Lauren Mueller

Monday, March 28, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Well, I always think "oh I can just jump on the computer, a blog post shouldn't take thattt long!". And then it always does really take that long! Ha! So today, I really should be doing my laundry (that hasn't been getting done because I was out of laundry detergent, hence this post...), so I am giving myself 15 minutes to get this post done! LET'S GO :)...

Long story short, I have tried at least 4 laundry soap recipes. Some without any cleaning ingredients but baking soda, some with lots of ingredients, and I finally found one recipe that meets my "natural/mostly chemical free" standards, as well as my "actually gets my clothes clean" standard!

One I tried didn't get my clothes clean enough, even though I wanted so badly for it to work because it was SO chemical free! The next one I tried had Fels Naptha soap, which after some skin irritations, I decided to research, and found out this one has some toxicity levels as well!

GEEEEEEZE, it seems that everything these days has some chemicals thrown in there... in Fels Naptha they actually hide it under the ingredient wording of "other cleansing ingredients". Okkkk... so what exactly are those ingredients? I have read TONS of blog posts/websites discussing how many people have contacted the Dial company regarding the ingredients of their Fels Naptha soap and they do not reply. But if you check out the "Material Safety Data Sheet MSDS" from the National Institute of Health ( ), you can see that under "Chronic Health Effects" it states that "Repeated or prolonged exposure to high concentrations has resulted in upper respiratory tract irritation, central and peripheral nervous system effects, and possibly hematopoetic, liver and kidney effects" and also describes later how exposure in the air to this can affect the nervous system, and any exposure can cause eye, skin, and throat irritation. The perfumes and colorants listed in the ingredient list are also a problem, probably containing some type of "petrochemical" base.

In my house we try to stay far away from petrochemicals. What is a petrochemical? Basic definition from Wikipedia is - "A petrochemical is derived from raw materials of petroleum or natural gas origin", and these are PROVEN to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing)! *Ironic fact - while researching petrochemicals I found that one is actually called "napthalene"... hmmmm, napthalene, Fels Naptha soap.... coincidence :)?

Anyways! On to the good stuff (It has SOOO been longer than 15 minutes :)). This recipe comes from my good old Mom's kitchen! Yay, thanks Mom! She modified it a little to substitute for Fels Naptha. She also recommends making this homemade liquid gel versus the homemade powdered form of laundry detergent, simply for the fact that it is WAYYYYY cheaper! This one costs you literally about 2 CENTS per load, yes CENTS!

Ok, to get started - go grab a 5 gallon bucket and lid from your local hardware store. I got mine for about $3 total at my local Menard's, and this will add a little to your initial "cents per load" cost, but you can reuse it everytime you make the detergent, therefore it SO pays for itself!


Fill that 5 gallon bucket of yours half full with water as hot as your faucet lets you get it!

Grate a bar of castile soap (we have talked about this before in the liquid form, which I recommend for most homemade things of this nature, but when it comes to the laundry detergent, USE THE BAR! It is wayyy cheaper to use a bar of this stuff which costs between $1-$2, than to have to use a few BOTTLES worth of the liquid stuff. With the grated bar, you are basically going to dilute it back down to liquid form with water). *I grated it with my kitchen stand alone cheese grater, worked great, only took a minute!

Mix that grated bar of soap with 4 cups of hot water in a pot. Heat and stir over high heat until the soap is melted. (2-4 minutes)

Dump that pot mixture into the 5 gallon bucket.


-1 cup washing soda (you can buy this at your grocery store on the laundry detergent aisle, looks like a big baking soda box)

-1/2 cup borax (found in same spot as the washing soda)

Stir everything in the bucket, fill up the rest of the way with hot water, stick that lid on good and tight, and let it sit for 24 hours!

Open it up 24 hours later, stir it up, and it should be a good chunky gel-type liquid.

You're done! This 5 gallon bucket's worth of detergent should last you at least a year! And those boxes of washing soda and borax will last a while too, and you can use 'em to clean other stuff (just not dishes, as far as the borax goes... it's not good to ingest!).

I use about a 1/2 cup in my top loading washer, and I also fill up my laundry softener ball (or if you have a front loader, you can fill up the fabric softener compartment) with white vinegar, which I've kind of mentioned before as being a GREAT disinfectant, deodorizer, cleanser, and SOFTENER (I promise, no smell! Don't be scared you will LOVE it! I actually am loooving when I am doing stuff in my kitchen and smell the white vinegar as the laundry goes into rinse cycle! Ha yes I am a little crazy ;)!)

I like to have more soap rather than less, but if you don't mind having a little less, you could go with what my mom (and others) recommend which is that you really only need about 1/4 cup of this per load.

One more little side note- Do not put essential oils in your detergent, as it breaks down the fibers in your clothes. I keep old wash cloths near the dryer and sprinkle a few drops of lavender essential oil (or whatever oil you choose) on that clean washcloth, and throw it in the dryer with my clothes! Yum!

Happy Laundering :)... I am off to actually do some real laundry now with that amazing detergent!


  1. This is almost exactly what I use but with baking soda and no castille soap. I love it and it works well in my front loader. Lori

  2. hahaha!! i was going to comment about how excited i am to have this be next week's Trade It Thursday! and i am soooo excited and cannot wait to make it this week! so i scrolled down to comment & guess what ad was there?!?! a dollar off laundry detergent add! hahaha! thanks so much for the post!!

  3. Hello...can you please let me know what brand of castile soap you use? Thanks so much for posting this!

  4. I made this recipe with Kirks Castille and it did not "gel." It's liquid like water.

    1. It's been about a week, now the middle has turned into a solid blob floating in water. If I shake it, it mixes well enough, but is still a little grainy. Should I reheat this?

  5. Does it matter what Dr Bonner's bar soap you use? will the scented ones break down the clothes? ex. lavendar, rose

  6. Thanks for doing the research for me!I've been making powder soap for about a year. Everytime I grate my Fels Naptha bar I rethink if this is really a safe alternative. It just seems so chemically. In your research did you find out if you could use the dry DIY recipe (borax, washing soda, Fels Naptha) and just replace the soap with Dr. BONNERS dryou soap?