Thursday, January 28, 2010

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

In an effort to find more health-friendly, earth-friendly, wallet-friendly ways of living, I decided to start making my own laundry detergent. I tried a few recipe's I'd found online and combined and tweaked what I liked until it best suite my needs. After that I wished I'd started making my own laundry detergent sooner!

All of the ingredients in this recipe are natural though I still recommend wearing gloves and perhaps some protective eye wear while you make it. Sodium carbonate (also called washing soda or soda ash) is fairly caustic with a pH around 11.6 and borax is toxic if ingested (Hear that? No tasting your laundry detergent, folks!). Many people can find sodium carbonate in the laundry aisle of their local grocery store. I'm not one of those people.

I didn't want to lose the cost effectiveness of making my own laundry detergent by ordering washing soda online and paying a bundle on shipping, so I did some research and ended up finding it in the swimming pool maintenance section of my local Walmart. It was labeled "Alkalinity Plus: Balancer" but the only ingredient in it is sodium carbonate. Cha-ching! Just what I was looking for. I later found that my local dollar store sells an imitation OxyClean. The only two ingredients in Original OxyClean are hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate. Both suitable to use in laundry (hydrogen peroxide is a natural whitener), so for a dollar, I could get enough to make 2-4 batches. So if you're having a hard time finding washing soda, just keep looking!

Anyway, there are a few supplies that add to the expense up front, but it is definitely worth it to have a natural, hypoallergenic, earth friendly laundry soap that costs about $1.50 for 110 loads. I hope you enjoy this easy recipe!


  • 3.5 ounce bar of natural soap
  • 1 Cup of Borax
  • 1/2 Cup Sodium Carbonate
  • 3 gallons + 5 Cups water

Shave or crumble soap into small pieces and add to a pot with 5 cups of water in it. Bring the water just shy of boiling and let it simmer until the soap pieces are completely melted (the smaller you shave the pieces, the faster this part will go). Pour 3 gallons of water into a 5 gallon container. Add the melted soap and water mixture. Stir well. Add 1/2 Cup sodium carbonate and stir until dissolved. Add 1 Cup of Borax and stir until dissolved. If you want, you can add some essential oils for fragrance.

Cover and leave to cool overnight. It will thicken up once it's cooled. My first batch didn't gel uniformly, so I just made sure to stir it before use. A full load of laundry uses 1/2 cup of this detergent.

*Here are some tips: For my first couple of batches, I didn't have anything to measure a gallon out, so I spent what felt like forever measuring and pouring out 48 cups of water for the three gallons. Tedious, to say the least. Eventually I found an old one gallon distilled water container (that originally cost me $0.88) and it goes a lot faster now. To stir this, I got a (free) long wooden paint stirrer from the hardware store when I went there to buy my 5 gallon bucket ($5). To avoid having to dig into my bucket every time I do a load of laundry, I poured detergent from my bucket into my old store-bought laundry detergent bottle. I just shake it up before each use and pour it into the laundry.

The next time I make this, I'm going to try using liquid castile soap instead of the bar soap. If it goes well, I'll modify this recipe and let you know!

UPDATE: I tried making this using liquid castile soap instead of bar soap, but it didn't turn out as well. It doesn't gel as much when it sets up and I don't think it really cleans the clothes as well either. I have found myself needing to add white vinegar to my loads more often than I normally do.

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