Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

As promised in the saving energy with a clothesline post, here is my homemade laundry detergent recipe.

The BEST homemade laundry detergent recipe plus tips, found at www.PintSizeFarm.com

The BEST homemade laundry detergent recipe.

There are lots of ideas out there for a great homemade laundry detergent recipe (and I have tried what seems like all of them). I wasn't thrilled with liquid, many powders were hard to make (not the one I use now) and I never felt like you really put enough soap in the load. I was cloth diapers and hubby works at a zoo so I needed CLEAN clothes. After much trial and error I found my perfect homemade laundry detergent recipe.

I must admit, I have thought about taking the plunge purchasing a laundry purifier so I can wash my clothes on cold with no detergent at all, but I haven't been able to do that yet. Until then, my homemade laundry detergent recipe will have to do!

Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

  • 1/2 Cup Castile Soap (any type is fine, I really like Dr. Bronner's)
  • 1/2 Cup Washing Soda (this is not baking soda and it is an important ingredient! It is also called Soda Ash or Sodium Carbonate)
  • 1/2 Cup Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Cup Borax
  • Essential Oils (optional, many of the Dr. Bronner's soaps have them already added)

Mix everything together well. I mix the castile soap, washing soda, and borax as best as I can then add the baking soda (which tends to help break up clots and “fluffs” it up. I use liquid castile soap. You can grate a bar. I hate grating soap and preferred the liquid by a mile.

Use 1 Tbs per load (so this recipe is for 32 loads). This is the homemade laundry detergent recipe I have been using for almost 6 years now and it works great!

Essential Oils: Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

You can use any essential oils that you want, but if you are not used to using them then here are a few suggestions:

  • Tea Tree Oil – this has a strong smell that some people love and others hate. To be honest, the smell is not my favorite. But, it's antiseptic properties are great for really dirty laundry (like cloth diapers and my husband's zoo clothes).
  • Grapefruit Seed Oil – If you cannot stand tea tree oil then this is a good substitute. It has many of the same properties, but smells like grapefruit instead of antiseptic.
  • Lavender – A nice smelling essential oil for laundry. I mix it with tea tree oil at a rate of 2-3 to one (5-10 drops tea tree and 15-20 drops of lavender for each homemade laundry detergent recipe batch)
  • Orange – This is a low cost oil that has a strong enough smell that it will shine through on your clothes. Most people enjoy the smell of oranges. Lemon oil will do the same thing, but orange smells fresh while lemon tends to smell a little too “clean” or like disinfectant in laundry.
  • Vanilla – I always have vanilla essential oil on hand because it makes a great backdrop for another oil when it comes to scenting your laundry. Orange and Vanilla oils together smell like a dreamsicle pop (and it is a smell that I love for childrens clothing). Lavender and Vanilla make a wonderful combination for bed sheets.

Dr Bronner's has a few types of castile soap that already have essential oils in them so you can also go that route. Sometimes I use a castile soap with an essential oil and then add a second to get the perfect scent I am looking for.

I buy my essential oils from Amazon. They tend to be great prices there and they sell them in large amounts. You can find them in health food stores, but they are usually 10 ml bottles (I prefer 2 or 4 ounce bottles). Store your essential oils in a dark cool place.

Using the Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

There are no phosphates in this homemade laundry detergent recipe so you can re-use the water for your plants. You may have found some information online saying you cannot use grey water if you use a homemade laundry detergent recipe using borax, but at this concentration it is perfectly fine. If you use 1 Tbs per load then there is 3/4 tsp of borax per washer full of water. It will not harm your plants.

You can add it to your laundry load before or after you add the clothes (or just add it to the washer soap dispenser). For those of you who use vinegar in your rinse load, that is okay to do with this homemade laundry detergent recipe. If you don't use vinegar than give it a shot (it is a great fabric softener).

This can be used in a HE front or top loading machine. I have noticed that powdered detergent takes longer to dissolve in those machines so it will work better if you make sure there are not any “clumps” before adding your laundry.

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Cost Analysis: Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

You can always count on me to show you the numbers! Here is the cost analysis for this homemade laundry detergent recipe.

  • Dr. Bronner's can be found on Amazon, Whole Foods, or other natural stores. Our local Costco even started carrying it about a month ago so you can check there as well. The cheapest I found was $9.61 for a 32 ounce bottle (that will make 8 batches of homemade laundry detergent). Other brands of castile soap can be found for less.
  • Washing Soda sells for about $8 for a 55 ounce box (that will make 14 batches of homemade laundry detergent). You can find washing soda in the laundry or cleaning aisle of most grocery stores.
  • Borax sells for about $4 for a 72 ounce box (that will make 18 batches of homemade laundry detergent). You can find borax in the laundry aisle.
  • I buy the baking soda at Costco. It is $8 for a 12 pound bag (that will make 53 batches of homemade laundry detergent!)

If you are an Amazon member then consider using Prime Pantry to get your supplies. It is a new program that ships large boxes of home goods (most at a discount) for only $6. You can get up to 45 pounds in each box and the prices are generally better than our local grocery store (plus it comes straight to your house). All of these supplies are in prime pantry (as long as they are in stock).

Each batch will cost you $1.16 to make and will last 32 loads so it will cost you approximately $0.04/load. This is not the cheapest homemade laundry detergent option, but it is my favorite one. I tend to wait until I can get Dr. Bronner's on sale and that makes a huge difference in the cost.

Crunchy Living: Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

If you are looking for more ways to live a frugal and crunchy lifestyle then check out my cleaner recipes for:

Frugal, homemade cleaners are a great way to reduce the toxic chemicals in your life while saving a little bit of cash in the process!

  • Reply Lachlan Molineux September 5, 2013, 10:25 pm

    Thank for nice recipe .

  • Reply Sarah November 20, 2013, 3:20 am

    Very handy information Heidi! By reading your post it seems to me that putting homemade detergent in washing machine is very effective and result oriented and also cost effective. So definitely everybody should use this way to save cost as well. Really appreciate able!
    Sarah recently posted…How Much Does a New Roof Cost?My Profile

  • Reply Jessica Lane (The 104 Homestead) May 2, 2014, 10:29 am

    Is this recipe CD safe? If not, do you have one you can suggest? We are using one with Oxy Clean and it is starting to make the diapers raunchy.
    Jessica Lane (The 104 Homestead) recently posted…Valerie: 10 Acres in OklahomaMy Profile

    • Reply Heidi May 2, 2014, 12:49 pm

      I have always used it with our CDs and love it! I make sure to use tea tree oil Castile soap (or add TTO) if it is going to be used for cd’s (or hubby’s zoo laundry) – that will give it an extra boost. Also, use about 50% more than non soiled loads (1.5 Tbs if you normally use 1). Since it doesn’t suds you can do that without as much risk of buildup.

  • Reply Tracy @ OurSimpleLifeSC September 11, 2014, 5:17 am

    I have never added Essential Oils to my homemade detergent but what a great idea. I think I am going to add tea oil to mine.

    • Reply Heidi September 11, 2014, 11:51 am

      Tea Tree is an excellent one to add! I think TTO, lavender, and orange are three oils I couldn’t live without!! (Although there are quite a few more that I would be pretty sad to have to give up, LOL)
      Heidi recently posted…Top 100 Homesteading and Garden Posts | HomeAcre HopMy Profile

  • Reply Clancy Nicole Harrison March 31, 2015, 6:50 am

    This looks so easy and clean!!! I love the essential oils for the detergent. I cannot wait to make it myself. Thanks so much!

    • Reply Heidi March 31, 2015, 11:50 am

      You’re welcome 🙂 thanks for stopping by.

  • Reply Shannon March 31, 2015, 8:38 am

    Great recipe! I was just thinking about making my own detergent. I will have to try this out. thanks!

    • Reply Heidi March 31, 2015, 11:51 am

      It’s an easy recipe and I like being able to customize it!

  • Reply Christina Sandema-Sombe April 1, 2015, 11:30 pm

    I’m constantly looking to make my own cause you at least know what went in. I’ve been quite good about food, and now I’m working on diy hair products and now I think I’ll try this too

  • Reply Lauren April 8, 2015, 1:46 pm

    It’s amazing how much money you could save by making your own laundry detergent. Thanks for sharing!

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