Kitchen Hint: Homemade laundry soap for HE (high-efficiency) washers

Kirk’s Castile bar soap

By Catherine Haug, February 12, 2017 (image, right from Amazon (1))

Back in 2013 we had a gathering with Sheree Tompkins on Homemade Laundry Soap. Her recipe can be used in standard or HE (high-efficiency) washers because it is a low-suds recipe. This posting offers another HE option, from Wellness Mamma (2).

Like Sheree’s recipe, this one also requires grating a bar of real soap, such as Kirk’s Castile pictured above, Dr Bronner’s Pure Castile bar soap, homemade soap (see also Gathering Summary: Making Soap at Home, by Kathy Mansfield, January 26, 2011). Fels Naphtha is an old-fashioned option but has some questionable ingredients if you care about the environment.

Also included is Wellness Mamma’s borax-free laundry cleaner (two ingredients added separately to the washer).

About ingredients: 

Washing soda is sodium carbonate (Na2CO3); the most common brand is Arm and Hammer. It is more alkaline (caustic) than baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), which makes it a better cleaner. Some grocers carry it; it is also available online such as Amazon.

Borax, such as 20 Mule Team Borax, is a very efficient but oft misunderstood cleaner. It is not the same as boric acid (which is considered toxic); rather it is a stable salt of boric acid. While it is generally safe for external use, keep it out of reach of small children. Wellness Mamma has this to say about its safety (3):

I could not find any data that was compelling enough for me to avoid natural borax powdercompletely. Obviously, I would not ingest it or feel comfortable using it in cosmetic or food preparations.

At the same time, most products I use borax in (like All-purpose Cleaner and Laundry Detergent) aren’t coming in direct, undiluted contact with my skin, I’m not ingesting them and I’m not getting them in or near my eyes, so most of the concerns and warnings with borax are not valid.

Also, I’m using homemade products with borax to replace things like ‘regular laundry detergent or cleaners that rate “D” or “F” on the EWG Database’…

The [Material] data sheet does give borax a safety rating of “1” which is the same as baking soda and salt.(4,5)

However, if you prefer not to use borax, Wellness Mamma offers other options (2).

Sal Suds is a ‘natural’ detergent that contains sodium lauryl sulfate as the second ingredient. Other ingredients are (7): Water, Coco-Betaine, Decyl Glucoside, Abies Siberica (Siberian Fir) Needle Oil, Picea Glauca (Spruce) Leaf Oil, Citric Acid, Sodium Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Potassium Hydroxide.

Oxygen booster is a combination of ingredients that break down into harmless, biodegradable water, oxygen and soda ash to clean stains (9). See Live Simply blog for instructions on making your own (8), or purchase a product such as Oxi Clean or Nellie’s All-Natural Oxygen Brightener (6).

Wellness Mamma’s Laundry Soap Recipe


  • bar of grated bar soap (homemade or natural store bought)
  • 1 cup of washing soda
  • 1 cup of borax (or additional washing soda); see also borax-free option, below
  • 20 drops of lemon or lime essential oils
  • optional: 1 cup of oxygen booster, such as Oxi Clean (Wellness Mamma uses Nellie’s All-Natural Oxygen Brightener that comes in a tin (available on Amazon (6))
  • optional (added to rinse cycle): ½ cup white vinegar


  1. Grate the soap using a hand grater or food processor. Grate into fine particles so it dissolves easily.
  2. Carefully mix with the washing soda and borax (use gloves or a spoon as these can by drying if used directly on skin)
  3. Add essential oils and stir.
  4. Store in an air-tight glass jar.
  5. Use 1-2 tablespoons per load. Add 1 tablespoon of oxygen booster if needed… [such as for] white loads.
  6. Optional:  add ½ cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle [helps remove the soap from the fabric, and neutralizes the alkalinity of the soap].

Wellness Mamma’s Borax Free Laundry Soap

This recipe is also from Wellness Mamma (2):

“A simple borax-free option (that doesn’t require grating) is:

  •  2 Tbsp Sal Suds (such as Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner (7))
  • ¼ cup baking soda OR 2 Tbsp washing soda (optional)

Just add those at the beginning of the wash cycle.

For an extra boost, add ¼ – ½cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle. This step is entirely optional but seems to help keep clothes from pilling and looking worn.”


  1. Amazon image:
  2. Wellness Mamma, HE laundry detergent recipe:
  3. Wellness Mamma, Is Borax Safe:
  5. Material Data Sheet on Borax:
  6. Amazon: Nellie’s All-Natural Oxygen Brightener (
  7. Amazon: Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds (
  8. Live Simply on Homemade Oxygen Booster:
  9. Love to Know blog on the Chemistry of  OxiClean:

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