Monday, May 14, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent Without Borax

**I am so happy that people keep finding This Big Happy through this article :) I am trying my best to reply to everyone's questions.  TBH has moved to it's very own website, check it out at!  Thanks!!**

I can always tell when my kids clean their room, my laundry room goes from reasonable to "how-on-earth-can-you-people-have-THIS-MANY-articles-of-clothing?!!". Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about clean rooms...*sigh*

So anyhow! Hubby and I have been using soap nuts for a while and we love them (look for a future post!), however sometimes you just need a little more "oomph" in your detergent, especially when it comes to the clothing of a teenager who played basketball in 95 degree weather and left the gross clothing in her closet for a week.

I was browsing the net for a no borax and no washing soda laundry detergent recipe. I have nothing against borax and washing soda, I just don't have any in the house and running to the store to get them just isn't an option at the moment.

I came across this recipe and was able to tweak it to meet our needs. This makes a very small but very concentrated batch, which was ok with me as I wanted to start with a small batch. Small batches are perfect for those who have never made laundry detergent before, people who are limited by the amount of ingredients they have and those without the means to store a large batch. It's also good for those of us who are intimidated by the ingredients, cooking and the fact that so many people say it takes a long time to make...and right now I'm all of those people :)

I am not saying this is the best version out there, it was just the one I started with.

My customized version:

Homemade Laundry Detergent Without Borax

1 bar castile soap (Every resource I've read says you can also use Ivory or Fels be honest I used this no-name stuff made from coconut and oatmeal)
1 cup baking soda
1/3 cup salt
2 cups water

Grate the bar of soap, I totally used my food processor.

Mix soap, baking soda and salt. I switched the blade and used my food processor again.

Add the water and mix. Initially I poured everything into a plastic bag with the idea that I could seal and shake, in the end I mixed it in my blender. Incidentally I now have some majorly clean small appliances. In hindsight I'd do it all in my food processor or in a large bucket.

*********************** RESULTS & PHOTOS *******************

It took me about 6 minutes to make this batch, 10 if you count looking for the plunger thingy for the food processor.

You can mess around with the amount added to your laundry, I decided to use roughly 1/8 cup for a full load because it seemed reasonable, arbitrary but reasonable. I'm considering adding just a drop or two of tea tree oil in the future for it's anti-stinkyteenager properties.

To gauge the results in a very non-scientific manner I picked out one of my 5 year old's shirts. Here's a close-up of the smudge he made during dinner last night:

The shirt AFTER being washed in a full load with other similar-colored clothing (Yeah, right..I just threw in whatever would fit after I picked it up off the floor!):

OK, so the stain faded considerably but didn't come out. I blame myself, I wouldn't expect conventional detergent to get sloppy joe sauce out of a white shirt without pre-treating.

On the bright side, the laundry turned out *much* whiter than I expected, especially since I did a mixed load of lights/darks. It smelled great, like...get this...clean clothing! There was no perfume smell, just a very slight soapy smell.

I haven't worn anything from this batch of laundry yet but I did wrap up in a towel from the load. It was nice and soft, not scratchy at all, color me surprised! For some reason I really expected the clothes to be scratchy, but they're so soft.

I'm most impressed that there isn't a soapy residue left behind. No residue is very important to me, I'm the person who refuses to use bar soap because of the plastic-y feeling it leaves behind.

I estimate this recipe equals about $.08-$.10 per load, though honestly it's less for me right now because the soap was given to us. I pay about $.20 per load for the cheapest store brand unscented detergent and around $.13 per load when I use soap nuts.

Major savings? Not really, but if you're out of laundry detergent it's cheaper to make your own than get in the car and drive to the store. Plus, isn't the fact that you know how to make it comforting in a way? Knowledge is priceless :D

Easy? Certainly.

Better for our skin? Debatable, though the less chemicals the better, right??

Better for our clothing? I'm still not convinced it's not leaving residue even if I can't feel it BUT so could regular detergent.

Will I make this to use up the gazillion bars of soap we somehow accumulated from a moving relative (3 YEARS ago!)? Oh yeah.

Will I keep experimenting to get the cost down even further? Yup!

Bar soap after grating:

Everything but the water:


  1. I was making my laundry soap for a long while - using ivory & borax. It did a decent job, and while my white tshirts stayed white, our socks and underwear started getting dingy about 9 months in. OH and I only ever made the powder version, my machine prefers it anyway!

    The tide HE i've been buying last me at least 3 months, even longer now that I don't have a functioning washing machine! LOL!!

    Someday I shall be organized enough again to do this…. :D

  2. Hey, Meg. Came across your 'recipe' as I was searching for a non-borax type of homemade detergent - PERFECT for those of us with sensitive skin! One question - how much do you use in one full load of clothes? Thanks!

    1. I use about 1/3 cup liquid for regular loads. I've since found an easier method, i soak 2 bars of soap in water for about 2 wks, it makes it easier to blend, no grater needed. It doesn't separate like the original recipe does.

    2. You are awesome! Thanks for the update. I'll be giving this a try. Blessings!

  3. Hi, I just came across your recipe when googling for a non borax washing powder. I have made your recipe and am now washing my first load. Was so easy to make! And yes, my blender is now very clean! Thanks.

  4. That's great! I now add a bit more baking soda to it but I use it exclusively now! My blog has moved btw,


  5. Ok so call me a little crazy, but could you skip the water and just throw some of the powdered ingredients right into your washer filled with water?


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