Making your own detergent is surprisingly easy, affordable, and fun if you use the right recipe and have enough water (more on that below). Julia Watkins, natural cleaning authority and author of Just Living Well, shares her favorite 4-ingredient cleanser recipes to help you get started.
This recipe can be solved with so few ingredients because each one is so good at their job. Here is some information about each:
It is based on Castile soap, a vegetable soap (often made from coconut, hemp, or olives) that has the same oil-removing power as traditional soap, which is sometimes made from animal fat. This recipe calls for a hard bar of castile soap to achieve a powdery consistency, although liquid will work in a pinch.
In addition, there is washing soda or sodium carbonate, which is a safer bleach that can replace borax, which has toxicity issues1. This inexpensive powder usually comes in a baking soda-like box and can be found in the laundry section of grocery stores.
Next: baking soda. This DIY cleaner is a natural deodorant and abrasive. It helps remove stains from clothes and gives them a fresh laundry scent.
Finally, kosher salt is another natural abrasive that helps soften clothes and give them a time-honored look.
NOTE. All of these ingredients are shelf stable, so feel free to double or triple this recipe and store the additional ingredients in an airtight container at room temperature.
For a more fragrant wash, you can add 2-3 drops of essential oil directly to your DIY detergent, or add to a wool drying ball and place it in the dryer. To be on the safe side, use oils with a flash point above 180 degrees Fahrenheit, such as sandalwood, geranium, and cedarwood. Citrus, mint, and eucalyptus scents are contraindicated because they have a low flash point and can be a fire hazard in a hot dryer.
Homemade medley is another risk-free option. “Fill small drawstring bags with dried lavender and place them in drawers and linen closets,” Watkins advises.
When using detergent for the first time, try washing clothes with 1 tablespoon and see how it works. If clothes look a little dull or still smell, add 2 tbsp.
The finer the detergent, the more evenly it will distribute in the wash, especially in cold water, so be sure to rinse it well!
The most important caveat to using homemade laundry detergent is that it will not work in hard water machines. The soap in this formula can cause minerals in hard water, such as magnesium and calcium, to stick to clothes, causing them to turn yellow over time. Areas with high population densities and the hardest water include Indianapolis, Las Vegas, and Minneapolis-St. Louis. Paul. Phoenix, San Antonio, Tampa and Los Angeles. If you live near any of these cities, consider swapping out your household detergent for packaged but environmentally friendly options from the environmental task force database.
If your water system can handle it, household cleaners are often a cheaper alternative to bottled cleaners that only cost a few pennies a refill.
There are also some environmental benefits of the DIY path. If you’re buying ingredients in bulk, you can opt out of plastic packaging entirely. Plus, you can cut down on unnecessary emissions by making your own products instead of reordering products that have been shipped across the country. Traditional detergent bottles can be heavy and filled with water, making them difficult to transport.
A review of 39 popular laundry detergent ingredients2 found that some ingredients (sodium carboxymethylcellulose, sodium silicate solution, and perborate tetrahydrate) are potentially toxic in the aquatic environment at high doses. Making your own blend is one way to make sure you know exactly what’s in your wastewater so you don’t have to worry about unintentionally harming surrounding wildlife.
In addition to making your own detergent, here are some tips on how to minimize waste on laundry day:
Finally, remember that up to 75 percent of the energy used in each wash cycle is used to heat water, so unless you’re dealing with heavy stains, use fresh detergent in a cooler wash cycle.
If you don’t have hard water, homemade natural laundry detergent is an affordable and environmentally friendly way to clean your clothes. Julia Watkins’ 4-ingredient formula leaves plenty of room for customization and will stay fresh in an airtight container, making it a solid addition to laundry days anywhere.
Emma Lowe is director of sustainability and wellness at mindbodygreen and author of Back to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Can Restore Us. She is also co-author of The Spiritual Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self-Care, which she co-wrote with Lindsey Kellner.
Emma holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Policy from Duke University with a concentration in Environmental Communications. In addition to writing over 1,000 mbg on topics ranging from California’s water crisis to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared in Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle and Forbes. She joins environmental thought leaders including Marcy Zaroff, Gay Brown and Summer Rain Oaks in podcasts and live events at the intersection of self-care and sustainability.
Post time: Apr-03-2023