DIY: Nontoxic Laundry Detergent

When my little one was only a couple months old we were told he had eczema, and after hours of research, I was not happy with what I found out. Our pediatrician recommended to switch to everything that says “scent free” but my research led me to find out even those “gentle” “for baby” “pediatrician approved” “free and clear” labels mean nothing. How do you think I felt to discover that the “#1 choice of pediatricians” (AKA Dreft, there I said it) had chemicals like Propylene Glycol; which is an immune system toxin, neurotoxin, reproductive toxin, respiratory toxin, and skin toxin, did you know it is anti-freeze? Or how about this other chemical; sodium hydroxide otherwise known as caustic soda, used to unclog pipes! It is highly corrosive, and I was washing my baby’s clothes with that.
But it wasn’t just the baby detergent, our detergent too. That “mountain fresh” smell is a synthetic
fragrance, these contain phthlates which have been linked to birth defects among other things. My trusted fabric softener was far from snugly, it contains chemicals linked to pancreatic cancer. I felt like a mama bear, no one messes with the health of my cub!
And so I set out to green our laundry room. I looked up many different recipes and after trying a few I found one that works for us. Not only have I gotten rid of all those hazardous chemicals, we are saving some green and in the process we are not sending these chemicals down the drain which in turn makes our oceans less toxic four of sea creatures.
Homemade Laundry Detergent
 What you need:
      – 2 cups Washing Soda (find it here)
      – 2 cups Borax (find it here)
      – 1 bar of Dr. Bronner’s Castille soap, grated (I used this one)
      Once grated the bar of soap gives you
      approximately 2 cups. You can either buy
      it in the scent of your choice or scentless. I
      prefer the peppermint one, it’s such an
      energizing scent, and it makes the laundry
      smell just so wonderful!
 Grate soap and set aside. Measure the Washing Soda and Borax and mix well with the grated soap. Use about two tablespoons for a full load. More if you have water. Since we have very hard water in Columbus, OH I use about three tablespoons for a full and heavy load.
And there you have it. Easy and simple, three ingredient. I have seen other homemade versions but the recipe called for certain household items that I don’t trust or have chemicals that you are trying to avoid, defeating the purpose of a nontoxic laundry detergent.
As far as a fabric softener, just skip it. You can use one cup of white distilled vinegar per full load. I recommend against it if you have hard water, I add a capful of Calgon, a water softener, and don’t use anything as a fabric softener, I’ve noticed I don’t even need it. For the dryer, I beg of you please stop using dryer sheets, they are so harmful. Instead, you can use wool dryer balls. You can buy them from lots of different websites, or, you guessed it–you can make your own! I’m currently working with a couple different methods to make them so once I have it down perfectly I will post the tutorial!



 Looking for more green cleaners?

DIY Non-Toxic Cleaning Recipes

This is the perfect book just for that, in fact it is my favorite book. Packed full of nontoxic, easy to make, green cleaner recipes. Heather Dessinger has taken out the hassle out of trying lots of recipes, sometimes with no success. Every recipe works, and works well. From citrus all-purpose spray to mold and mildew remover, this book has every recipe you’ll need. Learn more HERE.

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About Stephanie

Stephanie is a stay-at-home mom to her curly-haired two year old son, a nursing student, dog lover, and yoga enthusiast. She loves to share her tips on making green and healthy living attainable to families getting
started in the wonderful world of eco-consciousness. She believes in
real food and living as natural as possible…and why not, leaving behind a
better planet for our children.


  1. Some silly questions:
    1) what temp water do you wash clothes on?
    2) does it dissolve well?
    Do you end up having to use the extra rinse cycle?
    I used a similar recipie and felt like it wasnt rinsing out very welll.

    • Hi Nikki– 1)I actually use cold for most of my washes at exception of the occasional soiled load then I use hot. 2)Yes, even in cold water I’ve never had a problem. I don’t use an extra rinse cycle. Do you have hard water or soft water? Typically hard water will give you problems like residue and dinginess, for that you can use a water softener like Calgon ( or a filtering system for the entire house ( I hope that helps 🙂

  2. Is this ok to use in high efficency washers ?

  3. Is this ok to use in high efficency washers ?

  4. I have been looking for a powder homemmade laundry detergent recipe since my little boy also has eczema and is very sensitive to topical irritants. Thanks for sharing your findings! My concern though is about the borax. I’ve read conflicting information (not to confuse with boric acid), did you have any reservations about using borax? I also heard powder was better for reducing mildew buildup in front loaders, have you noticed any difference? Thanks!

    • Hi Katie! I felt okay using borax because the amount that goes into each wash is very minimal, and we haven’t had problem with my little one’s skin by using this recipe. As far as the mildew build-up, I can’t really say that the powder version is better, but I do know that my front loader hasn’t any build up 😉

      Also, you said your little has eczema, too, if you don’t mind me suggesting the book The Eczema Cure ( It is very comprehensive, I love it!

  5. I purchased the washing soda and borax for less the half of the Amazon price.

  6. I feel like this article didn’t explain what Sodium Hydroxide is and what it’s used for. Sodium Hydroxide is Lye, a chemical naturally formed by leaching ash. It is used for a multitude of reasons; mainly cleaning. So a popular reason is it is used for soap!

    Lye helps oils and butters to saponify and that creates soap. The Lye is not “active” after saponification and is safe to use, that takes about 3-6 weeks. Its what our Grandmothers did and what many, many people still do today, including me and many popular “Natural Living” bloggers.

    Some soap is made w/o lye, like melt&pour soaps but they are no safer than Lye soaps.

    I too love Dr Bronners and thanks for the article!

  7. I’ve always have had a problem with homemade detergent like this turning into a hard brick. Have you had an issue with this?

  8. Beverly says:

    Hi! I just wanted to know if this detergent worked well for cloth diapers. I just ordered my first cloth diapers and I have read about so many different types of detergent people use on them! I wanted to be able to make some that would work well on them!

    • Hi Beverly, as far I know this recipe will work for cloth diapers, as many homemade “cloth diaper safe detergents” use a very similar recipe. However, if you have hard water I would suggest not using it for cloth diapers; the calcium and magnesium in hard water reacts with the soap part of the recipe and can create a residue.

  9. Do you put the detergent directly into the drumof the front load washer or in the little drawer on top? Thanks!


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