This is a cost efficient and non-toxic recipe for making laundry detergent. It is very easy to make and quite gratifying to use. This is one of my favorite DIY projects I have done so far. You will be using vinegar as your fabric softener/rinse. It helps to wash out the soap and soften your clothes. You will be using a lot less dryer sheets because the castile soap doubles as a fabric softener as well.
Let’s get started. Here is what you need:
A bar of castile soap
2 cups washing soda
2 cups borax
Knife or cheese grater
A 2 gallon bucket or bin
2 gallons of water
An empty laundry detergent or plastic bottle (old milk, juice, or even vinegar jugs work well)
Optional: essential oil (Some Dr Bronner’s soaps already contain essential oil)
I highly recommend sticking with a natural soap. AVOID FELS NAPTHA. They market their soap as a great base for homemade detergents but it is made from petroleum. 🙁
Petroleum distillates (also napthas) – A group of chemicals obtained from the petroleum refining process. They are obviously synthetic and are similar to benzene because they are both hydro-carbon based chemicals. They are skin irritants and bad for the environment. Read more about the toxic ingredients in laundry detergent.
Step 1: Cut or grate the bar of soap. The soap may be harder or softer depending on the brand of soap you use. From my experience Kirk’s (on the right)was really hard to grate and I found it easier to just cut it with a knife. Dr Bronners is much softer and would probably grate easy but I just cut mine. I prefer to use Dr Bronners.
Step 2: Heat up about a gallon of water (16 cups) on the stove, medium heat. Add the soap and let it all melt for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. I ran a strainer through mine to make sure there were no small pieces left. Then let it cool.
Step 3: Pour soap water into a bucket and slowly add 2 cups of washing soda and 2 cups of borax and stir. Then finish it off with another gallon of water. Add the essential oil at this point. Stir it really good for a few minutes.
Step 4: Cover with a lid or some plastic wrap and set aside where it won’t be disturbed. Leave it overnight and it will gel up.
Step 5: Mix real well in the morning and put into your plastic containers with lids. A good tip is to wear rubber gloves and use a measuring cup and funnel. Depending on the soap you use it could be really thick. So break up the clumps and force them down the funnel with your fingers. Then you are done! Clean up is really easy because all you need to do is rinse off the soap.
*Use ¼ cup per load.
Don’t forget to label your bottles especially if you use a milk jug. You should have enough for 128 loads of laundry. I now pay a fraction of the price I did before. I used Seventh Generations laundry detergent. I got 66 loads for $14.49 (that’s about $.11 a load). I can now get 128 loads for roughly $3-$5 (that’s about $.02-$.04 a load). Vinegar is also really cheap compared to fabric softener.
I haven’t had any problems with stains and I have two messy boys. If you get something that you know will really stain then pre treat it and soak it in water until you wash it. I use my detergent in a spray bottle or sometimes peroxide to clean up the stain.
If you don’t have room for liquid detergent, don’t give up just yet! It is really simple to make a powdered version. You will need to grate the soap in really small pieces and then mix it together with the washing soda and borax. You will use 1-2 tbsp. per load.
FYI: I do not recommend this for cloth diapers. Soap can cause a bit of build up. It’s not bad for clothing but can cause your diapers to lose absorbency. I have never tried it though, so please leave comments below if you have any experience with it.
Good luck! Enjoy!