) and there has been no reaction to my ‘allergic’ kids. I wish I had looked into it sooner!
To add scent you can add a couple drops of essential oils (glass bottle-look for ‘oil’ not just ‘fragrance’ in ingredients). Gain or Downy now have scent ‘beads’ you can add a TBSP or so to wash or rinse cycle and still save a lot of money. This detergent is HE washer safe and better for home septic systems (according to septic guy;-).
Essential oils are nice, but I’ve read that the scent doesn’t linger as long as other commercial products. When I bought the ingredients to make my soap, I also bought some of the beads that Bethany mentioned — they’re called Downy Unstoppables and Wal-Mart had three different scents. I wasn’t paying much attention but I think they were only $4-5, a small price to pay considering how much you save by making this detergent! Also, if you’re familiar with Scentsy products, they make “Washer Whiffs” which are essentially the same thing. They are a little more expensive, but you have a much larger fragrance selection to choose from and it’s a big draw if you’re already a Scentsy lover.
Also, we have a 1970s mustard yellow blender purchased at Goodwill just for grating the bar soap for detergent. I don’t wash it, and I store it in the garage. Hope that helps someone.
Can this homemade laundry soap be used in a front loader?
after reading lots of posts, it appears that it is fine in a front loader,
Yes, you can use homemade soap in front loading machines. The primary concern of front loading machine is suds — the homemade formula has pretty much no suds at all, making it IDEAL for high efficiency machines.
for any concerns regarding borax, have a look at this web page. very informative.
thanks for this great recipe!
forgot to post the address, DOH!
is it necessary to use the soap at all? is that just a bubble provider. soap has grease in it, like coconut oil or lanolin, depending on the type. borax and soda are the degreasing agents.
just wondered. thanks for this though. i will be making some as soon as i get the chance. it is exactly my kind of thing. anything to get away from harmful chemicals. 🙂
I also use this basic laundry soap recipe but I add 1/2 of generic OxiClean – Walmart has a Sun brand; generic rather than OxiClean or Biz because they have additional ingredient that I don’t like. Generic brands are are just the oxygenated bleach and is safe for all colors plus it is half the price! Also, I fill the fabric softener cup in my front loader washer with white vinegar and my clothes are soft-no vinegar smell, just clean. Also helps to keep your washer clean. Another tip about which soap to use – you will get better cleaning results if you use a soap that is made for laundry such as FelsNaptha or Zote. I have used castile also & thought it worked fine. Zote is hard to find if you don’t have Mexican/Latin stores where you live. It is a 14 oz bar and is a laundry bar that works very well; I prefer the white but pink works too. You can get it online but you’ll pay more for shipping that you do for the bar of soap. Also, if you take the soap bar out of the wrapper and let it dry in the air for a couple of weeks it will grate much better & if you put those bars in the linen closet it will smell good in there too
I too will never buy store brand laundry again…….
I’ve been wanting to switch to a homemade laundry detergent. My Husband works in the oilfield and you can probably imagine how nasty those clothes can get lol. Do you think this would get out the stains and nastyness?
Thanks so much 🙂
are you sure 1tbs.is enough for a full load in your washing machine.
this is the best soap ever!! leaves clothes clean and with my homemade fabric softner I am VERY pleased 🙂
Hi, this might be a dumb question but am I blending this in the same blender I make shakes with? Again, sorry if this is a dumb question, LOL, I’m new to this all natural thing!
The only bar laundry soap readily available in my area is Zote. It comes in 7 oz bars and 14 oz bars. Can I use the smaller size bar for this recipe, and is it necessary to use the entire bar?
What size soap do I use a 7 oz. or larger. I have made one batch qnd love it my whites or already whiter
I have made this before and it works just as well as the Costco bulk detergent we’ve been buying. My tip to anyone making this and worried about these cleaning agents in the kitchen: if you’re going to use a blender to blend up the soap, just blend the soap by itself. I mix in the borax and washing soda after putting my blended soap into the container I keep it in. I have a big plastic container with a large lid and I just mix it right in there. The only kitchen gadgets I use for this are my blender, which goes right into the dishwasher, and the cheese grater which also goes right into the dishwasher. I mix the ingredients in the soap container in the laundry room. No chances of borax floating around the kitchen if it never goes in the kitchen in the first place. 🙂 If you don’t have a laundry room, use the top of your washer, back patio, bathroom, etc.
Side note, I find the debate about the safety of borax so interesting. Are the laundry soaps/household cleaners/dishwasher detergents/etc any safer? Really? People question this formula, but do not question the hazardness of ALL the other products in the same aisle that this is sold in. If it wasn’t safe to use as a cleaner, it probably wouldn’t be sold by many stores in the same aisle as all the other household cleaners. Just a thought.
Is the homemade soap safe for use on sensitive skin? I had to switch to arm&hammer because everyone in my family has issues with Tide and other detergents with dyes and
I make this in my food processor, using the shredder blade on the soap and then the cutting blade to get it really small. It took me less than 1 minute to make. Works well in top or front loaders, hot/warm/cold water.
For those worried about mixing this stuff in a blender or food processor, If you properly clean the item used there is no need to worry.
Sorry that people attack you over whether it kills insects.The recipie is simple and people can decide if they want to use them are not. THANK YOU for helping others out.:)
this is my second round of making wash powder. i love it leaves our clothes clean and fresh. i chop my bar of soap and put one cup of washing soda in blender with chopped bar of soap. mixes really well and less mess in the blender. also i use two tablespoons of vinegar in washer for fabric softner clothes come out of dryer with less wrinkles, fresh smell, and soft with no dryer sheets. cheapest vinegar will work. i am going to try some oxy clean to my next batch for summer since we will have a of whites dont think i really need it, just want see if it makes any difference. hope the tips make others as happy as i am with my home made products
I have been doing homemade laundry detergent for a over a year and have no complaints. I highly suggest using a food processor to “grate” the soap it takes forever to do it by hand. CHILL YOUR BAR FIRST !! makes it sooo much easier. after I chill it I cut into 4-8 pieces toss it in the ninja and voila powdered soap.
Any experience using this powder with front loading machines? My machine has a little drawer on the front for adding the soap, rather than adding to a “tub” while it is filling.
what is washing soda?
Hi there, I’ve been using this recipe for months and I love it – but we just replaced our old top loader with a high efficiency front loader, does anyone know if it is safe to use in my new machine? Thanks!!
Hi Susan. Yes, it can be used in an HE washer the same way. It’s low sudsing (as are the special HE detergents), so it works fine.
I tried this recipe.. i just want to ask if this recipe has no bubbles.. I used ivory soap, borax and home made washing soda
Just a thought for those that are not happy about having dingy whites….maybe a tablespoon of sodium percarbonate (active ingredient in oxyclean)would be a useful adjunct in your white loads?
Even my grandmother used this recipe with Fels Naptha in the 1940’s with a washboard. I was using it too for our large family in our HE front loader until just last year. I can’t physically grate the soap and the kids are all growing up and don’t have it as their chore any more. It’s even great for clothes worn during farming chores and laundry exposed to poison ivy/oak/sumac, although not as fabulous for washing out car repair fluids and smells.