DIY Non-Toxic Laundry Detergent

bottle of laundry detergent next to a stack of clean towels

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These days, everyone is looking for ways to save some money. Fortunately for your wallet and the planet, the easiest way to save money in the laundry room is to make your own laundry detergent.

Why Make Your Own Laundry Detergent?

DIY laundry detergent will not only save you money, but will naturally help you avoid the toxic chemicals and noxious scents found in store-bought brands.

Laundry detergent ingredients pose a variety of health risks to humans, ranging from relatively minor—like skin irritation and allergies—to the severe—cancer, poisoning and neurological problems. These products can affect not only personal health, but also public and environmental health. The chemicals can go into the air, down the drain and into bodies of water, too.

Toxins in Your Detergent

I often wondered why my neighbor’s “April Fresh” aroma would give me migraines until a 2008 University of Washington study of top-selling laundry products found that the products emitted nearly 100 different volatile organic compounds. Results of the study showed 58 different volatile organic compounds above a high concentration of 300 micrograms per cubic meter. Of these, seven are regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws.

All the products tested in the study gave off at least one chemical regulated as toxic or hazardous, but none of those chemicals was listed on the product labels.

Findings in a 2011 study show that air vented from machines using the top-selling scented liquid laundry detergent and scented dryer sheet contains more than 25 volatile organic compounds, including seven hazardous air pollutants. Of those, two chemicals—acetaldehyde and benzene—are classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as known carcinogens, for which the agency has established no safe exposure level.

No wonder laundry products make an estimated 10% of the population feel so ill.

The researchers estimate that in the Seattle area, where the study was conducted, acetaldehyde emissions from the top five laundry detergent brands would constitute about 6 percent of automobiles’ acetaldehyde emissions. In the U.S. we regulate automobile emissions, but completely ignore the toxic pollution coming from our laundry machine vents—at our own peril.

And if the toxic fragrances weren’t enough, conventional laundry detergents also contain phosphates, sulfates, ammonia, naphthalene, phenol, optical brighteners, EDTA, and more. These chemicals can cause rashes, itches, allergies, sinus problems, endocrine disruption, and have long term toxic effects on the environment.

Lastly, the embedded energy, natural resources and waste involved in mass-producing and transporting billions of gallons of plastic-packaged, toxic laundry detergents is just too significant for small footprint families to ignore.

Mystery Ingredients in Your Detergent

Believe it or not, in the U.S., manufacturers are not required to list the ingredients used in laundry products, air fresheners and other household cleaning products. Personal-care products often contain similar fragrance chemicals too, and although cosmetics are required by the Food and Drug Administration to list ingredients, no law requires products of any kind to list the chemicals used in fragrances and perfumes.

shaved bar soap in a dish

Even “green” or “eco-friendly” cleaning products are not required to disclose their ingredients, and may contain toxic fragrances or petroleum-derived ingredients.

The safest bet for your family and the planet is to make your own less toxic laundry detergent. Costing just pennies a load, you can get all the ingredients in bulk quantities online (links below), at Costco, or in your grocer’s laundry aisle.

(Note: Many do-it-yourself laundry detergent recipes call for Fels Naptha, Octagon or Zote bar soap, but all of them contain toxic ingredients and fragrances that you really don’t want near your skin or in your environment.)

Both the powder and liquid versions of this recipe work well in cold water and are safe for septic tanks, and both HE and front-loading washing machines. I’ve found no difference in washing quality between the homemade detergent and store-bought brands, and this recipe tends to work much better than most eco-friendly brands.

Natural Laundry Tips

For extra softness, don’t forget to add a cup of white vinegar to your rinse cycle to soften your clothes, and you’ll never go back to conventional, toxic detergents or fabric softeners again!

For Cloth Diapers: If you want to use this detergent on cloth diapers, you must omit the bar soap from the recipe. Bar soap will build up on your diapers, repelling moisture, and eventually need stripping out. Instead, wash your diapers in a combination of borax, washing soda and baking soda in the recipe below, with a vinegar rinse.

*A Note About Borax

There are some who say that borax is toxic, including the illustrious EWG database (which conflates boric acid with borax—two very different things). I disagree. Here is why I consider borax a safe, effective cleaner.

bottle of laundry detergent next to a stack of clean towels

Homemade Laundry Detergent Powder

This laundry detergent recipe will not only save you money, but will help you avoid the hazardous chemicals and toxic scents found in store-bought brands.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
Approx. Cost: $12
Servings: 200 loads


  • 4 cups borax*
  • 4 cups washing soda
  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 4 cups lye-based bar soap, or castile bar soap—about 2-4 bars, grated (Omit for cloth diapers.)
  • 10-20 drops essential oil, Optional for scent. Tea tree oil is especially nice if you use this detergent for washing cloth diapers.


  • Cut the bar soap into large chunks with a knife.
  • Grate the soap chunks with a fine cheese grater or throw the chunks into the food processor and blend into as fine of a powder as you can make. (Put on your dust mask and let dust settle before opening processor, so as not to inhale it.)
  • Put on your gloves and dust mask, or cover your mouth and nose with a bandana.
  • In a large plastic tub or bucket, mix the Borax, washing soda, and baking soda together. (Washing soda, baking soda, and borax are mild skin irritants, so wear gloves. Wear a dusk mask or bandana to avoid breathing in the dry ingredients while you mix. You will need to let the dust settle a few times before continuing to stir. If you can seal the container, you can shake it vigorously to mix with no dust.)
  • Thoroughly mix in the grated/powdered bar soap.
  • Stir in 10-20 drops of essential oil, if tolerated. Tea tree oil is great for diapers as it has antiseptic qualities.
  • Store in a covered, airtight container.
  • If your powder has trouble completely dissolving, try mixing it in a little hot water before adding to the laundry.
  • Use 1-2 Tablespoons per load. (Adjust for your machine.)
bottle of laundry detergent next to a stack of clean towels

Homemade Laundry Detergent Liquid

This laundry detergent recipe will not only save you money, but will help you avoid the hazardous chemicals and toxic scents found in store-bought brands.
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
Approx. Cost: $8
Servings: 80 loads


  • hot water
  • 1 cup borax*
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup lye-based bar soap, or castile bar soap—1-2 bars, grated (Omit for cloth diapers.)
  • 10-20 drops essential oil, Optional for scent. Tea Tree oil is especially nice if you use this detergent for washing cloth diapers.


  • Cut the bar soap into large chunks with a knife.
  • Grate the soap chunks with a fine cheese grater or throw the chunks into the food processor and blend into as fine of a powder as you can make. Wear your dust mask (or a bandana over your nose and mouth), and let dust settle before opening processor, so as not to inhale it.
  • Place grated bar soap in a pot. Cover with water and simmer over medium heat until all soap is melted, stirring occasionally.
  • Pour melted soap mixture into a clean 5-gallon bucket.
  • Put on your gloves and dust mask.
  • Add washing soda, baking soda, and borax to the soap mixture and mix well. (Washing soda, baking soda, and borax are mild skin irritants, so wear gloves. Wear a dusk mask or bandana to avoid breathing in the dry ingredients while you mix.)
  • Add enough hot water to almost fill the bucket, leaving 3-5 inches of headroom. Mix very well until all ingredients are dissolved. (I use a long ruler for this.)
  • If using essential oil, AFTER the mix has cooled down completely, mix in 10-20 drops, to taste.
  • Let sit overnight to gel. The gel will be loose and very gloppy—like egg-drop soup.
  • Use a funnel to pour the gel into clean, recycled detergent containers or leave in the bucket. Cover with an airtight lid if leaving in the bucket to protect children and pets.
  • Stir or shake well before using. Use 1/2 – 1 cup per load. (Adjust for your machine.)
This article was excerpted from my book Sustainability Starts at Home – How to Save Money While Saving the Planet. For more money-saving, planet-friendly tips, check out the book by clicking below.

152 thoughts on “DIY Non-Toxic Laundry Detergent”

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  1. Haven’t tried your laundry soap yet, but I’m excited to try it as soon as i use up the EXPENSIVE “natural” stuff i just bought. I just wanted to say thanks for posting this recipe and taking the time to research the ingredients. And to applaud your patience answering all the redundant questions that were clearly answered in your article. We all have a choice in what we choose to create and use. If you don’t like borax, maybe find a different recipe and carry on with life. Im feeling adventurous, could really use a less expensive natural laundry soap, and I’m sure this is better than the “natural” stuff I’m using now, so again, thanks for sharing !

  2. 5 stars it safe for handwashing clothes? I am looking for a home made detergent recipe safe for handwashing clothes. thank you

  3. I love how the article mentions that regular detergent causes allergies and skin irritants…but in recipe, suggests to cover your mouth while mixing ingredients so as not to irritate the skin. Why would I want to wash clothes with something that irritates skin when it’s made? How come it doesn’t happen after it’s made? And its same as regular detergent yes, harmful chemicals but once made..its safe.? Seems to be the same to me.

    1. Baking soda tends to make skin irritated when applied directly to the skin, as a dust, because it has an alkaline pH. But when you dilute it with water, it’s great for everything from laundry to baking cakes.

    2. It’s so you don’t inhale dust particles which can cause irritation to lungs, asthma attacks, etc. that goes for any powder really, it’s not good to inhale particles of any kind. It doesn’t mean the product is toxic.

  4. Was looking at Kirks Castile bar soap and it contains glycerin. I read in previous comments that the glycerin is not ideal. What are some other brands that might work better?

      1. Margaret Cunningham

        Many thanks for this….one quick question…would you add anything to either recipe for hard water?

  5. Thank you for this great recipes! I try to use only eco-friendly cleaning products. You recipes seem easy, so I want to make my homemade detergent too=)

  6. Ayden Collins

    Is it supposed to be a giant cream colored blob with water or water like liquid around it or is it supposed to be a big thing of liquid around the consistency of laundry detergent

    1. You are NOT using pure lye. You are using lye bar soap, like indicated in the link. Huge difference. Please do NOT put pure lye into this mix.

  7. Would Zote be an okay soap to use in this recipe? I have seen it in many recipes so I bought 5 boxes of the flakes when they were on clearance…

    1. As it says in the article, I do not recommend Zote as it contains additives that are not good for skin or health.

  8. Thanks for the recipe, Dawn! However, as I understand chemistry, something confuses me: heat degrades sodium bicarbonate (baking soda, NaHCO3) to your washing powder (aka soda ash, sodium carbonate Na2CO3). Why use both as the bicarbonate will eventually turn into all carbonate?

    (Side digression: I made a lead-ALKALI battery for a science fair with baking soda. It worked fine as long as I used hot water to mix it. Unfortunately at the state level they wouldn’t allow hot water for some stupid reason (safety?) so the cell didn’t work! Now that I think about it perhaps the hot water wasn’t just dissolving it but converting it into full carbonate / carbonic acid and sodium ions. /digression)

    Also for the boron / borate / boric acid question, I think it’s totally ridiculous, otherwise the world would have to cordon off vast areas around deserts and alkaline lakes because of the hazardous borate! Also Visine has a small amount of boric acid in it. Basically, as long as you don’t ingest a large amount, it shouldn’t harm you as a large-ish animal.

    1. It should be thicker than water because the soap flakes dissolve and thicken the mixture. Try using it and see how it does.

  9. 5 stars
    Hi Dawn! Should the powdered detergent with castile soap have bubbles and suds in the middle of the washing cycle? I want to make sure I made it correctly and my batch has no suds. Thank you!

  10. Hi Dawn! I was wondering if you have ever used Chandrika soap to make your laundry soap and if not do you think it would work? Thanks.

  11. I am confused. For the ingredients it says lye or bar soap. I have the type of lye you need to make bar soap so would that do? As well as.. doesn’t lye have to mix with a precise amount of oils (olive, coconut, etc) at a distinct temperature to undergo the process of saponification? Would it not be dangerous to just put lye in this recipe? Thanks!

  12. 3 stars
    I’m a little confused… if Washing soda and borax are skin irritants, so wear gloves. Wear a dusk mask or bandana to avoid breathing in the dry ingredients while you mix… why would we even use or add it to the detergent? I’m new in making my own cleaners and looking for safest yet clean power alternatives. Thx!

    1. In order to properly clean your clothes, you need to change the pH of the water, which will remove a wide variety of stains. Washing soda is the simplest, safest and most effective way of doing this, and why it’s included in most eco-friendly laundry detergents. And you’ll want to wear a mask and gloves with any dusty mixture, such as bulk flour mixes, organic fertilizers, concrete, tempera paint, etc. Laundry detergent, cleaning products, and soap do not have to be edible to be safe and effective.

  13. Alyssa Hoekstra

    Hi! Great article. In the article, you stated that “For Cloth Diapers: If you want to use this detergent on cloth diapers, you must omit the bar soap from the recipe. Bar soap will build up on your diapers, repelling moisture, and eventually need stripping out. Instead, wash your diapers in a combination of borax, washing soda and baking soda in the recipe below, with a vinegar rinse.”

    Here’s my question(s): Can I use this method for ALL of my laundry? What’s the downside to not using bar soap on all of your laundry? I am concerned about the bar soap buildup on all of my other clothes.

    1. Dr. Bronner’s is liquid soap and so you could not use nearly the same quantity of soap as is listed in this recipe. I have no idea how much liquid you should use to make this recipe work and not mess up your laundry.

  14. I have some what of a question/comment. Borax has for a long time been one of my go-to “non-toxic” cleaners however recently I discovered the cleaning product grading site where you can search almost any cleaning product and they give it a grade, a break down of it’s ingredients and grades for each individual ingredient. They give Borax an “F” grade (which is the worst) because its main ingredient is Sodium Borate which has been linked to respiratory/asthma concerns, skin allergies and irritations, but the most concerning one to me is its links to developmental and Reproductive toxicity (which is most concerning when its used for laundry detergent and its in contact with your skin). I have tried to do a little research on the validity of these claims because it doesn’t say how that grade was determined and in what amounts would a human have to be in contact with for it to have these effects. Have you found any similar research or is this as much of a surprise to you as it is to me?


  15. Hello,
    I am too looking at a soap/detergent alternative for my laundry, so thank you for sharing your recipes (powder and liquid) Because of my septic, I will choose the liquid version and I think for my family it will seem to be the same process, we just will use less of it.
    My question is can I use liquid castille soap instead of the grated bar soap for the liquid detergent? and if yes how much? I would think it would mix better.
    thank you

      1. Liquid castile soap like Bronner’s does not contain glycerin. ( However, I don’t recommend it or any real soap because it will leave soap scum behind on the clothes. I had terrible residue problems on my clothes with a real soap even though I have soft water. I use a little bit of dish soap instead.

        1. Dr. Bronner’s does indeed contain glycerin. It is not an added ingredient, it is a byproduct of the oils they use.

        2. Dr. Bronner’s does indeed contain glycerin. You’ll find it listed under Sodium Hydroxide on your ingredient list. Glycerin is a natural byproduct of the coconut and olive oils they use in the soap, not added to the soap, so it does not have to be listed as a separate ingredient. Here’s where they explain it:

  16. I tried the recipe with homemade bar soap made from coconut oil (1% superfat). I let the mixture sit over night and for much of the following day, but it just won’t harden. It is still a completely non-viscous liquid. Any suggestions?

    1. The liquid laundry detergent isn’t supposed to harden. It is supposed to be like egg-drop soup, which is pretty loose. Without being in your kitchen to see how the ratios came out for you, or how your soap was made, it’s hard to say what is going on. But it should wash just fine if you have the right proportions of the other powdered ingredients.

    2. 1 star
      This happened to me too. It’s just very cloudy water. Not sure if I should use it or throw it out? What did you do?

      1. 5 stars
        READ the instructions completely. It is NOT supposed to harden. That’s the way it’s supposed to be…And it works just fine.

  17. Will this detergent work on cloth diapers with synthetic materials like micro fleece? What’s a good cloth diaper wash routine?

    1. Yes, this works great on all cloth diapers. You will have to determine your own routine, but I had a supply of 30 diapers, and after rinsing them off into the toilet (using a bidet sprayer), I kept them in a waterproof PLU bag (same stuff the diapers are made of), and washed them just once a week.

    1. Vinegar is a great fabric softener in the rinse cycle, but I’ve never found baking soda alone to be an effective laundry detergent. Try soap nuts or Branch Basics if you’d like a detergent that is basically edible.

  18. So, though it’s awesome that you’re being so conscious of your environmental impact, the material safety data sheet provided for borax by Hills brothers, , the manufacturers of 20 mule team borax, explains that Borax is an inorganic substance that does not biodegrade. Which is super frustrating. I have no clue what to wash with now 🙁

    1. Borax is no more dangerous to use in the laundry than baking soda or table salt, which are also inorganic and don’t biodegrade, and have the same material safety data rating. However, they do dissolve into their essential elements: which in the case of borax is oxygen, hydrogen, sodium and boron. I do not consider borax to be toxic for regular household use, unless you ingest large quantities or inhale a bunch. But then, if you did that with baking soda or table salt, you’d get sick too. Please see this article for more details about the safety of borax.

  19. Using homemade laundry detergent is an idea that is spreading fast and many people are now using self-made cleaning products in order to create a clean and safe environment at their home. I am also a fan of green alternatives and I really appreciate the recipe! Thanks!

    1. Yes! ME too! Thanks Dawn….it is obvious the answers you give are evidence of extensive research in the scientific matter and breakdown of this product. Thank you for “knowing what you are talking about” on this product.

    1. I have not found it staining because there are only about 10 drops in a very large amount of liquid or powder. If you use the oils, make sure to blend them in very well.

  20. Cleaners Streatham Ltd.

    Fantastic recipes! I am trying to use only natural ingredients at my home. My husband insists to clean only with homemade detergents. I am going to do my laundry with homemade laundry detergent for first time. Wish me luck. Best regards!

    1. You can use the runoff water from this detergent to occasionally irrigate trees and lawns, but the high pH and salts from most eco-friendly detergents like this one will accumulate and kill plants with focused or continuous watering.

      This detergent (or any other eco-friendly detergent) is NOT appropriate for greywater to vegetable gardens at all. To really take advantage of greywater, you should only use soaps/detergents that are labeled “biocompatible”, and the only two biocompatible detergents I know of are Oasis Liquid Laundry Detergent and soap nuts.

  21. oops, I hit send without finishing my comment! anyway, whipping the laundry soap makes it creamier and takes care of any potential lumps. It’s mostly an aesthetic thing, but when giving it as a gift, it’s much more appealing!

  22. Tip: rather than leave it in its “cold egg drop soup” consistency, whip it in your blender on the highest speed, then pour it into your well-washed, recyclable ketchup (or other similar) bottles. My kids want ketchup on everything (yuck!), so I end up with a bunch of these, and the smaller squeezablee stuff (mustard, some salad dressings, etc). When I wash them I always take off the old lable, and put on one of my own, hand-written & drawn:

    *it works better’n yours, an’its lots cheaper, too*
    Home Made Laundry Soap
    1-2 TBSP per load. yep, that’s it.

    1. Ivory is just fine, and the detergent should be fine for septic systems. However, ALL powdered detergents (for the laundry or dishwasher, commercial or homemade) can clog septic lines if they don’t dissolve completely. If you are concerned, I would make the liquid version of the detergent. 🙂

      1. Hi,

        I have been researching natural powder laundry detergent recipes. I have seen some that contain vegetable glycerin. What would be the benefit of adding it and how much would you add.


        1. I have no idea why you would add a liquid sugar like glycerin to a dry powdered detergent, so I don’t know how much you might add. Glycerin can add viscosity to a liquid detergent, but it also causes build up so I wouldn’t use it.

      2. Before using any bar soap I suggest that you drop a shaving in a bowl of water and stir, letting it dissolve. If you see a scum form ask yourself if you’d want that building up on your clothes and washing machine. If you can easily obtain citric acid this will supposedly take care of that scum, but it’s expensive for even small amounts in my area so I’m going to be trying a laundry recipe using Dawn. One thing I can say about the mix I had made with borax, washing soda, and dissolved bar soap was that it cleaned my stove very easily, it has found top spot in the general cleaning usage in my book.

  23. Think that it’s worth making a distinction between “soap” and detergent ! We are using either store bought “Laundry Detergent” or making a “Laundry Soap”

    All soap is made with lye (sodium hydroxide) or liquid soap made with (potassium hydroxide)
    The term “Castile” should mean a soap made with lye, water, and olive oil. No other oils.
    If your looking for a soap to use for laundry without chemicals, then Fels is out, and so is the Zote. The Fels has some questionable ingredients, and the Zote contains optical brighteners, not sure if the scent is synthetic or not.
    With that said, it’s also important to know that when one used a bath soap (kirks) there are either added oils, or un reacted oils in the soap. They are there to be conditioning to skin, as they should be. However for “Laundry Soap” we are trying to remove oil from the fabrics, not add any.
    What would be a better choice would be to find, or make a un scented soap made with what called a 0% super fat. (All fat reacted, and none added in) or better yet a soap that is slightly lye heavy. This free lye in the wash is.. Well free to seek out dirt and grease.

    The term “Lye Soap” means soap made with lard (pig fat) sometimes tallow (beef fat) these tow fats have a specific fatty acid make up that make them well suited for laundry
    (provided they have a 0% super fat)
    For those who may have issues or or vegan, then a coconut oil soap (0% super fat ) will also work.
    I know that Kirks is coconut, but because it’s meant for bathing, they’ve left some un saponified oil in it.
    If you find a bar of real pure laundry “soap” with out this added oil, you will see and feel am immediate difference in your laundry “soap” formulas

    Hope this is found informative.
    Best to all

    1. Thank you Connie! Do you know of a “pure laundry soap” that you can recommend??
      Like many, I have been researching homemade laundry products till I can’t see straight. Tried enough failed recipe combinations to make me think I have the worst water or washing machine because there were so many comments about how good those recipes worked. Most of my clothes are black and/or delicate so I use cold water on all laundry except whites. Any recipe with borax was a pain to use because I would have to dissolve it in hot water first and even then borax takes a bit to dissolve, that includes liquid versions too. Unfortunately, I found out about the optical brighteners in Zote soap at the expense of it noticeable fading a load of my darks after just one wash. The Kirks was my most recent test batch mixed 1/1 with washing soda. Fortunately, I’ve learned to make smaller batches now. Kirks seemed fine with my darks and gentles but whites came out worse than they went in, grey and dingy. Also the Kirks dust particles required me to hold my breath each time I opened the container. Lets not leave out how the soaps in general leave scum in the washer. I would really like to find a safer laundry alternative, that works, to the store bought detergents.

  24. I am wanting to use the powder recipe for cloth diapers and was wondering how much detergent you use in a load? and how much vinegar you would use as the rinse in a load?


  25. Hi There! I am wanting to use your recipe for washing my cloth diapers. How much would you recommend to use in a load of diapers and how much vinegar for the rinse? Thanks!

  26. I made my own detergent and we were very happy with it…we needed a new washer and dryer, went shopping, basically the sales guy told us that the manufacture recommends a particular brand of soap and not to use homemade because it could damage the machine and it would be covered under the warranty ….what do i do? Do you know for sure the homemade detergent could not ruin the new he front loading washers?

  27. What is the purpose of baking soda in the recipe? I’m curious b/c I thought I’d seen other similar recipes which did not include it?

    1. Thanks for commenting! Baking soda is an all purpose deodorizer and cleanser. It also changes the pH of the water making it more alkaline.

    1. You can buy washing soda via the link in the recipe ingredients. You might be able to find it in the laundry section of your grocery store, but it is a little hard to find off the shelf.

    2. You can make it yourself. It’s simply Baking Soda baked in the oven on a flat baking sheet. 🙂 Easy to find a link with instructions.

  28. Be aware: Borax is known for clogging septic systems. It does not like cold water. Most reports have come from people with well water. And to unclog your pipes can be VERY expensive.

  29. Thank you so much! I am actually planning to make homemade laundry detergent for the first time for our use and also for part of my homemade Christmas gifts. I had not yet settled on a recipe. We cloth diaper, so I appreciate the information about not using the bar soap because it can buildup. Your post is in my opinion by far the best I have read about homemade detergent. You have taught me a few things I did not know about Borax.

    Thanks again!

  30. ::: If using essential oil, AFTER the mix has cooled down completely, mix in 10-20 drops, to taste. ::::

    TO TASTE?! LOL Ick! But I love the recipe for the liquid detergent and it works wonderful!

  31. What an excellent article, and superb vision you have! You have accumulated a great amount of that rare jewel: Common Sense.

    Your family focus is so important, because kids-these-days cannot get enough help in navigating the perils ahead. If a young person can cook, grow food and sew on a button, they will fare better than gamers.

    As you wrote in defense of borax, it already is an ingredient in commercial detergents in addition to so many petrochemicals that are killing waterways.

    i look forward to your updates and cheerful outlook!

  32. Hello, do you think I would have some problems if I use this for my regular laundry, and use it without the soap for my cloth diapers ? Would I get some residue on my CD because of the soap of my regular laundry ? :S

  33. I love that you’re introducing people to the problem and a great solution. Another option is to look into oxidized water / ozone laundry systems like EcoWasher that hook up to your current washer. After the initial investment, you’re done with hot water, detergent, and other chemicals for good. This not only saves time and a bunch of money, but is also better for your health and for the earth.

  34. I have been searching for a nontoxic detergent for a while now. I was going to make your version until I went on to (Envirnmental Working Group) to rate your ingredients.

    The borax that you recommend received a failing grade (F) because of how toxic the ingredient is. I would recommend this website to anyone trying to remove toxins from all items coming into their homes.

    1. I made a note about borax at the end of the post. I’ve looked into it extensively and I strongly disagree with the EWG on this one. The studies they are looking at to reach their conclusioin involve a level of borax exposure that the average human simply could not get unless they worked in a borax mine without any protection for years. Borax used at the level of the homeowner is actually less toxic than an equal quantity of table salt. Borax has been used safely for thousands of years, and the main borax mine in the U.S. is one of the cleanest mining operations in the world. Borax is a naturally occurring alkaline mineral that many people use medicinally, even ingesting it in dilute quantities without harm.

      However, as with any dusty or alkaline substance (like washing soda or baking soda), don’t inhale it or get it on your skin as it will be irritating.

    2. I’m not sure about this recipe because of some of my research. It isn’t extensive because I only read about them on 2 websites. Maybe they are safe enough to use but I’ll keep looking for a safer recipe or use detergents such as Melaeuca and Seventh Generation to name a few.

      I looked up borax, washing soda and Fels-Naptha. The borax and washing soda are hazardous. The article I saw about borax states some regions in Europe banned it because it is considered a poison. Fels has an issue but it doesn’t seem very high.

      1. I strongly disagree that borax or washing soda are toxic for laundry use. According to all product safety data, they are as toxic as table salt (which will kill you if you eat a cup of it). I post about borax, with references, here. However, it is possible to make a laundry detergent that doesn’t use borax.

  35. I have always been told that baking soda can ruin the pump in a washing machine. Washing soda is fine, but not baking soda. I think we should check with our machine manufactory before using baking soda.

  36. I think this is the same recipe I’ve used. It works pretty good. I like to use a combination of rosemary, grapefruit, and lavender essential oils for fragrance. Thanks for sharing this at the HomeAcre Hop! We’d love to have you back again tomorrow:

  37. Lynn@Southern Direction

    I use a mixture quite close to this one. Thanks for sharing you detergent recipe. I’m a visitor from the Home Acre Hop.

  38. I have been using this recipe (powder) for 6 years and love it. I have used it even on my cloth diapers and have had no issues. Not sure why you wouldn’t be able to use it for diapers. I still use warm water as I find that with a front load washer, my soap does not dissolve well in cold water and leaves streaks on my clothes.

    1. Thanks for commenting! Homemade laundry detergent does work great, but it is precisely because the soap leaves residue (even in warm water, you just can’t see it as much), that you can’t use this recipe on diapers. You can’t use mainstream laundry brands on cloth diapers either. The laundry detergents recommended for cloth diapers typically have no soaps, fragrances, brighteners, etc. at all, and are little more than washing soda.

      1. What would you recommend to use for lowering the ph level of the cloth diaper recipe? I have had fungal issues with my youngest and am about to make a batch to hopefully eliminate this problem.

  39. I have been wanting to make my own laundry detergent for a long time. I even have all or most of the ingredients for it. But I read a couple of articles online that said that Borax IS toxic.

    I also read stuff online that said that it’s not. So I can’t decide where I stand on Borax. Have you ever heard any of the stuff that says it is toxic? Just curious as to your thoughts! 😉

    1. All the articles I have read about borax have conflated borax with boric acid. The two are VERY different, though they both contain the element boron.

      Borax is toxic in the sense that salt is toxic. A small amount is required by the body; a huge amount will kill you. People never intentionally ingest anything even close to the amount of borax required to do harm. Borax is classified as non-carcinogenic and a mild skin irritant. The high alkalinity of borax is likely what causes skin irritation (just as excessive use of baking soda would cause irritation). There are also several studies in the ToxNet database that show borax is only a very mild lung irritant and causes no lasting damage. In addition, it does not penetrate the skin well, and is not considered to be bio-accumulative.

      Borax is used in laundry detergents, hair potions and skin lotions. It also can help kill fleas in your carpet by dehydrating them. Some people even ingest it mixed in water for various health conditions that boron would help. (Though I wouldn’t recommend this usage!) Borax is wholly natural. It doesn’t cause cancer, accumulate in the body, or absorb through the skin. It is not harmful to the environment any more than salt is. In fact, the largest borax (borate) mine in the world – found in Boron, California – is considered by many to be the most ecologically sound and environmentally sustainable mine in the United States. I consider it a safe, effective cleaner.

  40. Hi. I have a septic tank, and have no clue what type it is, since the house was built in 1934 (ish) but I think I’m going to try the mixture, maybe in smaller quantities though, to see if I like it. I will use french milled highly scented soap though, as unlike most ‘greenies’ I can’t live without perfume! In fact I buy lots of soap in advance, especially at overstock stores as they are often 1/2 price. I store them in my underwear drawers, my socks and towels and in the pillow case with each set of sheets, especially when I store the flannel ones ’til next winter. The good French, Spanish, and Italian soaps are already harder than cheap supermarket stuff, so they last ages and while they are ‘working’ to scent my linens, they harden even more.
    Question though. My partner wears a lot of ‘stage blacks’, (and gets dirty and sweaty) so I have to use Woolite Dark. It’s expensive so would love to know if anyone has a recipe to mix things that won’t make them fade.

  41. My liquid did not gel when left overnight. Any ideas what may be wrong? It is very watery, with tiny flecks (soap I assume) floating in it. I used Kirk’s castile soap. After melting the soap in hot water, I added cool, rather than more warm water, and the soap seemed to re-solidify in bits. So I added more hot water to reach the 5 gallon mark, and then whole mix seemed to be well-dissolved.

    1. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe it is too dilute? However, it should work just fine. Give it a try!

    2. I use the power recipe, not liquid because I dont want to cook on the stove. But I add the measured amt of powder to about 2c water and set it aside. Right b4 using it I put it in the blender to finish the dissolving process. Might be just as much work, but works for me.

  42. Hi,

    In your post it states that this recipe works good for cold water… do you not suggest using in with warm or hot washed for some reason?

    1. It takes a lot of energy to heat water for washing clothes, which is not only costly to the homeowner, but also uses a lot of fossil fuels as well. If you can do all your washing in cold, it will be good for both the planet and your wallet! The detergent, however, works fine in any water temperature. 🙂

  43. Hi Dawn,
    Maybe this is a stupid question, but..I was hoping to find one laundry detergent that I could use for cloth diapers and all my other laundry. So if I leave the bar soap out, will it still work well on my clothing?

    1. You could certainly give it a try! I think you might have trouble with your more dense clothing though, like denim. You might want to pretreat stains on those.

  44. This is by far the BEST laundry detergent I have EVER used! I used the Kirk’s bar without any essential oil (for now). The laundry is clean, bright, and most surprisingly to me…it is SOFT!!!

  45. Hi there,
    I’ve been doing a lot of research about making natural laundry soap and seeking out the most effective, yet safe/natural recipe. I came across your site and noticed that you say Fels Naptha contains napthalene – I’m not advocating using fels naptha because it does have petroleum-derived ingredients, but it says right on the packaging “does not contain napthalene.” Just wanted to point that out 🙂

    1. I guess I have inadvertently dated myself here. 🙂 Good to know that people are conscious enough that they had to change the formula and make it clear on the label. But still, who wants petroleum-derived chemicals and fragrances on their skin, ever, right? Thanks for commenting!

      1. Nancy Koncilja Gurish

        Hi. Just a brief note. ‘Fire Eats Fire’ – Petroleum based products, – ‘Oil Eats Oil’ If you have a stain in clothing that has any type of oil-base: then the petroleum part of Fels Naptha gets the stain out, because ‘Fire Eats Fire.’ Oil gets oil stains out. Even body oils, like arm-pit stains. Just a quick thought on Fels Naptha for laundry.

        1. I use a product called White Wizard to remove all stains beautifully. It is non-toxic and made of enzymes and it works like a dream on almost all stains and all fabrics, including leather. I even used it to fully remove a 6 year old coffee stain from an industrial carpet that had been treated twice professionally! It also took paint out of a vintage jacket that had been dry cleaned three times with no result. I absolutely love this stuff, and it has saved me so many times.

  46. Krista Montalvo

    Loved this post! Using my own detergent. Shared your post on my blog I also tried the toothpaste. I really like but the kids just can’t seem to do it. I even put a packet of stevia in it to sweeten it for them but they say it is still too salty. I am going to try to tweak some things to see if I can get them to use it. I also tried some dishwashing detergent from another blog but it left a really greasy cloudy film on the dishes. I used borax, washing soda, baking soda, coarse sea salt, and fruit fresh. then added 3 drops of liquid dish soap & vinegar. Not sure where the grease came from. Maybe the dish soap – it’s the all natural kind made from coconut oil?? Any thoughts or suggestions?

  47. Excited to try this but I confused about the number of loads that one recipe covers. In total, your recipe calls for 14 cups of ingredients. Each cup has about 12 TBS – so a total of 168 TBS. If you use 2 TBS per load, that is roughly 80 loads. Did you mean tsp? If it were tsp, you could get at least 300 loads. Can you clarify?

    1. Thanks for checking my math! I hate being inaccurate, but sometimes I write these posts in the wee hours. 🙂 There are 16 Tablespoons in a cup, and 14 total cups in the recipe, so if you use just one tablespoon per load, (which is all I have needed, except when clothes are particularly soiled) it works out to make about 225 loads, which I have corrected above.

  48. I used Dr. Bonner Castile soap in mine. We have pretty sensive skin here. I LOVE the powdered soap. I was using a powdered detergent that was about $15 for 80 loads and was only about a tablespoon per load. But with 2 adults and 2 toddlers we create a whole lot of laundry. With the Dr. Bonners I spent about $25 for about 7-9 months worth of laundry detergent (I did a HUGE batch) 1 box of Borax, 1 box of Washing, 1 Large box of Baking Soda, 1 Small container of Oxi-Clean and 3 bars of Soap. I used my food processor for the soap and no issues.

  49. Hi, I saw you mentioned something about this being safe for cloth diapers. Would you still put the extra cup of white vinegar when washing cloth diapers? Also, when do you add the white vinegar when you have a HE front loader?

    Thanks so much!

    1. This is safe for cloth diapers as long as you use a lye-based soap to make it. The oils in a castile soap can gunk up the diapers. The addition of vinegar helps keep your diapers fresh too. Use the vinegar as you would use fabric softener in your HE machine.

      1. A Castile Soap will also need lye to actually make it soap. So I’m not sure on your logic here. Castile just means it is all Olive Oil (and water and lye). Any other soap is oil and water and lye, just not 100% olive oil. So basically, just use a natural soap, not a detergent soap. Is that what you mean?

        1. I mean use a simple lye-based soap, not one like Zote or Fels Naptha which is full of chemicals. Nor should you use glycerine soap, which gums up the mix and can leave residues.

  50. Hi,

    Love your website, “lots of quality Info:.

    We live in an area which does not have a reticulated watersupply and therefore are not subjected to chlorine & Fluoride poisoning.
    However, this means that we use our grey water for growing vegetables & fruit for our own consumption.

    If we were to make the recipes for washing powder with Borax in it, we would soon be oversupplying this nutrient and therefore degrading our soil & produce.

    Can Borax be replaced with another substance in order to produce a more “friendly to the Environment” product?

    Keep up the good work and thanks.


    1. Yes, grey water systems that go into food gardens are less forgiving than systems that go out into raingardens or lawns. That much greywater with Borax would be too much for a food garden (though a little really can help fruit trees). You would also eventually face issues with the washing soda too. Even baking soda in excess can negatively affect your garden soil if greywater is your main form of irrigation. The least toxic detergents for greywater usage in a food garden are Soap Nuts or plain castile soap. Thanks for commenting!!

  51. Katherine Atkinson

    Hi Dawn, 🙂

    This would be a great post to add to Wildcrafting Wednesday!  I really hope you’ll stop by and share it!

    ~ Kathy

  52. So I have been getting ready to make my own laundry soap after readin the label…and you could use it to soak up oil…..UGH…..and I wondered why my babies were experiencing exema…duh?! !jWe have a local company that makes great natural soap…it has glycerin in it…can you use that in laundry soap….? Thanks for the great info!  I will be back!!!

    1. Glycerin soap is not the best choice for this recipe because it is very soft and gets goopier than lye or tallow soap, but you can give it a try and see how it works. If even this recipe is too harsh for your baby’s skin, try Soap Nuts for a totally non-toxic laundry wash. Best to you (and your little ones)!

  53. This is cool, I can made some of this 
    Homemade Laundry Detergent Liquid and give it as personal gift to my friends when I go visit them or when they visit me. Thanks a lot for this post and for the clear steps on how to made this.  

  54. Rachel @ day2day joys

    Great post Dawn! I love how informative you are! I also love your blog layout, I think this is my first time on your blog! Thank you so much for linking up at Healthy 2day Wednesdays last week! This post is one of my top 3 that will be featured this week! Have a Merry Christmas & hope to see you link up this week!

  55. just wondering, if you have to wear a mask so you don’t inhale the dust, is it really non toxic?  I’ve used borax before, and you can tell when you inhale that it’s not good!  Have you tried those soap nuts or just baking soda, salt and vinegar?  

    1. This detergent is not non-toxic, just significantly safer for your health and the environment. You wouldn’t want to inhale grated castile soap, baking soda, or for that matter, powdered gelatin, Epsom salts, or bentonite clay, but all are very useful, natural low-toxic substances for the skin or ingestion.

      Basically, you should probably never inhale visible dust particles of any kind, nor should you eat any type of soap. 🙂

      If you need to have a completely non-toxic, edible laundry detergent, then soap nuts or baking soda/vinegar/salt are probably your best options. I have found that neither work very well at all, especially on cloth diapers, toddler clothing or sweaty man-shirts.

      However, a cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle makes your clothes soft and reduces static.


      1. I saw this post from the SD Natural Families listserve. This is great, because I’m going to be buying laundry detergent soon. We use our water from the washing machine to go into our yard and our fruit trees. Do you think that this would be okay for plants??

        Thanks Michelle L. 

        1. I think it depends mostly on what bar soap you use. Borax contains boron, which is good for plants, especially fruit trees. Since you are using so little detergent diluted in so much water, it shouldn’t be a problem, though make sure to keep a close eye on sensitive or delicate plants, and rotate your greywater around the property so it doesn’t concentrate in one place. To be truly safe, use soap nuts.



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