homemade laundry liquid revisited {no borax recipe}

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1-laundryingredients Normally I make washing powder, but as I’ve had a lot of questions about the homemade laundry liquid, I decided to whip up a batch, with a few tweaks to the original recipe – developments gleaned from making my own laundry detergent for over four years now.

As far as making laundry powder is concerned, I’ve gotten quite lazy. I tend to grate the soap directly into the washing machine before each load, sprinkle in an approximation of washing soda, add some vinegar to the fabric softener compartment (and Eucalyptus as well if I’m washing towels or nappies) and away I go.

My general rule of thumb is 2 parts grated soap to 1 part washing soda. In other words, double the amount of soap to washing soda. If I’m organised and I grate 1 cup of soap, then  I add 1/2 cup of washing soda.

I don’t use borax. Our laundry is sufficiently clean without it, so I figure why over complicate things and add the extra expense? Not to mention that the environmental ‘friendliness’ of borax is questionable.

So when I whipped up a batch of laundry liquid, I wasn’t going to rush out to get borax. Unlike the original laundry liquid recipe, this is a borax-free version.

I’ve been using this updated laundry liquid now for three weeks and I find it works just the same as the powder and the original liquid recipe. In other words, it works fine for me.

I have to warn you though, I use the word ‘liquid’ with some licence – it would be more accurate to describe this as laundry gel, which is quite normal and ok.

Leave a little head room in the bottle you store your liquid in so that you can give it a shake before pouring it into the washing machine.

You can add fragrance – it doesn’t really affect the performance of the wash, but if you use pure essential oils then you get the aromatherapy benefit during washing. Eucalyptus, Tea Tree oil or similar have anti-bacterial properties.

1/4 cup – 1/2 cup full is sufficient for a wash, but use more or less depending on the size of the load and how dirty it is.


2 cup of grated soap or soap flakes (approx. 1/2 – 1 bar depending on the size of the soap you use)

1 cup of washing soda

1 1/2 litres of water

extra water to make up 10 litres

pure essential oils for fragrance (optional)

  1. In a large saucepan, stir the soap, washing soda and water over medium heat until the soap has dissolved. laundry liquid 1
  2. Pour the mixture into a large bucket and add 8 litres of cold water, stirring.
  3. Let sit to cool. At this point, if you would like to add fragrance, add in some pure essential oils and stir well (or add after decanting into a bottle and shake well). laundry liquid 2
  4. Using a funnel, pour liquid into empty bottles – I use empty vinegar bottles. Label the bottles well.
  5. Shake before use. laundry liquid

Do you make your own laundry detergent? Liquid or powder? How do you make it?

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A natural, frugal alternative to making your own washing powder is to use soap nuts (also known as soap berries). Soap nuts are natural, greywater and septic safe, fully compostable and hypoallergenic. You can get soap nuts here.

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  1. Just Joyful says:

    I’ve been making my own laundry detergent for a little while now, since I saw it on Rhonda’s Down To Earth blog. I make the liquid as it seems to work better in my washing machine.

    I make it pretty much just like you describe, with one minor change. I found that adding the 8 litres of cold water made the liquid (or gel, as you accurately describe it) very lumpy. So I add hot (or warm) water, and stir as I’m adding it. It takes a lot longer to cool, of course, and I tend to give it a bit of a stir every now and then, but it is no extra trouble to do this.

    And the result is a much smoother detergent – cosmetic, I know, but I find the lumpy stuff just a tad gross :-)

  2. I tried it for over a year but all whites went grey & I resumed buying commercial stuff.

  3. I use soap nuts, and have been very happy with results :) I like that they are completely natural and have no smell. I just use the nuts as-is, but you can also make a liquid from them, but I haven’t been as successful with that. It doesn’t keep for more than a couple of weeks either.

    How long does this liquid keep for? It looks like you make enough to last quite a while.

    Here’s some more info on soap nuts if anyone is interested: http://www.economiesofkale.net/soap-nuts/

    1. I really must try soap nuts!! I keep hearing lots about them. Great article – very informative. I’ll know what to expect when I get my stinky nuts lol.

  4. I haven’t seen blocks of laundry soap or washing soda anywhere. Where do you get them?

    The organic shop near me that sells many items in bulk has bulk ‘liquid soap’ and ‘cleaning vinegar’. Would they be equivalent to the grated soap and white vinegar in your mix? And do you think a cupful of the liquid soap would be equivalent to the cupful of grated soap that you use.

    How do you add vinegar as a conditioner in a top-load machine with no fabric conditioner compartment?

    1. Laundry soap and washing soda can be found in the washing powder aisle in the supermarket. It’s usually way up on the top shelf out of view. I use Woolies homebrand soap. Just be sure to get washing soda and not crystals.

      I use plain old white vinegar – mustard aisle in the supermarket. It’s the same stuff as ‘cleaning vinegar’ but cheaper. Some people argue that it’s not distilled the same or it’s made from different ingredients – EcoMum, an Australian website has an article about vinegar although I recommend reading the comments because there is a lot more information in the comments!! I’ve been using regular white vinegar to clean with for nearly ten years and it works just fine.

      In my top loader the shaft in the middle has a little cup for fabric conditioner on top – on the thing you pull out to clean the lint bag. I think that’s pretty standard on most machines, but I only know our own two. I used to put the vinegar straight into the wash during rinse cycle but when we got our new machine, I read the instructions and thought “Oh! That’s what that thing is for!” Oops. I’ve never used commercial fabric softener obviously :).

      1. Many thanks for the explanations, Melissa. I’m rather short so I tend not to look at the upper shelves! And I’ll do a price comparison for my local sources of white and cleaning vinegar.

  5. I tried making liquid soap once but it separated whilst cooling, all of the soap rose to the surface.
    I mixed it as it cooled and used it lumpy as I didn’t want to waste it.
    I have a tendency to not follow recipe’s and I guess I should have followed that one!
    I think it was a recipe with borax in it.

    Liquid soap is good if you live in an area with hard water as it can dissolve better than powder.

    I really love using my homemade Fabric Softener which is Vinegar, Lavender Oil (the water soluble type), and Eucalyptus/Tea Tree oils (essential). If you use the water soluble lavender oil it helps all the other essential oils combine with the Vinegar, then you get an even mixture, with no oils floating on top.

    I use (lavender) vanilla and peppermint in the kitchen (peppermint is supposed to be good for keeping ants away).

    And I mix it up with some orange and lemon essential oils in the bathroom. I like how each area of my home has a different but subtle smell.

    Keep up the good work on your blog Melissa!

  6. Just wondering wether this is safe to use in a front loader? I am thinking about making my own laundry liquid??

  7. I make a similar version but with our old slithers of bath soap :)

  8. I have been doing a little research, as I am a a rookie at making homemade products, which is how I came across this site. I have read that any homemade products (not necessarily detergent but lotions and such) that will be mixed with water will go bad without a preservative. Is this something that needs a preservative? Most of the recipes I have came across are very large quantities so I’m afraid of making a large batch and then have it go bad.

    1. Good question! I haven’t used any preservative, it doesn’t go bad. I don’t think there’s anything in soap for mould to feed on (??). I have made homemade lotions and yes, these need preserving (or kept in the fridge) because they do go mouldy, quickly. You can always try a 1/2 or 1/4 batch of laundry soap to see if you like it and the balance of soap to washing soda is right for your water (hard water may require a little extra washing soda).

  9. Thanks for responding. I will be giving it a try soon.

  10. I simply use the soap and washing powder – though I hate grating, so I make a big batch of grated soap with my food processor. Seeing powder works and is simple, I’ve not tried liquid (seems that much more effort and I am lazy!) might try some eucalyptus oil as I’ve never thought to try it! I must look into your homemade strain remover too!

  11. Is this detergent make suds? I have tried a few that don’t and wonder if they are cleaning as well as something that gets sudsy:)

    1. As far as I know, suds are just a product of all the chemicals reacting to each other and don’t actually make things cleaner.We have just been brainwashed by advertising and companies to assume that more suds mean a better clean. I met a man who worked in these areas and he told me that the recommended amount stated by the manufacturers of commercial washing liquid is way more than you really need.

  12. Just using this recipe now but my soap flakes are clumping?

  13. Hi, can you tell me what the difference between washing soda and bicarb soda is please?
    I followed your recipe using bicarb as that’s all I had.
    There’s luke a bubbley residue sitting at the top of the mixture even though I mixed with warm water and have shaken well in the bottles.
    Seems to clean ok

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      Washing soda and bicarb soda have a different chemical makeup and are not interchangeable. Although if you’re finding it cleans well, then why not keep using it? You can find washing soda in the laundry aisle in the supermarket.

  14. Sarah Farren-Price says:

    First time making it so I can’t comment on the quality yet. But this recipe has made a lot and looks good! But I have a comment for the procedure, don’t make the mistake I made trying to be lazy. If using bars of laundry soap grate all of it not just half & coursely chop the rest ???? it takes ages to melt the bigger pieces and you have to watch it on the stove longer. Haha. Great recipe it’s really cheap! I’ll update once I’ve used it.

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      Hope it turns out well. Love to hear how it goes for you.

  15. How much gel do you use per wash?

  16. Mark Newton says:

    Hi Melissa, thank you so much for your wonderful website! Quick question on the laundry liquid: Would liquid Castille soap be equivalent per cup to the grated soap flakes? Warm regards, Mark Newton Brunswick Victoria.

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      No, the castile liquid would be a lot heavier. I haven’t used Castile soap, many people recommend against it.