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! Craig 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. We were trying to get away from chemical-heavy detergents, and while there is no clear “yes, it’s good for you” or “no, it’s bad for you” verdict on borax, there is enough negative anecdotes and studies out there about it that made us want to try to avoid it if we could. So we started searching for a borax-free laundry detergent. There were decidedly fewer recipes out there without borax. So that meant it was experimentation time!
It took a few trials, but we ended up figuring out a 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. We do a lot of manual labor around here—playing in the dirt in the garden, 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.
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. True “clean” smells like absolutely nothing. And this detergent gets our clothes to smelling like nothing! Of course, if you like some scent to 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)).
I will say that we have regular, run-of-the-mill washing machine, so I have no idea if this will work with the fancy new-fangled high-efficiency machines. It might though—because it’s a low-soap, low-suds mixture—but try at your own risk! We also don’t use this stuff on cloth diapers, because I have no idea if it’ll break down the absorbency—we just stick to Rockin Green for those. Maybe one day I’ll get up the guts to try our homemade stuff on the diapers, but I’d hate to ruin our stash!
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. That means we get about 40 loads of laundry out of one gallon of detergent. And it costs me less than $5 to make each gallon—steal! Here’s how to make it:
What You’ll Need
- 4 cups very hot water
- 1 cup baking soda
- 1/3 cup salt
- 1 cup unscented liquid castile soap
- Gallon-sized jug
- Printable label PDF
- Label sheet, printer and scissors
How to Make It
In a large, spouted measuring cup, stir together the hot water and baking soda until the soda is dissolved. Then add the salt and stir until it is dissolved. Add in the liquid castile soap and stir gently to combine. If your faucet doesn’t get hot enough to dissolve the soda and salt, you might want to try heating the mixture over the stove until dissolved.
Pour the mixture into the one-gallon jug (I use an old vinegar container, but a cleaned out bleach container will work, too). And then, slowly fill the gallon jug to the top with water. The soap will foam, but just keep filling until you have mostly liquid. Print out the label, cut it out and place it on the container.
To use, shake the container to mix ingredients, then pour 1/3-1/2 cup of the solution into the washer while it fills. This recipe has NOT been tested with a high-efficiency washer, however, because it is low on soap, it does not create a lot of suds, so it might just work!
Why It Works
The castile soap and baking soda work together to get clothes nice and clean. Salt helps keep clothes from fading, is a natural stain-fighter, and it also helps soften your water if you struggle with hard water.