Wednesday

how to make powdered laundry soap {natural recipe}

when i became pregnant with my first child, i began eliminating conventional cleaning products and synthetic chemicals from our home, and discovering this homemade alternative to pricey green detergents was music to the ears of this stay-at-home mama.

it's inexpensive, gentle on sensitive skin and the planet, and once you gather the ingredients, putting it together is easy.  there are only three ingredients:  borax, washing soda, and a grated bar of soap. 

borax is found on the bottom shelf in the laundry aisle of supermarkets.  there is some disagreement in the natural community about the safety of borax, but after doing research, i feel comfortable using this traditional, naturally occurring mineral salt in my home.  like many things, borax should not be inhaled and must be kept out of reach of pets and children.

washing soda is sometimes sold in the laundry aisle.  if you can't find it there, it is also called "soda ash" and stocked with pool care products or sold at hardware stores.  it can also be purchased online.  although washing soda is chemically similar to baking soda, baking soda cannot be substituted in this recipe.

you can use any bar of soap you like, as long as it isn't a "beauty bar."  fels naptha is often recommended, and using regular soap would make this recipe extraordinarily inexpensive, although you may want to be wary of using your food processor or grater on anything not completely natural.  i use dr. bronner's castile soap, in lavender and mostly followed the instructions given at healthy vegan blog.

1 bar soap, finely grated (makes ~ 1 c soap dust)
1 1/2 c borax
1 1/2 c washing soda

that's it.

store it in a lidded contained, and use 1-2 Tbsp per load.  one recipe will clean up to 64 loads.

if you're accustomed to using traditional laundry detergent, doing a load of wash with 1 Tbsp of soap sounds preposterous, but the truth is, most conventional detergents have a lot of fillers in them (as well as questionable ingredients like brighteners, enzymes, and a host of synthetic chemicals).  when we use too much soap, residues linger in clothes, which can trap odor and cause skin sensitivities.  we use 2 Tbsp on heavily soiled loads, but 1 Tbsp is sufficient for most.
 
using 1 Tbsp of laundry detergent wasn't that foreign to us, since that is the measurement charlie's soap calls for, too.  charlie's soap is the most recommended detergent for use with cloth diapers, which brings me to my biggest question:  could this homemade soap get diapers smelling sweet?

we've been using it for several month, and i've been really pleased:  our diapers look and smell clean.  (we also use a scoop of off-brand oxygen powder--natural and cheap!-- in every load and sometimes a little baking soda, vinegar, or biokleen bac-out.)  i appreciate the mild fragrance of essential oil instead of synthetic perfume on our clothes--especially for my kids' sensitive skin.

DIY laundry soap is a completely do-able step in "greening" your home.  the planet--and your wallet--will thank you.

UPDATE:  i'm back to using charlies soap on my cloth diapers.  after a few months, they seemed to retain odor (that even vinegar didn't eliminate), but it's still great on our clothes.

do you have a favorite green cleaning recipe?

shared with Your Green Resource, hosted by A Delightful Home, SortaCrunchy, Live Renewed, and The Greenback Gal.

25 comments:

Kelly said...

I keep wanting to switch over to a homemade cleanser but it seemed a little daunting. Your recipe (and tips on finding ingredients) makes it much less so. We use All Free & Clear to escape the dyes and perfumes, but all-natural is an even better option. Thanks for sharing!

Oh - and what do you do for fabric softener?

suzannah @ so much shouting/laughter said...

i don't actually use fabric softener, but i've read that a little vinegar in the rinse cycle works well.

O'Brien said...

I started making this recipe when Sam was just born. It didn't make sense to me that I needed detergent for adults, and detergent for the infant. I've never had a problem with it. In stead of oxy I use some straight vinegar in every load. I also read a blog the other day that said the motion of the machine does more to get our cloths clean than the soap (quoted from the CEO of Green Works).

Amanda said...

I've been making a liquid detergent. I love homemade laundry detergent!

Works for Me: http://www.mandys-treasurecove.com/2010/02/microsoft-one-note.html

Heather said...

Thanks for this info Suzannah! I have also been interested in switching over to homemade cleaners and I'm definitely going to be trying this recipe! Thank you!

Laur D. said...

wow! that is awesome. i had no idea it was that easy to make your own and also that you only need a tbsp of the homemade stuff!

really cool. i def. would like to try it at some point.

Michelle @ Find Your Balance said...

oooh, very cool. I have used baking soda and white vinegar for cleaning around the house, but haven't attempted laundry or dish detergent. Sounds easy!

Jackie said...

I've heard of people doing it, but have wondered if it was wroth it!
Thanks for the tip!

I bet your home smells lovely with the orange/cloves/etc on the stove...prior to the burn :)

Thanks for commenting!!

Debbie said...

I really want to try this. I keep meaning to but I am such a bad procrastinator.

maryann said...

You are so impressive!

Jenni @ My Web of Life said...

If you use vinegar in your wash, make sure it is it is cider vinegar. It takes out all kinds of smells- even cat urine.

Does the homemade laundry soap dissolve well in cold water? That is my only concern.

I make our own dishwasher soap and it is a breeze- especially because you already have the ingredients! It is just equal amounts of borax and washing soda. Fill your dispenser as normal (I do actually use a little less than I used to as well).

suzannah @ so much shouting/laughter said...

i do was most of my clothes in cold, and it dissolves well.

i have a regular top loader. the healthy vegan link from where i got my recipe has a high efficiency washer, so it seems to be usable with both.

Melissa @ Cellulite Investigation said...

Wow, if it's good enough for the diapers it's gotta be good stuff!

Cop Mama said...

I would love to do this, but alas, no time! I use vinegar as a cleaning agent sometimes.

Pam, mom, honey, said...

this is the recipe for the powder have u tried the liquid. we love both. the liquid cost about 18 cents a galon to make and we love it. i add a little essential oil to change the smell

Tasha said...

this is awesome I never knew you could make this. fantastic!

liveoncejuicy said...

I make this exact recipe with Fels Naptha. My little girl has exzema, and this is the only laundry soap that doesn't make her break out. Our 'secret' is that we put about half a cup of plain white vinegar in the wash. It helps the soap to dissolve, ensures that it rinses well, and works like a charm to get rid of smells. (Like someone else said, even cat urine.) It also softens without the need for dryer sheets.

Jenny said...

thats nifty :D what a great idea!

chili pepper said...

Wow! That was fast. Thanks a million. Do you use the same amount for a high efficiency? Also, I wanted to add that I use vinegar, have for some time and swear by it.

Would like your dishwasher recipe if you have it, too.

Happy Wednesday!

Kat

Em and Lib said...

I bought a laundry ball last year and am happy with it, except for whites. IT just doesn't get them sparkly...
gonna try this recipe. THANKS!

Faye said...

Does the soap element leave a residue on cloth diapers over time? Also...I believe the Dr. Bronners would work great to take out stains because that's what I use to rub on ebf poo stains on my DD's clothes and they come right out! No need for fancy stuff. :) I want to try this recipe but am concerned about "soap" buildup.

suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter} said...

@faye,

after a few months this DID seem to leave a residue on my diapers (like anything else i've ever tried except for charlie's). my cotton prefolds were fine, but i noticed some odor on my other diapers and switched back. now i use this for my regular laundry and charlie's for my diapers.

aseedinspired.com said...

You read my mind when you started explaining how one spoon will be enough...amazing.
Thanks for educating me.
T

Hyacynth said...

I *need* to get motivated to do this and make the switch. It just makes SO much more sense. Thanks for linking this. I'm glad I came across it!

Good Girl Gone Green said...

Toothpaste and laundry detergent are on my to do list of things I want to make myself. Right now I use soap nuts and they seem to work well! Thanks fir the recipe.

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