Natural Laundry Solutions


*Thanks you Katie of Wellness Mama for another informative and fun post!

Switching to natural laundry options can be a very easy transition. It doesn’t take much time or effort, and you can save a substantial amount of money.

Why switch?

Conventional laundry detergent typically contains a list of chemicals and many have not been proven safe. Most detergents contain sulfates, petroleum distillates and phenols, as well as artificial fragrances and dyes.

There are natural, homemade options for laundry detergent, stain treatment and even fabric softener. Most of the natural options work as well or better than the conventional alternatives and offer substantial savings.

For instance, when I switched to making my own laundry detergent, I noticed the following savings:

With the amount this mixture I use (1/4 cup) per load of laundry (powdered detergent), this recipe works out to $0.09 cents per load of laundry. This saves me almost $0.15 per load over using Arm and Hammer or Tide. With the liquid recipe, the saving are even more. A Five-Gallon batch costs $4.30 and washes at least 80 loads, costing about $0.05 per load.

The following are my favorite recipes for natural laundry products after several years of trying different formulas:

Powdered Laundry Detergent:

You need:

  • 1 cup Washing Soda (available in the laundry section of most stores)
  • 1 cup Borax (available in the laundry section of most stores)
  • 1 bar of natural bar soap (I use homemade soap or Dr. Bronner’s bar soap, which is available in the natural/organic section at many grocery stores)

How to Make:

  1. Using a fine cheese grater or a small food processor, grate the bar soap until it is a fine powder (make sure it is not an overly moisturizing soap, or this will just make a big clump of soap)
  2. Mix the grated bar soap with 1 cup of Washing Soda, and 1 cup of borax until evenly mixed.
  3. Store in a 1 quart mason jar or similar sized container and use 1-4 tablespoons per load, depending on how dirty the clothes are.

I typically use 1 tablespoon per load for most clothes, though I have used up to 4 tablespoons on clothes that were muddy or stained.

Liquid Laundry Detergent:

I use this laundry soap 90% of the time and it works really well. One batch lasts months and it is very simple to make.

You need:

  • 1 cup Washing Soda (available in the laundry section of most stores)
  • 1 cup Borax (available in the laundry section of most stores)
  • 1 bar of natural bar soap (I use homemade soap or Dr. Bronner’s bar soap, which is available in the natural/organic section at many grocery stores)
  • A large 5-gallon plastic bucket with lid (the bakery section of most stores have these from the icing they use and will usually give you one if you ask)
  • Gallon jugs (or other container) for storing the laundry soap

How to Make:

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 quarts of water over medium high heat.
  2. While it is heating, grate in the bar soap using a cheese grater.
  3. Stir until soap has dissolved completely.
  4. In the 5-gallon bucket, put 4 gallons of hot (not boiling) water and add the 1 cup of washing soda and borax and stir until dissolved.
  5. Pour the dissolved soap mixture into the bucket and stir well until soap is mixed in.
  6. Put the lid on the bucket and leave overnight. This will allow the soap to cool and gel.
  7. After 24 hours, remove the lid, stir well (I use an immersion blender to make sure it is well mixed) and pour into clean, gallon size jugs for use.
  8. Use 1/2 cup per load.

I have used both of the above recipes on cloth diapers and delicate fabrics without a problem.

If you aren’t ready to tackle making your own laundry soap, the three top store bought natural brands that I’ve used that work really well are: Soapnuts (read about them… fascinating), Charlie’s Soap Powder, and Nellie’s Laundry Soda. All three are cloth diaper approved.

Homemade Oxy Clean

With 4 kids in the house, stains are a big issue and this is one of my go-to solutions. Oxy Clean is actually a pretty decent natural option, but the homemade version is easy to make and the ingredients are good to have on hand anyway.

I found the idea for this recipe on Pinterest (warning: it’s addictive!) and it works really well!

You Need:

  • 2 parts water
  • 1 part Hydrogen Peroxide
  • 1 part baking soda

How to Make:

  1. Pre-mix the ingredients and store in a dark colored opaque spray bottle for pre-treating stains (I just pour back into the hydrogen peroxide bottle and put a spray top on)
  2. For entire loads that need extra cleaning or brightening, just add 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide and 1/4 cup of baking soda to the wash load and let soak for 30 minutes before running through the full cycle.

Stain Treatment:

For more specific stains, the type of treatment can make a big difference in how well the stain comes out.

With the right pre-treatment, most stains are removable, even paint and ink.

You can read my full article about how to treat different types of stains here.

For quick reference, I also created the infographic on the left for fast reference. I keep this sheet by the washer for reference.

Here is a printable version of the infographic: Click to download.

Do you use natural alternatives for your laundry? What are your favorite tips and tricks for keeping clothes clean naturally? Please share below!


    • Rochelle says

      I have been using the liquid in my HE washer and it seems to be fine. It is not sudsy and seems to do the job. It is super easy to make and use and I really like using high quality products for literally pennies.

  1. Amy says

    Thanks for the great post – I am wondering, though, if you have tried this in an HE washer or if that makes a difference? Seems like it would as there are different commercial detergents for the two types of washers.

  2. Karen says

    I just made my own laundry soap (from Pinterest)…works fabulous! I’ve found other homemade options there as well…tub/shower cleaner; stain remover; carpet cleaner. Definitely homemade is the way to go!

  3. Wenchypoo says

    Rubbing alcohol makes a dandy and cheap de-greaser. You can even dilute it 50/50 with water for use on and around the stove–just be sure NOT to use it while there is open flame, because this stuff IS 100% flammable.

  4. Emily says

    How do you think this detergent compares with soap nuts? I’ve never used either but was thinking about switching to something more natural.

  5. Julie Bates says

    Is your liquid detergent option okay to use in front-loading washers? I know they typically take less liquid than a standard top loader.

  6. Betty says

    I use the same powder laundry soap. I have a huge front load machine – family of 6 – and soft water and use about 1/2 tsp per load… 1 tsp for yucky stuff with 1/4 cup vinegar in the softener compartment. Works great and an ice cream pail full has lasted a year!

  7. says

    Fantastic info! I’ve been wondering about this. This may be a silly question but is washing soda similar to baking soda? I live in Germany and don’t have access to a large selection of laundry products in the American stores (on base). Off base I have no idea what to look for to get “washing soda” as my german language skills are terrible! But baking soda I have. Please let me know!

      • Elise says

        I would like to clarify on the differences between baking soda and washing soda/soda ash. They are not chemically identical, although they are similar. Washing soda is sodium carbonate (Na2CO3 – that 2 is a subscript) while baking soda is sodium hydrogen carbonate (NaHCO3). Washing soda has a pH of 11 which is high on the alkaline scale while baking soda is slightly over 8, mildly alkaline. It is the higher alkalinity that makes washing soda more useful in laundry applications, particularly in treating grease or other petroleum derivatives.

        I would check with the base pharmacy to see if they can direct you to a local source as well as the correct German translation when seeking soda ash. However be aware that washing soda is classified as an optical brightener and, as such, is prohibited from use on certain uniforms, particularly for the armed forces.

        A Marine Daughter and Army Mom

  8. Sara says

    What are some ways to store the liquid detergent? Do gallon jugs work best or something with a pump feature? I got my supplies for my first batch but am having visions of a mess when I try to measure it out to use. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

    • says

      I just save old gallon jugs from Vinegar and liquid castille soap and store in there, but I’ve also seen people store it in gallon jars, or even quart or half gallon glass jars (makes measuring to pour easy because it has measurements on the side of the jar. If you don’t have any of those options, I’d recommend just keeping it in the large pail and transferring to one jar or jug to use as you need it.

  9. Katia says

    I used to make this exact recipe for laundry detergent, and while at first it seemed to work just fine, over several months I noticed that our clothing was getting rather dull and dingy looking. So, I started searching for something else and found BioKleen products. Their laundry detergent is wonderful; smells great, cleans, and gets out all the stains that I’ve tried it on this past year. It runs around $10 for a 64oz. bottle, and since it’s very concentrated, you only use a half of the very small cap per load. Worth checking out!

  10. Emily says

    Just saw you mentioned Charlies soap – I used that for a while when we were cloth diapering and it was fine for diapers but our clothes did not get very clean using it. As someone else mentioned Bio-Kleen makes a great laundry detergent, so if you don’t have the time to make your own that’s the best natural alternative I’ve found so far.

    • Leslie says

      Yes, white vinegar works as a softener. I’ve been using it for 7-8 months now. It doesn’t affect the absorbencey of fabric like traditional softeners do, so you can use it on wicking fabrics such as base layers and athletic performance wear. I never liked how my cloths felt a little oily before from softeners, but using none would leave my cloths too crispy. I pour about 2-3 Tablespoons in the washer with my homemade detergent. If I have a particularly stinky load, I’ll put twice that in, since white vinegar also acts as a deodorizer. Hope this helps.

  11. chris says

    So can the homemade detergent work on wicking base layer running apparel? I saw a comment that vinegar can be used as a fabric softener but not sure if the liquid detergent is safe for high performance apparel.
    Thank you for your assisstance

  12. stacey says

    I have been making my own liquid laundry detergent with a slightly different ratio recipe for several years now. I found you have to experiment with the ratio of bar soap/washing soda/borax (boric acid) because of the difference of elements in your household water supply. Also, if one begins to notice dulling of clothing, then add some white vinegar to the wash and/or rinse cycle and the dulling will go away. Vinegar acts as a water softener and allows the soap to rinse from clothing, rather than build up causing the fabric to stiffin and/or dull. I add vinegar to almost every load, and no my clothes have no trace of vinegar smell when the wah cycle is complete.

  13. says

    Wow great info!

    I’m curious about natural alternatives in the dryer. I hate to use dryer sheets with all the chemicals and expense, but it seems like the clothes are so static-y without them. Any suggestions??

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