Laundry often seems like a never-ending process. As soon as you’re done washing and drying one load, you’ve another ready to go. That adds up to a lot of work—and a lot of laundry detergent.
If you’re as sick of buying laundry detergent as I am, homemade laundry detergent might be the answer. More and more people are making their own laundry soap for multiple reasons, aside from saving money and preventing headaches.
Making your own laundry soap doesn’t need to be a dirty process. Let’s wash away any misconceptions you might have and dive into why making your own homemade laundry detergent is a good idea.
Reasons to Make Your Own Laundry Detergent
Why is homemade laundry detergent an attractive option for people looking to change up their household routine? It turns out there are more than a few reasons why people have already made the switch.
A standard store-bought laundry detergent contains so many chemical ingredients, you could get a headache just trying to read them. These chemicals make their way onto your clothes and skin, causing itchiness and allergic reactions in some people.
If that’s not enough to make your spine tingle, these chemicals also harm the environment. They are washed away with your laundry water, where they end up contaminating aquatic ecosystems and causing algal blooms that starve marine life of oxygen and prevent healthy reproduction.
For more information about the negative effects of laundry detergent, read my article about how toxic detergent is.
Chemicals aren’t the only way store-bought laundry soap affects the planet. Laundry detergents usually use plastic packaging. Plastic only makes up 10% of recycled materials every year and takes up to 450 years to decompose in a landfill, where chemicals leach into the soil. That’s 450 years of harm to the planet.
Furthermore, heavy liquid detergents in giant plastic jugs require a great deal of fuel and energy to ship from the factory to the warehouse to the store you buy it from. Cutting back on the mining and burning of fossil fuels is the only way to slow the damaging effects of climate change.
By switching to a DIY laundry detergent, you can help reverse climate change and protect the Earth for future generations.
Traditional detergents in those horrible, heavy plastic jugs just get more and more expensive with each year. You can save money by making your own laundry detergent. While you’ll need to pay for the tools to make your own detergent, you probably have most, if not all, of them around your house already. And the main ingredients in homemade laundry detergent are basic, affordable grocery store staples. They’re also more gentle than the harsh chemicals you’re used to, so your clothes might even last longer. You’ll definitely save money by not buying and using laundry detergent regularly.
All this comes without sacrificing the quality of your wash. A homemade laundry detergent cleans your clothes quite well and acts as an effective fabric softener.
Everything You Need to Make a DIY Laundry Detergent
You’ll need a few things to make your homemade laundry detergent. You probably already have some or all of these items, but if you don’t, they’re easy to find at most large supermarkets.
Tools for making homemade laundry detergent
- Airtight Tupperware or similar container with lid
- Food processor or grater
- Measuring spoons and cups
- Standard spoon
Ingredients in homemade laundry detergent
Once you’ve made sure you have the tools above, you’ll need to pick up the ingredients to make your own homemade laundry detergent. You’ll use the same ingredients no matter whether you’re making a liquid detergent or powder one.
Adding salt to your homemade laundry detergent recipe minimizes the chances of hard water staining and discoloring your clothes.
You can use either sea salt or regular table salt for this. You can find both at your local supermarket.
When you first think of baking soda, you might naturally think of baking a cake. I know I did. Turns out, baking soda has a range of cleaning applications and is a nice addition to any homemade laundry detergent. The grittiness of baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is perfect for stain removal without damaging your clothes.
Since it also has a lot of alkaline, it naturally removes stains better than many other options. It’s also ideal for removing odors from your clothes. Your clothes will not only look clean, but smell fresh, too.
You should avoid mixing baking soda with vinegar, lemon juice, or other acidic ingredients, as it can cancel out baking soda’s and other ingredients’ cleaning qualities.
While washing soda and baking soda sound alike, they’re actually two totally different compounds. Where baking soda has a more neutral pH of 8, washing soda is more alkaline, with a pH of 11. Washing soda—aka sodium carbonate—is a natural water softener and cleaner that’s already used in many conventional laundry detergents. It’s popular because of its effectiveness against grease and stains without leaving any soap residue.
If you can’t find washing soda in your local store, you can make it yourself by heating up baking soda. This changes its chemical formula and turns it into washing soda quite quickly.
Washing soda should be handled carefully because of its high alkaline content. While this is great for cleaning clothes, it irritates sensitive skin if you come into direct contact with it. Make sure to wear gloves anytime you’re handling it. A mask might also be a good idea if you want to be extra safe.
A vegan-friendly soap, castile doesn’t include the animal fats that alternative soaps do.Instead it’s made solely of plant and vegetable oils. It’s also better for sensitive skin because it doesn’t use any chemicals and is all natural. Since it can be bought in liquid or solid versions, it’s perfect for any type of homemade laundry soaps you make.
If you can’t find castile soap in the laundry aisle, try having a look around the store. You can often find castile soap in the bath or body aisle of your local supermarket. You have multiple options to choose from, but Dr. Bronners has various soaps and plant oils to choose from. You’ll have no problem finding one you like from that brand. If you can’t find castile bar soap, another biodegradable option, such as Ivory soap, will do in a pinch.
Essential oils are the only optional ingredient for your homemade laundry detergent. They add fragrance to laundry detergent without affecting its cleaning power. Essential oils can be harder to find than some of the other ingredients I’ve shared, but they’re becoming more and more common. You might be lucky enough to find some at your local supermarket, but if not, health food stores have them, or you can get them online. Try to get organic ones so you know the contents are safe and reliable.
It’s fun to experiment by mixing a few oils together to create a different fragrance. How much you add of each depends on how strong of a scent you want. It’s always worth starting off with a little bit to see how it smells. If you want it stronger, you can always add a few more drops. If you’re unsure which oils blend well together, a simple Google search will tell you.
Some oils are photosensitive, meaning if they get on your skin and you go in the sun you could have a reaction. It’s important to do a bit of research before incorporating essential oils into your laundry routine.
It’s not uncommon to be nervous about adding essential oils to your laundry detergent. Consider washing clothes with your homemade detergent without the oils and simply add a few drops into the washing machine itself. If you like the smell, add it to the detergent.
How to Make Your Own Laundry Detergent
Laundry soap is effective as either a liquid or a powdered detergent. Neither option is wrong, but which you prefer determines what kind of laundry soap recipe you need.
No matter which homemade laundry detergent you choose, you’ll need to start with a container. The size doesn’t really matter as long as it’s big enough to hold all your laundry soap.
An empty store-bought detergent container works well for this. Storing your DIY laundry soap in a reusable container reduces single-use plastics in landfills. Reusing is more effective than recycling, so why not?
And now, for a quick and easy homemade laundry detergent recipe.
Powdered detergent recipe
To make a powdered detergent, collect the following items:
- 2 cups of baking soda (not to be confused with washing soda)
- 3 bars of soap
- 4 ½ cups of washing soda
As an optional extra, consider between 10 and 30 drops of essential oils to add more fragrance to your laundry soap.
Steps to make your DIY powdered laundry detergent
- Use a cheese grater or food processor on the bar soap to break it into smaller pieces. Grated soap will mix easier with the rest of the ingredients. Place the grated bar soap into your container.
- Measure out 4 ½ cups of washing soda and 2 cups of baking soda. Mix these with the bar soap flakes in the container.
- If you’re using essential oils in your homemade laundry detergent, now’s the time to add them. Add 10 drops for a light scent, or 30 drops for a strong one. Add these directly to the washing soda, baking soda, and bar soap mix.
- All that’s left is to stir the mixture up until it has a consistent look and feel. Seal it with the lid and you’re good to go.
If you’re worried about using this DIY laundry detergent, you shouldn’t be. Using your own laundry powder is as simple as adding it to your washing machine as normal. One to three tablespoons of the homemade detergent per load should be enough to clean your clothes and make them smell nice.
Liquid detergent recipe
If you prefer liquid laundry detergent, your recipe is slightly different.
- 1 cup of washing soda
- 1 gallon of water
- ½ cup of baking soda
- 1 cup of liquid castile soap
- ⅓ cup of salt
Like with the powder version, you can add between 10 and 30 drops of essential oils to your homemade laundry soap recipe. The more you add, the more fragrant your laundry soap will be.
Feel free to experiment with how much you add to make your homemade laundry detergent perfect for you.
Steps to make your DIY liquid laundry detergent
While liquid laundry detergent takes a little extra work because of the extra ingredients needed, you can still make a liquid homemade detergent relatively simply.
Before you start, make sure you have a large enough container. It’ll need to be big enough to hold at least a gallon of the detergent.
- Measure out 1 cup of washing soda, ⅓ cup of salt, and ½ cup of baking soda. Mix these together until the washing soda and other ingredients are well blended.
- Add half of your water and mix until the washing soda, baking soda, and salt dissolve into the water. You can skip this process if you’re using a bottle. Simply put the cap back on and shake until the washing soda and other ingredients dissolve. The washing soda can clump during this process, so make sure you stir/shake well.
- Once mixed, add a cup of the liquid castile soap before stirring gently into the mixture.
- After the liquid soap is mixed in, add the rest of the water to the mixture. Stir or shake this again until everything blends together.
- If you’re using an essential oil with your homemade laundry detergent, add a few drops now. Like the powder detergent, anywhere between 10 and 30 drops is sufficient. Add the essential oils to the soap mixture depending on how strong of a scent you want.
Adding this to your washing machine is simple. You should only need half a cup of the liquid detergent per load. Add this to the washing machine as you would with a conventional laundry detergent.
Shake this laundry soap before each time you use it to ensure the ingredients are still mixed and nothing is resting at the bottom.
Tips to Remember
To make sure you get the best possible use out of your homemade laundry detergent, here are a few tips and tricks. While you might want to make your own adjustments as you get more experienced with making homemade laundry soap, it’s best to keep these in mind when you first start:
- If you have a HE washer, use the lowest amount of detergent possible per load.
- Wear a mask when mixing any dry or powdered ingredients to avoid inhaling any of the components.
- Don’t use cold water to make liquid detergent. The ingredients won’t dissolve properly and you’ll be left with a lumpy detergent. Hot water dissolves much more effectively.
- Keep your homemade laundry detergent at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.
- Put your DIY laundry soap directly into the water in your washing machine to make sure there’s no soap residue left on your clothes.
- Wear gloves when handling washing soda. It’ll irritate your skin otherwise, especially if you have sensitive skin.
- Feel free to customize your laundry detergent as you see fit. While you’ll need to use the same base ingredients, try changing the measurements slightly to get the right effect for you.
- Use an empty bottle, jar, or store-bought laundry detergent container to store your homemade alternative to cut down on the amount of plastic you throw out. Reuse this every time you run out.
- If you can’t choose between the powdered or liquid homemade laundry detergent recipe, try both. They only take a little bit of effort to make. Just halve the ingredients so you don’t end up with too much.
- Don’t worry if you can’t make a decision on essential oils. If you don’t add them, your DIY laundry detergent will still do its job.
Making your own laundry soap saves you money and benefits the environment. Once you know how to make DIYlaundry soap, there’s nothing stopping you from making the switch.Your clothes, your wallet, and the environment will benefit.
No matter which laundry detergent recipe you use, it’s unlikely you’ll ever want to switch back to store-bought detergent. If you do decide that making homemade laundry soap is too much hassle, but you want to have a positive environmental impact, an environmentally friendly laundry detergent and liquid fabric softener is what you need. To choose one, read my article on the Eight Best Laundry Detergent Sheets. To help you choose the safest laundry detergent for your family, here’s a guide to ethical laundry detergents.