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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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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.

Leave a Reply

146 Responses
  1. Michelle

    I was excited to try this! I have always been “all-natural” but am working my way towards plastic-free and trying to save money in the process. (I have an AMAZING all-natural, homemade dishwasher detergent recipe that leaves ZERO film on the dishes and they feel squeaky clean!) OK, back to laundry… I have two dogs… my husband works in grocery… so our laundry requires some heavy-duty attention. I hate to say it but this recipe made our clothes look dingy, feeling like there was build up, and not smelling well at all. I followed the recipe exact and used bottled distilled water and peppermint oil (a natural dust mite repellant as I have a dog with the allergy). I have a new set of LG HE front loader washer/dryer. I also wash separates, in five loads – darks, lights, whites, towels, “whosies” (socks and underwear LOL). I line dry everything (except whosies). Clothes were SUPER stiff with residue – more so than using store-bought natural laundry detergents. There are a couple of companies out there that use veg- or sugar-based plastic bottles vs. petroleum-based plastics… so I will return to those. But Cassie, I thank you for the suggestion!

  2. Patricia

    I have been using this mix for some time. I have been using up water softening salt, the mix always separates and the suds harden on the top of the mix . I have been using a citric acid 20% mix as a softener. After 6 months of use my laundry smells ‘doggy’ and unpleasant. I am now reading that these mixes are ineffective and I should strip the fabric to get rid of built up bacteria. I am at a loss what to do as I really want to continue mt ‘Green journey’.
    From your site it looks as though I should be using sea salt to get a good mix but what do I do about the smell?
    Any help you can give will be appreciated

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Patricia! We’ve never tried the formula with any added citric acid, so we can’t be sure what changes that would make—but we’ve never had those smell issues before. If you are interested in stripping your laundry, we’ve used Rockin’ Green Funk Rock before when cloth diapering and can definitely recommend it for getting rid of stinky buildup!

  3. Lea

    Hi! I’m slowly working on changing out the products in our house for more natural and sustainable ones. This looks great! What’s the ratio for all of the ingredients? I’ve never made homemade anything when it comes to cleaning products before so I’m a definitely a newbie!

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Lea! At the top of the post you should see our Recipe-at-a-Glance box and at the bottom of that box is “Jump to Recipe.” If you click that it will take you directly to the recipe card with all of the ingredients and their quantities, as well as the exact instructions for how to mix it up. I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions =)

  4. Cindy Whitlock

    I followed the directions. It was very cloudy before I added the Castile soap. And the Castile soap won’t mix. It’s floating on top. What could I have done wrong? Thank You so much!

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Cindy! We haven’t had that happen to us when we make, but some other folks have commented with something similar. Our best thoughts on what’s happening are that either everything didn’t dissolve properly when it was first mixed up so it separated when it settles, or it might be the type of salt you’re using reacting with the castile soap. Table salt, in particular, can make castile soap harden so it’s not the best salt to use in this recipe.

      You should be able to get everything to dissolve again by heating it back up, but this batch might continue to clump when it cools. Next time, see if everything is dissolved fully when first mixing (even add in an extra cup or two of water to help, if needed) and try sea salt or kosher salt instead of table salt. Hopefully that helps! Let us know how it goes!

Meet Cassie
Meet Your Host

Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

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