Borax-Free Homemade Laundry Detergent

Glass bottle of Borax-Free Laundry Detergent
Recipe At-A-Glance
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Natural Home10 minutes
Don't shell out all your money for natural laundry detergents. Make your own homemade laundry detergent for less than $5 per gallon instead!

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When we made the switch a few years back to all-natural cleaning supplies, we switched our laundry detergent, too. We started off shelling out lots of cash for all-natural versions on store shelves, but we figured there had to be another way—they were just so darn expensive!

My husband and I started researching homemade laundry detergent out there, and there were a ton of options. And a lot of them used borax—an ingredient that we were hesitant to use. Many folks consider borax completely safe to use in the home, but for us, it was important to use as few ingredients as possible. Borox wasn’t something that was readily available at our small-town grocery store, so we wanted to try our hands at making a laundry detergent with the ingredients we could easily get our hands on. So that meant it was experimentation time!

Ingredients for Borax-Free Laundry Detergent in individual measuring cups

It took a few trials, but we ended up figuring out a borax-free laundry detergent that works really, incredibly well for us. We’ve been using this for years and our clothes get clean—like, really clean. And we’re pretty tough on our laundry.

Why should I make homemade laundry detergent?

Homemade laundry detergent is a huge budget-saver—especially if you tend to purchase organic and natural versions of your favorite detergent. That’s our main motivator! Combine that with knowing exactly the ingredients that go in every batch, and we were sold on it.

Does homemade laundry soap really work?

We do a lot of manual labor around here—playing in the dirt in the garden, hauling firewood, sweating up a storm, and getting our clothes into all kinds of not-so-clean situations. We’ve definitely put this stuff to the test. And we’ve been happy with it!

But I will put a caveat out there that to determine if this laundry soap “works” or not will depend on your personal definition of “clean.” To us, clean means no smells and no dirt! And this laundry soap does the trick. If your definition of “clean” means heavy scents, this isn’t the detergent for you.

Isn’t homemade laundry soap bad for your washing machine?

We get this question a lot, and we can only speak from our experience—we’ve been using this laundry soap for over five years in our modern, top-load washing machine without a speck of issues. When we had a repairman out a few years ago (to look at our dryer), I asked the question about homemade laundry soap, and he said just as long as you don’t use vinegar in your machine—which can erode the seals—he saw no reason why it would be a problem. 

Will this get out stains?

We pretreat all of our stains with either straight castile soap or a purchased stain stick. This detergent will work like typical laundry detergent on stains—it’ll get out the ones that aren’t set in, but you’ll need some more power to get tougher stains out.

Glass bowl being filled with the ingredients for Borax-Free Laundry Detergent

What does this detergent smell like?

I think my favorite part of this detergent is that my clothes don’t smell like anything when they come out of the dryer. No lilac fields or clean summer dew scents. It took me a really long time to learn that “clean” doesn’t smell like something. Rather, true “clean” smells like absolutely nothing. And this detergent gets our clothes to smelling like nothing!

Of course, if you like some scent in your laundry, you could throw in a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the mixture (in fact, lemon is an all-natural stain-fighter, and lavender is always a wonderful scent to add to almost anything!).

Glass measuring cup pouring Borax-Free Laundry Detergent into a glass jug

Does this work in an HE washer?

We have regular HE top loading washer, so I have no idea if this will work with the HE front-loading machines. It might—because it’s a low-soap, low-suds mixture—but try at your own risk! We also didn’t use this stuff when we were washing cloth diapers, because I had no idea if it would break down the absorbency—we just stuck to Rockin Green for those.

Glass jug of Homemade Laundry Detergent surrounded by sprigs of lavender.

How much homemade laundry detergent should I use?

This recipe will make a gallon of detergent. About a half cup of this stuff gets a super-large load of our clothes very clean, but you might need to do some trial-and-error to figure out what the right amount is for your machine. 

Is this cost-effective?

It costs me less than $5 to make each gallon of homemade laundry detergent. And using a half cup per load, I get about 40 loads of laundry out of one batch—what a steal! 

Does this work for sensitive skin?

We don’t have many sensitive skin issues in our family, so we haven’t tested this on anyone who has sensitive skin issues. The baking soda might be irritating to some. 

What ingredients are in this homemade laundry detergent?

You only need a handful of ingredients to make laundry detergent, making this super cost-effective. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Hot water
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Unscented liquid castile soap

How do I make laundry detergent?

If you can heat water, you can make laundry detergent! Here’s what to do:

  1. Dissolve baking soda and salt in very hot water.
  2. Add the liquid castile soap. You can add essential oils here if you want to make it scented, too.
  3. Close and label.

Your detergent is ready to go!

Want more natural home recipes like this one?

  • Homemade Linen Spray. Keep your sheets smelling fresh and usher in sleep with this lavender spray.
  • DIY Stain Remover Spray. Pair this with the homemade laundry detergent for some real cleaning power.
  • Reusable Produce BagsCut back on single use plastics in your home by making and using your own cloth produce bags.
  • How to Make and Use Reusable Toilet PaperWe teach you how to make, use, and clean family cloth.

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  • Fresh Ginger TeaI love to make a big pot of ginger tea in the morning, and sip on it all day.
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Glass bottle of Borax-Free Laundry Detergent

Borax-Free Homemade Laundry Detergent

Yield: 1 gallon
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Don't shell out all your money for natural laundry detergents. Make your own homemade laundry detergent for less than $5 per gallon instead!

Materials

  • 14 cups very hot water, divided
  • 1 cup baking soda, divided
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 cup unscented liquid castile soap
  • 30 drops lavender essential oil, optional, for scent
  • Gallon-sized jug

Tools

  • Large glass measuring cup or bowl
  • Measuring cups
  • Spoon

Instructions

To Make:

  1. In a large glass measuring cup or bowl, combine 7 cups of the hot water with half the baking soda (1/2 cup) and half the salt (1/4 cup). Stir well until completely dissolved. The mixture will start out cloudy and fizzy, but when it’s completely dissolved, it should be mostly clear. Pour the mixture into a gallon-sized jug.
  2. Repeat step one with the remaining water, baking soda, and salt, and then add the mixture to the gallon-sized jug.
  3. Add in the liquid castile soap and essential oil, if using. Swirl gently, close, and label.

To Use:

  1. Shake the container to mix ingredients, then either pour 1/2 cup (you can use more if it’s a particularly dirty or large load) of the solution into the washer while it fills, or place it in the soap cup provided in your washing machine.
  2. This recipe has NOT been tested with a front-loading high-efficiency washer. I use it in my top-loading HE washer just fine though.

Notes

  • We break up the baking soda addition mostly because people don’t usually have a 16 cup measuring cup! It also seems to help get the baking soda to dissolve properly. This recipe uses almost the max amount of baking soda density that can dissolve in water, so make sure not to add more baking soda or use less water.
  • If you are having trouble dissolving the baking soda, heat the water, salt, and baking soda in a large pot over medium heat until completely dissolved.

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.
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