DIY Clean Laundry Detergent
In the growing age of product transparency, there’s been a lot of concern over the number of toxins and irritants in common household products. Commercial laundry detergent has been at the top of my list of home products to replace with a natural, non-toxic alternative. Recently, I made the transition to a homemade detergent for number of reasons, including the overall health of my family, cost, and environmental impact.
As a mom, I’ve been on the hunt for a gentle alternative to our regular detergent. Many detergents contain harsh chemical ingredients that can be either irritating to the skin or even mildly toxic. Common irritants and toxic ingredients in standard laundry detergents include phosphates, formaldehyde, phthalates and chlorine. Each of these ingredients (in moderate to large amounts) can be harmful to both people, animals and the environment.
Standard detergents not only cause skin irritation, but they’re also significant sources of water pollution. Generic laundry detergents typically contain phosphates, which are components that help soften hard water and increase the effectiveness of the product. Unfortunately, phosphates aren’t removed in the wastewater treatment process and often make their way to groundwater resources. Once these pollutants reach groundwater, they can cause significant human and environmental damage.
Along with water pollution, standard laundry detergent use contributes to the growing plastic waste problem. Almost all store-bought laundry detergents are packaged with single-use plastics, which typically end up in landfills and take hundreds of years to decompose.
For these reasons and many more, I’ve made the transition to a simple and non-toxic homemade detergent.
DIY Laundry Soap Basics
If you’re currently scouring the internet for natural laundry detergent recipes, you may have noticed a common ingredient in many of them: Borax.
Borax is an effective cleaning additive for laundry detergents, but it can also be harmful to humans and animals when ingested. Borax can lead to acute toxicity and cause skin and eye irritation, vomiting and respiratory issues. Because of the potential danger associated with borax, I use a recipe that utilizes washing soda instead.
Some of the best homemade laundry detergent recipes are simple to make and incorporate washing soda, rather than borax. Because washing soda is a different chemical compound than borax, it’s significantly safer for humans.
My favorite recipe so far incorporates only a few simple, easy-to-find ingredients and costs under $8 to make! Check out my go-to homemade, zero-waste laundry detergent recipe below:
Large baking pan or sheet
4 cups baking soda (where to buy)
1 five-ounce castile soap bar (where to buy)
20-30 drops of your favorite essential oils (optional)
Tip: I typically use Dr. Bronners unscented castile soap bar, but you can also use any of the scented variations of the castile soap bar. If you use a scented castile soap bar, you do not need to add the essential oils. Some of my favorite scented castile soap bar options are lavender (best for sensitive skin and children), peppermint and citrus.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees
- Prepare the washing soda by spreading baking soda evenly across the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven for one hour, or until the powder is greyish and no longer clumps together. (Tip: Sift through the powder halfway through to break apart any clumps).
- Remove the baking sheet and combine the washing soda with one bar of grated castile soap.
- Add 20-30 drops of essential oil to the mixture (optional).
- Use 1-2 tablespoons of the detergent mixture per laundry load.
- Store in an airtight container, in a cool and dark space.
I hope you enjoy this homemade, low-waste recipe!