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Natural Cleaners: Laundry {Overview of Ingredients, Recipe + Soap Nuts Review}

October 14, 2015

Natural Laundry Detergent Recipe With OxyBoost + a Review of Soap Nuts
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I've written a couple of posts on this subject {here and here}and they are always quite popular.  Why?  Because although we want to switch to natural laundry products free of sulfates, phthalates and petroleum it's hard to find it affordable.  The easiest way to do that is to make it yourself.  You
can make a large batch a few times a year which makes it a bit more doable.  Buy a large bucket {or two for larger families} with lid and store your homemade detergent {away from kids and pets}.  Use a smaller jar for your laundry room that you can refill from the bucket as needed.

The essential ingredients in homemade laundry detergent are:
  • grated low-sudsing soap {i.e. castile or a coconut-oil based soap}
  • washing soda {found in many grocery stores - laundry detergent aisle} - in addition to it's cleaning power, it helps to soften hard water.
  • borax {found in many grocery stores - laundry detergent aisle}- some don't use this ingredient.  It softens hard water and brightens clothing.  The downside is it really needs hot water to be most effective.
What makes homemade laundry detergent even more effective?
  • sodium percarbonate {a.k.a. powdered peroxide - essentially, the active ingredient in Oxi Clean}
  • lemon essential oil {a natural stain remover}
You can add Oxi Clean to your detergent or straight sodium percarbonate.  This helps whiten and brighten clothing.  Sodium percarbonate is made from washing soda being treated with hydrogen peroxide.  It can bleach colors in a large quantity - make sure to keep the percentage low.  You can find sodium percarbonate on

Provided you don't want fragrance-free detergent, if you're going to add a scent, why not add one that is known for helping remove stains?  Lemon essential oil {and eucalyptus essential oil if you would prefer} is known for exactly this.

Mix Your Clothes In Salad Dressing
So the title of this section is a joke.  When I mention using vinegar in my laundry that's the first comment I hear - "but I don't want my clothes to smell like salad dressing!!"  You will never ever know you used vinegar - there is no residual smell.  I promise.  I've used a vinegar rinse for years.  Adding a quarter to a half cup of white vinegar in the "fabric softener" tray {or during the rinse cycle}, resets the ph which is naturally very alkaline in detergent as well as removes any excess salts or detergent from your clothing.  Please note that it needs to be white vinegar.

Liquid Or Powder - Which Is Best?
I think this comes down to personal preference.  I used to make liquid detergent, but I prefer powder.  It seems to last longer, is easier to store if I make it in bulk, and works just as well if not better. 

If you have problems with your frontload not dissolving powder detergent properly, you can either add it directly to the clothing or mix it with a little warm water before adding to your drawer.

Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent that works

Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent {the recipe}
Septic safe and HE Washing machine safe.

2 parts Washing Soda {this is not baking soda}
2 parts Borax, optional {see above - replace with washing soda if not using which would make it 4 parts Washing Soda}
2 parts grated bar of soap, 3-4 ounces each bar {castile, tallow, coconut-based, etc.}
1 part Sodium Percarbonate, optional {see note above}
essential oil, optional

{sample recipes would be: 2 cups washing soda, 2 cups borax, 2 cups grated soap bar and 1 cup sodium percarbonate -OR- 4 cups washing soda, 2 cups grated soap bar and 1 cup sodium percarbonate -OR- 4 cups washing soda & 2 cups grated soap bar}

Grate the bars of soap either by hand or in a food processor. 

Put 1/2 cup of washing soda and 1-2 cups grated soap in food processor and blend until finely grated.  Dump into a bucket and continue with remaining washing soda and soap.  In the bucket, stir in borax, sodium percarbonate, and essential oils if using {start with 5-10 drops and continue until you get the strength of scent you prefer}.

To use:  Add 1-2 Tablespoons per load of laundry for front-load washing machines and 1 1/2 - 3 Tablespoons per load for top-load machines.

**note:  if you are using your regular food processor do not use a scented bar soap and do not add essential oil until you've transferred the ingredients to a bucket.  The plastic food processor bowl will absorb the scent if used prior to grating.  Wash well prior to using for food. **

**Zote and Fels Naptha soaps are popular for laundry purposes.  You  will see them listed in many recipes.  I am not a fan so much as they can be very harsh on your skin.  If you're going to choose one, however, I am told that Zote will help whiten your whites.**


Laundry Detergent Alternative - Soap Nuts
Huh?  A nut used for soap?  Soap nuts are actually a berry that has a shell containing a saponin {a natural detergent} that is released when the nut shell absorbs water.  The saponin works to free dirt, grime and oils from clothing.  They are non-toxic, chemical-free, hypoallergenic and, therefore, very gentle making them the perfect solution for those with allergies or sensitive skin.

You want the shell only - select the de-seeded variety as I am told the seeds may stain clothing.

  • all of the reasons listed above - non-toxic, chemical free and hypoallergenic
  • they are eco-friendly
  • they can be used over again 3-5 times
  • they can be used to clean numerous things around your house {even you!} as detailed in this post by Crunchy Betty
  • they can be composted after you're through with them
  • they work!
  • keeping track of how many times they've been used
  • trying to find the bag of soap nuts in the wet clothing before transferring it to the dryer can prove to be a challenge at times

To Use: Put 4-6 nuts in a muslin bag {often included with your first purchase} and tie it closed.  If you wash in cold water, soak them in hot water for 10 minutes prior to using then dump the muslin bag with soap nuts plus the soaking liquid onto your clothing in the washing machine and launder as usual. 

If you are washing on warm or hot, add the soap nuts to the muslin bag, tie it closed, and add to your clothing in the washing machine.  Launder as usual.

Remove the muslin bag prior to putting clothing into the dryer.

High-quality soap nuts can be found here and here. {these are not affiliate links}

Have you found a natural recipe or alternative that has worked well for you?  I'd love to hear about it!

Additional Posts:
Making Laundry Soap - Liquid and Powder Versions
Homemade Laundry Soap - updated Post
8 Recipes For Natural Cleaners
Making Dryer Balls From Recycled Wool Clothing


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