DIY Laundry Detergent

I have been using soap nuts to do our laundry since we stopped using disposable plastic in 2013, but I have been wanting to give homemade laundry soap a try.  Whenever I've used the homemade, natural bar soap I buy to remove stains or pretreat really dirty stuff, it has always worked amazingly well.  (It's the same soap we use to wash the dishes!)  So I decided it was time to start using it for all of our laundry.

Homemade two-ingredient laundry detergent: A zero waste, plastic free option | Cellist Goes Green

If you search "homemade laundry detergent" on Pinterest, you will get about a million and a half different recipes, many of which require several ingredients.  And then there's the whole borax controversy (borax does seem to be relatively safe, you just don't want to ingest it).  I wanted something simple and effective, so I picked the two ingredients I thought would be most important and experimented with the ratios a little bit until I got something I liked.  And it works!

Homemade two-ingredient laundry detergent: A zero waste, plastic free option | Cellist Goes Green

Two-Ingredient Laundry Soap

2 cups washing soda
1 bar of natural bar soap


  1. Grate the bar of soap
  2. Measure out the washing soda and mix with the bar soap shavings
  3. Put mixture in jar

That's it!  I use about 1/4 of a cup in each load.


Will it work in my HE washer?
Disclaimer-my top-loading washing machine is from 1998.  I looked up the serial number.  I have no plans to upgrade, and I'm hoping we can celebrate its 20th birthday soon. :)  So I can't really offer any first hand advice here. 

That being said, if you do some googling, most of the homemade detergent recipes say they are safe for HE machines, you just have to use less.

What kind of soap should I use?
I use a handmade soap from Barclay Soap Co on Etsy.  It has very few ingredients, all of which are natural.  It has done very well cutting grease when I wash dishes, and I've found it to be much more effective than Dr. Bronner's.  Look for a soap without synthetic ingredients (especially synthetic fragrance).  And look for one that's not formulated to be super-moisturizing (that's great for you, but not at getting dirt off your clothes).

What is the difference between washing soda and baking soda?
You can actually make washing soda from baking soda!  They are closely related, but washing soda is a stronger ingredient and should not be ingested.  Dr. Karen S. Lee has a great post about it here.  And while it shouldn't be ingested, EWG gives it an "A" as a safe cleaning product.

I'm having a hard time finding washing soda
Sometimes washing soda can be hard to find locally (you can make your own from baking soda!).  I did manage to find it at a local grocery store, and another local hardware store will have it shipped to the store if you order it online.  I would call ahead. 

Also, this message board thread suggests you call the number for the washing soda (1-800-524-1328), and if you give them the UPC code (33200-03020) and your zip code, they will look up what local stores have sold it recently in your area. I called, and they were able to give me the information.

You can also find it on Amazon, but it costs a little more.

Why did you switch from soap nuts to homemade laundry soap?
I liked using soap nuts, and they did work well.  But I've been really impressed by how great the natural bar soap I've been using works when I've used it to hand wash or pre-treat clothes.

I also already order the bar soap in bulk on Etsy for washing dishes, and I can find the washing soda locally, so it is one less thing I have to order online.  (I could not find soap nuts locally).  So that means less packaging from shipping.