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Homemade Laundry Soap {Borax Free!}

Doing laundry is a necessary evil, but you don’t have to make it worse by using toxic chemicals, dyes, and other irritants in your laundry soap! I know a lot of companies are working to make greener, more environmentally friendly versions of their laundry detergents, but I feel like it’s better to go homemade, especially if your homemade laundry detergent is cheaper, completely non-toxic, and cleans just as well!

Homemade Borax Free Laundry Soap: Cheaper, non-toxic, and cleans just as well or better than commercial laundry soap!

I don’t want to get into a debate about whether commercial laundry detergents are potentially harmful; you can form your own opinions about that! Instead I’m going to share my homemade borax free laundry soap recipe and tell you why my husband and I absolutely love it, and will never go back to commercial laundry soap ever again!

You know exactly what’s in your homemade laundry soap!

Commercial detergents have a lot of potentially irritating or harmful ingredients in them. Even the ones labeled as “green”, “clear”, or “dye and irritant free” don’t seem to be as non-toxic as you would hope. It worries me that these detergents are marketed to moms and families as “safe” when they might still be harmful.

I’m no scientist, and it seems there are conflicting reports about just how harmful these ingredients are. So all I can do is look into it myself and form my own opinions. But I feel it’s always better to be safe than sorry; it can’t hurt to use a homemade laundry detergent where you know and trust the ingredients over one you’re not sure about!

This laundry soap is borax free!

A common ingredient in many homemade laundry soaps is borax, but borax is another one of those controversial ingredients. The research I’ve seen is split as to whether borax is completely safe or whether it has potentially harmful side effects. So again, all I can do is form my own opinions. But, my opinion is that if I can make a homemade laundry soap without borax that works just as well, there is no reason to use a potentially harmful ingredient!

It cleans just as well as commercial detergent, or better!

We actually think that our homemade laundry soap does a MUCH better job than commercial detergent! The commercial soap definitely got our clothes clean and got stains out of our laundry, but so does the homemade soap. And with the homemade soap, our whites appear whiter and colors appear brighter! Our clothes just seemed dingy when we used commercial soap, but now that we’ve switched, every single load comes out completely clean, smelling fresh, and looking bright!

I haven’t purposely dirtied up a t-shirt with grass stains or coffee to run an actual test between the two detergents, but I do laundry often enough that I know when my clothes come out of the dryer cleaner than normal!

It’s less expensive to make your own laundry detergent!

The commercial detergent we used to buy costs about $16 for a 50 oz bottle that claims it will clean 32 loads of laundry. So that’s about 51 cents per load. That’s not horribly expensive, but this homemade laundry detergent only costs 13 cents per load!

Here’s the cost breakdown of the ingredients: (I bought all of my ingredients in bulk through Amazon, affiliate links below)

So this laundry soap costs $7.72 to make one batch, and I can get anywhere from 30 to 60 loads of laundry done with one batch, depending on whether I use 1 T or 2 T per load. I use 1 T per load normally, which would make it 13 cents per load. But I use 2 T per load for extremely dirty laundry, which happens every once in a while. :-p But even if I used 2 T for every single load of laundry we do, the total cost works out to only 26 cents per load, which is still 50% cheaper than store bought!

The savings are somewhere between 25 and 38 cents per load. So if you do four loads of laundry per week, that adds up to a yearly savings of $52 to $79!!! $52 might not make or break your yearly budget, but there are tons of other benefits to making your own laundry soap, so the financial incentive is just icing on the cake!

Homemade Borax Free Laundry Detergent

Are you convinced yet?! If you want to make your own borax free laundry soap, here’s what you need:

NOTE: I’ve seen recipes call for regular glycerin soap (pictured below), but I found Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile soap cuts the grease better!

Homemade Borax Free Laundry Soap: Cheaper, non-toxic, and cleans just as well or better than commercial laundry soap!

Grate the bar of soap finely. I used the grating attachment on my Cuisinart and it worked perfectly! If you don’t have a food processor, you can grate the bar of soap by hand; just make sure it’s grated pretty finely.

Homemade Borax Free Laundry Soap: Cheaper, non-toxic, and cleans just as well or better than commercial laundry soap!

Put the grated soap in a large bowl, add all of the other ingredients, and stir to combine. If it gets a little clumpy as you stir, you can use a pastry blender to break up the clumps.

Homemade Borax Free Laundry Soap: Cheaper, non-toxic, and cleans just as well or better than commercial laundry soap!

Pour the laundry soap into an airtight container for storage. You’ll also want to add a desiccant to keep the soap from clumping up; you can learn how to make one yourself here!

Homemade Borax Free Laundry Soap: Cheaper, non-toxic, and cleans just as well or better than commercial laundry soap!

This laundry soap actually looks a lot like the homemade detox bath that I use, and they’re both stored in the same jars, so I made a cute little label to help us tell them apart! I found this awesome French typography label at the Graphics Fairy, and I made a few modifications so that the words all had to do with laundry. I even added instructions at the bottom so we remember how many tablespoons to use per load!

Homemade Borax Free Laundry Soap: Cheaper, non-toxic, and cleans just as well or better than commercial laundry soap!

If you’re doing regular-sized loads of laundry, use 1 tablespoon of laundry soap per load. If you’re doing a large load, or your clothes are extra dirty, use 2 tablespoons per load.

Have you ever tried homemade laundry detergent before? Did you like it? What about other homemade cleaning products? I still love the homemade grout cleaner I made last year; it works great on all our tile!

If you liked this project, check out these other cleaning tips!

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Hi, I'm Jessi! Welcome to Practically Functional, a blog about real projects that real people can actually do! You don't have to be a pro in order to craft or do DIY projects; Practically Functional is full of projects for everyday life that anyone can do, regardless of skill or experience! Whether you're looking for fun crafts, DIY projects both big and small, gardening advice, cleaning tips, or quick and easy recipes, you'll find them here! Follow the step by step instructions in every tutorial, and don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions! Make sure you follow along by RSS or subscribe to daily or weekly emails so you don't miss a single tutorial!

Comments

  1. I love your label! What did you print it on and how did you get it on your jar?
    Thanks,
    Lisa

  2. I’m so using your recipe once my youngest is out of cloth diapers!

    • David Skidmore says:

      Is this laundry detergent recipe not safe to use on cloth diapers?

      • Unfortunately I don’t have any experience with cloth diapers, so I can’t really say for sure. :-( This recipe doesn’t use Borax or Fels Naptha soap, which I have heard can cause issues with cloth diapers, and are just harsh on all clothing in general. But I have read that any pure soap (bar soap, castile soap, Fels Naptha, etc.) can cause issues, and this recipe uses castile soap. However, I’ve also read about people who didn’t have any issues using some of the gentler pure soaps. So I really don’t know, but if it’s true that *any* kind of pure soap, no matter how harsh or gentle, causes wear and tear on diapers or causes pinpoint holes in diapers, than I wouldn’t use this recipe for them because of the castile soap. Sorry I can’t be more help!

  3. that is awesome! i’ve had homemade laundry soap on my to do list for awhile! :)

  4. Does this stuff harden up? Ive made dishwashing detergent before with citric acid and washing soda in it, and it turned rockhard.

    • Yep, it definitely can get lumpy or even become solid! But I stuck a desiccant in ours and it’s been perfectly fine for more than six months, so that seems to work just fine! I mentioned it in the post, but I have a tutorial going up tomorrow for how to make your own desiccant and what you can use them for, but you can also just save some of those little silica gel packs that come in beef jerky or new shoes and those will work great too!

    • I had the same problem with dishwashing detergent, then I read a tip: Leave the detergent container open for several days, stirring occasionally. Eventually it stops clumping. It’s surprising, but it actually works.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. For front loaders needing “he” detergent, would you recommend using the same amount (1-2 Tbsp) per load?

    • I think so, but I’m not 100% sure. I’ve never had a washer that needed HE detergent, so I don’t know. I think the point of HE detergent is that you can use less soap and get the same results, so maybe start with 1T and see how it goes. :-)

  6. Petra Germany says:

    What’s the weight of the glycerin soap bar ? I can find bars around 75 to 100 g in amazon.

    • I usually use 4 oz bars of soap.

      • Have you ever made this into a liquid detergent?

        • No, I haven’t ever tried it as a liquid, but I think you could pretty easily convert this recipe to liquid if you want! Usually the liquid laundry detergent recipes I’ve seen still say grate the bar of soap but then add it to a bunch of water in a pan on the stove and heat and stir until completely dissolved. Then just fill a jug most of the way with extremely hot water and add the liquid soap and the rest of the ingredients and stir until it’s completely dissolved. I don’t know the exact amounts of water to add to this specific recipe to make it liquid, but I’m sure you could find out by finding a homemade liquid detergent recipe with similar quantities of dry ingredients. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

        • Stephi Anderson says:

          I use citric acid in my dishwasher detergent, and when I tried to make into into a liquid by dissolving the whole batch in water at once, it hardened and shattered the mason jar it was in. :/ However, dissolving the appropriate amount in water right before adding to your load does improve the effectiveness of powder, whether for your laundry or dishes. ;)

  7. I’ve used the same formula for detergent as you, but instead of glycerine soap I’ve used white Zote because it contains coconut oil, an excellent surfactant. Kirk’s Castile also contains coconut oil, but is heavily perfumed and I can’t use it. I’m currently experimenting with using the dry ingredients and also adding half a tablespoon of a liquid to the washer, Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Baby Mild Castile Soap instead of bar soap.

    So far, no matter how I’ve experimented, I haven’t been quite as satisfied with the homemade formula as I have been with my old standby, Nellie’s.

  8. I’ve been meaning to make my own detergent, and I too, am split on the subject of Borax, so this is great! I wonder if this is okay to use in a front-load washer though??

  9. I’m curious, since citric acid is a GMO, could there be a substitute? I’m trying to find both laundry and dishwashing detergent without citric acid AND borax. No success as of yet, but this one is a step in the right direction!

  10. Hi! Stopping by from Work it Wednesday!
    I’ve been meaning to try a homemeade laundry soap recipe! I love the idea of using chemical free ingredients..
    Thanks for sharing yours!

  11. I’ve never heard of using citric acid in laundry detergent, just dishwasher detergent. I’m really curious as to how it affects the cleaning abilities. Thanks for the ideas Jessi!

  12. I have been researching recipes online for this for a few days now. This one seems the most promising!
    Is it the best to use glycerin soap or could you use Dr. Bronners castile bar soap? Would it produce the same results?

    • The first batch I made was with Dr. Bronner’s castille soap, and the second batch was with a regular glycerin soap, and I actually like the Dr. Bronner’s better! It seems to cut the grease better than glycerin soap.

  13. Do not use glycerine soap , it will cause a dingy grey build up on your whites

  14. I made this laundry soap this weekend and I love it! I couldn’t find enough dirty things to wash! I didn’t have any seasalt since I quit salting my food so I just left it out. It seemed fine without it so do I need the salt? I also, added vinegar to the rinse cycle since I don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets. My clothes came out of the dryer static free and less wrinkled! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe.

    • Glad to hear it’s working for you!!! The salt is mostly there to help keep your colors bright, and it also helps reduce fading and yellowing in your whites. So, nope! Don’t need it, but you can always add it back in later if you want!

  15. Hi, I’ve seen a similar recipe that doesn’t have the citric acid. Do I need it? What’s its purpose?
    Thanks

    • Citric acid is really great for people who have hard water, because the citric acid chelates the metals helping to soften the water so the soap can foam up and work better. It also works great to help soften your clothes so they don’t come out all stiff and starchy! But the recipe is just a guideline, you can try making the soap however you want! I’ve just found that, especially with the water here in Chicago, citric acid is a really great addition to the soap. :-)

  16. Hi there
    I live in Africa and was wanting to know if your laundry soap can be used for hand washing clothes? Most people in the townships dont own a washing machine.

    Thank you
    Sally

    • Yep, it can! I would just make sure to dilute it in water first (don’t pour the powder directly onto the clothes) so you don’t get spots on your clothes. I haven’t tried it by hand, but I can’t think of any reason why it wouldn’t work just as well!

  17. Hi! I’ve used this recipe for my own washing powder and uhhh when I mixed everything up, it sort of foamed up all of a sudden…then it went down again…to form small clumps…left the pot open, stirred and left to rest…and now it seems more solid again. Is it supposed to react like that? And to keep doing what it does?

    Must say that the soap I’ve used is a dutch version or something (can’t buy the soap you’ve used here so had to substitute). It’s called Sunlight soap and can’t say what’s in it exactly since the package doesn’t say but it’s a soap we use to clean.

    Am I doing something wrong here?

    • Are you just mixing the dry ingredients? This recipe is for a powdered laundry soap, so you just mix all the dry ingredients together, then add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the dry mixture to your washing machine when you do a load of laundry.

      • Yes I did mix all ingredients dry together…shredded the soap, did that in something…then added one by one the salt, soda and baking soda…stirred and voilá…it foamed, right now it’s still a wettish mixture. Really do not understand what happened here!

        • That’s really weird Anita! It shouldn’t be wet at all, I have no idea why it’s foaming! Water must be getting into the mixture somehow when it shouldn’t (that’s what would cause the foam), but if you shredded or grated a solid bar of soap by itself it shouldn’t be wet. Wish I could be more help!

        • You’re using a bar of Sunlight soap right? Not the liquid soap?

          • Yes Jessi, I’m using a bar of soap and nót the liquid version…just looked at the container with ‘powder’it’s just getting wetter and wetter…and absolutely NO water was in the region of this stuff when I made it…soooooo strange!

          • That is so weird Anita, I wish I knew how to fix it for you!

        • When you mix an acid and a base, the biproducts are salt and water… I’m guessing the bar soap you used has a high PH. When you combined it with the citric acid it reacted (hence the fizz) and produced water? Try using a different bar soap.

          • Hya, it took me a while but I made another batch with the same soap but this time microwaved as you did…mixed, it still reacts, but I closed the lid afterwards and…it was ‘powder’ the next day…have to watch out with water though since it tends to get wet pretty soon…and near the bottom…I get a moist bit, ah well if that’s it…it works!

            Have bought a bar of marseille soap locally recently and need to make some new powder so will let you know how the results are with this other type of soap!

          • Glad to hear it works! The soap definitely does tend to clump up, so I suggest putting a desiccant in there with it to help keep it dry.

  18. I made this today and I’m a little disappointed to hear from comments above that this is not ok for cloth diapers. I am new to cloth diapers and chemical free lifestyle. Does anyone know what should be used for cloth diapers!

    • I don’t have any experience in washing cloth diapers, but from doing a bunch of research I’ve found that this article pretty clearly explains the possible complications from each homemade laundry soap ingredient: http://www.thirstiesbaby.com/blog/homemade-is-not-always-best/ But the important thing to remember is that these are possible complications; I’ve also heard tons of moms say they have no issues washing their cloth diapers with homemade laundry soap. The two ingredients I would definitely stay away from are Borax and Fels Naptha because they are very strong and definitely cause wear and tear on your clothes. But this recipe just uses an all natural castile soap, which is pretty gentle. If you’ve already made a batch, maybe give it a try and see how it works for you! I know this recipe and ones like it (that use castile soap instead of Borax or Fels Naptha) have worked great for cloth diapers for some moms!

  19. I can’t wait to try this! Thanks for sharing!

  20. How effective is this in a cold water wash? I use cold water for all my loads and am wondering how well the mix will dissolve.

    • I haven’t tried it in a cold water wash (we use warm water), but I think if you let the washer fill part way, then add the soap and manually turn the agitator a few times, you can make sure it’s pretty well dissolved before adding in your clothes!

  21. Could you make a liquid version of this with liquid Castile soap? I make a liquid detergent with borax right now and I wonder if I could modify it using your suggested ingredients.

    • I’m sure you could! I haven’t tried making this into a liquid version, but I know there are tutorials out there for making liquid soaps, so I’m sure you could combine the two. If you do, let me know how it goes!

  22. Jillian says:

    I’ve used the Fels Naptha/borax recipe for about ten years now. I’ve also used the same set of cloth diapers on all 4 (soon 5!) of my babies with no trouble using the home made soap. I just use plain cotton prefolds, though–nothing fancy. Hope this calms some minds of those wondering if they can use this. I’ve done some loads with the castile soap as well, and its been fine.
    Thanks for the tip on citric acid. Hadn’t used it in laundry before!

  23. How much powder does this mix make, I did rough calulation is it 687.5g?

    • I don’t know how much it makes in grams because grams is a weight measurement and I measured all the ingredients by volume. But in terms of volume it makes a little over 3 cups, which is 30 to 60 loads of laundry, depending on whether you use 1T or 2T of powder per load!

  24. Great idea to make your own soap! I could imagine it would be perfect for people with sensitive skin… If I have some spare time one day, I’ll definitely try your recipe :-)

  25. The silicone desiccant, how long does that last before needing to replace?

    • It doesn’t “go bad” necessarily, but you do need to let it dry out every once in a while. Once it soaks up a good amount of moisture from the air, it will get “full” and stop working. You can either replace it at that time, or you can just let it dry out. You can put the bag out in the sun for a day and let it air dry, or you can use your oven. Just open up the bag, dump all of the silica out onto a cookie sheet, and bake for 2-5 hours on the lowest setting. Then put it back in the bag once it has cooled down. I wrote another post with more info on silica desiccants here if you want to take a look! http://www.practicallyfunctional.com/17-uses-for-desiccants-how-to-make-your-own/

  26. Hi, made this recently and love it so far (3 loads done so far)! I completely forgot about the desiccant (got too excited, I guess) and sealed my powder up in mason jars right away. Next day, hard as a rock. :( I’ve been working at getting it out, but do you have any tips on what to do if it gets hard?
    Also, I used Dr. Bronner’s lavender soap and have noticed my laundry doesn’t really have much of a fragrance (I love fresh laundry smells). Any suggestions on what I could do to amp up the fragrance a bit? Thanks so much!

    • Oh bummer! You can try adding a desiccant in now anyway; it will take a while, but it might slowly draw some of the water out. Another option is, if you can get it out of the jars, drop it back into a food processor or blender for a few seconds to break it all up again. Then stick the desiccant in and it should be ok.

      As for scent, you can always add a few drops of essential oils! They’re really strong smelling though, so I would say start with 3-5 drops in the entire recipe and see how that works, otherwise your clothes might be overpowering!

      Good luck with it, I hope you can get it dried up!

  27. I use this recipe all the time and have found it to be very gentle on clothes and amazing on my towels … I always add a capful of eucalyptus oil to my wash, it smells amazing and fights grease! I also make my own castille soap at home and use that in the recipe, I have had very little trouble clumping as long as I give it a few good stirs within the first 24 hours.

    • Ooh yeah, eucalyptus oil would be a great addition! I sometimes add in lavender since the base soap itself is unscented. And good to know about stirring within the first 24 hours, thanks for the tip!

  28. Love this! Can’t wait to try. How many ounces is the final batch? What size jar did you use?

    • I didn’t weigh it once I was finished making it, but in terms of volume, it makes about three to four cups depending on how finely you grate the bar of soap (it can be a bit “fluffy” if you grate it really finely, so it’s loosely packed into the jar). I don’t know how large the jar is in the photo, but I actually only got about a third of the detergent into that jar; the rest went into tupperwares!

  29. I’ll admit right off the bat, I did not read through ALL the comments because there are SO many. So forgive me if you’ve already addressed this question. The detergent I make uses Fels-Naptha bar soap. How does that differ from the bar you use? I’m wondering if yours would be better… Thanks!

    • No worries Jenny! As far as effectiveness go, the two soaps are probably the same! The reason I chose Dr. Bronner’s instead is that it’s all natural and Fels-Naptha is not. It’s really just a personal preference though, either one would work in this recipe! (Also Dr. Bronner’s comes plain or scented so you have some options about how you want your laundry to smell! :-p)

      And as for the sea salt, it does a lot of things! It helps brighten faded colors, helps keep colors from bleeding, it can help get rid of yellowing in your whites, and it’s a great stain remover as it helps soak up grease etc. out of your clothes. And you want to use sea salt or any other unrefined salt over table salt (which is refined) because it’s more natural, and the refining process can destroy some of those good minerals.

  30. One more question…why the sea salt?

  31. ElsieEliza says:

    Can I use Epsom salt instead of coarse sea salt?would it be as effective?
    Thanks!

    • In terms of the laundry soap, it should work fine! The only thing to be cautious of is that Epsom salts can harden your water, because of the minerals in the salt. You don’t have this issue with sea salt, which is why it’s recommended. If you live in an area with hard water, I might try for coarse sea salt instead, but if you water is pretty soft, it probably won’t hurt to use Epsom salts instead. It definitely won’t hurt your clothing! Just might harden your water a bit. :-) I can find coarse sea salt at my local grocery store, so you might look at your local store if you don’t want to try the Epsom salts.

  32. My daughter is allergic to citrus fruits. Is there a difference in citric acid and citrus fruits?

    • Citric acid is derived from citrus fruits, so to be safe, I’d stay away from it. But you can make this laundry soap without the citric acid and it will still work just fine!

Trackbacks

  1. […] made these desiccants when I made my own laundry soap because the soap was starting to clump up. I filled the jar halfway with laundry soap, tossed in a […]

  2. […] means I don’t have 30 different types of chemical cleaners laying around! We have been using homemade borax free laundry soap for almost a year now and we absolutely love it! It’s cheap, non-toxic, and works better than […]

  3. […] grout cleaner with just baking soda and bleach and it worked WONDERS! And we’ve been using a homemade borax free laundry soap for almost a year now and we love it! It’s cheap, non-toxic, and cleans better than […]

  4. […] Homemade Borax-Free Laundry Soap from Practically […]

  5. […] it out. Her recipe calls for Borax, which I’m not a huge fan of (remember my borax free homemade laundry detergent?), so I substituted washing soda instead; it works […]

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