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When's the last time you took a good look at the ingredients on your laundry detergent bottle? Not only is the list incredibly exhaustive, but I'm guessing you can't pronounce a few of the key ingredients, either.

Full of alkyl phenoxy polyethoxy ethanols, diethanolamines and subtilisin, many detergents are incredibly toxic to the environment. (Want to know what's really in your detergent? Check a detergent glossary breakdown here).

According to Consumer Reports, store-bought green cleaners may not be doing the job, so if you're longing for an eco-friendly method, it may be in your best interest to roll up your sleeves and make it yourself.

Try two of our favorite detergent recipes, and start thinking green when it comes to your whites, darks, and lights!

For a
powdered detergent:

1. Grate bar of soap (non-antibacterial) into container.

2. Pour in 1/2 cup of borax and 1/2 baking soda, and mix well.

Easy enough, right? Use 1 tbsp. for small or lightly soiled loads and 2 tbsp. for large or heavily soiled loads.

For a liquid detergent:

1. Grate 5 ounces of soap into a pot and add 1 cup of water.

2. Heat on low to medium heat, stirring continually until soap is dissolved.

3. After soap is dissolved, fill pot the rest of the way with water and stir in one cup of soda ash or washing soda.

4. Stir mixture on low until soda ash is dissolved and let mix cool.

5. Funnel into a large recycled container.

You'll need just 1/4 cup per full load of laundry.

Now that you've whipped up your homemade detergent, you want it to last, right? Here are a few tips to make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck in the laundry room:

1. Less is More. Never overload on detergent, as it's better to have less detergent than too much. No one wants a pair of soapy jeans in a thunderstorm!

2. Hard Water Woes. If you have hard water, try adding 1/2 cup baking soda or vinegar as laundry boosters.

3. Pre-treat. For tough stains, try pre-treating your laundry with 1 cup hot water, 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide. Then launder as normal.

Lastly, check out ten more homemade laundry detergent recipes, just in case the above two don't get your juices flowing! Happy washing!

  • kevin

    The problem with this soap recipe is that most bar soap is made from animal and vegetable fats. This will produce lots of soap film and scum on your lanundry. This recipe is over 100 years old and was the way they did laundry in old England. Why do you think modern detergents were developed anyway?

  • Simzee

    I make these laundry soaps. They do work. For the dry laundry soap....try usuing IVORY soap. It does wonders on most stains. The liquid soap makes up to five gallons.

  • King David

    OK Kevin, you have a good point but I have to wonder about the "newer" soap's ingredients vs. the ones that you've cited?? On another note: the author of this article says, for the sake of liquid laundry soap, to "mix in a pot". HOW BIG OF A POT???? It's an interesting article but a bit short on size(s).

  • Simzee

    A regular sauce pot works when making the liquid. Use a few few cups of water to melt soap. You do need a five gallon bucket for the soda wash & borax & liquid soap you made.

  • drexel6337

    add SOAP!!!!!?????? What are in those ingredients?????? Shouldn't you be mentioning a specific kind of soap that has no bad ingredients???? or else it is just the same as store bought detergent!

  • davis10oregon1

    You might try IVORY soap, as it is 99 and a wee bit over of being 100% pure . With the author`s recipe it might work better for U .

  • Norma

    I have been making my own laundry soap for years. I use Arm and Hammer Washing Soda, not baking soda. There is a difference.
    Grate one half bar of FELS-NAPTHA bar soap and add one cup 20 MULE TEAM BORAX and one cup ARM AND HAMMER WASHING SODA.
    I put it in the food processor and blend to a fine powder. Use two tablespoons per load. It works beautifully.

  • Stephen Hamrick

    Within 1 month of using the Fels naptha/Borax/Washing soda recipe, the grass over my septic tank and drain field died ! I have lived here for 5 years and nothing else was done differently except the laundry soap. Possibly the Fels Naptha? All the other grass is fine except where this occured. Environmentally friendly?NOT!!

  • Richard

    Boron, the main ingredient in Borax products is harmful to plants when it occurs in more than just trace quantities.

  • E. Martinez

    Thanks for the info about the grass over the spetic tank. I have one too and I was so close to trying this but only after getting 1 question answered which was.... can these "detergents" be used on washing machines where they tell you to use only certain types of detergents/fabic softner (liquid and/or sheets)???

    I love my washer and dryer, just love love love them and the last thing I don't want to do is ruin them by using something that's not suppose to be used in them!! Anyone have any answers for me on my problem? Any advice will be greatly appreciated!! :) Peace

  • leukemiama

    Sorry to hear about your septic. I have used fels-naptha soap for years on my grass and shrubs, to kill bugs...

    take a small sause pan grate 1/2 of the fels-naptha bar soap into the pan add 1 cup of water boil when it is disolved put in a clean milk jug

    then using same sause pan put in one cup of water and a can of chewing tobacco put the tobacco into a knee high and tie end. bring to a boil, remove from heat let it stew like you would tea, when cooled squeeze out all the tobacco juice into the pan. add to the fels-naptha jug.

    then take 1 cup of lemon dish soap add to jug
    and 1 cup of listerine add to jug.
    and cap and lightly shake to mix it all together.

    this should be equal parts if the fels naptha boils down to 3/4 of a cup then use 3/4 a cup of the rest.

    add 1/2 of a cup of this mixture from the jug to a sprayer container that hooks to your hose (found in garden centers) set on lowest setting and turn hose on and spay away. the lemon dish soap and the tobacco make the bug smell bad and the mate wont be let it back into the nest. the fels-naptha and listerine mess up their sex parts so they can't reproduce.

    my daughter had leukemia we believe was caused by no pest strips. (not sticky fly paper)
    (parenting magazine march 1995 study done at denver children's hospital, 253 ill children with leukemia 248 had these things hanging in or around their home, 243 well children none had the no pest strips hanging in or around their home)

    i have used this mixture for years, safe around pets and my children. made my juniper bushes look so green, didn't kill the lawn or trees, kept the bugs away from my children with out chemicals.

    have you had your soil tested at the county extension office? take a sample in they may be able to tell you what is killing your lawn.

  • Margaret

    whorever is worried about leaving soap residue in clothing, try adding some clear vinegar to the rinse water.
    I always wash my expensive shower curtain liners in hot water and vinegar, they come out crystal clear, (vinyl).
    Also instead of using softner in the rinse, i use vinegar deluted with ie.downy. in case you worry about your clothes smelling like salad. They don't.

  • Josh

    Whats your time worth?

  • Zimminger

    Interesting that your grass died, Stephen. The MSDS (material safety data sheet) can sometimes give a bit of insight. In the case of Fels, there are terpenes (turpentine derivatives) and these are defatting agents, meaning it will REALLY dry your skin. That's why it's good for taking poison ivy oil off of you. Oil up with something after using it. Borax is sodium borate with a health hazard of 1 out of 4 (irritant) and zero fire and reactivity ratings. But we know it kills cockroaches and ants. Washing soda is sodium carbonate and that one surprised me with a health rating of 2 (corrosive) and reactivity of 1. "Reacts violently with 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene." Don't wash TNT with washing soda, nor dynamite either. So you're right, these aren't entirely benign ingredients but you aren't EVER going to be totally clean without some toxicity.

    As to what killed your grass, this would make a good science fair project for somebody's kid. Water plants with different concentrations (HIGHLY diluted) of these three ingredients and see which is the most toxic. Everything is toxic if you have enough of it, even water. Grass plugs from other areas of the lawn could be used as the test subjects.

    I was looking for info on plant toxicity. Didn't find any. I'd bet on the sodium carbonate (washing soda) first, next the sodium borate (borax), with the combination of both salting the ground as third. I have a hunch it isn't the Fels.

  • SamhainBorn

    With Fels being a defatting agent, it could potentially harm the grass by removing the natural plant oils that allow the grass to absorb and hold water. (the waxy oil on the surface keeps water from evaporating).When paired with the salts, or with other chemicals already in the septic system, it could very well have something to do with it.

  • LizaDi

    Ok... this is NOT a recipe for detergent.. these are directions to use one type of detergent/soap in another capacity. Seriously. OK I have a birthday cake recipe for you.... take a cake... frost it... and put Happy Birthday on it!! See! A make it yourself Birthday Cake! wow!

  • WILL


  • Leslie

    I've made these recipes and was bummed to realize Fels was not so green (turpines) because it cleaned clothes really well! I've made the same recipe using a castile bar soap, grated, and it doesn't clean as well. Maybe half and half is the answer, to lower the toxicity and still get clothes clean, but I have to admit I got sick of grating soap!

  • john foote

    Borax can be toxic and should be kept out of reach of children and pets.

  • cindy

    After reading all of this, I think I will continue to use my Tide.

  • 37 Comments / 2 Pages

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