Want to make an all-natural laundry detergent as effective as commercial detergent? Your search is over. Here’s how to make the best DIY homemade laundry detergent. And all you need is 3 key ingredients and 15 minutes.

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

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11 years ago, I started making the switch to natural cleaning products, including laundry detergent!

At that time, the majority of recipes online called for a bar of fels naptha, washing soda, and Borax. But there was one problem: our clothes came out with chalky white spots.

So I made a simple swap: liquid Dr. Bronner’s castile soap instead of the fels naptha soap bar. With this one change, the detergent worked just as good as Tide.

This recipe is non-toxic, fights stains better than commercial detergent, and is cheap! I’ve been making this liquid laundry detergent for over 11 years (originally created in 2014) because of its extraordinary cleaning power.

Homemade Laundry Detergent Benefits

  • Simple Ingredients – The key ingredients you’ll need are castile soap, borax, and washing soda. The DIY detergent ingredients brighten, remove dirt, and fight off stains.
  • Save Money – It costs about $20 to purchase the ingredients, which make multiple batches of homemade detergent and clean many loads of laundry. Castile soap alone has over 24 different uses.
  • Non-Toxic – Many commercial detergents are made with fragrances and harsh chemicals that can irritate sensitive skin (source). The ingredients used to make this recipe are safe and well researched.
  • Quick & Easy – You only need 10-15 minutes of hands-on preparation time to make this easy recipe.
  • 1 Month Shelf Life- Store this liquid laundry soap for up to 1 month.
Ingredients needed to make homemade laundry soap.
Simple ingredients: liquid castile soap, borax, washing soda, water, and essential oil (optional).

Before You Get Started: What You’ll Need

Ingredients

This recipe, made with simple ingredients, makes 1 gallon of homemade soap.

  • 1 cup borax – freshens, deodorizes, and lifts dirt and stains
  • 1 cup washing soda – freshens and deodorizes
  • 1 cup liquid castile soap or Sal Suds – the main cleaning agent, lifts dirt and cleans
  • 50 drops essential oiloptional for a scent
  • 15 cups water – distilled water, found in any grocery store, is best as it doesn’t contain containments found in tap or filtered water

Equipment

  • Large saucepan or Dutch oven – enough to hold 1 gallon of liquid, 15 cups
  • Storage Jars – such as 2 half gallon-size glass mason jars, 1 gallon-size jar, or reuse an old detergent bottle

Thicker Detergent Tip: This recipe calls for 15 cups of water. If you’d like a thicker, more concentrated soap, use 10-12 cups of water.

How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent: Recipe Steps

  • Step 1 Boil 6 Cups of Water: In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring 6 cups of water to a slight boil. Once the water begins to boil, turn off the burner.
  • Step 2 Add Borax, Washing Soda, More Water, and Castile Soap: Add the Borax and washing soda. Stir to dissolve. Then add 9 cups of room-temperature water and 1 cup of liquid castile soap. Give the ingredients a stir to combine.
  • Step 3 Cool for 5-10 Minutes: Allow the soap to cool for a few minutes before pouring into one large gallon-size jar or smaller containers, like quart-size jars. Make sure your jar(s) are heat-safe. If not, wait until the soap is cool, then spoon the soap into the jar(s).
  • Step 4 Add Essential Oil For Scent: Add an essential oil of choice (if using) to the soap (now in the jar) and stir to combine with the detergent.

What to Avoid Doing

  • Baking Soda – Don’t use baking soda in place of washing soda. Washing soda has a different chemical composition and will not work in this recipe. It is NOT a substitute.
  • Dish Soap – Don’t use other dish soaps in place of the castile soap. Dish soap will cause the soap to have too many bubbles in the wash.
  • Lack of Suds – Don’t assume that a lack of suds and bubbles means the soap isn’t effective. Suds and bubbles don’t equal clean.
  • Plastic Containers – If you’re reusing an old detergent bottle for storage, make sure the laundry detergent is fully cool before adding to a plastic container.
  • Heat-Safe Glass – Use a heat-resistant glass jar (if using glass for storage), and also allow the detergent to cool a bit (about 10 minutes) before adding it.
  • Essential Oils – The essential oil will add a subtle fragrance, but shouldn’t be added until the soap cools as heat will cause the essential oil to evaporate.

How to Prevent Chunky or Gelled Detergent

After a few days the liquid laundry detergent may clump or gel. This is a completely normal chemical reaction that is usually caused when the outside temperature is cooler. There’s no way to completely prevent this from happening; however, one option is to use more water (2-3 cups more) to make a less concentrated soap.

The laundry soap is 100% usable if it gels up (l actually love this form). Simply scoop the detergent from the container and add to the washer.

Key Takeaway: Whether the laundry detergent gels up or remains liquid, it’s 100% effective and usable in both forms.

Stain on shirt on the left and no stain after using the detergent.

How to Use This Liquid Laundry Soap

The detergent is ready to use immediately after making. And may be stored for later use.

  • Give the jar a good shake or stir (with a long spoon) before use.
  • Use this detergent just as you would any laundry soap to clean clothes.
  • This homemade liquid laundry soap is highly concentrated, which means you need only a tiny amount to get a dirty job done.
  •  For top-loading washer machines, use 1/8-1/4 cup. 
  •  For an HE front loader, use 1-2 tablespoons.
  •  Add the detergent directly to your washer or the laundry soap compartment.

Can I use this in an HE washer?

I do, so I can only speak to my personal experience. I use 1-2 tablespoons per load. If it’s in gel form, add it straight to the washer on top of the clothes.

Always consult your machine’s user guide before using any laundry detergent to know what your machine can and can’t handle.

How long does this recipe last?

FAQs

  • Can I use a castile soap bar instead of liquid castile soap? Yes, you can. Use a cheese grater to grate a bar of castile soap into the hot water (along with the borax and washing soda). Stir and continue to boil the ingredients to dissolve fully (takes about 10 minutes). I also use a bar of castile soap to make powder laundry soap.
  • Is it normal that it’s more watery than soapy? Yes, this is normal. For a thicker, more concentrated detergent, there are two options: use Sal Suds instead of castile soap OR reduce the water to 10-12 cups for a more concentrated detergent.
  • The detergent is chunky (or gelled) after cooling, is that normal? Yes, this is normal. Depending on your home’s temperature, the soap may be more liquid or even chunky (like a gel). Both are normal and usable!
  • My laundry soap didn’t gel. What happened? If your environment is cooler, your laundry soap may gel after cooling. Or it may not. This is normal. Both forms are 100% good and usable. A reader recently shared this tip you can try as well, “I also like the the detergent to be more gelatinous and I use my immersion blender for a few seconds after it is cool to whip it. It turns white and jelly.”
  • Is borax safe? Borax is a debated ingredient in naturally-minded circles. I personally don’t see any reason to avoid it. This borax article from Wellness Mama has fantastic information.
  • Can I use this soap to lift stains? Yes, you can. You can either add the garment to the washer or add the garment to your kitchen sink with the soap and water and soak the garment to lift the stains. Or, apply the soap directly to the stain and scrub. If you’re dealing with tough stain, I recommend using this homemade stain remover before washing the garment.
  • Does this soap work with hard water? Yes, it does. I have hard water and this soap works great. You may want to use this laundry softener recipe as well.

Conclusion: Does this detergent work?

People always ask me, “Will homemade soap work as well as a store-bought product?” The answer, “YES! It will.”

My daughter’s chocolate stain on the left and after using this detergent in the wash. The stain lifted and the shirt was saved. If you need need extra help lifting a stain, you can also use my homemade stain remover first.

DIY Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent Soap
Ready to use detergent, made in less than 20 minutes.

The Best Natural Laundry Detergent Brands: I’ve researched and tried many different laundry soap brands and narrowed down the best 11 brands!

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent
4.91 from 152 votes

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent Recipe

With 3 simple ingredients and ten minutes, you can make your own homemade laundry soap. Nothing fancy, just simple ingredients that freshen, deodorize, fight stains, and remove dirt.
Kristin Marr
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course DIY, Homemade
Cuisine Cleaning
Servings 16 Cups
Cost: $5 per batch

Equipment

Ingredients

Instructions

  • In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring 6 cups of water to a slight boil. Once the water begins to boil, turn off the burner.
  • Add the Borax and washing soda. Stir to dissolve. Then add 9 cups of room-temperature water and 1 cup of liquid castile soap. Give the ingredients a stir to combine.
  • Allow the soap to cool for a few minutes before pouring into one large gallon-size jar or smaller containers, like quart-size jars. Make sure your jar(s) are heat-safe. If not, wait until the soap is cool, then spoon the soap into the jar(s).
    If you're reusing an old detergent bottle, make sure the soap is fully cool before adding to a plastic container.
  • Add an essential oil of choice (if using) to the soap (now in the jar) and stir to combine with the detergent.
    The essential oil will add a subtle fragrance, but shouldn't be added until the soap cools as heat will cause the essential oil to evaporate.
  • As the soap sits, the mixture may form into a gel and become chunky. There may also be liquid and gel separation, simply stir or shake. This is normal.

How to Use

  • For top loading washer machines, use 1/8-1/4 cup. For a front loader, use 1-2 tablespoons. Add the detergent to the liquid soap compartment of the washer.
  • Stain Treatment – Use a small amount of soap directly on the stain, scrub or rub the stain with a cloth. Repeat as needed, then wash the garment. Or use this stain remover spray.
  • Laundry Softener – This laundry detergent may be used with a fabric softener. I use vinegar added to the softener compartment or this salt scent booster & softener added directly to the wash basin before running a wash cycle.

Notes

A reader recently shared this tip, “I like the the detergent to be more gelatinous and I use my immersion blender for a few seconds after it is cool to whip it. It turns white and jelly.”
Tried this recipe?Let me know how it was!
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8 Natural Recipes for Your Laundry Room

4.91 from 152 votes (109 ratings without comment)

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508 Comments

  1. Hello , I made this laundry soap. It didn’t gell and I have crystallized whitish clumps floating on the top. What did I do wrong?

    1. Hey Sherri, Nothing wrong. It may take a few days, or it may not gel or crystalize at all (it doesn’t need to). That’s just part of the outside temperature. It’s ready to use once it’s made.

  2. Hi I accidentally used baking soda, should i remake the batch or can i use, and do it right the next time. Thanks

      1. 5 stars
        Just made my second batch and am very happy with this detergent. I had some of the issues mentioned in other posts such as the crystals forming, which didn’t affect the wash. I gently swish it around in the glass container I store it in before using and that helps with the settling. Glad I gave this a try. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. it coagulated after 24 hours making it almost impossible to pour, stir or use; wish i made a smaller batch. I live in a humid area so i need a liquid laundry soap and not a dry one that will clump. This recipe did not work for me.

    1. Hey cassandra a lindenberg, I also live in a humid climate and haven’t had any issues with using a clumpy soap. The clumpking described is also discussed in the article -this is something that occurs. You can still use the soap in this form, no need to toss, just scoop and add.

  4. Hi, goog day. I have made your recipe and am using it to wash my clothes, but there is NO foam present. Is the normal? I am a man that does the washing at home and i do not want to look like a paw paw. If my wife sees there is no foam she might thinks there is something wrong. I am going to try making the softner. These things are getting more expensive every week.
    Thanks and kind regards.
    Deon.

  5. Hey Kristin!
    I tried this today. It’s been sitting for about 4 hours now and it has NOT gelled up. Does it typically take longer than that? Can I still use it if it doesn’t gel or does that suggest that I messed up?
    Someone else made some for me that gelled up. This is the first time I’m making it myself and it doesn’t look the same. That’s why I’m asking.
    Thanks so much!

    1. Hey Alex, It may take days to gel. Gelling doesn’t mean it’s ready or effective; it’s just a chemical reaction/result. It’s ready to use, in liquid or gel form.

  6. I tried this recipe, the soap was clear and liquid at first and slowly got clumpy. Now sometimes the clumps get stuck in the soap compartment, what should I do? How do I thin it out again?

  7. This is going to be my first time testing out making my own laundry detergent. This may sound silly, but the washer pours water into the load and I wa surprised by how much goes into making liquid detergent too. Could I opt for adding some vinegar instead of all water to this recipe? I typically add a splash of vinegar to my loads with store bought detergent (been using 9 Elements) and it seems to work very well. Thanks!

  8. Can I use scented castillete soap, like peppermint Dr Bronner’s, and omit the essential oils, or will that scent evaporate too?

    1. Hey Sarah, Any scent is going to be subtle, whether from Dr. Bronner’s or essential oils. You can definitely use scented castile soap instead of essential oils.

    1. From a safety standpoint, it’s best to use anything with water (and no preservative) quickly. That’s why I recommend a short storage. You can reduce the amount if you think you won’t use all of it within that time period.

  9. Mine got sudsy on top of the jug and gelled up and got quite clumpy in the rest. Still safe to use? Should I add more water?

  10. Hello! My laundry soap is clearer than the yellow soap shown in the picture. Is that normal or did i not use enough of an ingredient?
    Thank you!