Homemade Laundry Detergent Revisited

So I made this powdered homemade laundry detergent last summer. It was okay but not great, almost certainly because the soap I used was also just okay but not great. While I had long been used to my laundry not having the “clean” smell that comes from washing with synthetic fragrances, that first batch of powdered detergent made my clothes smell not quite dirty but a little greasy, if that makes sense, and I knew I needed to change something. Washing with hot water seemed to help a bit (maybe because it dissolved the soap flakes better?), but the extra energy used to heat the water, in my mind at least, cancels out the good of making laundry detergent to begin with.


Above: I tend to gauge the success of the previous week based on the ratio of comfy to serious clothes. This load of exclusively t-shirts was obviously a good week. Also, I might wear too much purple?

Anyway, despite my being less-than-satisfied with the outcome, I used up that first batch and then, for my second attempt, used peppermint Dr. Bronners as a base for this liquid version. It makes two whole gallons, and at 1/2 cup of soap a load, they last quite a while–I haven’t been mindful enough to figure out just how long, but we wash at least two loads of clothes a week here, and two gallons seems to last at least three months. Not only that, but this detergent also gets my laundry very clean, and it’s much more cost effective than anything I could get at the grocery store, even with the Dr. Bronners, which I’ll admit is not cheap. (I do not, however, mind paying a little extra for Dr. Bronners, and am actually happy to support such a wonderful company. I have a few bars stockpiled, but once I use them up I plan on trying something fancy-smelling from LuSa Organics, another wonderful company I feel great about supporting.) I’ve made the following recipe at least two or three times now, and I am very happy with the results. Please note, however, that both borax and washing soda are harmful when inhaled and can irritate skin, so exercise caution when following this recipe by wearing gloves, opening some windows or turning on a fan, and covering your mouth and nose when pouring.

Liquid Laundry Detergent

1 bar of soap
1 C of borax
1 C of washing soda (in case you’re unfamiliar with washing soda: it’s not the same as baking soda, but Arm & Hammer does make it, and you should be able to find it near other laundry-related things)
a giant pot
a grater
a funnel
a long spoon (I have a wooden spoon devoted solely to detergent-making)
2 empty gallon jugs (I use empty vinegar bottles, which are never in short supply here because we use it for cleaning just about everything.)

Grate the soap into your pot. To measure a gallon, fill one of your gallon jugs with water and pour it in with the soap. Heat until the soap dissolves, then add the borax and washing soda. Bring the mixture to a boil. It might coagulate, but don’t worry if it’s still pretty liquid at this point. Turn off the heat and add another gallon of cold water. Stir well.

Once the mixture has cooled enough to not be dangerous, funnel the detergent into your two containers. An extra set of hands is also helpful here. Over the next day or so, depending on the temperature of your home, the detergent will coagulate a bit. Always be sure to shake it before using, and don’t be alarmed if it’s a little chunky. Use 1/2 C per gallon of laundry.

Have you ever made laundry detergent? Do you have a favorite recipe? Or do you think this is a giant waste of time and store-bought laundry detergent is clearly the way to go? Let me know in the comments!

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One response to “Homemade Laundry Detergent Revisited

  1. Pingback: Homemade Laundry Detergent | D is for Delicate

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