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Homemade Eco Friendly Laundry Detergent & Tips

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Air Drying Clothes

The average family washes nearly 400 loads of laundry a year which is about a couple loads a day. With all that laundry to do, comes a considerable amount of money out of your pocket as well as some harmful effects. There are several reasons why using an all natural detergent could benefit you and the environment. A lot of times when you wash your clothes with conventional detergents it leaves harmful residue behind. Then as you are wearing your clothes, small amounts of chemicals are absorbed by your skin which can cause irritation and itchiness as well as do damage to your health.

Conventional detergents contain alkyphenol ethoxylates or APE’s. These nasty ingredients can damage the immune system and have been thought to be hormone disruptors. This is especially harmful for breast feeding mothers and infants. These detergents are not just harmful to us but pose a great threat to our earth and animal life. The biggest environmental threat from the detergents is waste water. Once it is released into the environment it can create an unbalanced eco system with the main culprit being phosphates. Making the switch to buying eco friendly detergent or making your own soaps can be extremely beneficial to your families well being, mother earth, and your bank account.

Make Your Own Homemade Laundry Detergent

If you plan to make your own detergent it can prevent from the waste of plastic detergent bottles. You can reuse your gallon milk jugs or other plastic containers for this project. This process of homemade detergent only takes 10 minutes to make and is very easy. You only need a few ingredients that will cost you less than $10.00! With just roughly 10 bucks you can purchase enough ingredients to make 6 batches of soap which equates to 312 loads of laundry. That’s about 3 cents per load!  That’s close to  85% savings opposed to buying my regular detergent purchases. There are several “do it yourself” ideas of laundry soap out there. This happens to be one that I found that proved to be extremely cost friendly, easy and effective.

The things you will need:

  • 1 five gallon bucket
  • 1 Package of Arm & Hammer washing soda (not the same as baking soda. This is found in most supermarkets)
  • 1 package Borax (found in cleaning section at the supermarket)
  • 1 pot
  • 1 grater (to grate the soap bar with)
  • 1 stir stick (spatula)
  • 1 bar of natural soap (examples of brands Tom’s, Pure & Natural, and even some eBay sellers have homemade natural soap bars for sale at some reasonable prices)

STEP #1 – Boil 4 cups of water in your pot

STEP #2 – Grate your bar of soap into a bowl

STEP #3 – Slowly add in your grated soap shavings into the boiling pot of water

STEP #4 – Fill your bucket with 3 gallons of warm water

STEP #5 – Add in the boiling soapy water into the bucket (stir up the soapy water, its ok if there is small chunks of soap forming)

STEP #6 – Add 1 cup of washing soda into the bucket and stir

STEP #7 – Add ½ cup of borax into the bucket and stir once again

STEP #8 – Put lid on bucket and wait 24 hours and there you have it. Your mixture may be gelatin like or a little more watered down depending on how much soap you add.

READY TO USE- Once your soap is ready to use, just add 1 cup for a large load and 1/2 a cup for a small to medium load.

This homemade detergent mix is proven environmentally safe and healthy. Of course you don’t want to ingest any of it but it is certainly effective in cleaning your clothes and smells fresh and wonderful. If you had any concerns with the ingredient borax, I did my research and found it is a perfectly safe ingredient. Here you can find the controversy put to rest by a biologist who specializes in environmental toxicology, wildlife toxicology and cellular and molecular biology.

Other Green Laundry Tips I’d Like To Share While We Are On The Topic

Switch the cycle to cold water and line dry your clothes.  Most of the energy used in doing your laundry is from heating the water. Switching to cold water can reduce your energy consumption by 90% instead of using hot water. Your dryer is obviously a big energy hog, so if you want to be super green, try line drying outdoors or you can buy an indoor drying rack. For the cold winter months maybe that won’t be very effective so you can just make sure your lint trap is clean and add in a dry towel to the load may speed up the drying process.

Wear your clothes a few more times before tossing them in the dirty pile. Perhaps not including undergarments- that could be really gross! But things like a pair of jeans or a top. Sometimes you can wear an outfit for the whole day and you can tell it still has some life left in it before it needs to be washed. Instances like this can prevent you from doing your laundry more often thus saving you in energy cost.

Make sure to set your drying time accordingly. Periodically check your lint trap. I find that sometimes when a load is drying and I check it halfway through the dry cycle, it’s already dry. Even if your clothes are a little damp, you can finish drying them by hanging them on a hanger somewhere warm in your house. I just hang them over my banister to save about an extra 10 minutes of dryer time.

I hope some of these tips have prepared you well for your next laundry day. Remember the ingredients for the home made detergent can be customized according to your liking with ingredients such as vinegar, lemon juice or if you want to add some fragrances to it like organic lavender oil or lemon grass oil. Have fun with it and play around with what works best for you. If you have any other tips for greening your laundry routine please share them with us!


Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Angie Tarantino – The Environmental Blog

Angie Tarantino
About Angie Tarantino (150 Posts)

Angie Tarantino is a contributor and part founder of The Environmental Blog. She covers animal rights, green tips and general green news topics She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Follow @EcoChic314


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10 Comments on “Homemade Eco Friendly Laundry Detergent & Tips

  1. Thank you so much for recipe on how to make my own soap. I would like to add for your to make sure that they don't throw a dryer sheet to your dryer. They are also full of nasty chemicals. During the winter months most locals need extra moisture in our homes. Using a clothes drying rack is a great economical and environmentally friendly way to add the moisture and save money.

    • Thanks for the tip, Mary….I never thought of air drying my clothes to get moisture in the air. Such a simple solution that I would have never thought of! Thanks!

  2. I love this article Angie! Thanks for posting. I am going to try and make some when I have a chance and test it out!

  3. Thanks Steven! You should totally try it and comment back on how effective it was for you!

  4. My wife and I made a batch of this detergent, and it was great! The bonus is that you aren't using plastic detergent bottles in the process.

    • I'm glad it worked out for you ! The more people that hear how effective it is than i believe more people will try it! Thanks for sharing :)

  5. Thank you for such an important info. The great thing is that is a simple solution, inexpensive for a situation that every single person has to deal with- our dirty clothes. You just touched a general human problem and gave a great solution that will not hurt our planet.

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  8. Does anyone have recommendation on what kind of bar soap to use? I used Tom’s for my first batch and the soap gets gelatinous and I have to stir it up to break up the clumps every time I do laundry. Does anyone else have this problem?

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