Photo: How to make laundry soap

Bring costs and waste down: Buy ingredients for this recipe in bulk! (Credit: Lindsay Coulter)

I've been making laundry soap for a decade. It's cheaper than store-bought eco-friendly options and works just as well. I make this recipe once a month:

Borax-free liquid laundry soap recipe

Preparation time: 10 minutes or less
Yield: seven litres
Shelf life: six months

Ingredients:

7 L (28 cups) hot water
250 ml (1 cup) baking soda
250 ml (1 cup) liquid castile soap
80 ml (1/3 cup) salt

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Instructions:

Add dry ingredients to hot water (I reuse a pail). Stir to dissolve. Add liquid castile soap last. (Choose unscented. Or try those scented with essential oils.) Stir. Add 125 to 250 ml (½ to 1 cup) per load.

Note: This mixture will separate. Stir batch before adding to a load of laundry.

Bring costs and waste down: Buy ingredients in bulk!

Does this recipe work in HE machines?

Yes, so I've heard. (I don't have an HE machine myself...yet.) This recipe's mostly water with a low-sudsing soap. You can also try my other laundry soap recipes, one liquid and one dry.

Does this recipe work, even on stains?

Yes. But its effectiveness will vary due to:

  • Water hardness
  • How soiled your laundry is
  • Your machine

I use a stain stick for tough stains. Find eco-friendly ones at organic grocers and health food stores. (I'm working on my own recipe. It's a mashup of green cleaning know how and cold-process soap making skills!) Or, try these DIY stain solutions.

What's the difference between soap and detergent?

Soaps are water-soluble fatty acids salts treated with a strong alkali, lye.

Detergents contain one or more surfactants. They're less finicky to water hardness than soap and often don't form a film. Most are petrochemicals (made from petroleum) and/or oleochemicals (from fats and oils).

What's water hardness?

It's mineral salts in your water: calcium, magnesium and sometimes iron and manganese. They react with soap to form film or scum.

If you have hard water (view map), add more soap. Some of the soap or detergent binds with the minerals. Instead of cleaning your clothes, it gets washed down the drain.

What about static cling?

Add 125 ml (1/2 cup) white vinegar to the rinse cycle. (Note: I'm not sure how this works in hard water. Comment on this blog to let me know!) Avoid scented dryer sheets. Try wool dryer balls.

What's the most effective "green" laundry tip you've tried?

I'll compile your tips and post them in a future blog. And I'll mail you a sheet of stickers to label your homemade products!

Sincerely,
Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

July 12, 2016
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/2016/07/how-to-make-laundry-soap/

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31 Comments

Sep 05, 2016
11:58 PM

There is plenty of clean soap everywhere in stores, organic, not organic, whatever. Your efforts are ridiculous and will change nothing.

IF the entire population of Canada would be transplanted to Mars today (and survive “heroically” there like Matt Damon), the Earth would be just as dirty and polluted as today. The equivalent of the entire population of Canada is added to China every 5 years, at the current rate. How do we offset that, every five years we kill all Canada again?

Just live normally without excesses, that is enough. Recycle, don’t waste food, repair what can be repaired, don’t drive unnecessarily, stop buying crap you don’t need. Then teach your kid(s) the same… and don’t have 20 of them. One is enough. That will save a lot more than soap “fabrication”.

Aug 10, 2016
2:24 PM

I have many of the same questions as other posters, so I hope that the author will respond to those (like, what’s wrong with borax?). My new question is: Is this and the other recipes in the PDF safe for septic systems? And for secondary use (like watering plants) in grey water systems? Thanks!

Aug 15, 2016
12:10 PM

I don’t have a septic system but these recipes should be safer than conventional cleaners with toxic ingredients. Most recipes are made with food-grade ingredients which should be safe for grey water recycling, too. Lindsay, Queen of Green

Aug 10, 2016
6:57 AM

Jan, Dr. Bronner’s Magic soap is pure liquid castile. It is fair trade and uses organic ingredients, and is surprisingly cheap. I have found it at Independent grocers, so I imagine that they would also carry it at Zehrs and Loblaws. Hope that helps! It comes in unscented, but also lavender, peppermint, and almond. I am going to definitely try this recipe!

Aug 09, 2016
7:02 PM

We have used vinegar in our washer— either plain white, or homemade apple cider vinegar. Most things come out looking and smelling clean, and we have extremely hard water. Also have used washing soda with ok results. Best tip, though? rub hydrogen peroxide into fresh blood stains with a cloth, and they disappear before your eyes. Launder as usual.

Aug 09, 2016
5:08 PM

I tried making this laundry liquid. The salt sank to the bottle of the jar and became quite solid and shaking didn’t help. There was liquid in the middle and a thick soapy substance at the top. I prefer the castille soap on its own.

Aug 15, 2016
1:26 PM

I’m glad you tried it out! There is no emulsifier so you do need to mix or shake before each use. Castile soap on it’s own will lift dirt and cut grease but it’s quite expensive so I like to dilute it. Plus with the salt you can fight mould and mildew, while the baking soda deodorizes and whitens. Lindsay, Queen of Green

Aug 08, 2016
1:20 PM

I would also like to know why you do not like Borax.

Aug 15, 2016
2:47 PM

Great question. I wrote two blogs about why borax is less safe than we thought AND what to use instead. http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/2016/08/how-safe-is-borax/ http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/2016/08/ten-simple-green-cleaning-substitutes-for-borax/

Lindsay, Queen of Green

Aug 08, 2016
7:08 AM

Where do you get Castile soap?

Aug 15, 2016
2:50 PM

Most health food stores, outdoor store and organic grocers. Read more here: http://davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/2012/03/what-is-castile-soap/

Lindsay, Queen of Green

Aug 07, 2016
11:30 PM

castille soap can be bought at peavey mart. Order on line as well, add coconut milk to it for a shampoo.

Aug 07, 2016
8:37 PM

Try coarse pink Himalayan salt (2 tablespoons) in a garni bag in the dryer to eliminate static even with synthetic fabrics. I’ve heard 2 safety pins on a socks also works…wool balls, vinegar in the rinse, and foil balls have NOT worked for static in my experience.

Aug 07, 2016
11:54 AM

1/2 a cup of white vinegar per load seems to work well for washing my clothes.

Aug 07, 2016
9:44 AM

I used this laundry soap recipe for a year or so, and noticed that a lot of my dark color items came out of the machine with large amounts of soap scum on them. It is not easy to get rid of once the clothes are dry, so had to re-wash and rinse..not very practical. so I am back to the Eco/Max, made in Canada by Prism Care Corporation, of Oakville Ont.

Aug 15, 2016
2:56 PM

Bummer. Maybe it didn’t dissolve well when you made it, or it just doesn’t get distributed and rinsed well enough in your machine. Everyone’s machine will perform differently but I do find it usually dissolves in a cold water wash. Thanks for your feedback, Lindsay, Queen of Green

Aug 07, 2016
8:48 AM

Can I replace the liquid castile soap with bar castile soap that I have grated? This is more easily available.

Aug 15, 2016
2:53 PM

You could but then I’d use it in my powder recipe or my other liquid recipe. Find them here: http://davidsuzuki.org/publications/resources/2011/green-cleaning-recipes/

Lindsay, Queen of Green

Aug 07, 2016
8:25 AM

7 L is a large amount. How long does it keep? From experience, do you find you have to reheat it to get a uniform mixture?

Thanks for all you do

Susanne

Aug 15, 2016
2:59 PM

I made this batch large because then I only make it once a month, or less. It doesn’t last long in my house with a toddler and a dog! It shouldn’t go bad. You’d notice the castile soap going bad, since it’s made with oils but you should be okay for 6 months to a year. I mix the batch before I add it to a load in the machine. Lindsay, Queen of Green

Aug 07, 2016
7:59 AM

have been trying to make this, but as I am in Scotland, it is proving difficult, as the dry ingredients are given in either cups which are not used or in ml which is a liquid measure and not readily convertible to grams, and I can’t get liquid castile soap for love nor money so am experimenting with making my own. consistent measurement would greatly help. If I can get it to work I will be using it from now on.

Aug 07, 2016
6:26 AM

I use soap nuts and wool dryer balls :)

Aug 07, 2016
4:38 AM

Hi, Love your articles.

Just a question… is there a reason we should use a “borax free” laundry soap? Thanks

Aug 06, 2016
2:50 PM

Castile soup is not low sudsing by any means.

Aug 16, 2016
10:04 AM

Choose liquid castile soap without any SLS/SLES added. That’s the chemical which makes a product produce suds AND it’s one of our Dirty Dozen ingredients to avoid. I say low sudsing to warn people that it won’t be like other conventional products. For example, try using it as a bubble bath. The bubbles last for a couple of minutes. Lindsay, Queen of Green

Aug 05, 2016
12:33 PM

I’ve heard that Liquid Castile Soap can actually stain clothing from the oils in it? Is this true?

Aug 16, 2016
10:00 AM

Nope. It’s a soap with oils so the oils have been saponified with Potassium hydroxide. http://davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/2012/03/what-is-castile-soap/

Lindsay, Queen of Green

Jul 15, 2016
7:12 PM

Hang whites to dry outside, under the sunshine. 🌞

Jul 15, 2016
5:30 PM

What is the matter with borax?

Jul 14, 2016
6:18 AM

Do corrosion problems arise due to the salt content?

Jul 13, 2016
5:54 PM

Where can you buy liquid castile soap ?? I have looked everywhere and know that I could easily get it 25 years ago.

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