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How To Choose The Best Homemade Laundry Detergent For Your Family

 

Homemade Laundry Detergent is easy to make, saves you money, and can reduce chemicals in your home. But that all depends on the recipe you use. There are tons of DIY Laundry Detergent recipes out there so how do you know which one is best for your family?

 

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Homemade Laundry Detergent is easy to make, saves you money, and can reduce chemicals in your home. But that all depends on the recipe you use. There are tons of DIY Laundry Detergent recipes out there so how do you know which one is best for your family? | We Three Shanes

 

How To Choose The Best Homemade Laundry Detergent For Your Family

There are different reason why someone would chose to make their own laundry detergent. Some do it to save money. Others don’t trust the ingredients in commercial products. For me it’s both.

Different reasons call for different homemade laundry detergent recipes. Because of this I’m going to break down popular DIY laundry detergent recipes by ingredient so we can determine which recipe will work best for you. That means a long post with lots of info so if you’re not feeling it, you can scroll to the end to find the homemade laundry detergent recipes you’re looking for.


 

Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

 

Homemade Laundry Detergent is easy to make, saves you money, and can reduce chemicals in your home. But that all depends on the recipe you use. There are tons of DIY Laundry Detergent recipes out there so how do you know which one is best for your family? | We Three Shanes

 

Super Washing Soda or sodium carbonate, helps get out ground-in dirt and stains, cuts through grease, and eliminates odors. It also helps soften hard water. It’s recommended for laundry use and homemade laundry detergent.

It gets an A on the Environmental Working Group (EWG for short) guide. This means it has few/no known or suspected hazards to health or the environment and there’s a good ingredient disclosure.


 

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda

Homemade Laundry Detergent is easy to make, saves you money, and can reduce chemicals in your home. But that all depends on the recipe you use. There are tons of DIY Laundry Detergent recipes out there so how do you know which one is best for your family? | We Three Shanes

 

Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate, will give you “whiter” whites and boost colors when used in laundry. It’s a natural cleaner, deodorizer, and water softener. Baking soda is also a mild antiseptic which discourages bacteria growth.

It also gets an A on the EWG guide making it a great natural alternative to harsh chemicals found in store bought laundry detergents.


 

Borax

 

Homemade Laundry Detergent is easy to make, saves you money, and can reduce chemicals in your home. But that all depends on the recipe you use. There are tons of DIY Laundry Detergent recipes out there so how do you know which one is best for your family? | We Three Shanes

 

Borax is used in homemade laundry detergents to soften water and remove stains.  It helps keep soap evenly distributed in the wash so it’s more likely to rinse out. This helps keep soap residue from staying on clothes. Borax inhibits mold, fungi and bacteria helping to disinfect and neutralize odors in laundry.

There’s a lot of concern over Borax being used in homemade laundry detergents. If you check out the ingredients on a box of 20 Mule Team BORAX you’ll see sodium tetraborate (a natural mineral). Borax is a salt of boric acid and a boron compound. It can be found in many commercial products such as, insecticides,  cosmetics, arts & crafts materials, toys, and cleaning products including laundry detergents.

 

But is it safe?

Here’s what I found after tons of research:

  • The EPA has concluded that Borax has a low toxicity level when ingested, placing it in Toxicity category III (slightly toxic and slightly irritating). Human lethal doses for oral ingestion have been estimated from accidental poisonings: in adults, the minimum lethal oral dose is estimated at 15-20 g, in children at 5-6 g and in infants 2-3 g.
  • Inhalation has not been studied enough and therefore there is no solid information by the EPA on the topic so no category was given.
  • Borax is corrosive to the eye and is considered Toxicity Category I (highly toxic and highly irritating), the highest category.
  • Borax is not considered a dermal irritant by the EPA. Borax is not absorbed through intact skin, “although absorption occurs through skin that is severely abraded.”
  • Under the current Agency Cancer Guidelines (US EPA, 2005), boric acid/sodium salts are classified as “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans”.
  • “Boron is a naturally occurring component of both food and water and is believed to be an essential dietary trace nutrient, though a minimum daily requirement has not been established” (US EPA, 2006).

 

You can read for yourself all about the EPA’s finding on Borax HERE.  The EPA is not the only study I read but I didn’t want to study-hop when relaying info on Borax so I stuck with the EPA’s findings. 

 

The EWG gives Borax a big fat F because it may contain ingredients with potential for developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects; respiratory effects; skin irritation/allergies/damage. After doing the research on Borax myself I can see why the EWG gives it an F.

However, it also gives me a bit of pause when it comes to the EWG’s grading system. Based on the F, I wouldn’t use Borax but based on my own research I feel comfortable with it. It just goes to show you should always do your own research when you’re not sure on something.

Like I said, I personally don’t have a problem using Borax in my homemade laundry detergent based on my research. There are a couple things you can do to keep you and your family a bit more safe if you feel the need.

  1. You can wear a mask while making and mixing your DIY laundry detergent.
  2. Make sure the area where you’re mixing your laundry ingredients is well ventilated.
  3. Keep your homemade laundry detergent on a higher shelf where kids and pets can’t get to it. We don’t want any “tide pod” challenges happening.
  4. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling your detergent.
  5. Don’t rub homemade laundry detergent in your eyes or on open wounds 🙂

 

Bar Soap

Some DIY laundry detergent recipes call for bar soap. Fels-Naptha, Castille Soap, Zote, and even Ivory soap are the most popular bars for laundry. The problem with using bar soap in homemade laundry detergents is BUILDUP!

Basically DIY Laundry Detergent nay sayers claim that soap is not made for washing clothes unless we’re going old school with a washing board. A washing machine doesn’t agitate enough to rinse away the soap, trapping it on clothes and the surface of your washing machine. The soap continues to build up, trapping dirt and bacteria. This can ruin both your clothes and washing machine over time.

Buildup can also be caused by hard water so it’s difficult to say whether or not soap is the only buildup problem although most homemade detergents have water softeners in them.

Stripping your clothes and washing machine is possible. Many former DIY laundry detergent people have been stripping their clothes and posting photos online to show how dirty their clean clothes are. The problem is no one’s showing off photos of their clothes stripped after using commercial products. There’s nothing to compare it too. Stripping clothes after using commercial products might produce super gross water too.

 

Here’s my Take

Personally I use soap in my homemade laundry detergent and here’s why. I’ve used the homemade stuff over a year now and haven’t noticed a problem with build up. I have however been using both an eco friendly laundry detergent and some regular old store bought stuff since moving and I just don’t like it as much as the homemade stuff. That’s good enough for me.

I also don’t spend much on clothes so I’m not super worried about clothing feeling “off” or looking dingy after 3 years. By then my kid has grown out of it or styles have changed and I’m off to the thrift store to get “new” stuff.

Towels need a deep cleaning occasionally no matter what detergent is used so I’m not worried about them either. Currently, I need to save money and I want keep chemicals out of the house as much as possible. So for now I’m sticking with the homemade stuff.

 

Soap Bar Brands

Now let’s look at the 4 main bar soaps used in homemade laundry detergent.

Homemade Laundry Detergent is easy to make, saves you money, and can reduce chemicals in your home. But that all depends on the recipe you use. There are tons of DIY Laundry Detergent recipes out there so how do you know which one is best for your family? | We Three Shanes

Fels-Naptha is a laundry soap produced by Purex. It’s been around for over a 100 years. It’s used to get tough stains out of clothes by wetting the stained area and rubbing directly with the soap. You then wash as normal.

Putting this in homemade laundry detergent seems like a logical choice. It gets a C (moderate concern) on EWGs guide to healthy cleaning for Poor disclosure; May contain ingredients with potential for cancer; respiratory effects; biodegradation.


 

Homemade Laundry Detergent is easy to make, saves you money, and can reduce chemicals in your home. But that all depends on the recipe you use. There are tons of DIY Laundry Detergent recipes out there so how do you know which one is best for your family? | We Three Shanes

 

Zote Pink Laundry or other Zote Product is also found in the laundry department. It can also be used to pre-treat stains, hand wash laundry and per Walmart’s description make homemade laundry detergent. It gets a C on EWGs guide because it may contain ingredients with potential for respiratory effects; biodegradation; nervous system effects.


 

Homemade Laundry Detergent is easy to make, saves you money, and can reduce chemicals in your home. But that all depends on the recipe you use. There are tons of DIY Laundry Detergent recipes out there so how do you know which one is best for your family? | We Three Shanes

Homemade Laundry Detergent is easy to make, saves you money, and can reduce chemicals in your home. But that all depends on the recipe you use. There are tons of DIY Laundry Detergent recipes out there so how do you know which one is best for your family? | We Three Shanes

 

 

 

 

Castile Soap is a vegetable based soap. It is biodegradable and nontoxic so it’s a much healthier option to the 2 soaps above. Not all castile soap is created equally though so make sure to read the ingredients when deciding which one to get. Dr. Bronner’s and Kirk’s are both great options and both are labeled as acceptable for laundry use.

Most Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps score a 1 on EWG’s skin deep database.  Kirk’s Natural Original Coco Castile Bar Soap, Fragrance Free also gets a 1 making them a very low hazard.


 

Homemade Laundry Detergent is easy to make, saves you money, and can reduce chemicals in your home. But that all depends on the recipe you use. There are tons of DIY Laundry Detergent recipes out there so how do you know which one is best for your family? | We Three Shanes

Ivory Bar Soap is made up of animal fat as opposed to castile’s vegetable fat. The first ingredient on this list is sodium tallowate, which comes from animal fat. I’m not sure who decided to start throwing it in homemade laundry detergent. It’s not listed on their site as suitable for laundry. It scores a 3 (lower on the moderate hazard scale) on the EWG list for occupational hazards, skin, eye, & lung irritation and organ toxicity.


 

OxiClean

Homemade Laundry Detergent is easy to make, saves you money, and can reduce chemicals in your home. But that all depends on the recipe you use. There are tons of DIY Laundry Detergent recipes out there so how do you know which one is best for your family? | We Three Shanes

OxiClean is an oxygen based stain fighter that’s chlorine free and color safe.  It helps remove odors as well. Some people mix it into their DIY laundry detergent and others leave it out and only use on extra soiled laundry by adding it into the wash after the homemade stuff.

The original OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover gets an F on the EWG guide because it may contain ingredients with potential for Government enforceable restrictions, respiratory effects, and it’s carcinogenic.

There are two other options though if you really want that OxiClean power. First there’s OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover, Free. It receives a B on the EWG guide for some concern for cancer; respiratory effects; biodegradation. The other and in my opinion, best choice is OxiClean Baby Stain Fighter. This one receives an A on the EWG guide with some concern for respiratory effects and damage to vision.


 

Scent Boosters

Homemade Laundry Detergent is easy to make, saves you money, and can reduce chemicals in your home. But that all depends on the recipe you use. There are tons of DIY Laundry Detergent recipes out there so how do you know which one is best for your family? | We Three Shanes

 

I’m guessing you can figure out what scent boosters are. They’re added to the wash to boost the scent of clothes. They don’t take away odors. They basically cover them up with perfume.

I checked out 3 popular scent boosters often found in homemade laundry detergents, Downy’s Unstopables, Arm & Hammer Clean Scentsations In-Wash Scent Booster, and Gains Fireworks Scent Booster. Since these are full of perfumes they aren’t going to do well on the EWG’s guide. Unstopples and Clean Scentsations both receive an F and Gains Fireworks gets a D.

If you really want some scent boosters in your DIY laundry detergent then try Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Laundry Scent Booster. It receives a B over some concern for skin irritation/allergies/damage; respiratory effects; cancer.


 

Essential Oils

Homemade Laundry Detergent is easy to make, saves you money, and can reduce chemicals in your home. But that all depends on the recipe you use. There are tons of DIY Laundry Detergent recipes out there so how do you know which one is best for your family? | We Three Shanes

A great alternative to store bought scent boosters is to use essential oils. There are a ton of essential oils that are great for laundry like eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender just to name a few. Essential oils are named after the plant they are distilled from. Each plant has it’s own medicinal properties and scent and therefore so do essential oils.

Essential oils grade on the EWGs list can vary depending on the oil. I checked on a couple of oils and they all got a C for different reasons. Even though essential oils are natural they can still be harmful when used wrong. This is a big reason for the C ratings.

Personally I would rather mix in my own essential oils to the laundry detergent than use Mrs. Meyer’s Laundry booster even though the booster technically has a better score.


 

Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipes

 

Homemade Laundry Detergent is easy to make, saves you money, and can reduce chemicals in your home. But that all depends on the recipe you use. There are tons of DIY Laundry Detergent recipes out there so how do you know which one is best for your family? | We Three Shanes

 

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way let’s move on to the actual recipes. I’m going to break down the recipes based on the info above.

 

If All You Care About is Saving Money…

Go with the original homemade laundry detergent recipe. I grabbed all of my ingredients from Walmart for less than $25.  This recipe makes enough detergent to last for roughly 500 loads of laundry making it cost pennies per load. I used it for over a year and loved it. 

Ingredients

  • 1 (4 lb 12 oz) Box of Borax – $4.47 – Found in the detergent aisle
  • 1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda – $3.97 – Found in the laundry/detergent aisle
  • 1 (3 lb) Container of OxyClean – $7.56 – Found in the laundry/detergent aisle
  • 2 (14.1 oz) bars Zote – $1.48 each or 6 (5 oz) bar Fels-Naptha – $0.97 each- Found in the laundry/detergent aisle
  • 1 (4 lb) Box of Baking Soda – I used cheaper brand for $2.12 – found in baking aisle
  • 1-2 bottles of your favorite scent booster – found in laundry/detergent aisle

Grate your soap with a cheese grater then mix everything really well. Keep in a large, airtight container. Some people use a 5 gallon buck with gamma lid.  I opted for a prettier 4 gallon glass jar I found at Walmart.  Most recipes say to use 1-2 tablespoons of detergent for each load. I prefer 2 tablespoons for smaller loads and 3 for large loads. Test out different measurements yourself to see what you like.


 

If You Are Concerned About Toxins but are OK with Borax…

You’ll want to use an adapted version of the laundry detergent above. This is the recipe I use now and am super happy with it. We’re taking away all the chemical filled ingredients and swapping them out with more natural versions.

This is going to bring up the cost a bit. A batch of this cost around $35 for about 500 loads so about $10 more than the above recipe. It still cost way less than store bought laundry detergent so you’re still saving money.

Ingredients

  • 1 (4 lb 12 oz) Box of Borax – $4.47 – Found in the detergent aisle
  • 1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda – $3.97 – Found in the laundry/detergent aisle
  • 1 (3 lb) Container of OxyClean Baby- $7.04 – Found in the laundry/detergent aisle or Walmart online
  • 6 – (4 oz)  Kirk’s Fragrance Free Castile Bar Soap – $7.55 on Amazon or your favorite Castile soap
  • 1 (4 lb) Box of Baking Soda – I used a cheaper brand for $2.12 – found in baking aisle
  • 15-20 drops of your favorite essential oils. I recommend lavender for its calming scent and antibacterial properties. There are many other essential oils that would work great too.

Make and store homemade laundry detergent the same way as the recipe above.


 

If You’re Worried About Borax…

Don’t worry, there’s a Borax free version of DIY Laundry Detergent. I honestly haven’t used a borax free version so I can’t personally say it works. There are many recipes out there from others who say it performs just as good as borax recipes.

We’re really only going to swap the borax for salt so I imagine the recipe will still do great. Since the price of borax and kosher or epsom salt are all similar there won’t be a big price change from the detergent recipe above.

Ingredients

  • 1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda – $3.97 – Found in the laundry/detergent aisle
  • 1 (3 lb) Container of OxyClean Baby- $7.04 – Found in the laundry/detergent aisle or Walmart online
  • 6 – (4 oz)  Kirk’s Fragrance Free Castile Bar Soap – $7.55 on Amazon or your favorite Castile soap
  • 1 (4 lb) Box of Baking Soda – I used a cheaper brand for $2.12 – found in baking aisle
  • 15-20 drops of your favorite essential oils. I recommend lavender for its calming scent and antibacterial properties. There are many other essential oils that would work great too.
  • If you have hard water you can add 3 lbs epsom salt or kosher salt to help soften water.

Mix, store and use same as the above recipes.


 

Worried About Using Bar Soap…

Here’s another recipe floating around that I haven’t tried but others claim works. Basically you’re using the above ingredients minus the bar soap. Honestly I do think there’s enough cleaning power without the bar soap but I can’t say for sure.

And as I’ve stated above, I use bar soap when I’m making laundry detergent. Many people go without so if you’re really concerned about the buildup soap might cause but want to try to make laundry detergent, this is your best bet.

Ingredients

  • 1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda – $3.97 – Found in the laundry/detergent aisle
  • 1 (3 lb) Container of OxyClean Baby or regular OxyClean- $7.04 – Found in the laundry/detergent aisle or Walmart online
  • 1 (4 lb) Box of Baking Soda – I used a cheaper brand for $2.12 – found in baking aisle
  • 15-20 drops of your favorite essential oils or your favorite store bought scent booster

Mix everything up, store and use just like the others.


 

What If You Like Liquid Laundry Detergent…

You’ve got 2 choices when it comes to homemade liquid laundry detergent: with or without borax. You have to use soap for this one. The recipes are pretty darn cheap to make. Less than $2 for 5 gallons.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 bar of your favorite soap from the list above
  • water
  • large pot
  • 5 gallon bucket

or

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 bar of your favorite soap from the list above
  • water
  • large pot
  • 5 gallon bucket

Instructions for these recipes are basically the same. Put your pot of 4 cups of water on medium high heat. While this is heating up, grate your bar of soap. Add the soap shreds to the hot water and stir until melted, about 10 mins.  Fill up your bucket halfway with hot water. Stir in the soap mixture, borax or salt,  and washing soda.

Put the lid on your bucket and let the liquid sit for 24 hrs.  After your 24 hrs are up, your liquid will be more like a gel. Give it another really good stir. Now you can pour some into a smaller bottle for easier use. Refill that bottle from the big bucket each time you run low. Use half a cup for large wash in HE washers and 1 cup for regular washers.

You can use OxyClean and/or scent boosters like in the powder recipes but you’ll just add them to the load like instructed. If you want to use essential oils instead of boosters you can add some into the smaller bottle of detergent or add a couple of drops directly into the washer water during the rinse cycle.


 

Tips for using Homemade Laundry Detergent

Here are a couple of last minute tips to get the best results from your homemade laundry detergent.

  • Top Loading Machines: Add laundry soap while the machine fills with water.
  • Front Loading Machines: Mix the amount per load with a cup of warm water. This will allow your mixture to come into contact with all your laundry.
  • It is important that you grate the bar soap very finely for HE washers. Fels-naptha tends to grate finer than Zote. Use a food processor for a really fine grate.
  • Feel free to mess around with the recipes to figure out what works best for you.

 

DON’T FORGET TO PIN FOR LATER!

Homemade Laundry Detergent is easy to make, saves you money, and can reduce chemicals in your home. But that all depends on the recipe you use. There are tons of DIY Laundry Detergent recipes out there so how do you know which one is best for your family? | We Three Shanes

 

That was a lot of info but now that you know the ins and outs of DIY laundry detergent you’ll be able to pick the best recipe for you and your family. 

Have you tried Homemade Laundry Detergent before? What are your reasons for making the switch from the store bought stuff? Which recipe do you prefer?

 


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7 Comments

  1. Hi, Kim.
    This is the perfect review for choosing the home cleaning powder. I am glad that, it has some special criteria for cleaning purpose. Is it uses for floor tiles cleaning? thanks for your sharing.

    1. Thanks Susan. This detergent is for washing laundry. There are so many different kinds of homemade/DIY laundry detergent that I really wanted people to be a bit more educated on the topic before making their own.

  2. This is very helpful, thank you. I use Dr Bronner’s castile soap for so many things around the house – bathroom, kitchen, etc, but never thought to use it in the laundry. I’ll have to try this!

    1. So glad you found this DIY Laundry Detergent post helpful Vanessa. Dr. Bronner’s is such a fantastic product!

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