Friday, April 23, 2010

homemade laundry detergent

I mentioned on twitter yesterday that I'd just finished whipping up a batch of homemade laundry detergent and a bunch of people showed interest in my recipe, so I thought I'd post it here.

Making my own laundry detergent seems so random, but it was a natural progression, in fact! We decided to use cloth diapers before Fry was even born, but you can't use regular laundry detergent with them, because the chemicals eventually break down the absorbing properties of the diapers. You can buy special chemical-free detergent at most health food stores, but they are really expensive, nearly negating the savings we were making with the cloth diapers themselves! Around the same time, I started using soap nuts for cleaning our clothes. While I really appreciated that our clothes no longer smelled like chemicals and they were indeed clean, soap nuts don't have natural bleaching properties and our clothes started to look dingy. Plus, they didn't do anything against the extremely hard water we have here.

In looking around for alternatives, I found loads of recipes for homemade detergents that are suitable for cloth diapers and for clothes. Unfortunately, if you live outside North America, you will have to have a hook-up for the Borax. If anyone knows of a source for Borax in Europe or a good substitute, please let me know! My sister brought me a box when she visited last summer, and I brought back a box as well after our visit, and we've been using it ever since. I haven't even opened the second box yet, though I think I will have to for the next batch. I based my recipe off of this one, and here is my current recipe:

Homemade Laundry Detergent

homemade laundry detergent

You will need:
1 bar laundry soap*
1 cup Borax
1 cup washing soda**
1/2 cup oxygen cleaning powder

*I use savon de Marseille, which has a lovely subtle scent that I quite like, but you can get unscented and even add a bit of essential oil if you like.
**Washing soda is called cristaux de soude in French

First, I mix together the Borax, washing soda and oxygen powder, since they are all powdered anyway. Then I start to grate the laundry soap and folding it into the powder as I go. I find it mixes together better than grating all the soap at once and trying to mix it together at the end.

You only need a heaping tablespoon for a load of laundry and one batch should last several months! I find this works really well, and even Fry's clothes that has suffered from... accidents (ahem) come out perfectly clean and stain-free. As you can see from the photo, I keep mine in a very large jar with the recipe taped on so it's always handy.

I hope this helps those of you that have asked; please do let me know if you try it!

OH one more thing! This is not the same recipe to use for cloth diapers! There is some concern that the laundry soap can cause build up, which can be bad for the diapers. I used the recipe that I linked above, which is equal parts Borax, washing soda and oxygen cleaning powder, and they still look brand new! We aren't using them right now (kind of a long story), but we are hanging on to them to use with the next little person that comes along.


Doc said...

You can get Boric Acid at the pharmacy!

Vivi said...

They're not exactly the same thing, Borax is a salt of boric acid, I don't know if I'd recommend replacing it with that.

Nicole said...

I can't remember who, but I was warned about using only savon de Marseille (and not 'regular' detergent ) in my washing machine- I was told that it could build up on the machine and cause problems. Have you had any problems with your machine?

Vivi said...

hi Nicole, none at all! I think that's because of the Borax. I haven't had any calcium build up at all since I switched from the soap nuts (which did exactly nothing against the build up!). It does say on the box that it's good against hard water, so I think that's why it's good to have actual Borax if you can.

JChevais said...

I've never even heard of Borax or oxygen cleaning powder... If I can't find Borax I guess I'm stuck unless I can find a US contact...

Sasho said...


Long-time lurker delurks to tell you that Borax has an office in Coudekerque, France.

That doesn't mean you can actually GET it in France, but it's a start. Otherwise, maybe THATS your Tiny Town business.

Sasho said...

PS I tried to put in the URL but it vanished.

Vivi said...

Sasho, hi, thank you so much!! I couldn't find any contact information for the site in France, but I've emailed the company to find out if it's possible to buy Borax outside the US. Thanks for the link, I'll keep you posted!

Mickle in NZ said...

Here in New Zealand borax is available from garden centres. I get mine on mail order.

Great laundry powder recipe - much better than the one I have. Super thanks for sharing,


The Late Bloomer said...

I feel silly, like I should already know this, but where do you buy oxygen cleaning powder here in France? I may try to bring back some Borax from the U.S. on our trip over this time, although I'm only concerned about how well the mixture will go through our machine... My SIL told me our machine doesn't tolerate "powder" type detergents that well, so we've been using liquid detergents... I've been wanting to switch to homemade or more environmental detergent for ages, but just haven't gone ahead with it... Argh, one more thing to add to my list!

Vivi said...

You should be able to buy it in the laundry aisle of the grocery, but I don't know a brand off the top of my head. Next time I go shopping I'll take a look and let you know!

Sophie Helene said...

Thanks for the recipe! I have recently started using Savon de Marseille to handwash my clothes and I love it. When I leave it out to dry it leave a wonderful lavender smell.

Just another idea for those who, like myself, dont have a washing machine at home and can get away with washing small batches almost daily.

FJasmine said...

Hello, could anyone tell me if it is possible to mail borax to France? or can I simply pack a box in my suitcase when I travel there? i don't wish to be without it . . . Thanks to anyone for help or advice. F. Jasmine

Mettalchic said...

I have written SA Borax Francais to see if they would ship me some Borax decahyrate. or other wise known as sodium tetraborate decahydrate. In it's powdered form.

Here is thier writing address. I had to write them because I live in Guadeloupe. Which is a small island in the Caribbean that is a part of France. But you can get Borax in France seeing as they manufacture it there..

SA Borax Francais
Route De Bourbourg Usine De Coudekerque Branche 59210 Coudekerrque Branche

Anonymous said...

This is an old post, and I don't know if this will help you there in Champagne, but I used to find borax at Tang Freres in Paris. Do you have a Chinese supermarket anywhere nearby? Probably not. :-) But you could make a special trip to Paris!

JO said...

I just looked and you can order Borax from :)

Evelyne said...

Hi. I ordered borax from here in France and got it by mail 2 days later. You can find borax in pharmacies but it's much more expensive (5€ per 100 gms) compared to 12€ for 1.5 kgs plus about 7€ shipping from Jary. Can you give me a brand name for the oxygen cleaning powder? Thanks.