Homesteading · Money savers · Urban skills

Make your own laundry soap

Thanks to the Urban Farming Guys there’s a great video on how to do this…

In my quest to save money and use safer products around my home, I decided to try making my own laundry detergent.

The HOW:

Washing soda, Borax and Dr. Bronner's Castille soapMy ingredients:

  • Washing Soda: $3.69 at Breed & Co.
  • Borax: about $7 at Wheatsville Co-Op, but as I discovered, you can find it for around $4 at Target or HEB.
  • Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap: I believe my refill was $4 for 16 oz at Wheatsville. A new bottle will cost about $7.


  • 1 cup borax
  • 1/2 cup washing soda
  • 1/2 cup (liquid) castille soap or a bar of solid castille soap (which has to be grated and melted in water over the stove first)
  • 10 gallons hot water

Combine all the ingredients, with half the water, in a 5 gallon bucket. Mix and let sit (covered) overnight. Split into two buckets, fill up buckets with additional hot water, mix, and then distribute to various bottles and containers.

And… done. Ready to go. Really, it could not be easier than that.

I’ve been using this mixture for a couple of months now. It seems to last at least as long as commercial detergent, and my clothes are at least as clean. No staining, streaking, and they smell fresh and clean.

Initially I wasn’t using enough water, and the laundry soap got too thick and “gloppy”. I wasn’t sure why… and when I found the Urban Farming Guys video, I realized my error. At least it was an easy fix!

The WHY:

Making your own laundry soap is both economical and safer for both humans and the environment.

According to Wikipedia, a detergent is a ” surfactant or a mixture of surfactants having ‘cleaning properties in dilute solutions.’ ” while a soap is “a salt of a fatty acid.”

Both washing soda (a sodium salt of carbonic acid) and Borax (sodium borate) are naturally-occurring minerals that are created as lakes evaporate. They are also both used in food and cosmetics; the components of washing soda, in fact, are in part what give ramen noodles their characteristic flavor. Castille soap is a soap made from olive oil. All are biodegradable products. Detergents, on the other hand, are not soaps at all, but instead are surfactants, by-products of the petroleum industry. Most laundry detergents, as well as dish ‘soap’ and shampoos and bar ‘soap’ are actually detergents. These detergents include preservatives, artificial colors and fragrances, and other chemicals to boost their effectiveness, and it is this chemical soup that causes many people to get rashes or other reactions from using them.

The laundry soap described here is safe for the environment because it is biodegradable. It has not been tested on animals, contains nothing that should trigger allergies, and has no petrochemicals or ‘detergents’.


I looked online for a good comparison. Seventh Generation makes a ‘natural’ laundry detergent free of dyes and scents, and they claim it is nontoxic, biodegradable, hypoallergenic, and free of chlorine, phosphates and petroleum-based ingredients. A 150 oz bottle is $24.99 at Costco.

Cost comparison:

  • Homemade laundry soap (10 gallons):¬† ~ $6
  • Seventh Generation Natural 2X Laundry Detergent (150 oz): $24.99

It’s amazing how many homemade laundry soap recipes there are out there, both for powder and liquid versions. Most utilize a bar soap rather than liquid castille soap, which may save a few more pennies but seems to be much more difficult since you have to shave the bar and “melt” it in hot water before combining with the powders.


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