Homemade Laundry Soap Recipe

Avoid chemical-laden household cleaners by trying this homemade laundry soap recipe.

| February/March 2014

Laundry Drying on a Clothesline

Make your own laundry soap and line dry your clothes for naturally clean, fresh laundry.

Photo by Fotolia/Sandra Cunningham

After learning more about the chemicals in commercial cleaners and the harm they can do long after they go down the drain, I decided to start making my own household cleaners.

During some online research, I found a great homemade laundry soap recipe. It has only three ingredients: 2 cups borax, 2 cups washing soda and 4 cups grated homemade bar soap (or Ivory or Fels Naptha). Mix these ingredients together and store them in a container, and use one-fourth to one-third cup of the homemade laundry soap per load.

It costs pennies to make and works fine for my family’s laundry. There are no harsh chemicals in this recipe, and no need to use laundry softener. You can add an essential oil for fragrance if your soap bar isn’t scented.

At first, I had a hard time finding the washing soda that the recipe calls for, but after a little more research, I discovered it’s the same thing as “pH PLUS” (sodium carbonate), a swimming pool compound found in the pool section of stores during summer. Some stores carry it in the laundry section, too. Happy greener cleaning!

Lisa Ifland
Williamsburg, Kansas

5/21/2016 8:01:34 AM

We use baking soda, too, and Dr Bronner's bar soap. A box of each of the washing soda and borax, a like amount of Baking soda, and three bars in whatever scents strike my fancy at the store. Two tablespoons per load plus plain old white vinegar in the softener and bleach dispensers. Works great, goes out into our gray water area where it apparently does no harm to bugs, frogs, or our chickens who make it an early pit stop every day. They slop around in the water when it's there, hunting for whatever. Our clothes come out clean and fresh smelling, stains are dealt with by wetting the spot, rubbing a little extra of the recipe, and washing as normal. We've been using this for a few years with great results.

5/20/2016 4:05:32 PM

What about using this in a septic system? It is ok to use with one?

5/20/2016 2:17:23 PM

I have one concern: I am a laundry machine technician and what strikes me here is that you should be careful if you have a front loading washer. When these came out, there were a lot of odor problems and tumbler bearing failures (very expensive). The odor is from bacteria that grows in pores in the supports of the spin basket. Bearing failures came from the common soaps that everyone used back then. They ate away at critical rubber seals that allowed soap to get into the main bearing in the back. The result was catastrophic. The solution has been the HE (high efficiency) laundry soaps. I would suggest that anybody making their own laundry soap check with the manufacturer. This was only a problem in front loaders. I hope this helps you folks out there. Making your own soap is a great idea, but replacing a 5 year old front loader is not a good idea... yes, that's how much damage it can cause. Best wishes always,Octavien

1/3/2016 3:08:15 PM

Borax aside, Fels Naptha is NOT a "green" product. It is full of nasty chemicals - just because it's been around forever does not mean it's a good product. I normally do not have sensitive skin, but I ended up with what equated to chemicals burns from using Fels Naptha in our homemade detergent (it took me awhile to figure out this was the culprit because it was supposed to be "natural" or chemical free). I changed to plain Ivory Soap, and my skin immediately cleared up. I now use Kirk's Castile soap since even Ivory has additional garbage in it now. Just be sure to do your research before assuming these homemade "all natural" or "chemical free" recipes are good. Here's a link to the Fels Naptha rating: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/441-FelsNapthaHeavyDutyLaundryBarSoap

1/2/2016 2:44:41 PM

Borax is safe to use: http://wellnessmama.com/26407/borax-safe/ http://www.crunchybetty.com/getting-to-the-bottom-of-borax-is-it-safe-or-not Both of those articles do reference EWG, as well as other groups. This is the recipe that my Mom and I have been using for years. I use an OxyClean scoop full for each load, unless it's a really big load or very dirty. Clean and fresh-smelling clothes every time. Safe for top or front load and HE. Ingredients (can all be found in laundry aisle): * 1 (4 lb 12 oz) Box of Borax * 1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda * 1 (4 lb) Box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda * 2 (14.1 oz) Bars of Pink Zote Soap OR 3 (5.5 0z) Bars of Fels Naptha, Ivory, Castile, or other gentle soap. * 1 (1.38 lb) Container of OxyClean (optional, but recommended)

1/2/2016 2:06:17 PM

Here in Israel, borax is illegal. I make my laundry detergent 400 g sodium bicarbonate, 450 g citric acid, 100 g sodium chloride, 1 250g bar of 72% olive oil soap. I use it the same way, works great! (The acid is a chelator that binds with the stuff (lime?, metal?) in the water here and also whitens)

1/1/2016 12:31:27 PM

Always nice to have cleaner cleaning products, tho' before you use them or make your own, please practice the same 'due diligence' that you would on big chemical company products- so called 'natural' or 'green' alternatives compounds still need to vetted or researched- example, boron, boric acid, boraxo, or sodium borates, etc. These are all super fine-edged crystalline powder/dust that should not be inhaled- it will irritate the lining tissue of your lungs. These compounds are also anti-bacterial/anti-fungal by nature, nice, but not in your septic tank which needs beneficial bacteria to function properly or in the wild- as they are indiscriminant and do not breakdown into harmless elements- it will always remain boric and toxic. Also, the production/mining of this element/compound releases tonnes of particulates and dust into the atmosphere. Here is a link to EWG article for more info and alternatives. http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2011/02/borax-not-green-alternative-its-cracked-be

2/18/2014 11:50:07 PM

Do you use less of this detergent in a HE washer?

2/14/2014 10:49:20 AM

We have used this in our HE front load washing machine. Works great

2/14/2014 10:46:23 AM

My wife and I have made laundry soap like this for several years and yes, it will work in all types of machines. I have a HE washer that it works great in. I have used it in both regular washers and the heavy duty ones at the laundry mat. I can also say that it works will enough to get my uniform clean again after wearing it for a month of training in the desert.

2/14/2014 10:45:32 AM

My wife and I have made laundry soap like this for several years and yes, it will work in all types of machines. I have a HE washer that it works great in. I have used it in both regular washers and the heavy duty ones at the laundry mat. I can also say that it works will enough to get my uniform clean again after wearing it for a month of training in the desert.

2/14/2014 9:37:18 AM

I am surprised that you would recommend using borax as it is NOT a safe product. Go to Environmental Working Group and read their article.

2/14/2014 8:42:00 AM

Does this work with cold water? And what about front load washing machines?

2/14/2014 8:29:53 AM

Can this be used with an HE washer?

2/10/2014 2:44:47 PM

The washing soda is usually in the laundry detergent section, just like Borax. I had trouble the first time (Arm & Hammer washing soda) because it was on the bottom shelf with all the boxes pushed to the back because they were almost out!

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