4 DIY Laundry Detergent Recipes

Vinegar, gloves, baking soda, and a lemon with soap.

Making your own laundry detergent is the best way to ensure you're not using harmful chemicals to wash your favorite clothes. Luckily, there are plenty of DIY laundry detergent recipes that are both cost-effective and good for the environment.

1. Powdered Detergent

The basic ingredient of most homemade cleaning products is some kind of soap. There are several options at your disposal, including homemade soap, Kirk’s Castile Soap, Zote, Dr. Bronner’s and Fels-Naptha. You'll also need a cup of washing soda and a cup of borax. Arm and Hammer makes an excellent washing soda you can find at your local grocery store.

Start by grating your soap of choice with a cheese grater. About half the bar should yield two cups. Next, pour all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir them together. The mixture is done at this point, but you can use a blender if you want a finer powder, which tends to dissolve better in water. Store the mixture in a container you can seal, and use one tablespoon for a regular load.

Vinegar and baking soda with towels.

2. Powdered Detergent Alternative (Borax-free)

This powdered detergent uses all the same ingredients as the first option, but replaces borax with a gentler alternative. Borax is a natural mineral that contains sodium, oxygen, boron, and water. Although it is a common soap ingredient, it does pose some safety risks, especially if ingested.

With this recipe, you will be swapping out borax with two tablespoons of Sal Suds and one quarter cup of baking soda. You can also replace the baking soda with two tablespoons of washing soda if you prefer. This recipe does not call for bar soap, so it doesn't require any grating. If you want to give this detergent an extra kick, add half of a cup of vinegar during the rinse cycle. You can also throw in some booster beads for fragrance.

3. Laundry Soap

To make DIY laundry soap, you will need washing soda, borax, bar soap, a 5-gallon bucket and access to hot water. If you like, you can choose a bar soap with a scent, like lavender or peppermint, to add a little fragrance to the detergent.

Again, begin by grating the bar soap, or using a blender to create a finer powder. This time use the whole bar. Mix the resulting grated or blended soap with two quarts of water and heat until the texture is smooth. Fill a 5-gallon bucket with 4.5 gallons of hot tap water and add the washing soda and borax (two cups each). Once those two ingredients are fully dissolved, add in the soap mixture and stir.

Leave the detergent overnight in a closed container, then stir it again in the morning before storing it in gallon jugs.

Grated soap

4. Laundry Bomb

Who knew you can make your own laundry bombs? For this recipe, you will need washing soda, bar soap, Epsom salts, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and essential oils. You also need a mixing container, measuring tools, and some parchment paper.

Start by grating the bar soap into the container until you have around half a cup. Then add two tablespoons of Epsom salts, one and a half cups of washing soda, and three tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide. Stir everything together until it is well mixed. Once things are uniform, add a quarter cup of vinegar and 20 drops of essential oil of your choice. Stir until you get the consistency of wet sand.

Using a measuring spoon (one tablespoon is ideal), scoop out clumps of the mixture and place them on a piece of parchment paper. Pack the mixture as tightly as possible. Once you have a collection of half-spheres, spray them with a solution of equal parts vinegar and water, then let them sit overnight. You can use one ball for regular loads and two for larger ones.

To keep things interesting, all of these recipes can be enhanced with any essential oils you like. There's a vast world of possible combinations out there. However you make your detergents, you can take satisfaction in knowing you saved some money, reduced your chemical exposure, and cleaned your clothes from scratch. Once you get into the habit, you might never go back.