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How To Make Natural Laundry Detergent (Borax-Free)

Affiliate Disclosure | in Healthy Home | by | with 214 Comments

Homemade natural laundry detergent made EASY!! And it's borax-free, too.

Sorting Out Life, One Load At A Time

I’ve done my share of lumpy laundry. Newborn clothes with with the tags and hangers still on? Check. “Gifts” from my helpers, including a trojan poopy diaper in my whites? Oh yeah.

As you can imagine, I’ve been more than happy just to be able to keep clean underoos in the house at all times for the past few years. Buying “eco-friendly” laundry detergent seemed like a pretty good option until I re-read my brands ingredient list recently. Undisclosed proprietary ingredients? No thanks!

I did eventually find one non-toxic detergent, but not before I learned to make a simple homemade powder version that WORKS. The basic recipe is nearly identical to this one, but for some reason every time I share this link with someone it seems to create more questions than answers. It makes perfect sense to me, but for what it’s worth here is exactly. what. I. do.

But first, let’s talk ingredients!

baking soda and bar soap in a food processor

Powdered Laundry Detergent: What You Really Need

Bar Soap (ALWAYS) – Coconut oil-based soaps are best, but tallow and lard can also be used. (here’s how to make ithere’s where to buy it, and here’s another brand that also works well). Click here to learn how to render tallow.

Baking Soda (SOMETIMES) – No one uses this in commercial formulas . . . not even Arm & Hammer! According to this post, “Baking soda is only half as strong as washing soda at softening water and doesn’t allow the cleaning pH to go nearly as high.   And if you have a stronger product on hand, why dilute it with a weaker one?” Fortunately, if you have some on hand you can use it to make washing soda.

Borax (NOPE)- Opinions are split on whether this product is safe, so I avoid it when possible. Fortunately, according this post washing soda perform the same function, so you’re not missing out on anything. (Plus, from what I hear Borax only works well in hot water)

Lemon Essential Oil (DEFINITELY) – Works well as a stain remover and de-greaser. I just dab a few drops on stains as I find them and then throw them in the wash. (Where to buy lemon essential oil)

Vinegar (YUP) – Though not a part of the main recipe, I use 1/2 cup vinegar as a rinse for two reasons:

  1. Laundry detergent has a very alkaline pH, which can irritate skin. Using a vinegar rinse resets the pH to a skin-friendly level
  2. It helps dissolve excess detergent and salts off clothes

Oxiclean Free or Peroxide (SOMETIMES) – For brightening whites. (Oxiclean is fairly inexpensive and can be found in most grocery stores or online. The perfume-free version is simply a mixture of sodium percarbonate (powdered hydrogen peroxide) and washing soda, which are both non-toxic.)


Just two ingredients - this natural detergent recipe that WORKS!! (Borax-free)

How To Make Laundry Detergent


Additional Items You’ll Want To Have On Hand: 

More on what to do with this stuff in the instructions below

To Make:

  1. Cut soap into small chunks. Add to the food processor along with the washing soda. 
  2. Blend until you have a fine powder. You may want to lay a dish towel over the top of your food processor to prevent a fine mist of powder from floating into the air. Also, let it settle a bit before opening the container or the powder will float onto your kitchen counter!
  3. Pour into a clean container (keep the essential oil next to the jar and add 5 drops with each load)

To Use: 

These instructions are for a top loader. I don’t have any experience with front loaders, sorry!

  1. Add 2-3 tablespoons laundry detergent per load ( If you are washing in cold water, dissolve it in hot water before adding it in. I prefer to start each load with a little hot water to dissolve and then put my laundry in)
  2. If desired, add about five drops of lemon essential oil as a degreaser
  3. If washing whites, add a scoop of Oxiclean or pour 1/2 cup peroxide in the bleach compartment
  4. Add 1/2 cup vinegar to a Downy ball or the fabric softener compartment
  5. For extra fabric softening goodness and a shorter drying time, toss some felted wool dryer balls in the dryer with your clothes.

Is This HE Safe? 

This soap is low-sudsing, so theoretically it should be fine for HE washers. A very similar recipe found on the Kirk’s Castile Soap website is said to be safe and offers the following information and tips:

  • “This powered recipe is great for High Efficiency washers because it is very low sudsing.
  • It is important that you grate the bar soap very finely for HE washers.”[i]

Special notes:

  1.  As with other detergents, it is recommended that you cut the amount used in half for HE machines.
  2. Be sure to check your owner’s manual – using certain types of products may void your warranty.

Is This Septic System Safe?

Yes, all of the ingredients in this recipe are considered septic system safe.

Want More Recipes?

Cleaning Book1If you’ve ever wondered:

* Why your homemade dish detergent leaves behind a filmy residue (and how you can get your dishes crystal clear)

* Whether your homemade disinfectant REALLY works (Hint: Many are no more effective than water!!!)

* How to get streak free windows and mirrors without any chemicals

. . . along with other questions about homemade cleaners, you’ll definitely want to grab my ebook, DIY Non-Toxic Cleaning Supplies.

Click here to download a free preview.



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214 Responses to How To Make Natural Laundry Detergent (Borax-Free)

  1. Lynette says:

    I really like this laundry soap. Everyone here, would like to know if we can make this into a liquid/gel soap.
    How much water would we use?


  2. DIY Glass Spray Bottle Tutorial (And A Recipe For All-Purpose Cleaner) - MommypotamusMommypotamus | says:

    […] cleaning supplies with some baking soda, vinegar, castile soap and a few essential oils.  Dish and laundry detergent need a few extra ingredients, but that’s for another day . . […]

  3. Sammie says:

    Hi Heather,

    I love your recipe and will use it to make my first batch of homemade laundry detergent. I just wanted you to know that the link you have with a recipe to turn baking soda into washing soda does not work. Access to the information is only available to person’s who are invited by the owner of the “hollythehomemaker” blog and no one else. I tried to get access but to no avail I can’t get the information. Can you post this recipe somewhere on your website and link it for us? Thanks much and I’m so happy I found your blog. You have really useful information.


  4. How To Make Washing SodaMommypotamus | says:

    […] Fortunately, despite protests from certain potami who would prefer never to wear pants, I do manage to keep everyone in clean clothes with this homemade borax-free laundry detergent. […]

  5. Tasha says:

    Can you tell me why you don’t recommend Zote or Fels-Naptha? I know Zote contains optical brighteners, but otherwise is beef tallow and coconut oil and the website states it is non toxic. And from what I can gather, Fels-Naptha consists of tallow, palm kernel oil and coconut oils and no longer contains the actual toxic naptha. I’ve seen many homemade laundry recipes that include one or both of these. Thoughts?
    Thanks for your time!

  6. Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent - MommypotamusMommypotamus | says:

    […] years of using our powdered homemade laundry detergent, I’m still just as in love with it as ever. Living on a farm gives me lots of opportunities […]

  7. linda says:

    hi heather, i was wondering why you recommend coconut oil-based laundry soap bars over lard/tallow-based ones. i read that lard-based laundry soaps don’t foam as much as the coconut oil-based laundry soaps and was thinking that would be better for HE machines. i wasn’t sure if your concerns are regarding where the lard/tallow comes from or if you are recommending for vegans. i’ve seen some lard-based laundry soap bars on etsy so was thinking of buying them for laundry soap. first though, i’m tackling liquid dish soap where the suds would be great and then i’m wading into the murky waters of making laundry soap.

  8. Susanne says:

    Hi Heather

    What strenght peroxide do you use? I can get it from 5%/Volume up to 98%/Volume here in South Africa.

    • fred says:

      Hydrogen peroxide is very reactive unstable oxidizer. That’s why it works. Home use containers are diluted with water to about 3%. If you really could get 98% you have a burn fire explosion situation.

  9. Sarah says:

    Is the vinegar absolutely necessary? Because I’ve heard it can cause the washer to rust with the acid that’s in it.

    • Sabrina Colburn says:

      If you are using vinegar becareful it can rust your machine. I did that. I have added it to my clothes directly when in the wash cycle. Occasionally I have run it through with the rinse cycle in place of fabric softener. I do not recommend it being done with every load. I also ran a cleaning cycle just after.

  10. Michelle says:

    what is your total cost of making the laundry soap (including costs for coconut soap) I’d like to have all natural but we are making our own stuff to cut costs as well. TIA

  11. Cat says:

    Wondering if anyone has tried using these wonderful recipes with the HE Front loaders?? Any problems or alterations made? Thanks! Cat

  12. Rebecca says:

    I would like to know the reason behind the washing soda to soap ratio? Most powdered recipes I have seen seem to use a 1:1 ration for soda to soap ( 1 bar soap to 1 cup of soda) . Is it because there is no borax? I am just curious. Thanks.

  13. lynnette says:

    How many loads does this recipe make?

  14. Sarah says:

    Any idea of cost per load or how many loads this recipe will make? Thanks in advance.

  15. Catherine says:


    We cannot use white vinegar due to allergies. Do you have any recommendations for substituting white vinegar?? I know a lot of DIY home cleaning products call for it and I would like to try more but I don’t know what to do about vinegar. When making soap, will ACV be enough to neutralize lye?

  16. EJH says:

    Would this work with a lye based soap? I am allergic to coconut so that obviously rules out a lot of soaps.

  17. adugna says:

    Many liquid detergent come to the market.but some bleach clothes and others make the hand reddish and do you tell me basic composition better quality so as we can choose.

  18. Carol says:

    Hello Heather,

    I really want to try this recipe. I want to ask you, if I could replace the coconut soap for the Aleppo soap ( Olive oil + laurel oil)…Do you thing it will work well?



  19. JoAnnH says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! My family loves this laundry detergent, and it gets all our clothes so clean!

  20. Katie says:

    Hey Heather!

    I’ve been looking for a laundry soap recipe so I’m going to try this. Did you know, though, that for static removing in the dryer, you can just fill a spice bag with a small amount of pink himalayan salt, and it works like a charm? It’s amazing, but I’ve put it to the test and it really works. You can use one bag again and again so it’s really cheap, too.

    Question: why do you recommend the Downy ball and the Oxiclean? Aren’t they pretty toxic? What do I not know?

    Thank you!

    • Heather says:

      Yes, I do! A friend of mine actually shared that tip on Mommypotamus :)

      I recommend the Downy ball because it allows the vinegar to be released at the right time during the wash cycle. If released too soon it will neutralize some of the cleaning power of the laundry soap. It’s better to release it at the end so that the pH of the clothes is restored, making them soft once again.

      Oxiclean Free (no perfumes) is simply a mixture of sodium percarbonate(powdered hydrogen peroxide) and washing soda. It’s non-toxic. :)

  21. Kelly says:

    Thanks so much for ur post! It’s nice for someone to break down why or why not u use something all the time or sometimes or never!! I finally made my own soap last night and I used the recipe u posted (b4 I even saw ur post) bc I’ve been researching for weeks… I’m excited to see how it turns out!

    Have a great day!

  22. Ilona says:

    hello Heather :)

    Firstly just to say I am very happy to find your site and it is on the top of my favourites :)

    My Question:
    As I know Borax is now linked to infertility I do not use it(I doubt it is even possible to buy it any more), however there is a natural product which is labelled Borax Substitute… this is Sodium Sesquicarbonate
    I wonder what is your opinion on this product and to replace borax with it in olive oil soap detergent ? (borax,bicarb soda and saponificated olive oil soap bar)

    I hope to hear from you as I can imagine you are very busy :)
    Thank you


  23. Carole says:

    I love the idea of homemade detergent, but in using a high efficiency machine I need to be cautious of homemade. Using it can cause serious damage to the machine over time.

    You can still purchase Borax. I use it in my laundry in lieu of oxy cleaners to freshen. The only dangers I’ve ever read about it is the possible danger as a skin irritant. But that can be said for vinegar, lemon oil, etc. Just about anything can be dangerous used in excess.

    • Carole says:

      Also, in my machine, powdered cleaners tend to leave residue on the clothing due to the difference in the rinsing cycle. My machine never ‘fills’ completely with water (but rinses through the clothing), as opposed to machines that fill with every cycle.

  24. 7 Ways To Reduce Holiday Stress – MommypotamusMommypotamus | says:

    […] know I like to DIY everything from deodorant to detergent to shampoo, but I’m gonna be really honest. There are only so many hours in the day, and […]

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