Homemade Borax Free Laundry Detergent for Sensitive Skin

boraxfreelaunderydetergentDo you have sensitive skin? My kids do. When their Eczema flares up, I go into a battle mode and start taking stock on what could have possibly triggered it ‘this time’. So when their skin became red and inflamed a couple of weeks ago, I wondered if it was my “natural” homemade laundry detergent with Borax. Granted that Borax is safer than toxic chemicals like 1,4-dioxane in Tide’s Free and Gentle®, but if you have sensitive skin even natural substances will irritate your skin, like Borax.

So I tested some recipes for a laundry detergent that don’t include Borax for my front loader, a High Efficiency (HE) washer. (Do you  know how to wash your Front Loading Washing Machine? Yup. You have to ‘wash’ your washing machine. Who knew?)

Anyway, here is the recipe that worked the best for me.

Borax Free Homemade Laundry Detergent

I wrote the words with a sharpie pen, smeared ketchup, mustard, and strawberry jam on white cotton t-shirt jersey. I let them dry over night and washed them with whites the next day. The formula with Borax has one Tbsp of Borax added to the formula below.

As you can clearly see, both cleaned the stains relatively equally. If anything, the one without Borax washed slightly better on the strawberry jam. So why am I using Borax if it doesn’t really add more cleaning power? I guess I can leave it out! Yay!

My belief is less is better when it comes to ingredients in anything.

Borax Free Homemade Laundry Detergent Formula

1 Tbsp Washing Soda (you can make your own, did you know that?)
1 Tbsp Baking Soda
1 Tbsp Grated Castile Soap (see alternative option below)
1 C Distilled White Vinegar in the Fabric Softener Compartment
1 Tbsp Citrus Enzyme Cleaner or Citric Acid

Again, I scoop the powder separately without mixing them since I want to make sure I am getting the right amount for each.

If you have extra stains, like the ones I tested, I’d spot clean it with peroxide/water mixture or Oxyclean first, before throwing the garment in the washer with the rest of the laundry, like you would with other types of detergent.

Oh and if you don’t want to grate castile soap every time, you can substitute with 1 TBsp of liquid castile soap. And if you want even gentler castile soap, I strongly recommend Earth Mama Angel Baby Shampoo & Body Wash. That’s right. It’s for a baby but works great in laundry too. Read my Earth Mama Angel Baby product review here.

If you are NOT sensitive to Borax, you can check out my homemade laundry recipe that uses Borax here.

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34 comments
JanineAllard
JanineAllard

I've found that the grated dr. bronner's soap doesn't dissolve completely in my machine, so next time I will try the liquid dr. bronner's. Do you recommend putting the liquid castille soap in the same compartment as the baking soda and washing soda? Or will they harden if mixed together? Should I put the liquid directly onto the clothes and the powder in the detergent compartment? Thanks!

alymsto
alymsto

Well I ran my first load last night (minus citrus enzyme, because I'm still saving up enough peels for my first batch - side note, how long do you think I can keep peels in the fridge before I have to use them or lose them?) and that is easily the most fun I've had doing laundry ever.  And it seems to have worked just fine too! 

alymsto
alymsto

What do you use for pre-treating stains? 

WendySmith1
WendySmith1

Hi Karen I was wondering if I could substitute ivory soap for the castle soap?


larsenfamily
larsenfamily

I see in the comments that this works well for HE washers.  How about for plain old top load machines?  Also, can this be made ahead in large batches and stored?  Would you do anything different if you were making a bunch and storing it?

diya07
diya07

Hi, i would like to make detergent following this receipe. My washer is very very old and there are no compartments except for liquid bleach. how do i use this receipe. Put everything in the water ?

rusl
rusl

Does anyone have experience using this recipe in High Efficiency (HE) washers? Is there anything I need to be aware of or modify? Also, do you have any recipes for fabric softener alternatives? Thanks.

McKenna
McKenna

Just a brief query: where do you put the citrus enzyme? In the washer itself? or in the dispenser? Also, in the Whirlpool front loader, the castille soap hardens and plugs the dispenser. So I've had to put the washing/baking sodas in the dispenser, the vinegar in the dispenser (where the fabric softener would normally go), and the castille soap in the washer itself. But where do I add the citrus enzyme, which is fermenting nicely on my counter. Thank you for all of these hints and recipes!

Sarah
Sarah

Can you clarify - did you mean WHEREVER you input "1TBSP" you intended "1CUP"?

Bonnie White
Bonnie White

Hi Karen, I noticed a difference between your original recipe and the non-Borax one. You put 1 Tablespoon of the ingredients in the non-Borax and 1/2 T in the original. Is that correct? Also, you added citric acid in the non-Borax recipe - how come? Thanks for your help - I'm excited to give this a try, Bonnie

Cindy
Cindy

Did you add vinegar to your washes in the past? Because that is probably what is helping to keep your front loader mold & mildew free. It is why vinegar makes such a great household cleaner & cleaner ingredient! It will kill over 80% of mold & mildew species. Also hydrogen peroxide will kill almost 100% of mold & mildew. So while I add white vinegar to most of my loads of laundry, helping to clean & detoxify the washer, I will run an empty-load with a cup of hydrogen peroxide for extra mildew killing power at least once a month!

Dawnmarie
Dawnmarie

I'm so glad to have found your recipe. I've been wanting to try a homemade laundry detergent but have been reluctant because I too have eczema and allergy sensitive skin. I'm already on All Free and Clear which keeps the hives at bay but still have the eczema flare ups of course. I'm definitely going to give your recipe a try.

Jen
Jen

Would this work in an HE front loader too?

Lisa
Lisa

I use 1/4-1/2 cup of vinegar in my rinse cycle. I started doing this when my kids were babies and it stopped skin break out bumps on on of their faces. Also great for static cling. I am happy to know about this sans borax - thanks for the tip!

Jenn Flynn-Shon
Jenn Flynn-Shon

I haven't had a chance to try either yet but I like to eliminate steps wherver possible so I'll be giving the sans Borax version a try. Now that we're in our house & have a little extra storage space for stuff I fully intend to start whipping up a whole slew of your recipes! Thanks for sharing this!

JanineAllard
JanineAllard

I noticed I have a "bleach" compartment. Can I put the liquid Dr. Bronner's in there? Thanks!

ecokaren
ecokaren moderator

@alymsto I use Oxy Clean powder on stubborn stains. It's safe on my skins sensitive skin. 

Latest blog post: microwave oven

ecokaren
ecokaren moderator

@larsenfamily Yes. You can use it for top loaders. If you are going to mix a big batch to use, the powder might get clumpy. You can place silicone desiccant packets in the container and you shouldn't have clumping problems. 

ecokaren
ecokaren

Yes, this is great for front loader. No suds and it works great! I use vinegar as fabric softener and I love it!

MGoose
MGoose

@McKenna & @ecokaren  Hello, I just came across your post and I have a quick question since I have an HE front loader washer. The castile soap that you throw directly into the washer, do you put it into an empty bin or directly on top of a load of clothes? Thanks!

ecokaren
ecokaren

Hi McKenna, Dishwasher - I pour the citrus enzyme directly into the dishwasher along with the washing soda and dishwashing liquid. For the washing machine, I put all the powder in the "powder" compartment and I never had a problem with clumping. And I put "liquids" (vinegar and citrus enzyme) in the "Fabric Softener" compartment. Make sure that your powder compartment is for "powder". I had to take out the little basket for detergent in order to use the compartment for powder. The basket is for liquid detergent. Hope that helps.

ecokaren
ecokaren

This recipe is for one load. But the ratio is the same. In other words, if you want to make a batch with 1CUP of each ingredients and use 4 TBSP of the mixture for one load, that will work too. Still use 1 CUP of vinegar per load. Hope that helps.

ecokaren
ecokaren

Hi Bonnie, Sorry I missed your comment. Yes, I am using 1 TBSP of each ingredient and citric acid for this formula to add a little more cleaning power and to eliminate any hard water build up. But if your water is ok, you don't need citric acid. Hope that makes sense.

karen
karen

Hi Cindy, I always used vinegar with my wash but when I used liquid detergent, it created that funky smell. But after 'washing' my washer as per my post, it eliminated it somewhat but it wasn't until I switched to my homemade powder detergent that the smell went away completely. I use HP for other disinfecting but not in my wash. But I am planning to use it for brightening my wash. So when I consistently use it, it will kill whatever is lurking in the machine. Thanks for the tips!

karen
karen

I am not sure if this formula would keep the hives away totally but I am confident that this recipe will help as it has worked on my kids eczema flare ups. At least the areas that touch their clothes haven't gotten worse. Did you know that even some of the "gentle" commercial detergents contain carcinogenic chemicals? Read about the petition here. http://groovygreenlivin.com/2012/02/tell-tide-to-remove-a-cancer-causing-chemical-from-its-detergent/ I hope this formula works for your Eczema. As a mom of two kids with moderate to severe flare ups, it's a very frustrating condition to battle.

karen
karen

Hi Jen, YES! Washing Soda doesn't create suds so it's perfect for HE. I have HE and tried different portions and this formula works great!

ecokaren
ecokaren

Hi Lisa, Thanks for your comment. I just noticed an error in my recipe. I meant to say 1 CUP and not Tbsp. Typing to fast....Yes, vinegar works magic in laundry. And so happy not to have to use Borax.

McKenna
McKenna

That did it! You know, when in doubt, read the directions. The Whirlpool doesn't have a basket, but a slide that you place in two different positions: one for liquid, one for powder. Thank you!

Theresa
Theresa

Eczema is an indicator that the LIVER has issues. Talk to an herbal professional for help, not a doctor they will just want to give you pills that will work for a week or two. It's the liver people and other skin conditions are an indicator of lung issues. Check out the chinese face map. You'll love it and has so much info.

Dawnmarie
Dawnmarie

That's why I really want to start making my own. I know I'm sensitive to dyes, fragrances and some of the preservatives so making my own should help with controlling that too. And since we're hoping to adopt soon - I really like the idea of limiting exposure for our future baby.

ecokaren
ecokaren

Awesome! Great that you noticed the different positions for powder and liquid. And yeah, I know what you mean by 'reading' the directions. Those things are pesky secrets sometimes.