Detoxifying your.. laundry detergent?



It’s a funny thing, detoxifying your life. There’s so much to learn, and it can be really hard to do everything at once. For me, one of the last few things to really dig into and research was laundry detergent. What IS in those conventional laundry detergents anyway, and do they really have to be neon blue? Are they harmful to a person once they’re rinsed out of clothes, and how terrible are they for the water supply & eco-system once they go down the drain? This one is tricky because, by law, companies aren’t required to list their ingredients. And JUST when you think you’ve picked up a natural or eco-friendly alternative that actually lists what its made of, you find out that its main ingredient is one of the worst and most toxic offenders (this happened to me last night, I couldn’t believe I was duped after all the research I’ve been doing.)

Enter, the eco-friendly/natural soap recipe that has been sweeping the internet. How hard is it to make? Can you really make it for pennies on the dollar?  Is it to good to be true?

Most importantly, does it actually work?

I put it to the test.

After experimenting with it for a few months, I want to share what I’ve learned.

But first – what’s in it, and how is it made?


1 bar of soap  ( I like using castile soap, so I used Dr. Bronners,

but you can use any other bar of natural soap. )

1 cup Borax


1 cup Washing soda

How to make it: 

Grate up the soap with a cheese grater (the hardest part – I promise)

and then:

1. add 1 cup Borax ( I use this trick to mark measurements on my jar so that I don’t have to use a measuring cup.  If you use a Mason/ball jar the measurements are already there.)

2. add 1 cup washing soda

3. add the grated soap

4. Cap it & Shake it

Ta-da! You now have your own, homemade, laundry detergent.

Natural, eco-friendly laundry detergent recipe: Borax, Washing Soda and Castille Soap

Result: Success! It actually does clean clothes, and is very inexpensive to make.

Note: It’s best to use it when you’re washing with warm water, since cold water won’t disolve all of the grated soap. (Soon I’ll be sharing part 2 of this post – where I show how to make a liquid version.)

What shouldn’t you wash in this soap?: It’s recommended to not use it for woolens or silk since it can damage them. You may also want to avoid anything else that’s delicate. I also wouldn’t use this to hand wash clothing.

How much should you use?  

Use 1 – 2 tbsp per load.  I had one of those little scoops from an old container of protein powder that I threw in the jar to use.

Where do you find the ingredients?:  Borax and washing soda can be a little tricky to find in the U.S these days. You may have luck at your local hardware or grocery store. After going to 5 stores I finally found both at Associated Market in NYC – both were around 4 bucks.  My mom tracked them down at Crafty Beaver (a hardware store in Chicago.)  Dr. Bronners bar soap is pretty easy to find these days at drug & health food stores. Or better yet, support a small business and buy a bar of handmade soap from a local shop or farmers market.

What about that mountain spring, just-rolled-around-in-a-field-of-lavender fresh scent?

The soap on its own does leave your clothes smelling fresh and clean – but doesn’t have much of a scent to speak of.

I used peppermint soap, but the smell does not linger – so I added grapefruit essential oil to the wash cycle. You can also try lemon, peppermint, lavender, etc.. The nice thing is that most essential oils are also anti-bacterial /anti fungal / anti-microbial, and very effective in getting rid of mold & mildew on fabric (and in the air).

The first time I tried 10 drops – the laundry smelled fresh but I couldn’t smell the grapefruit. The next time around I added 20, and the grapefruit scent lasted after the clothes were dry.

Is it really natural / safe / eco-friendly? : 

According to the environmental working group, “Sodium borate (borax) is a naturally occurring mineral based on the element boron.” There’s a lot of conflicting info about whether or not borax is really natural and safe.  Here’s a great blog post about this – after a lot of research the author concluded that it is safe enough to use a cleaning product. Washing Soda is Sodium Carbonate, also known as soda ash. More info can be found here. Overall, both borax and washing soda appear to be safe if not ingested, but can be mildly irritating to the skin, eyes & lungs.  So, like any other cleaning product, you should use these things with caution. (warning: when making this stuff – it will get everywhere. Using gloves and/or washing your hands afterwards is a good idea. It helps to put a piece of newspaper under your jar to catch any excess powder. You may want to use a funnel, and hold your breath while pouring so you don’t breathe any in.)


And that’s all she wrote. Tune in next time to learn how to make the liquid version, for all of your more delicate clothes that need to be washed in cold water. In the meantime, I’d love to know – do you have a favorite eco-friendly/natural laundry detergent? Let me know in the comments below. (and please let me know if you try this recipe – I’d love to hear how it goes.)

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7 responses to “Detoxifying your.. laundry detergent?”

  1. Maryann Miceli Avatar
    Maryann Miceli

    Thank you! What a great blog. Great information. I plan to check the the ingredients on my detergent from now on. I often think about the bleach we use on our clothes and send down the drain. I plan to make a batch of Liz’s detergent soon. Thanks again for the info!

  2. Gabriela Szulman Avatar

    Thank you for the post Elizabeth -unfortunately for me I read it just after I’d come back with the supermarket with an extra-large bottle of detergent! Will consider mixing my own given I have all the ingredients. Luckily here in the UK it’s very easy to find both borax and washing soda!

  3. Wendy Avatar

    This is awesome. Living in a rural area, any suggestions on where to buy borax and washing soap?

    1. elizabeth paige Avatar

      Wendy – I think hardware and some grocery stores may carry it, or you can order it on amazon. Please let us know if you find it in your area :)

  4. […] an older post, I shared how I made powdered laundry soap with borax, washing soda and a bar of castile soap. The […]

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