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Homemade Chemical Free Detergent in 5 minutes

laundry detergent

Homemade laundry detergent is nothing new. There are TONS of recipes online. Each time I saw a recipe though, I would guffaw at the thought of making my own laundry detergent.  It seemed absurd to me the length of time and energy people put into making their own to save money.  I just wasn’t willing to put that much time into it: grating soap, cooking it down, etc.  And, then I had read people saying you needed a pot just for soap making – so your food wouldn’t taste like soap – and grater just for soap, etc. .  I didn’t have an extra pot or grater and wasn’t willing to buy one.  To me, it seemed like too much effort.  {Anybody else out there as lazy as I am?}.

Then, I found recipes that were easier but the cleaning agents they used were toxic and not the ones I use in my house. I buy green, natural cleaning products and that goes for my laundry detergent too {especially}.  I typically guy an organic store brand from Whole Foods that costs a little more than the typical/conventional name brand detergent.  And, I HATED paying the price but knew it was important & worth it to keep the chemicals off my family’s bodies.

Each time I saw another recipe I would evaluate it and it seemed to me there are two reasons someone would make laundry detergent:

  1. to save money
  2. to cut out the chemicals

I set out to do both. I wanted to save money but not at the expense of my family’s health.  So, recipes with Fels Naptha, Dawn dish liquid, ZOTE and Ivory soap were out.

I had seen a few recipes that used only a little soap and a lot of water… but you needed to use quite a bit of it.  So, I decided to concentrate it, saving space and storage containers!

Here’s what I came up with and it is working great!

laundry soap

First, I added 4 cups of HOT water to my gallon jug.  It doesn’t have to be boiling, just hot enough to dissolve the other ingredients.  Add the Castile soap and shake it up. It is important to add the water before the soap – I had trouble with the ingredients sticking to the bottom when I tried it in a different sequence.

laundry detergent 2

Next, add the borax and the washing soda and shake some more.  Add water until you get a full gallon.

laundry detergent 5

I use regular {Unscented} Castile soap, but if you like scents without the nasty chemicals, you can purchase Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap in scents like lavender and orange. The scent comes from natural essential oils.  Castile soap is so natural you can use it to bathe with.

I bought my washing soda and borax at Kroger, you can likely find them both at your grocery store in the laundry aisle, but it is also available on Amazon {just follow my links}.

I used the prices on Amazon to get the price breakdown for this detergent and here is what I came up with:

  • Each gallon of laundry detergent will cost you $1.75
  • Each load of laundry will cost about 5 and half cents.

I can totally make 5 cent detergent in 5 minutes!

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  1. Do you use this in a top-loading or front-loading machine?

    • Denisesawyer says:

      I have a top loading machine. But, I have heard it will work in a front loader as well. ;)

    • Rae Michelle says:

      I have no other way to make a comment…not sure why..so I have to reply to you post but I’m actually not replying to your post but the recipe itself…sorry and thatnkyou…
      I’ve been googling the ingredients and you use Castile soap…I looked up many ways to make it and..it’s not a chemical free soap itself..so to add it to this recipie makes this recipe not chemical free…Castile soap is made with lye..which is sodium hydroxide or potassium which is employed as an electro light in batteries, biodiesel…
      So for me I’m not fully sure if this is a chemical free ingredient…if it’s not from the earth en it’s not natural…a girl, on you tube was making Castile soap and she had gloves and protective eye ware on.. That’s mental to me !

      • Borax is from the earth; it’s mined.
        Lye is made from wood ash — that was the traditional source of lye for many years.
        Castile soap is made from (traditionally) olive oil and lye.

        Whether lye is used as an “electrolyte in batteries” is really quite irrelevant, isn’t it? Did you ever eat grits? Hominy grits? They’re made by soaking corn in lye, followed by vigorous rinsing, in order to remove the hulls from the kernels. I’m guessing you drink water. Water is used in the manufacture of steel. It’s used in nuclear reactors. Is that going to stop you from drinking water?

        Go read a book, or at least Wikipedia. Learn something about the world around you.

  2. Chrissy says:

    Can this be used in an HE machine?

  3. Chrissy says:

    Also how well does this work for greasy work clothes!

  4. I have been doing some research and have found Borax to not be as green as we thought. What would you suggest as an alternative?

    • Claudia Phillips says:

      It seems to me that the word “chemical” has evolved and now has two meanings. The strictly scientific meaning is one. But people now use the word “chemical” as being synonymous with “dangerous chemical” or “toxic chemical.” I think in the above context most people realize that it is toxic chemicals that are being avoided.

  5. Kathleen Crumley says:

    I absolutely love your blog! So excited a friend posted it. I was wondering if you ever sell the Thieves cleaner instead of having to sign up as a consultant? Thank you for your help!

  6. So do I need to use less in a HE washer?

    • Denisesawyer says:

      Jen, I am not totally sure. I know it is safe for the HE machines, but I’m not sure about the measurements needed. I am just unfamiliar with the washers since mine is old school! :P
      Wholesome Mommy

  7. I’d like to understand how you discern the difference between what you call “chemicals” in commercial laundry detergent, and castile soap, borax, and washing soda. How is it that they’re not “chemicals”?

    • Denisesawyer says:

      I’m sure there is a better vocabulary word I could use … but it gets the point across! :)
      You can look up the ingredients of the soaps your using compared to these three ingredients and see the difference for yourself:

      The best option would be to leave out the borax and just use castile soap – it would be the “cleanest” and safest option – - Castile gets a grade of A while soaps like Tide get an F.

    • Claudia Phillips says:

      It seems to me that the word “chemical” has evolved and now has two meanings. The strictly scientific meaning is one. But people now use the word “chemical” as being synonymous with “dangerous chemical” or “toxic chemical.” I think in the above context most people realize that it is toxic chemicals that are being avoided.

      • And this group here knows how to discern the difference between what you call “dangerous” or “toxic chemicals” and all other “chemicals.”


  8. Tracie Hodges says:

    I have been researching many safe and toxic free recipes for cleaning supplies and found one that gives the truth about Borax that everyone is using. Borax is used as a pesticide to kill roaches and should not be in our cleaning supplies.

  9. Borax is rated an F on EWG’s site ….not very safe..

    • Denisesawyer says:

      You are right. I am exploring a switch for this – possibly just the washing soda + castile. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
      Wholesome Mommy

      • Denise,
        I have started using soap nuts and have had a good result. You can find these many places on the internet. I even followed the directions to boil a few and made a liquid detergent that I froze in ice cube trays ( the liquid will go bad after a while ) I just pop one ice cube into a load of laundry to clean – super easy!!

        • Denisesawyer says:

          Yes, I’ve tried them a while back. Had mixed results… as with everything I suppose.
          Wholesome Mommy

      • Just checking in to see if you gave this “greener” option a try and if it worked great (must work great for me to switch) :)

        • Sorry, I was referring to your recipe without the borax. Also, could you add your own drops of essential oils for scent or does it need to be scented Castile soap?

  10. brianna gregory says:

    how much do u use per load

  11. I made this and we really like it but it’s chunky. did I do something wrong or is it supposed to be chunky? Thanks!

  12. I’m wondering if GMO free citric acid would work? Or washing soda? I may try it. If that works the recipe would be chemical free ;)

    • No, you’d be quite wrong. There’s no such thing as a “chemical-free detergent.” No matter how you define it, they’re all chemicals. Citric acid is a chemical. Washing soda is a chemical. Castile soap is a chemical. The fat and lye that Castile soap is made from are chemicals. Borax is a chemical.

      The very idea of a “chemical-free detergent” is fallacious, and an idea sadly perpetuated by chemically and scientifically ignorant people. Read a book. Learn something.

  13. If I just used Castile soap and washing soda, would I still have to mix it with water before putting it in the washing machine.

  14. Hi I was wondering if the recipe ingredients would be effective if we add Castile soap, vinegar and citric acid

  15. I just made some and am currently doing a load of laundry. Mine wasn’t bubbly at all when I added it to the washing machine. Is it supposed to be?

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