Skip to Content

How to Make Zero Waste Laundry Detergent (+ Recipe!)

Making my own zero waste laundry detergent has become one of my favorite ways to save money while reducing my household’s trash output. So, I’m passing my recipe on to you!

For many of us, transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle means making a lot of things that we used to buy from scratch. A lot of the time, it’s as simple as choosing to make crackers rather than buy them all boxed up at the grocery store. Other times, it takes a little bit more effort.

Making your own zero waste laundry detergent, to me, is somewhere in between: totally achievable with a little forethought.

Plus, all of these can be found in bulk or in zero waste, recyclable packaging!

This article may contain compensated/affiliate links. See our full disclosure here.

Options for Zero Waste Laundry Detergent

A couple of months ago, Josh and I ran out of the Biokleen Laundry Powder that we had been using for the past year. As we’d already chosen to live a zero waste lifestyle by that point, I realized that I had a few options moving forward:

  • Drive 45 minutes to Colorado to get laundry powder or liquid detergent in bulk. This would be convenient if it were part of a full-on bulk grocery shopping trip, or if the shop were local, but driving that far just to get laundry powder would be pretty unnecessary. 
  • Purchase zero waste laundry detergent in recyclable packaging from an eco-conscious company. This would be the most convenient option but could be expensive in the longer term.
  • Make my own detergent in bulk amounts at home. This could arguably be the least convenient option as I would have to source the ingredients and mix them myself, but the cost savings are unbeatable.

In the end, I settled on the third option: making my own laundry detergent at home.


Honestly, it sounded like a blast! I love being able to make useful things from scratch, especially if I know I can save some cash by doing so. 

If you’re the thrifty type, the get-those-nasty-chemicals-away-from-me type, or someone who likes to try their hand at something new, this DIY Laundry Detergent recipe is for you!

How to Make Your Own DIY Laundry Detergent

Making your own laundry detergent is as simple as gathering a few ingredients and mixing them together in a big bucket. It’s actually really easy! 

This recipe includes only 4 ingredients:

  • castile soap bars
  • baking soda
  • washing soda
  • and essential oils of your choice

Each of these ingredients has been thoroughly vetted for its safety, so you can be assured that this recipe is completely non-toxic and suitable for people with sensitive skin, like me.

And in addition to being totally easy to make and completely chemical-free, this zero waste laundry detergent is extremely inexpensive to make.

Where I used to spend $0.20-30 per load of laundry, I now spend something like $0.02 per load.

It’s really hard to beat that!

Why I like this recipe:

  • It rates an “A” on the EWG scale, a database that determines how safe a product or ingredient is health-wise.
  • It cleans extremely well! I love this laundry detergent more than anything else I’ve used, and I’ve tried a lot over the years.
  • It is naturally “low foaming,” which means you can use it in either standard or HE machines.
  • It doesn’t take much to work. A tablespoon or two is sufficient for my average-size loads of laundry. The bucket I have in our laundry room may last me years…
  • It leaves clothes smelling fresh and feeling soft. Skip the fabric softener and use this eco-friendly laundry detergent as a one-stop-shop.

Natural DIY Laundry Detergent Recipe

DIY Laundry Detergent

A safe and effective way to make your own laundry detergent at home.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • 2 (4 oz.) Bars of Unscented Castile Soap (in recyclable paper)
  • 2 lbs of Baking Soda (in recyclable cardboard or bought bulk)
  • 1.5 (7 lb) Boxes of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (in recyclable cardboard)
  • 20-30 drops of your favorite essential oil (clementine or lavender are both nice options)


    1. Finely grate your bars of Castile soap. Either use a food processor or cheese grater.
    2. Mix your grated soap together with baking soda, washing soda, and essential oils. I recommend wearing a face mask to avoid inhaling any dust from the mixture.
    3. Use 1-3 Tablespoons per load of laundry, depending on its size and soil level.


  1. Washing soda can sometimes be challenging to find. Most conventional grocery stores and supermarkets should have it in their baking aisle (near baking soda) or laundry aisle (next to detergents).
  2. If you choose to make this in larger quantities, store in a 5-gallon bucket and then dish out a portion into a pretty storage jar for active use.
  3. Skip dryer sheets. If you must use something, use wool dryer balls instead.

 How to Reduce Laundry & Ironing

  1. Hang your towels to dry instead of using a fresh one every day.
  2. Skip the dryer when you can. Shake and smooth out wrinkles, then hang dry in the sunshine (if you’re fortunate to enjoy it right now) or in your laundry room on a rack.
  3. Spot clean items whenever possible, rather than just tossing them instantly into the wash. It’ll save water.
  4. Fold items right away after laundering so they don’t wrinkle or collect pet hair.
  5. Allow for space between garments in your closets and drawers to avoid wrinkling.
  6. Choose quality fibers whenever possible. Quality fabrics like linen and bamboo tend to wrinkle less.
  7. Protect your garments by layering well and covering up with an apron while cooking and cleaning.
  8.  If your clothes aren’t actually smelly or gross, just don’t wash them yet! Treat your items carefully and avoid over-washing to save water.

Find more tips on how to have a Zero Waste Laundry here!


Wednesday 2nd of October 2019

Does this dissolve in cold water or do you wash your clothes with warm water?


Wednesday 4th of December 2019

Dissolves just fine in cold water!


Thursday 18th of July 2019

Hey! Will this still work with sCented CASTILE soap bars?


Wednesday 4th of December 2019

Sure! I'd just choose something like lavender that isn't overpowering.

Yvonne Villalobos

Tuesday 16th of April 2019

Great recipe! Silly question maybe but do you add the mixture directly in the washer or in the detergent container?


Tuesday 7th of May 2019

I'm not entirely sure what you mean...I always sprinkle the detergent into the washing machine as it fills with water, then add my laundry.

Sheryl Isaacs

Wednesday 29th of August 2018

I just started my own zero waste home today. I was surprised that you are not using soap nuts aka reetha for laundry, dishes, all-purpose cleaning for the entire home, for shampoo, body and face. all you need are 4-5 in a muslin bag for laundry, or mix into water in a bottle, or add to your dishwater, etc. i hope you will read to learn about them. the rest of the world has used them, we are late in learning about them in the usa. so you can get 3 pounds of soap nuts with two muslin bags, in a reusable paper bag to last 3 months, zero waste


Monday 30th of July 2018

Hi! I’m making this tomorrow and I’m super excited. I read a comment about the washing soda and needed to clarify. How much washing soda do I actually need? I bought 7lbs of washing soda. And now I’m thinking you meant 1.5 boxes that are each 7 lbs. The wording is a bit confusing!


Wednesday 1st of August 2018

Hi Aubrey – Thanks for clarifying! You'll need to mix in one and a half boxes that are 7 lbs each. So, 10.5 lbs of washing soda.

Skip to Recipe