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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.
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  • 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. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Sam! We haven’t tested this with any other soaps, so we can’t say for sure. But please let us know how it works out for you if you try it!

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Kirsty! Sorry, no! Epsom salt and table salt are different chemical compounds and won’t work interchangeably in this formula.

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Natalia! Cassie replied to a similar concern about water quality previously. She said, “We filter our water at our house, so if you are concerned about the contents of your water, I would recommend doing the same. 🙂”

      You can certainly use whatever water you like in this recipe, but if the water that’s running through your washing machine isn’t filtered/distilled then the concerns about water quality are still there! That said, if you’ve been washing your clothes with no issues so far, then it should continue to be fine. So you can make this detergent with whatever water makes you feel best. Let us know how it turns out for you!

  1. Brandi

    I made this recipe and it seems like one of the ingredients became a solid that is floating at the top of the gallon jar now. Is this normal, or did I do something wrong? It’s happened after it cooled.

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Brandi! 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!

  2. Hi Cassie,
    I’m in Cornwall, UK. I love the idea of this simple laundry detergent, made from a few ingredients. I’ve been buying a commercial liquid made by E Cover for years and it seems okay – but it is punishingly expensive. I’m not even sure it is particularly wholesome and the list of contents is both long and hard to read as the list is printed in such small print. I have a question about the words ‘baking soda’ as I believe the words may mean something different in the States from in the UK. We have ‘baking soda’ and ‘baking powder.’ ‘Baking Soda’ is sodium bicarbonate, and ‘Baking Powder’ is a mix of Bicarbonate of Soda with some other stuff. To confuse myself more, I do also use Soda Crystals (sometimes called Washing Soda) for softening water and de-greasing in my dish-washing and to remove stains and whitening laundry. I just wanted to check that ‘Baking Soda’ is what I need to make your magical, and lovely liquid. I’m 71 and when I was at school we hardly learned any science or chemistry. I love investigations that feel a bit wholesomely productive. I’ve just signed up to your newsletter. Looking forward to hearing some more good things to do and make. Good wishes, Gabrielle

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Gabrielle! Those terms can get confusing! What we call ‘Baking Soda’ here in the States typically goes by ‘Bicarbonate of Soda’ or ‘Bicarb Soda’ or ‘Sodium Bicarbonate’ in the UK. The difference between baking soda and baking powder is the same here, though—baking soda is bicarbonate of soda and baking powder is bicarbonate of soda with other stuff (usually cream of tartar and cornstarch). We hope this helps! Best of luck with your investigation and thanks so much for signing up for our newsletter!

  3. Misty Whitlock

    I have made this three times and like it overall but can’t get the soap and the rest of the mixture to stay combined. Even when I shake up the jug, it stays clumpy. Any tips on how to avoid or fix this?

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Misty! The key for us is to get it dissolved completely when you first make it. If everything doesn’t dissolve when you mix it up, it will separate as it settles.

      If you’re having trouble getting it to dissolve, you can try adding a cup or two of water. This recipe uses nearly the maximum density of baking soda you can do in a solution and still get it to dissolve. So adding a bit more water will help if yours doesn’t fully incorporate.

      We’re so glad you like the detergent overall. We hope this helps you love it even more! Let us know how it works out for you.

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Stephanie! We’ve had several folks in the comments say they’ve used it in their HE front loading machine and it worked very well. A few even commented after using up the whole first batch and working their way through the second with great results! Let us know how it works out for you if you try it =)

  4. Eva Bubb

    i tested this recipe with a front loaded HE machine, works fine!
    used up a whole gallon without issue, making more now. Thanks for the recipe.

  5. Erela

    New front loaders require no more than 2 Tbsp of detergent. Has anyone had any issues when using this low amount (as compared to the 1/2 cup, suggested)?

  6. Janet Richards

    Hi! Just tried this Borax-free laundry detergent, and I have a few questions:

    a.) no suds whatsoever. It may sound like a silly question, but does your clothing still get clean?
    b.) Any clue if I can substitute homemade Castile soap (made from bars of Kirk’s Castile soap) for purchased Castile soap?
    c.) Any clue if I can substitute Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda for the baking powder? Or add Super Washing Soda to the water along with this recipe?

    Thanks for any wisdom you can give me!

    1. Cassie Johnston

      Hi Janet! Yup, no suds (or not very many). This works well on our farm-dirty clothes, but if suds are important to you, I’d recommend another detergent. I don’t see why you couldn’t substitute homemade Castille soap and the washing soda. Good luck!

  7. Kelly

    Hi Cassie,
    I I made this amazing laundry soap and here is my problem,……. After being made 2 days it has become sooooo thick . Your looks dense as well in your lovely bottle. How do you navigate with the congealed or clumping of the settled product. I was thinking using my vita mix to make it smooth ……any interesting techniques for this situation? Or is it just par t of the experience. Thanks ,,,,,,gratitude

  8. Letha

    HI there, I’m new to going all-natural with detergents. This recipe sounded easy-enough and not to time-consuming, so I made my first batch today. I only had Rose Castile Soap left, so used it.

    I have 2 questions. What is the table salt for? Also, can I add washing soda? Isn’t that a natural water softener?

    Lastly, do you have an all-natural alternative to bleach? Would that be real lemons or maybe lemon essential oil? I can see where using essential oils could get expensive.

    Thanks for all the great things you’re doing for our families and environment.

  9. Alisia

    I love this recipe. There have been a few loads where a t-shirt of my husbands or two had to go through again but then I figured out that my detergent dispenser is only about a quarter cup. Also my soap curdled up when I added it to the baking soda and salt solution. Is there a way to avoid this?

  10. Cassidi Delight

    I love this recipe thanks so much for creating it. I’m wondering if I can add glycerin to help thicken it and aid in cleaning? If so what amount would you suggest? Thanks!

  11. Din

    In my experience, this does not rinse cleanly and clothes end up smelling dingy after just a few weeks of use. I used a similar recipe for about 3 months, and my clothes *seemed* clean after coming out of the dryer, but just a couple days after sitting in the drawer, they smelled dirty again. You know the ring around the tub from soap scum after your kids’ baths? That is what will build up in your washer after years of using this. Ask any appliance man, and he will agree. Professionally made detergents (different than soaps) are designed to rinse completely clean, leaving no residue. Vinegar also removes residue, but does not soften.

  12. Tracy Peilecke

    Tried the liquid laundry soap recipe and it works well. I used some vinegar in the rinse cycle for softener and also used 3 wool balls in the dryer but my laundry was still really staticky. Why? Do I need something else?

  13. Robin Mercado

    I’m trying another batch. Unfortunately as the concoction cooled in the jar the Castile soap hardened at the top ?

    I’m not letting the baking soda-salt-water mixture cool down completely as we speak before pouring it into the jug. Fingers crossed!

  14. Grace Pauli

    Where do you buy Castile soap for less then $5. Been looking for it, but have not been able to find it. Do you buy giant containers of it?

  15. Bri

    I just made this and after it cooled it got a hard layer of what looks like soap on top that does not mix in even when I shake it! What did I do wrong!? And how do I fix it?

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!

Learn More About Me →

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