I’ve been making my own laundry detergent since probably October and I really enjoy this simple, more natural, homemade recipe. It’s cheaper than traditional detergent too—or at least not more expensive.
- One 55 ounce box Washing Soda– $4.99
- One 76 ounce box of Borax – $5.99
- One Bar Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castille Bar Soap– $4
These prices are rough estimates (and much more expensive on Amazon than I’ve found in stores), but I know $15 of product lasted me 7-8 months washing a full load about every 2 weeks.
I used to get so itchy, especially at night, but not anymore. I think some of my itchiness was anxiety related, but also likely chemically related to something in those harsh detergents.
So what’s wrong with regular detergent?
“Because laundry-care product manufacturers are not required to list all laundry detergent ingredients on packaging, it can be difficult for consumers to make informed choices. The term “fragrance” alone may refer to a combination of several hundred laundry chemicals including many that are hazardous. Laundry detergents are often derived from petrochemicals and contain synthetic fragrances, even when advertised as “fragrance-free.” Most companies add optical brighteners to detergent formulas—additives that emit blue light, making whites appear whiter by tricking the eye. By design, optical brighteners stay in clothes after washing, which may cause skin irritation. They also decompose relatively slowly and can be toxic to marine life. Fabric softeners are also designed to stay in clothes and not fully rinse out, which means lingering chemicals come into contact with skin.”
– Largely, ingredients aren’t listed on detergent bottles.
– Many of them contain surfactants that are derived from petrochemicals (substances obtained by the refining and processing of petroleum or natural gas)– not something you want on your skin
– chemicals in detergents can create oxygen-depleted dead zones in aquatic environments, kill aquatic life, possibly disrupt the endocrine systems of humans and animals, and persist in the environment and break down into additional toxic byproducts
– “Problematic” levels of 1,4-dioxane, a potential carcinogen, were detected in original formula Tide detergent
– The plastic containers that liquid detergents come in aren’t recyclable or resuable, leading to a large volume of packaging going to the landfill. The ingredients in this formula come in cardboard boxes that are recyclable or easily break down.
I encourage you to do your own research regarding this recipe, because one shouldn’t just assume that natural is always better. I’ve done my own research on homemade laundry detergents and this is the one that I decided on and have stuck with because it works for me.
A note on Borax, which is an ingredient I use: some sites warn against using it. However, many of them are referring to the use of boric acid, which is not what you’re using. And the primary warning when you search on Google says:
“According to 20 Mule Team Borax’s Material Safety Data Sheet, borax is a potential health hazard and should not be ingested: Sodium borate and boric acid interfere with sperm production, damage the testes and interfere with male fertility when given to animals by mouth at high doses.”
Again, it’s not boric acid and normally you don’t eat laundry detergent, especially in high doses, nor are you a lab rat, so I think we’re set. Here is an article breaking it down so you can explore this info on your own.
Borax is mineral based, meaning that it is mined and has some impact on the environment. Apparently, 20 Mule Team Borax is “extracted in California at a mine that has been lauded for it’s environmental standards. It is considered to be one of the cleanest running mines in the world.”
I’ll be searching for an even better laundry recipe, but this does the work for now. Baking soda I believe can be used as a replacement for Borax, but I’m not certain if it’s the same quantity ratio. Here are some other homemade recipes if you want to explore.
– Box of washing soda
– Box of Borax (both of these can usually be found in the laundry detergent aisle)
– Bar of castile soap (Dr. Bronner’s peppermint, lavender, whatever scent you like)
– optionally, tea tree oil, lemon essential oil
– cheese grater
To make this, you need 2 parts each of washing soda and Borax, 1 part of shaved soap (i.e. 2 cups and 1 cup, but this can be scaled up for however much you want to make). I don’t recommend adding more soap for extra scent or washing power—I tried that and there was too much for the water to dissolve so my clothes had sticky, non-dissolved soap pieces left on it at the end of the wash 😦
I shave the soap using an old cheese grater, usually just shaving off however much I need for that batch. One bar of soap can make you 2-3 batches of the recommended amount above.
So you measure out your 3 ingredients into an air tight container and shake. I like adding ~10-20 drops of essential oils into the mix for scent and because of their antibacterial properties (tea tree and lemon are great for cleaning). Eden’s Garden is a great place for cheap oils that don’t sacrifice quality (the make your own 6 pack is a real steal, or the top 6 set because there are TONS of uses for these, which I’ll cover in another post eventually).
Then, you just measure out ½ to ¾ cup of detergent for each load. If you’re like me and wait 2 weeks so you can fill up the whole washer, sometimes I use a whole cup, especially for big stuff like sheets and blankets. If your load of laundry isn’t huge, maybe closer to half. Experiment and see what works for you.
Lastly, you can get yourself some reusable lavender laundry bags (get ’em at Trader Joe’s) in place of dryer sheets—eliminate waste AND smell wonderful.