Making your own laundry detergent is relatively easy and inexpensive to do, and it is very good for the earth. Chemical “surfactants” in laundry detergents can harm fish and human health long after they go down the drain and tend wreak havoc on Earth’s ecosystem.
You can find most all of the ingredients you need for these easy homemade laundry soap recipes at the grocery store. These soaps do not produce a lot of suds like commercial detergents, but they clean your clothes much better, in my opinion. Below are two laundry soap recipes, one for dry powder type and one for liquid type, and also an easy, inexpensive suggestion for fabric softener.
Cost to make a batch of laundry soap is maybe $2- $5, although you have to spend a little more up front to buy the bulk ingredients (washing soda & borax), but those are pretty cheap too and what you buy will last about a year. Buying a good quality bar of soap is the biggest expense per batch, as something like “South-of-France” brand can cost around $4.50 per bar. But you can use plain Ivory soap for a cheaper version, or sometimes you can find “Fels Naptha” laundry soap on the laundry aisle, which I hear is pretty inexpensive too. You could also use your own homemade soap, which decreases the cost further.
The less expensive soaps won’t have the fragrance like “South-of-France” does, but you can add fragrance with essential oils (this ads a little to the cost of each batch). Or some people prefer fragrance free. Each load from the recipes below will typically cost between $ .o1 and $ .05 depending on what kind of soap you use — very inexpensive overall!
Liquid laundry soap
Makes 5 gallons; use 1/2 – 1 cup per load.
- 1 Bar bath soap, grated – to make sure your recipe is earth-friendly, make sure the soap you use is too. If you make your own soap, use it! I have also used South of France brand with excellent results — my favorite scent is verbena.
- 1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda) – found on the laundry aisle at the grocery store
- 1/2 cup Borax (a laundry booster) – also on the laundry aisle; Mule Team is a common brand
- hot water
- Place grated soap in a pot. Cover with water and simmer over medium heat until all soap is melted, stirring occasionally.
- Pour into 5 gallon bucket. (Recycle a large container from a restaurant or paint buckets from a contractor, or you can buy these buckets at a paint store)
- Stir in washing soda and borax.
- Stir with a wire whisk as you add enough hot water to fill the bucket.
- Let sit overnight to gel.
- You can pour this into old detergent containers or leave in the bucket (put on a cover).
Powdered laundry soap
Makes 2 cups; use 1 tablespoon per load for light dirt, or 2 tablespoons for heavily soiled load.
- 1 cup finely grated soap (about 1/3 of a bar)
- 1/2 cup washing soda
- 1/2 cup borax
Mix all ingredients together and store in covered container.
White distilled vinegar is a natural fabric softener, that also removes soap residue from your clothes. It does NOT make your clothes smell like vinegar! I use my lavendar all purpose cleaner for this, since it is made of only lavendar infused vinegar, which actually imparts a bit of lavendar fragrance. And either way, plain or lavendar infused, it does not add harmful and toxic chemicals to your clothes. Use 1/4 cup in the rinse water (can put it in a recycled Downy ball!).
Some facts on fabric softeners & dryer sheets
- most contain the following toxic chemicals: alpha-terpineol, benzyl acetate, camphor, benzyl alcohol, limonene, ethyl acetate, pentane, and chloroform. These chemicals have the potential to do things to you such as:
- cause central nervous system disorders, headaches, and loss of muscle coordination;
- irritates mucous membranes and impair respiratory function;
- cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or drowsiness;
- cause liver or kidney damage;
- cause skin disorders and allergic reactions;
- cause cancer.