Living diy laundry detergent

Published on September 3rd, 2014 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

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DIY Laundry Detergent: Make Your Own Liquid or Powder

diy laundry detergent

Image credit: Shutterstock

Last week, I dug into various human-powered washing machines you could build yourself. While you certainly could use the detergent you buy at the grocery store in these machines, why not stick with the homemade ethic and use a DIY laundry detergent? As I’ve discovered with many such projects, there are lots of them out there, but they don’t differ a whole lot from one another.

The one difference I did find – one of some concern – involves the use of borax. Many DIYers use this common mineral in their washing powder or liquid, but others avoid it because of worries about toxicity and skin irritation. Numerous bloggers have touched on health issues, ranging from itchiness to problems with reproductive health, so I looked around to see if I could find something definitive. The National Institutes of Health summarizes studies on borax toxicity in its Toxnet database. From browsing the entries on this page, I’d avoid the stuff: you don’t need it to make an effective laundry detergent, and why take the risk?

The other element I considered was biodegradability – I’ll address that one with each recipe below.

DIY Laundry Detergent Recipe #1: Powdered Detergent

If you prefer a dry powder detergent for your clothes, the recipe I liked the most came from My Healthy Green Family. Author Free Range Mama not only provided the recipe, but also did price and product comparisons, so you can see how well this one works, and get a good sense of what it will cost you.

While everything in this recipe is safe for your clothes and your family, I wouldn’t dump the washing water on the ground because of the salt in it: that won’t do anything for nearby plants. The salt is good for taking out certain stains, and even serving as a fabric softener.

DIY Laundry Detergent Recipe #2: Liquid Soap

Once again, lots of options out there for detergent recipes, but I liked the one from The Hippy Home because it’s pretty straightforward: no grinding bar soap or cooking anything. Gina’s directions are nice and short because there’s not a whole lot to do here – just take note of the few precautions she does offer.

I’d probably go with this one myself – I prefer liquid detergents anyway, and you should be able to dump your soapy water just about anywhere: everything in this is biodegradable (and, from what I read, plants love it!). And if you want a fabric softening element, plain white vinegar works (the smell will dissipate as your clothes dry).

Got your own DIY laundry detergent recipe that you swear by? Share it with us…



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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at



  • Thomas Landis

    This is great! We have been making our own detergent for a couple years now, a little different ingredients but same concept (we use Dawn instead of Dr. Bronners)! In two years we have spent about the same amount we would have on buying just a few conventional jugs of detergent! (Just two of us though so sometimes we go a week or more without doing a load)

    • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

      That’s awesome, Thomas – glad to hear a real-live “case study!” Thanks for chiming in…

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