Thursday, February 3, 2011

Green Recipe: Homemade Detergent for a Cheap and Effective Wash

It's quite easy to make a simple homemade detergent for washing clothes, at least as a get-you-by until you can get to the shops.

Here's how to make a simple but effective homemade laundry detergent from common household ingredients.

This recipe for homemade detergent is suitable for use with all common types of washing machine, though you should check with your manufacturer if you have a gleaming new machine and/or you are of a nervous disposition!

You can also use this homemade detergent as a stop-gap solution for when you don't want to travel to the shops solely to buy detergent! This helps to keep your carbon footprint lower as transport is a major contributor to greenhouse gases (around 24% of carbon emissions in the UK, for example).


Laundry soap, salt and sodium bicarbonate.

You don't strictly need the bicarbonate for this homemade detergent. However, it helps to keeps things fresh-smelling and it helps to soften the water, so the soap goes further.

You can also add a little essential oil for a fragranced washload if you like. Always choose fragrances which are recommended for diluted application on skin.


Buy some ordinary household laundry soap. You can buy a large block of olive oil soap for laundry in some outlets. You can also use homemade soap if you prefer.

Grate the soap into a vessel such as a storage jar.

Add one dessertspoonful of salt to every ounce (30gms) of soap grated. (A dessertspoonful of salt also weighs in at about an ounce.)

Put this mixture into the detergent drawer of your machine. The exact amount depends upon your washing loads but I find that similar amounts to normal detergent work fine - i.e. between an half ounce and one ounce of the detergent mix.)

If you live where the water is very soft you may need to increase the amount of salt you use. (Soft water generally lathers up more.)

Add about two teaspoonfuls of sodium bicarbonate. This will help your wash to smell fresh after the washing cycle and helps soften the water.

You can use this mixture on practically everything, though perhaps you might not want to wash your finest clothes this way.

An even easier way to do this is to just grate a little soap into the detergent drawer of your machine and add a dessertspoonful of salt.

Salt does make water harder, so you may want to add a fabric softener (or some more baking soda) to the wash to prevent your clothes feeling starchy. Vinegar also works well as a fabric softener and does not leave a smell after use.

Buy your soap from a reputable and green outlet; a good deal of commercial soap contains palm oil. The palm oil industry is responsible for the destruction of some of the great rainforests in Indonesia. It is also destroying the habitat of orangutans - one of our nearest relatives in the animal kingdom.

If you are not happy putting salt into your machine a washing soda and soap mix also works well as a homemade laundry detergent. You can also add a little borax, if you have some. It is good for seeing off grease and has a mild bleaching effect.

There you have it - a simple homemade detergent for occasional or emergency use!

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