Homemade LAUNDRY detergent: Discover the amazing cleaning power of this non-toxic, Borax-free recipe!

Ever wonder why so many people make their own laundry detergent these days? Maybe there really are hidden toxins we should be concerned about in commercial laundry soaps. 

It isn't just hype... 

There really can be nasty things lurking in the products we've come to trust. That's because manufacturers are not required to list all the chemicals that go into their laundry and cleaning products. In fact, even products labeled "safe" and "environmentally responsible" and "green" and "natural" can contain compounds that are in reality very far from safe, responsible, green or natural. 

With laundry, we get exposed to toxins in more ways than one. Through our skin when we wear and use items washed and dried with toxin-containing products. And also from the air when we breathe toxins released from artificial fragrances and chemical residues left on laundry. 

Here are some of the worst chemicals to avoid, yet they are commonly used in oodles of products (you'd amazed how many): sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), 1,4-diozane, and nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE). These chemicals are all known carcinogens or hormone disruptors. A carcinogen is a substance known to cause cancer in animals, and likely humans. A hormone disruptor is a compound that can play tricks on the human body, confusing our hormones. This can cause one hormone to transform into another, an increase or decrease in hormone production, signaling problems between hormones, and hormones telling cells to die prematurely. Sheesh! Toxins are serious! (That's a lot of gobbly-gook to sort out, but if you're fascinated with stuff like this, you can learn more here.) 

But what about Borax? You make your own laundry detergent with Borax, so you're good, right? Borax is a long-standing ingredient to homemade laundry detergent, as well as many other cleaning and personal care products. The internet is jam-packed with recipes that call for this "natural" ingredient. Borax is safe, right? Well...research suggests even Borax may not be as safe and non-toxic as we once thought. (Learn more here).

So what can we do? 

Is there a truly safe, non-toxic, yet effective DIY laundry detergent recipe out there? The answer is, Yes! And I'm going to tell you about it. The beauty of this recipe is that it's completely non-toxic, with most of it's ingredients being food grade. Yet, it works beautifully to clean your laundry. And the best part is, making this laundry detergent isn't hard. In fact, you may be surprised how easy it is! 

How to make Clean-Castile Laundry Detergent...


(Some of these ingredients will be available in your local grocery store. I've included links in case you have trouble finding anything. These are affiliate links: That means if you click through and buy something, we receive a small commission payment. Thank you for supporting Farm Girl Inspirations :-)

1 bar castile soap (Dr. Bronner's or Kirk's Castile will both work well)
1/2 cup baking soda
1/4 cup citric acid **
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon essential oil of your choice*** 

*See note in the chart below as why this is the only oxygen cleaner considered safe enough to be recommended here.

**Normally, you wouldn't mix washing soda with citric acid, because when combined with water they can neutralize each other much like the reaction between vinegar and baking soda. However, you can maintain a proper pH with the right ratio of acid to alkaline base. That ratio is 1 part citric acid to at least 4 parts washing soda. With the added baking soda in this recipe, there's plenty of alkalinity to keep things balanced so your laundry gets clean. 

***Click HERE for information on what company I buy my essential oils from. If you're curious about buying these oils at wholesale prices, click HERE. If you'd like to talk to me personally about any questions you have regarding getting these oils, click HERE to send me an email.

Other needed tools:

Food processor**** 
Large mixing bowl
Quart-size wide-mouth mason jar and lid

**** It's a good idea to have a food processor that's dedicated to only soap and laundry detergent making, not shared with food preparation. (An inexpensive, basic model like the one linked above is what I use, and it's performed really well in keeping up with my laundry soap making over the past year).

Chart of Ingredients Used (the what-for of each ingredient)...

In case you're curious, here's some information about each ingredient--what it is, what it's purpose is in the formula, and whether it's safe:

Castile Soap: 
  • Purpose: Cleanser. Castile soap contains coconut oil, which is an amazing yet mild cleaner.
  • What is it? A pure, bio-degradable soap made with coconut oil and olive oil. It contains no artificial foaming agents, harsh cleaners or animal fat.
  • Is it safe? Yes! It's even safe for septic tanks, because it contains no animal fat.
Coarse Sea Salt:
  • Purpose: Color stabilizer. Sea salt helps prevent fading and acts as a fabric softener.
  • What is it? Salt from the sea. 
  • Is it safe? You bet! (Safe enough to eat, even).
Washing Soda:
  • Purpose: Cleanser and water softener. Soft water helps prevent the dingy mineral build-up that occurs from hard water.
  • What is it? Sodium carbonate. This is a food additive used as an acidity regulator, anti-caking agent, rising agent, and stabilizer.
  • Is it safe? Darn tootin'!
Baking Soda:
  • Purpose: Stain remover and odor remover.
  • What is it? Sodium bicarbonate. Another food additive, used in baking as a rising agent.
  • Is it safe? Affirmative!
Citric Acid:
  • Purpose: Water softener for brighter colors and whiter whites.
  • What is it? A crystalline acid present in lemons and sour fruit.
  • Is is safe? Two thumbs up!
OxiClean Laundry Baby Stain Soaker:
  • Purpose: Color brightener, and whites whitener. (Yes, it's color safe.)
  • What is it? Sodium carbonate peroxide and sodium carbonate (powdered hydrogen peroxide). It releases oxygen when water is added. It's made from treating baking soda with hydrogen peroxide.
  • Is it safe? Yes. This product scored an A by the EPG (Environmental Work Group). Only the Baby variety is recommended here, as it contains only two ingredients that are both eco-friendly, and no other ingredients. (Other OxiClean products may contain ingredients with higher risk factors, and are therefore not recommended). 
Essential Oil (of your choice): 
  • Purpose: Natural, non-toxic fragrance.
  • What is it? All natural fragrant plant-based oil.
  • Is it safe? Absolutely (just make sure it's pure therapeutic grade you're good to go).

How to make the laundry detergent in 3 easy steps:

Use the grating blade to create
soap shavings.

STEP 1: Using a food processor, grate 1 bar of castile soap.

In a separate bowl, mix the soap shavings
into the dry ingredients. Doing this coats
them with the soap so it doesn't clump
when you grind everything together. 

STEP 2: Now measure all the other dry ingredients into a separate bowl and mix together with a fork. Stir slowly, so you don't create a cloud a dust. This mixing will help the castile soap not clump when you grind it together with everything else. Once the soap is mixed with the dry ingredients, attach the grinding blade in the food processor. Carefully pour the mix back into the processor bowl and put the lid on. 

While the processor grinds the mix, add
one dropper of your chosen essential oil.

STEP 3: Grind everything together to a smooth powder. If you want to add an essential oil fragrance, now is the time. While the processor runs, add one dropper of your chosen scent. Need some suggestions? Try one of these:
  • Grapefruit
  • Sweet Orange
  • Tangerine
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Peppermint
  • Eucalyptus
  • Frankincense
A wide-mouth, quart-size mason
jar is just the right size for
one batch.

How to store and use:

Store your laundry detergent in a wide-mouth, quart-size mason jar, or another air-tight container. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per load, depending on how soiled your laundry is. 

Want a fun way to label your laundry detergent? Try these
premium chalkboard labels. They stay put on your jars and come with a liquid chalk marker that smudge-proof, but can easily wiped off for re-labeling. I use these and love them.

Final thoughts...

What's been your experience with homemade laundry soaps? I'd love to hear your story...

Until next time...

Joy--Fearless Farm Girl,

"Farm Girl: it's a verb, because it's what you do."

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  1. I've used your recipe for laundry detergent and it's awesome. I've been using the 1-2 Tbls per load, as you suggested. It's awesome to cut out some chemicals and still have clean clothes! Thank you for posting this great tutorial!

    1. Kristin, thank you for your comment. I'm super happy you gave this recipe a try and that it's working so well for you. Love the feedback :-)

      Melody Joy

  2. love this recipe that is borax-free. Nice pictures too. That is the one I make and found a cookie jar that is on an ankle w/ lid to scoop out. I got it from the Container Store. I love the mason jar too.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Thanks for your comment :-) The angled cookie jar sounds like a good way to store your laundry soap. Nice tip.

    Melody Joy

  5. Very helpful post! I will try it for sure! I love homemade cleaners!

    1. Thanks, Hayley. Me too! I've found I can save a lot of money by making my own cleaners. Thanks for dropping by.

  6. Made more with my friend today. We used sweet orange, lemon, and cinnamon essential oils.

  7. It was. I made more tonight and this time I used Thieves, Orange, Blue Spruce, and Cinnamon Essential Oils. I also forgot to tell you I bought Oxo-Brite which is the Earth Friendly Products brand for that part of the recipe.

  8. I'm guessing it will still work if you don't completely grind up everything together, right?

  9. Hmmm, I'm not sure how not grinding it all together would change how this laundry soap performs. I think grinding is good as it further breaks down and incorporates the soap flakes after grating. If you try it without grinding, let us know how it turns out! Thanks for your question :-)

  10. Hello! Can I use iodized sea salt (already in my cupboard) or must it be coarse sea salt without iodine? Does the iodine affect the recipe or results?

    1. Hi, thanks for your question. This is just my opinion, but I don't think it will impact the recipe or it's performance if you use your salt with iodine. If it was in my cupboard, I would give it a try. I'm glad you're going to try this detergent :-)

    2. Thanks for the reply! And thanks for this great article. The recipe itself is great, but the research you put into this saves so much time and worry for the rest of us. Greatly appreciated!

  11. Can you use a different kind of soap? Allergic to coconut.

    1. Hi. Other soaps people use to make laundry soap are Ivory and Fels-Napa. I don't know how these will perform, as I always use castile soap because it's a very good cleaner. You should be able to substitute a different kind without a problem, just make sure it's not super-fatted as the moisturizers and oils in this type of soap wouldn't be good for cleaning laundry. (Super-fatted soaps are often made to be used on the face). Hope that answers your question.

  12. Could these ingredients be combined with hot water to make a liquid version of the detergent? Leaving out the Oxi-Clean & just adding that separately into the machine (since it is water-activated)? Has anyone tried this? Thanks!

    1. Hi! I haven't yet made a liquid laundry soap, but I've read about doing it, and I think you would heat the bar soap and water, then add the other ingredients and cook. (That's not a full run-down). Here's the important thing to consider: If I was going to try this as a liquid soap, I would leave out the citric acid. When the washing soda, baking soda and citric acid are combined with water, a fizzy reaction occurs, much like vinegar and baking soda. This works in the dry mix because the reaction happens in the washer when the water is added, which can help break up dirt, etc. But in a liquid soap solution, the two elements (soda and citric acid) neutralize each other and become less effective. So, long story short, I think your idea is possible, but without the citric acid. Hope that makes sense.