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Make Your Own Lavender Laundry Detergent--for Pennies

2/14/2011 12:22:49 PM

Tags: DIY laundry detergent, laundry soap, Simple Washing Powder, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

laundry detergent 

Lavender-scented laundry detergent is a breeze to make. Photo by Povy Kendal Atchison 

According to our grandmothers’ wisdom (and verified on, Monday is Wash Day. After Sunday’s day of rest, homemakers traditionally took on one of the week’s most difficult tasks: the laundry. Whether you’re disciplined enough to schedule your laundry days or you just do a load or two when you’ve run out of socks and underwear, the following recipe for simple washing powder will make the task more fun. This laundry detergent is simple to make, saves you money and smells heavenly.

Simple Washing Powder 

16 cups baking soda
12 cups borax
8 cups grated castile or glycerin soap flakes*
3 tablespoons lavender, lemon or grapefruit essential oil

Combine baking soda, borax and soap flakes. Add essential oil and mix with a wire whisk. Use 1⁄8 cup per load.

Yield: This recipe makes enough powder to last a family of four one year.

*Try Sun Feather Natural Soap Company, or buy bars of castile soap (e.g. Dr. Bronner’s) and grate with a kitchen grater. 

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1/13/2013 4:06:15 AM
I left out the essential oil and used a scented Dr. Bronner's lavender. I also added biokleen oxygen bleach. Love it! I was wondering about replacing the BS with WS we'll see. Also posted a link to this post on my blog :

Christine Sheppard
6/7/2012 12:56:26 PM
I have an HE machine and use a similar receipe. I have an LG machine and just remove the liquid detergent cup and it says " powder deterent" printed under it.

me Dage
6/5/2012 7:33:52 PM
you can use the powdered form in a HE front load. just add it to the drum with your clothes. i find the liquid form to be a big pain in the rear to make so i stick with the powdered form and it works very well.

Niki Jackson
6/5/2012 6:59:09 PM
I seem to be missing the liquid form recipe I have a HE front load.. Can someone point me to the liquid recipe please?

M Wallace
2/16/2012 7:42:26 PM
Sorry for Typo: baking soda is sodium BIcarbonate. Washing soda is sodium carbonate. They are two different things. You can actually use a bit of baking soda in this recipe, but you'll be missing the necessary action of sodium carbonate (washing soda). Please note my 10 gallons of liquid uses only 1 cup sodium carbonate (washing soda) from the box, and a mere 1/2 cup of Borax (from the box). I then add a bar of Fels Naptha. No other fragrance components are necessary, and there is no odor or lingering scent despite the strong smell of the Fels Naptha soap itself.

M Wallace
2/16/2012 7:39:52 PM
Please note--I have made this recipe in liquid and powder forms--and the liquid version is infinitely easier and more cost effective. Second, you should be using WASHING SODA....not (repeat: NOT) BAKING SODA! Baking soda is sodium carbonate. Washing soda is sodium carbonate. They are 2 very different chemicals. To see the recipes I use, see the Duggar family website and find the recipe under the recipe links page under Mrs. Duggar's name. If you use baking soda instead of washing soda, it will fade your clothing. Washing soda is safe to use on clothes (read label) and is widely available at grocery stores, big box stores, etc. You can google to read more. Finally, the recipe made with washing soda (again: sodium carbonate) is HE-washer safe, low-sudsing, etc. I make 10 gallons per Duggar's recipe every 6 months and we average 1-2 loads of laundry a day with our family of five in an HE front-loader. Takes only 5 minutes to make the liquid, and there is no grating or dust. Using 3 Tablespoons of an essential oil would defeat the purpose of making this cost effective. I would instead add lavender blossoms dried from last fall's harvest to a batch of tea, then use this very tea to melt the soap (In making the liquid version). We use only Fels Naptha soap (it no longer contains napthalene), smells fresh and clean, and can be found at the famous Big Box store in the detergent aisle for a mere 99 cents. Enjoy....but please don't use baking soda as Mother stated in making this. You'll get faded clothes. The washing soda, however, will leave clothes clean and undamaged. We hang on the line in the summer and the smell from the homemade detergent and sunshine is incomparable! Enjoy. Love my Mother Earth!

Bonnie Duke_2
4/2/2011 7:39:21 PM
Most of our ancestors used Borax to get laundry clean and we are living proof that it does not cause infertility problems to any great extent if at all.

Robyn Griggs Lawrence
3/11/2011 3:35:00 PM
Grated Zote should work fine, although I'm leery of the perfumes used in its manufacture.

TM Fox
3/6/2011 8:32:13 PM
I have found soda (sodium bicarbonate)for under $15 for 50# at feed stores (I use it for my bath products). It is apparently used on ruminates (cattle) to help them with digestion.

Essa B.
3/4/2011 5:25:07 PM
Would Zote work as well as castille soap or glycerin soap flakes?

Amanda Sawatka
3/2/2011 7:43:31 PM
I think it does make a difference, baking soda vs. washing soda. I made this recipe with the baking soda and noticed that after a couple of months my clothes were beginning to fade a bit. I imagine this was because I was using the baking instead of washing soda. I am making a new batch this week and will be sure to get the washing soda instead. Even the other way though, our clothes were definitely clean! My non-eco concious husband sniffed the first load as it came out of the dryer and said, "Hmm. I like it. Doesn't smell so chemical-ey - just clean"!

Robyn Griggs Lawrence
3/2/2011 4:31:38 PM
Hi...I'm not completely certain about how this works with septics. I would assume that it's the same as any other powdered detergent, but I would definitely check on your system's specifics if you're concerned. Best of luck with it!

3/2/2011 7:45:27 AM
Is this recipe safe for High Efficiency Washers?

3/1/2011 10:26:53 AM
I would also like to know, how is this for folks w/septic tanks?

keith reardon
2/28/2011 11:17:35 PM
how well does this break down in a septic system?

2/28/2011 10:17:19 PM
I have found that Puritan's Pride -- the vitamin catalog people -- have some good prices on essential oils, esp. when they are running a sale. Thanks for these recipes!

2/28/2011 4:51:03 PM
I've used a similar recipe for years. I love it! In regards to borax: is it any worse (or is it perhaps a better choice) than all the other nasties that are in commercial detergent?... And, I always make "unscented". I have trouble justifying that I can make this for "pennies" when 3 TABLESPOONS of essential oil are called for. Dr. Bronner's soap is also an expensive addition. I have a front loader washer and discovered a couple of years ago I need to use a powder that rinses clean (as this does) because many front loaders have lint traps/screens that catch and collect the oily residue from liquid detergents, resulting in a stinky, rancid smell that cannot be cleaned out (my research showed that many models do not allow consumers access to the trap in order to clean it). This detergent works great. Use regular old dish soap (diluted if necessary) to get out grease stains.

Robyn Griggs Lawrence
2/28/2011 12:24:40 PM
Hi, Jacquelyn: Most of the recipes for liquid laundry detergent are derivatives of this one. I found this one at ( Start with 1 quart of boiling water and to that add equal parts borax, grated natural bar soap (castile is best), and washing soda (about 2 cups each). Mix, and then add about 2 gallons of additional water after the ingredients have dissolved and store in a covered container. If you have a hard time dissolving the bar soap, you can melt it gently in a saucepan before adding it to the hot water.

Jacqueline Jakle
2/28/2011 11:39:34 AM
I have a HE front loader and manufacturer recommended laundry liquid, not powder. I have been looking for a very safe, effective home made recipe. Thanks!

Pat Weston
2/28/2011 11:38:24 AM
For those of you worried about the EU warning, DON'T DRINK IT! JUST WASH YOUR CLOTHES IN IT!

2/28/2011 10:51:15 AM
Hey, "Twenty Mule Team" borax is on the laundry aisle. Sodium CARBONATE is at the pool store. It is usually designated: "PH UP". Castille soap is often at the "Dollar" store. Essential oils try a hippie store, health food store, flea market, or online. There are other scents beside Lavender. However, Lavender is calming and citrus is clean smelling.

Flour Sack Mama
2/20/2011 7:00:17 AM
We've been using something similar to this at home since we hosted a Green Cleaning party via Women's Voices for the Earth (several recipes there) and posted about it at the Flour Sack Mama blog. It's been working great. I hadn't added the essential oil, though for scent, so I think I'll try it that way. Also, I do often add some hydrogen peroxide dilution to a load of whites as a pre-soak. It think it helps with keeping some whites a bit more pristine.

2/18/2011 12:43:38 PM
I just found this blog about borax: That combined with the placement on the EU list (I actually don't know what it's called in english) leads me to believe it might not be a very good idea to use in your home especially if you value your and your children's fertility. I do however love the thought of homemade laundry detergent, somthing I didn't know was possible without this article, but I will be looking for a borax-free recipe.

Robyn Griggs Lawrence
2/16/2011 5:37:25 PM
About borax: It's a naturally occurring mineral that’s been in use for centuries. Its toxicity is low, but it’s not completely without risks. It’s fatal if swallowed in large amounts and should not be used around food. Borax can cause skin reactions in some people, so if you’re concerned, it’s not a bad idea to use gloves and a mask when handling it. And thanks, Tammy, for clearing up the washing powder question!

Joanne Frembd
2/16/2011 5:05:05 PM
But will it work well in cold water? I have buckets of leftover baking soda from the cats. Should I give it a try?

Tammy L. Rice
2/16/2011 3:40:47 PM
Upon my research, sodium bicarbonate, washing soda, baking soda (not baking powder) are all one and the same. Baking soda can be used for many cleaning uses and most definitely will not clog up a washer. As we have very hard well water, I use it (along with vinegar) to help get my laundry cleaner, especially whites, as well as a laundry softener. Thanks for the homemade laundry detergent recipe!

2/16/2011 10:46:43 AM
Isn't borax incredibly problematic? I read it's in on the EU's list of especially problematic substances because it (among other things) inhibits fertility.

2/15/2011 7:30:33 PM
I have used a smaller version of this and it is baking soda

Robyn Griggs Lawrence
2/15/2011 3:17:09 PM
Hey, Everyone...I use about 1/8 cup of this for each load, and I make it with baking soda (although washing powder would work as well). For really tough stains, I would pretreat with this stain spray from Natural Home magazine: 1⁄2 cup white vinegar 1⁄4 cup baking soda 3 cups water Stir together and fill a spray on soiled spots just before washing. Always test a hidden spot first.

2/15/2011 2:55:15 PM
It should be Washing soda AKA sodium carbonate, not baking soda aka sodium bicarbonate. You can find Arm & Hammer washing soda in the laundry aisle of many supermarkets, but be careful not to buy Arm & Hammer Detergent. I have heard some people say that they have more luck finding it at "less affluent" markets. I have an HE front loader and use 2 Tablespoons per load (slightly more if it is REALLY heavily soiled - it has even taken grease out of my husbands clothes). This is naturally low sudsing so ideal for an HE front loader. Some worry when they do not see the suds like in a commercial detergent, but that is not what does the cleaning.

2/15/2011 1:13:30 PM
It says baking soda, not baking powder, at least now. And baking soda is generally what you would use in this. I don't know what washing powder is, but if it's all-natural, then my guess is it's baking soda under a different name. You can buy large quantities of baking soda at pool stores cheaply, too. It's called sodium bicarbinate. I think you can buy borax there too, just don't remember it's name.

Kristine Luoma
2/15/2011 1:04:37 PM
Are we suppose to use washing soda or baking soda?? There are 2 different comments. I have always used washing soda in homemade detergent

2/15/2011 12:54:56 PM
How well does this work on farm stains......grease, oil, grass, poop, blood.....?

Liz Wallis
2/15/2011 10:48:12 AM
Mother, you goofed! That's WASHING powder, not baking powder! Please please correct this before a bunch of people try to make it with baking powder, which could gum up their washing machines.

2/15/2011 10:42:40 AM
How much detergent do you use per load?

2/15/2011 10:12:22 AM
I use a similar, smaller scale recipe that calls for washing soda instead of baking soda. Just to clarify, this recipe is suposed to be baking sida and not washing soda?

Robyn Griggs Lawrence
2/14/2011 3:48:42 PM
Hi there...I also have a HE washer, and I use this without any problems. Enjoy!

2/14/2011 1:59:39 PM
this is wonderful! i love to make soaps and lotions, scrubs and candles. i have a HE washer and need detergent that is compatable with it. so if anyone knows if this would be ok to use, let me know. but it know i am mixing this up tomorrow.

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