3 Ingredient DIY Laundry Detergent

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Laundry detergent can be expensive. Many are full of artificial (aka toxic) fragrances and other chemicals that are harsh on the fibers of our clothes. These not-so-great ingredients are then on our bodies!

Why Homemade?

I use homemade laundry detergent because it’s easy, inexpensive, and I can control what is in it. I’m a busy person and I know you are too. It only takes a few minutes to make enough laundry detergent to last us months. Honestly, it’s so easy that J now makes the detergent for the house. It must be easy if he rather make laundry detergent then stop at the grocery store to pick something up!

DIY homemade laundry detergent. Safe + effective. Only 3 ingredients and 5 minutes. | simplywellfamily.com

Why Do The Ingredients Matter?

As I’ve mentioned before there are numerous ingredients allowed in our cosmetics, cleaning products, and foods that are banned in other countries. These ingredients can have a negative effect on our bodies. Allergic reactions are one of the most common negative effects of laundry detergent.

Rashes on children are pretty common and something that I see as a pediatric nurse practitioner on a regular basis. Some types of rashes can be prevented. See, our skin is our first line of defense and it’s just as important to keep toxins off our bodies as it is to keep them out. Laundry detergent can cause rashes. Irritants remain on the fibers of the clothing, even after the detergent is rinsed off.

Sneezing, cough, and runny nose are allergic reactions that are also being caused by conventional laundry detergents. Laundry detergents usually contain fragrances too. Those artificial fragrances can easily trigger an allergic reaction.

The Hidden Dangers

Aside from allergic reactions, ingredients in commercial laundry detergent can have additional detrimental effects on our health.

Laundry detergents contain ingredients that research shows are toxic to our developmental and reproductive systems. Additionally, laundry detergents can contain carcinogens and chemicals that irritate our respiratory systems.

Controlling The Ingredients

One way to prevent allergic reactions caused by laundry detergent is to make your own. I started making my own laundry detergent within a few months after A stopped using diapers. As a first time mother I didn’t trust my own homemade laundry detergent to wash his cloth diapers, but I’ve since used this recipe to wash E’s diapers and quickly laid my concerns to rest.

This detergent works well to thoroughly wash the dirt and stink out of the clothes. I’ve been able to put this detergent to the toughest test — cause E is the type of boy that LOVES to get dirty and J comes home with stinky clothes more than once a week!

I prefer to use a powder version, but this detergent can be made into a liquid detergent by adding water. I’ve used this detergent in both a high-efficiency washing machine and a basic regular top loader too.

Safe Ingredients

This homemade laundry detergent is made with castile soap, washing soda, borax (optional), and essential oil (optional).

Castile Soap

Castile soap is made from coconut cleansers and is completely safe. It is the primary ingredient in a lot of my homemade cleaners and is safe enough to use as a body wash on yourself or your children (even infants).

Washing Soda

Another ingredient in homemade laundry detergent is washing soda. Washing soda is another name for sodium carbonate. It is considered completely safe for use in laundry detergent. Though it is similar to baking soda it has a different chemical make-up and is not the same. Washing soda is not safe to eat and you need to be careful to not inhale the powder.


You might be wondering why borax is optional. Well, the jury is still out on the safety of borax and the necessity of it in laundry detergent. Borax is definitely not something that we want to be inhaling or ingesting. It’s a natural ant killer! For this reason, some rather not use it. Additionally, there is research out there that says borax requires hot water to be activated in laundry detergent. Considering we try to be eco-friendly in our home, I do almost all of our laundry in cold water which would render the borax in the detergent useless. However, there are also arguments that borax is necessary for homemade laundry detergent. Many also believe it is safe to use since it is washed away. Therefore, borax is listed as an optional ingredient.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are another ingredient that is not necessary for laundry detergent but they do serve their purpose. Some types of essential oils promote cleaning. They also provide a nice clean fresh scent. My personal favorite way to use essential oils in my laundry is by putting a couple drops (of one oil) in either the softener dispenser and/or bleach dispenser in my washing machine.

DIY homemade laundry detergent. Safe + effective. Only 3 ingredients and 5 minutes. | simplywellfamily.com

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Laundry Detergent Recipe

The cast of characters (aka ingredients)

1 4oz bar of castile soap (unscented)

1 cup washing soda

1/2 cup borax (optional)

2-4 drops essential oil (optional)

I (err J) uses our food processor to make the detergent.  He has it ready in under 3 min.

First, grate the bar of soap in using the food processor grater blade. Then change out for the regular food processor blade before adding the rest of the ingredients.

Next, add in the 1 cup of washing soda and the 1/2 cup of borax (if using borax). Run the food processor for 30 seconds to mix everything together and turn the soap into more of a powder.

Place into a sturdy waterproof container, like this, for storage.

Use 1-2 tbs per load

*We triple this recipe and it lasts us months

**For liquid detergent add the powder to boiling water and dissolve.

Convinced Yet?

Have you tried the recipe? Leave me a comment and let me know how it worked for you. Don’t forget to subscribe so you’ll be the first to know when new posts pop-up.

Till next time…


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Brooke has been helping families as a board-certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, since 2007. Prior to that, she spent 4+ years working as a Registered Nurse in both pediatric and postpartum nursing. Brooke holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing. Additionally, she is dual-licensed in her state as both an APRN and RN.


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