Today was going to be a shaving cream day, but after a good cup of coffee, a few minutes in the carline, and a quiet drive home, I had a lightbulb ingredient moment. This means I scratched my plans to share my homemade shaving cream recipe, just for today. I promise, it will be up next week, but I think this one ingredient could be an awesome addition. One more week!
In the meantime, let’s turn our attention to laundry. Because just like coffee and quiet drives, laundry solves all problems. Or wait, maybe laundry creates all problems? That was the case in our home before I finally created a laundry routine that worked for me. And to be honest, I’ve been slacking on my routine this week.
Before I go way too far off topic, let’s chat about laundry soap.
I shared my first ever laundry post on Live Simply back on February 11, 2014. Now that really dates this blog. That’s two whole years ago, which in human years means that first laundry post is now a toddler. But when it comes to blog years (which work the same way as dog years, I believe), that laundry post is a teenager. And if we take this a step further, that’s REALLY REALLY old for a blogpost.
In that two year span of time, hundreds and thousands of people have said “good-bye” to the Tide once and for all (just like I did), and found a new love called, Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap. Today, two years later, I’d like to expand your (laundry) soap-making vocabulary and skills to include a powder laundry soap. But not just any powder soap. Oh no! We’re going to keep this one incredibly simple. In fact, the entire process, from start to finish, only takes about five minutes. Seriously, five whole minutes!
To add to the tell-all nature of today’s post ;), I think it’s important to point out that I’ve never been a powder laundry soap kind of gal. I never had anything against powder laundry soap; it’s just that my mother only used liquid laundry soap, and so, as a result, I decided liquid soap was the route to go.
Because I had a deep love for a certain kind of not-so-natural liquid laundry detergent, I created my infamous liquid laundry soap a fews years into our real food journey, and instantly fell in love. I never once gave a passing thought to the idea of making a powder soap. Plus, there are only a bazillion powder laundry soap recipes on Pinterest.
That all changed last year.
I’m not exactly sure what was happening in our life at the time, but I do know that we were going through a busy season. At some point during that busy season, I ran out of my homemade liquid laundry soap. Now, this may surprise some people, but I decided in that moment of busyness to purchase a “more natural” store-bought soap.
Remember my “What to Buy vs. Make” chart? Number three on that chart asks, “What’s the time difference?” At that time, the time difference between making laundry soap and purchasing it from the store was large enough that store-bought won. Dear Mom, please don’t feel like you must make EVERYTHING! There are times when you’ll make homemade mayo, and other times when a cleaner store-bought option is best. There are times when you’ll make laundry soap, and other times when you just need to get to bed at 10pm and purchase soap at the store during your next shopping trip. It’s okay!
After purchasing laundry soap for a couple of months, I felt the “itch” to get back to making homemade laundry soap again. Our schedule also slowed down to a normal pace. During this time I also had a few requests from readers for a powder soap, so I decided to use the same ingredients from my liquid soap (castile soap, borax, and washing soda) to create a powder version. And now for the words that I never thought I would say: I loved the powder laundry soap! Big puffy heart love! (Just imagine a big heart emoji there <—)
And now, my friend, without any further ado, let’s talk about this powder laundry soap, and the simple ingredients and recipe that won my heart.
Castile Soap (Bars): Castile soap is a concentrated vegetable-based soap made of ingredients you can actually pronounce. This soap is gentle on the skin and effective in the fight against dirt, grease, and unwanted germs. Dr. Bronner’s is a very a popular brand of castile soap. For this recipe, we’re going to use the bar (dry) form of castile soap versus the liquid. The bars and liquid are sold in Target, health food stores, online stores (like Amazon), and even conventional grocery stores.
Washing Soda: Washing soda, also known as sodium carbonate and sold under the Arm & Hammer brand, is highly alkaline which makes it a great cleaner! The high alkaline level allows washing soda to act as a solvent. Washing soda can also be used to fight against hard water, since the washing soda binds to the minerals, which in turn can boost laundry soap’s effectiveness. Washing soda can be found in the laundry section of most grocery stores, or made at home in the oven.
Borax: This white powder, sodium borate, is a natural mineral used in many cleaning recipes. Over the years, some people have expressed concerns that borax isn’t a safe homemade cleaner. I take just the opposite view, especially when you compare super effective borax to most of the main-stream cleaners on the market.
While I feel safe using Borax in my cleaning recipes, I take care to avoid inhaling this ingredient (as you’ll see in this recipe) and keep it away from little hands that may choose to taste-test some of the white powder. The product receives an F according to the EWG for respiration concerns (don’t purposely sniff inside a box of Borax!). I believe this article from Wellness Mama offers valid points to why we shouldn’t throw the Borax out with the box.
Homemade 5-Minute Powder Laundry Soap
- 2-5 oz lavender castile soap bars any variety, I used peppermint in the photos
- 3 cups washing soda
- 2 cups borax
- 30 drops lavender essential oil or other cleaning oil such as: tea tree, lemon, or orange, optional
- Cut the castile soap bars into small slices or chunks. This step is important to avoid ruining your food processor.
- Place the castile soap slices or chunks in a food processor bowl. Pulse the soap on high until the soap resembles large crumbs. Add the washing soda to the food processor. Place a towel over the top of the food processor lid, and pulse for 1 minute. After pulsing, the ingredients should be well combined. If you don’t have a food processor use a cheese grater, and then mix the ingredients in a bowl.
- Pour the washing soda and castile soap into a storage container, and stir in the borax. Add the essential oils, if using.
Borax Note: As noted above, I feel safe using borax in my laundry soap. If you’d prefer not to use this ingredient, try subbing out the borax with 2 cups of washing soda. I can’t guarantee the effectiveness of this recipe once the swap has been made, but it’s worth the shot if you have strong feelings against borax.
Hi Kristin, I love making and using your products. Thank you for doing all the research and development. I was noticing that my microfiber dish towels don”t do a very good job of drying dishes. The water doesn’t penetrate the fabric. Do you know why that is?
Just a quick tip. To go easier on your food processor (I use a blender) you can put first the bar of soap in the microwave for a minute or so. It puffs up in a huge souffle as the internal water goes to steam. Take it out and carefully pull apart with a fork (watch out for steam) and let cool. Now no dense chunks to challenge the blades. You can google it to see in action.
PS you might need to wipe out microwave to get rid of soap smell before next dish goes it…
What could I substitute for Borax? Have tried any laundry soup without it?
I have stalked your blog for the past few weeks and I love everything about it. The DIY Cleaning is my favorite section to read and try new things. Thanks for taking the time (and fails) for finding just the right combinations.
Hey Kylie, I have and don’t care for the results without the borax. It works without borax, but it’s not as great (in my personal opinion). If you’d like to skip the borax, I recommend adding more washing soda.
Hey Kristin! Love the recipe cant wait to try it!
I see on the recipe you added essential oil, will this make the mixture less dry and instead go gluggy and sticky? I LOVE strong smelling laundry powder and only feel this will work for me if i have a scent agent too!
I blend the oils with some of the powder in the food processor, and it gets completely incorporated. No wetness or stickiness at all!
Just wondering if instead of lavendar EO it would be useful to use lavender-scented castile liquid soap? Or would that dissolve some of the powder and make it clumpy?
Hey Christy, You could use a lavender scented castile soap bar.
I have well “hard” water has anyone had any success with hard water?
Never mind ? I just found comments about hard water!! Going to try it out!
Hi! I just tried this at the weekend with homemade bars of Castile (olive oil) soap- it worked well, although next time I might add more essential oil scent as it’s very faint. I had to grate the soap as I don’t have a food processor, but I wash at 40 degrees C and it all dissolved. Just thought if anyone wanted to know if it works with homemade soap- it does!
Awesome, Becky. Thank you for sharing.
Hi! I stumbled across your blog and can’t seem to get off of it! Hoping to try this laundry soap soon. Quick question, do you use a fabric softener at all? I currently use a store bought detergent, along with store bought softener.
Hey Katie, Welcome! When I need a laundry softener (mainly for our towels), I use vinegar or salt. Here are the recipes:
1. Vinegar: https://livesimply.me/2016/01/27/homemade-liquid-fabric-softener/
2. Salt: https://livesimply.me/2015/10/21/homemade-laundry-softener-and-scent-booster/
I never use warm/hot water for washing clothes. Is the soap still effective? I’ve been using liquid soap nuts, which I like, but it’s on the pricey side. Thoughts?
Hey Tamara, I’ve found that a powder soap, like this, really needs warmer water to fully dissolve. You could try colder water and see what you think. My liquid soap works well, in my opinion, with cold water.
Hi Kristen, today while searching for great simple powder laundry soap, I found your website. I was so excited immediately, I found myself at my neighborhood store gathering the necessary ingredients to complete my new venture. Follow all the simple instructions and was finish within 10 minutes.(minus the use of a food processor) I actually used an old blender that was on its way to the Salvation Army. I also substituted the castile soap with Rose instead of your recommended choices. Now to say the lease everything went as expected. No studs, the smells was Awesome. Until the wash cycle was complete. The cloths only had slight freshness to them and about 1/2tsp of detergent was still sitting in the soap dispenser. Can you maybe help determine what could have went wrong? or if anyone else had this problem. By the way I have water purification system for the whole house. Thanks for the You tube video
Hey Christie, We just purchased a new washing machine and I’ve noticed that the same thing happens in the laundry soap “drawer.” I’ve been mixing the solution with just a tad bit of water before adding it to the drawer. I may even try placing the soap actually in the washer with the clothes. For some reason any powder is an issue for us. Hope that helps!
I’d love to use it but I wash with cold water only. Any other laundry soap recipes for cold water?
Hey Jenn, You could dissolve a bit of the powder in a cup of hot water, and then add the solution to your washer. Or you could try my liquid laundry soap: https://livesimply.me/2014/02/11/homemade-liquid-laundry-soap-all-natural-detergent/. I’ve found the hot water is necessary for dissolving the powder ingredients.
I make mine similarly. One bar of Fels Naphtha, one cup Borax, one cup washing soda. I’m just curious why you like the castile soap over the FN? I might try doubling my washing soda as in your recipe. Thank you for sharing, and I’m sorry if someone already asked this question. 🙂 Heidi
Hey Heidi, I think castile soap does a better job at cleaning, and it’s made with “cleaner” ingredients. 🙂 I haven’t researched Fels Naphtha in a while, so that may have changed.
Hi Kristin, this recipe is great as it removes odors. However, I am experiencing white sweat stains on dark color t-shirts after the laundry is done. Any ideas on how to remove these sweat stains? I love your blog.
Hey Cece, I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog! I wonder if the powder isn’t fully getting dissolved in the water? I might try mixing the powder (the amount being used in the wash) with a bit of hot water first (in a cup will work), and see if that resolves the issue. If the stains remain, then it might be another issue…do you have hard water? Adding a softener might help? Let me know how it goes, and we’ll keep troubleshooting!
Is there any reason why you could not mix the powdered laundry detergent with hot water prior to adding it to the wash? That way, the solids could dissolve, but you could still wash with cold water?
Definitely, Kecia. You could try that!
I don’t use borax, but substitute Bicarbonate of Soda. This works really well.
Awesome, Susie! Thank you for sharing!
Great blog! I have been using this recipe for a month. Howeve . I use 1\2 a cup per large load. My question is this really doesn’t suds up. Does anyone complain about this?
Hey Lana, I’m so glad you’re enjoying the soap. Yes, this laundry soap doesn’t suds up like commerical laundry detergents. Most detergents add special chemicals to create the suds.
I made the powder detergent, it was easy and fast to make! I really want to add the cleaning oil. I bought some the brand is (Tisserand) it also says aromatherapy. I don’t know if by me adding these essential oils, will affect the detergent. Should I buy an essential oil that is for cleaning? Or can I add the ones I have?
Hey Sandy, I’m so glad the recipe was easy and fast for you! Yep, any essential oil you currently own will work. Some oils are known for having properties that complement a cleaning solution, like lemon or tea tree essential oil. But any essential oil should work, especially if it’s added for scent.
Do you know if this is safe for septic systems? I’d love to try it! Thanks.
Hey Annne, I’m not really sure. Let me dig around on the internet about each ingredient and its use with a septic system, and I’ll come back and comment :).
I didn’t see anything about this topic, did I miss the update? We have our own septic system as we live in the country, so I want to make sure it’s safe…especially the Castile. It always seems to leave a greasy, waxy film on my sinks when using for hand washing. Thanks for all your input!
From my research it is safe to use for septic tanks!
Hi, I would love to make this powder detergent, however we don’t seem to have Borax in my country, can I make it without? Or is there a substitute for it?
Hey Conny, Borax is the name brand in the States, so you might be able to find it by its scientific name: sodium borate, sodium tetraborate or disodium tetraborate. If not, adding extra washing soda will work, but it won’t provide the same cleaning power.
I was curious: I have cloth diapers and am hoping to use a homemade powder detergent on them. I have read (but not experienced) that bar soaps (castile) aren’t ideal for cloth diapering. Have you had experience using this “recipe” on cloth diapers, or do you know someone who has?
Hey Maria, I don’t have any experience using this recipe on cloth diapers. I googled “castile soap cloth diapers” this morning and found this post: http://www.measuringflower.com/2013/08/homemade-allnatural-cloth-diaper-detergent/. It looks like a similar recipe, but she does skip the castile soap. I know there a couple of natural oxi-clean brands on the market, I think BioKleen makes one. So maybe this is a better option?
Sounds good. I had already purchased what I needed to make this recipe – and I am so tempted to just try it on my diapers – but don’t want to risk the adverse affects. bah… what to do 🙂 I can say that peppermint essential oil smells amazing when I open my tin!
Thanks for the quick reply. I follow your blog, and have made the loose powder (make up) and love it! I often suggest friends to check out your diy’s etc. if they are interested in natural and cost-effective alternatives! Cheers!!