Category:simple living’

Frugal Living – Making Affordable and Effective Homemade Laundry Detergent and Natural Fabric Softener

 - by James Lovette-Black PhD, RN, RYT

Many people seek to cut expenses, live more ecologically-minded, avoid commercially prepared products which contain chemical toxins, and foster less dependence on corporate chain stores. One easy-peasy way to do this is to make your own homemade laundry detergent. Courtesy of Small Footprint Family (thank you), with a single addition to the recipe, here is how to make your own laundry detergent. I chose to make a powdered version and there are recipes for laundry soaps.

UPDATES: I’ve been using these homemade laundry products for about a year and they do a great job of cleaning and softening my laundry without fragrances. I have been unable to determine the lovely person who shared the natural fabric softener recipe online, though I will when I do. Thanks to all who share.

The challenge of living in a cost-conscious world is a common experience, particularly in the USA. Many people are exploring frugality, frugal living, simple living, homesteading, and voluntary simplicity to reduce living expenses, live within one’s financial means, and lighten our footprint on Mother Earth.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

To these ends, many folks are making their own laundry detergent. After researching, the commonalities I found included:

  • a desire to avoid chemicals and toxins in commercial products
  • efficacy in cleaning
  • the use of commonly available ingredients
  • a simple and safe method of preparation
  • easy instructions

For this version, I combined the recipes and methods found at Wellness Mama, Small Footprint Family, and One Good Thing by Jillie. As well, thanks to Joan over at Tipsbulletin for sharing her article with more resources. My gratitude to all these wonderful folks, who shared so generously in the spirit of joyful, simple living.


Homemade laundry detergent ingredients and tools
Homemade laundry detergent ingredients and tools
  • 4 cups Borax (bought locally and found everywhere)
  • 4 cups washing soda (bought online)
  • 2 cups baking soda (bought locally)
  • 2 bars Castile soap, fragrance free (bought online)
  • 1 cup Epsom salts (bought locally, may omit)
  • 1 large grater (bought locally)
  • 2 trash bin liners (bought locally)
  • 1/4 cup stainless steel measuring scoop (bought locally)
  • Pyrex measuring cup (bought locally)
  • Pair of long latex gloves (bought locally)
  • N-95 respirator mask (online and at contractor supply or hardware stores)


Securely tied inner trash bin liner
Securely tied inner trash bin liner

Ensure adequate ventilation with no drafts. Gather ingredients and tools. Place one trash bin liner inside the other one and set them up on a secure base, with the tops opened together. I placed mine on a kitchen chair.

Grate 2-3 bars of soap and pour the soap flakes into the inner trash liner. Place on gloves and N-95 respirator mask, ensuring the mask’s metal over the nasal bridge is pinched tightly enough so one can breathe through the mask without leakage around the nose. Then, add in order the Borax, washing soda, baking soda, and Epsom salts.

Homemade laundry detergent storage container
Homemade laundry detergent storage container

Next, tie the inner bag securely and then tie the outer bag securely. Tumble the bag several times and then untie the outer bag. Elevate a bottom corner of the inner bag over the laundry detergent storage container, cut the corner, and then slowly pour the mixed detergent into the container.

Homemade laundry detergent lid and container with labels
Homemade laundry detergent lid and container with labels

For faster production of your next container of homemade laundry detergent, print the recipe and affix it to the detergent container.

Finally, ensure you place a label that indicates “Homemade Laundry Detergent” on both the container and the lid, along with instructions for use, and store in a safe place.

Homemade Natural Fabric Softener Recipe

My fabric softener recipe is used with a small load washer. For standard-size or regular washing machines, I’d recommend 1/2-3/4 cup per load of laundry. You can add a few drops of your favorite healthy organic essential oil to clothing by using a portion of the fabric softener to which you’ve added and well mixed in a few drops. For me, I prefer my fragrances from (and while in) the natural world and live a largely fragrance-free lifestyle.

Hope you like the recipe. Credit pending and thanks, again, for stopping by Bright Wellness.

2 cups water

2 cups white vinegar

1/8 cup vegetable glycerine


Shake vigorously before use. For small washers (20 lbs or less), use 1/4-1/3 cup per load. For standard-size washers, use 1/2-3/4 cup per load.

As always, label the container (I use a glassbottle with a rubber-corked stopper) with clear instructions and the recipe, for a quick replenishment when your supply runs low.

Homemade natural fabric softener recipe
Glass bottle with homemade natural fabric softener recipe

UPDATE: 5 January 2020

It’s been a year since I started making and using my homemade detergent and softener. I am happy with both, they clean and soften my clothes, and I have no noticeable residue or fragrances from either. Have a healthy and prosperous new year and new decade.