Photo of the supplies needed for DIY laundry soap

Try This: DIY Laundry Soap

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Try This: DIY Laundry Soap

Environmentally-friendly, eco-conscious, cost-effective, and science? DIY detergent has it all. DIY laundry detergent is simple to make and can be easily modified to fit your personal needs and preferences.

Try This: DIY Laundry Soap

This recipe is for a basic powder detergent, but you can dissolve these ingredients in hot water to fill a gallon jug for a liquid version.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 bar of soap, grated
  • Borax
  • Washing Soda (If you’re unable to get washing soda, you can make it from baking soda — see the directions at the bottom)
  • A grater or food processor
  • An airtight container to store your powder detergent

 

Handling borax and washing soda directly can cause skin irritation to occur. Wear gloves or wash your hands after making the detergent.

Here’s what to do:

1. Start by grating the soap bar into small pieces using either a cheese grater or a food processor. The smaller the pieces, the easier it will dissolve when added to your load of laundry.

2. Add the grated bar soap to the storage container along with 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of washing soda. Mix well. With the container securely sealed, it can be shaken vigorously to mix ingredients.

3. To use the detergent, add 1-2 tablespoons to each load of laundry. Since this detergent is in powder form, it works best when added to the wash water before adding laundry. In our experience, this detergent will dissolve even in cold water.

*This powder recipe has only been staff-tested with top-loading washers. Consider the liquid recipe for front loading machines.

What’s happening:

In the detergent mix, a few simple ingredients combine to remove grease and dirt from clothing and assist in washing it away. Most soaps are essentially the same – a combination of either animal fat or plant oils with water and an alkali (a basic salt, typically sodium or potassium hydroxide). 

The combination of these ingredients to make soap is called saponification. Soap is effective at removing unwanted dirt and grease because of its chemical structure. Soap molecules have hydrophilic, water-loving, ends and hydrophobic, water-fearing, ends. When used in combination with water to clean, soap molecules orient themselves in spherical pockets called micelles with the hydrophilic ends facing out and hydrophobic ends facing in. 

The hydrophobic ends of soap molecules surround other hydrophobic substances like oils and grease, allowing them to be removed. Water alone cannot do this. Because bacteria and dirt adhere to the oils and grease on our skin or clothing, they are removed with soap as well. The soap micelles containing the oils, grease, dirt, and bacteria can be washed away thanks to the outward-facing hydrophilic ends of the soap molecules.

The powder ingredients of this mix are both alkaline; borax has a pH of 9.5 and washing soda has a pH of 11. The high alkalinity helps to soften water, allowing the soap to more easily penetrate the fibers of your fabric and suspend grease and dirt in the wash water, rather than allowing it to re-attach to clothing.

In addition to enhancing the effectiveness of the soap, washing soda assists in deodorizing laundry and borax helps to remove stains and kill bacteria.

Make washing soda from baking soda:

Washing soda, sodium carbonate, can be made from baking soda, sodium bicarbonate.

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Baking soda (NaHCO3) will undergo a decomposition reaction above 176 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking down into sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), water vapor (H2O), and carbon dioxide (CO2). For this reason, an oven temperature  between 200-400 degrees Fahrenheit will suffice, but higher temperatures will accelerate the decomposition.

2. Spread a thin layer of baking soda across a lipped baking sheet or dish. Make sure the layer is less than half an inch deep. If you’re making the washing soda only for this recipe, be sure to use MORE than 1 cup of baking soda, as the volume will decrease by about 1/3 throughout the baking process.

3. Bake the baking soda for at least an hour, stirring periodically.

The finished product should have decreased in volume from the original baking soda amount as a result of the escaping water and carbon dioxide gasses. The washing soda grains may appear larger and duller than the powdery baking soda crystals you began with. Allow to cool and add it to your cleaning recipes. Store any excess in an airtight container.

  • Supplies for making DIY laundry soap
  • Finished DIY laundry soap