If you buy name brand laundry detergent, it probably contains toxic chemicals. According to an article in Science Daily, researchers from the University of Washington tested all top-selling laundry detergents and found that every single one of them contained at least one chemical regulated as “toxic or hazardous.” However, the ingredients did not list the hazardous chemicals.
The Environmental Protection Agency provides a breakdown of the common chemicals found in most detergents. Many of these chemicals may cause cancer, reproductive abnormalities, and disruptions in endocrine, which controls the metabolism, reproduction, and growth.
Brand name detergents also contain chemicals classified by the EPA as toxic to aquatic plants and animals. The wash water going down the drain contains chemicals that promote the growth of damaging algae, and also negatively impacts the health and reproductive abilities of aquatic animals.
You can easily make chemical-free laundry detergent at home, and save a lot of money in the process. Homemade laundry detergent costs pennies compared to what you pay for name brands like ALL, Clorox, Gain, Purex, and Tide. How much you can save depends on how much you spend on detergent. Most people who make their own detergent say that they save at least $0.10 to $0.20 per load. If you do five loads per week, that’s $0.50 to $1 in savings each week. More importantly, you don’t expose yourself, or your family, to all of those toxic chemicals.
Laundry Detergent Ingredients
The supplies needed to make homemade laundry detergent cost around $10, and most of these recipes make an enormous amount of detergent. You can find nearly all of the ingredients in the laundry or cleaning aisle at stores like Target or Walmart. You can also find these ingredients at discount stores, such as Big Lots, and at ethnic grocery stores.
Some of these recipes call for bar soaps, including Fels-Naptha, Ivory soap, Kirk’s Hardwater Castile, Sunlight, and Zote. You can usually find Fels-Naptha and Ivory soap in stores, or you can order all of these soaps from Amazon.
Additionally, some of the recipes call for washing soda, which refers to Arm & Hammer washing soda. Washing soda is almost the same as baking soda, but is more alkaline, thus making it much stronger. You can use baking soda in homemade laundry detergent, especially when washing baby clothes, but it may not get tougher stains out of your clothing.
Try different recipes and ingredients until you find a mix that works best for you. Keep in mind that you can always scale these recipes up or down. Making larger batches often doesn’t require too much additional effort, and lasts a long time.
Note: You can use these laundry detergent recipes even if you have a High Efficiency (HE) washing machine. If you have an HE washing machine, you need to use a detergent with less of a “sudsing” factor. Recipe #2 is a great one to use for HE washers because it produces fewer suds, but still gets your clothing just as clean. Most of these recipes won’t have the same amount of suds found with commercial laundry detergents. The suds don’t clean your clothes; the ingredients in the detergent work to get your clothes clean.
Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipes
Recipe #1: Liquid
- Boiling water
- 2 cups grated bar soap
- 2 cups Borax
- 2 cups washing soda
- Add the grated bar soap to the boiling water, lower the heat, and stir until melted.
- Pour the liquid soap into a large pail or bucket, and add the Borax and washing soda.
- Add 2 gallons of water, and stir well.
- Cover and store detergent. Use 1/4 cup per load. The mixture gels while sitting, so you have to stir it before each use.
Tip: This detergent does not have much of a smell. You can always add a few drops of essential oil, such as lavender, lemon, mint, or eucalyptus, if you’d like a scent. You can buy essential oils in health stores and online.
Recipe #2: Low Suds Powder
- 1 cup grated bar soap
- 1 cup washing soda
- 1 cup Borax
- Mix all ingredients together. You might want to put them into a food processor to get a really good blend.
- Use 1 tablespoon per load, and 2 tablespoons for heavy or stained loads.
Recipe #3: Liquid
- 2 gallons hot water
- 1 bar soap, grated
- 2 cups baking soda
- Melt bar soap in a pan with just enough boiling water to cover. Stir until the soap is completely melted.
- In large pail or bucket, pour in two gallons of hot water. Add the melted soap.
- Add the baking soda, and stir well. Use 1/2 cup per load, or more for oversized or very soiled loads of laundry.
Note: This recipe specifies baking soda, not washing soda.
Recipe #4: Large Batch of Powder
- 12 cups Borax
- 8 cups baking soda
- 8 cups washing soda
- 8 cups grated bar soap
- Mix the ingredients into a large bucket. Add a few cups of the ingredients at a time, to make it easier to blend the ingredients.
- Use 1/8 cup per load, or more for larger or soiled loads of laundry.
Recipe #5: Liquid
- 6 cups of water
- 1/3 bar of Fels Naptha (grated)
- 1/2 cup super washing soda
- 1/2 cup of Borax
- 2 tablespoons of glycerin
- 1 quart of hot water
- Mix the grated soap in 6 cups of water. Heat the soap on low until dissolved.
- Stir in the washing soda and the Borax. Stir until thickened and remove from heat.
- Pour 1 quart of hot water into the 2 gallon bucket. Add in the soap mixture and glycerin and mix well.
- Set aside the mixture for 24 hours to gel. After 24 hours, add a couple of cups of hot water to the mixture and stir in order to liquefy.
- Pour mixture into a covered container, such as a lidded bucket.
Warning: If you have a septic system, you might not be able to use some of these recipes. Some people have reported that the washing soda can negatively impact the balance in the system, unless you offset it with a vinegar rinse. It’s very important to check with a professional to decide whether or not you can safely use washing soda with your system.
Making your own laundry detergent is a wonderful way to save money, and keep your family healthy at the same time. The process is easy and inexpensive, and if you make a large batch, it can last you for months.
Also, using essential oils in homemade laundry detergent helps keep clothes smelling fresh. Experiment using a variety of essential oils in your homemade laundry detergent, to find the scent that works best for you.
Do you make your own laundry detergent? What are the recipes that work best for you?
(photo credit: Shutterstock)