Homemade Vegan Laundry Detergent (For Real!)


If I had $1 for every time I’ve found a “homemade vegan laundry detergent” recipe on the internet that was not actually vegan, I’d have quite a few dollars. Even well-respected vegan blogs I enjoy reading get it wrong when it comes to homemade laundry detergent. Most borax isn’t vegan. Washing soda, at least what I’ve found, isn’t vegan.

Note: To me, the term “vegan” means, in addition to being free of animal-derived ingredients, that an ingredient is not tested on animals. Look, I can go to the store and buy laundry detergent that is not tested on animals. Why in the hell would I made “vegan” laundry detergent containing ingredients that are tested on animals? The answer is simple. I would not.

The simplest homemade laundry detergent recipe I found on the internet was as follows:

  • 1 cup shredded castile soap
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda

Okay, so. I couldn’t find washing soda that was made by a company that doesn’t test on animals. (Arm & Hammer and 20 Mule Team test on animals.) (I found some soda ash, which is the same as washing soda and intended for dyeing clothes or for using in swimming pools, that might qualify, but I’m not sure so I didn’t chance it.) After a good deal of angst, I figured, what the hell, let’s use baking soda instead of washing soda and see what happens. I mean really, what’s the worst that could happen? My clothes come out of the washer stinky and/or dirty? Well, I can live with that in the name of advancing a recipe for homemade laundry detergent that is actually vegan. So here’s what I did:

  • 1 bar Dr. Bronner’s castile soap (lavender) (vegan, no animal testing), grated (Note: The first time I made this, I used a microplane, which is a very fine grater. The second time, I grated the soap in the food processor — first, I grated it like cheese using the grater attachment and then processed the grated soap with the default blade. This was much easier than grating by hand, but I think I liked the microplane-grated soap better because it was fluffier and, thus, mixed better with the baking soda and borax. The processed soap is heavier and more prone to separate from the other ingredients. If you do it this way, make sure to shake the detergent before using to distribute the soap.)
  • 1 cup borax (purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs)
  • 1 cup baking soda (you can get this from Mountain Rose Herbs or Bob’s Red Mill — neither company tests on animals)

Note: These measurements have been updated. The original recipe called for approximately 1/2 bar of soap, but I’ve increased that amount. So now it’s 1 bar of Dr. Bronner’s soap to 1 cup borax to 1 cup baking soda. Easy!

Add the grated soap, borax, and baking soda to a bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight container. That’s it. It’s super easy! I wanted to add some essential oil to enhance the lavender smell but didn’t because I was worried the liquid would mess with the powder consistency of the finished detergent.

I use approximately once ounce per load (we have an old measuring scoop). So far, we’ve washed one load of Ben’s clothes, one load of mine, one load of Soren’s, and one load of communal (bed stuff) laundry. It’s working really well. Everything comes out of the dryer clean and it smells like absolutely nothing (I wouldn’t mind if the lavender smell lingered, but “nothing” is pretty good if you ask me). It got out all the baked bean stains on Soren’s clothes from the other day. And his underwear, not that you want to know about toddler underwear, comes out of the wash perfectly clean and smelling like nothing, which is a win if you ask me.

So far so good, I think. I’ll update this post as we use the detergent for a while. I’m sure the real test will come from repeated washings of Soren’s clothes and sheets and, like, gym clothes and stuff.

(As for cloth diapers, we’ve used Charlie’s Soap the whole time and have never had a problem. I think with cloth diapers, your best bet is to find a system that works and stick with it. We’re down to diapers for sleeping only right now. Yay — our diaper career is almost over!!)

Microplane

microplane

homemade vegan laundry detergent v.2.0

the finished product

1 ounce

about an ounce

Update on 11/15/12: We’ve been using this soap for 2 months and it’s still going well. It gets out stains as well as natural store-bought soap. We still have a stain stick thing for getting out bad/greasy stains. When that runs out, I’m going to try dish soap on bad stains so we don’t have to buy stain sticks any more. I figure dish soap is good at getting out grease, so why not try it.

Update on 2/9/13: Still use it, still like it. If you have a toddler who might occasionally pee on clothing and/or bedding and you use this detergent, your best bet is to wash the items in hot water to make sure there’s no lingering pee smell. I noticed the same thing with the natural store-bought detergent we used to buy, so no big deal.