It All Comes Out in the Wash

What constitutes clean? Have you ever stopped to think about it? I’m sure we all agree that, in the simplest terms, it means unsoiled and without dirt. It seems to me that once we go beyond, the definition can get a bit fuzzy. I’d like to know where the word “antibacterial” fits in. Does something have to be super sterilized and surgery-ready to qualify as clean? And while we’re on the subject, what’s the deal with “fragrance,” “phosphates,” and “phenols?”

There is plenty of debate on the interwebs regarding the benefits/detriments of the plethora of additives in any of the products we consume. Rather than entrench this post in the veritable who dunnit of  scientific sanitary advances, I’m going to sidestep it all and pose one simple question: Is it really necessary?

My answer is, no. Probably not. If you get back to what CLEAN really means, fresh scent does not indicate clean. Extra-whitened does not promise clean. And super extra concentrated formula certainly does not guarantee clean.

So in an effort to strip away the unneeded, I provide to you my recipe for basic laundry detergent. Using Borax (a natural mineral compound), washing soda (Sodium carbonate), and regular old soap, you can rinse away your grime knowing that you’ve eliminated unnecessary, non-biodegradable chemicals from your washing routine.

What you’ll need:

  • 3 bars of soap (real soap, not cleansing bars – just read your labels)
  • 3 cups of washing soda
  • 3 cups of Borax


1.  Grate the bars of soap using cheese grater.

It's the soap that floats!
Looks grate!

2.  Measure out the washing soda and Borax.

The name says it all.
With a picture of a picture of a picture of a picture...

3. Pour all ingredients into food processor and pulse until blended. If your food processor is tiny like mine, just mix it in batches.

Who are you calling flaky?

The finished product will look indistinguishable from store-bought detergent, but with one bonus; you only need around a tablespoon per load!


*Please note, Halitrax does not endorse or condemn specific brands.*

13 thoughts on “It All Comes Out in the Wash

  1. So this is for a dry powder? I am still curious about how exactly my mum would make laundry detergent when she would stir a cauldron of some boiling and bubbling concoction.
    I assume the soda doesn’t leave a residue? I clean with it, and I always have to make sure that I rinse everything really well, or it leaves a gritty film behind.
    Anyway, seems rad – no scent!

  2. Gill, the trick to using powder detergent (as I learned the hard way) is to put the soap into the water first, and let it “bubblize” in the water. Otherwise, you end up with those terrible soap scum lines. HORRIFYING! But easy to avoid, methinks.

    Krista, this is a fantastic idea. The washing machine in my apartment has a built-in liquid detergent dispenser. I’m not sure how I could make it work in there. BUT! I’d totally be keen to see your before and after shots of some clothes you wash. You just have to make it dramatic, like you fell in a mud puddle, or crawled on your hands and knees across the commons. You’re a soccer mom too, right?

    • Not sure where the recipe is but if I recall correctly It was all of the ingredients Krista used but with water added & heated to emulsify everthing.

      I later switched to Ivory soap powder, because it was additive free. When they changed Ivory formula to a more chemical detergent version I switched to The new plant based dye & perfume free laundry soap – Arm & Hammer Essentials – being one.

      Read labels & know what you are putting on & into your body! Consider doing a piece on azodicarbonamide. It’s a nasty additive that’s being put in our flour products. Love the alternative stuff, girls. Keep up the good work:D

  3. Gill, I’ve seen people make liquid versions of this recipe as well. It’s quite similar and basically involved pre-dissolving everything in a pot of boiling water then using as you would liquid detergent.

    I’ve found this works best with hot water and, as Jan said, adding the soap to the water first, then the clothes. I should add that the speed of your agitator makes a difference as well. Gentle settings (like cool water) may not dissolve all the soda as effectively as normal/cotton/etc. settings.

    Jan, perhaps before and after shots are in the future for Halitrax. Oh, and readers, stay tuned for some bathtub laundry shananigans!

  4. Great idea! Bulk Barn sells those blocks of soap for about $2, I pick them up for handwashing delicates and for stain removal. Smear it on your stain then toss in the washing machine, I’ve gotten grape juice out of my daughter’s favourite pink dress.

    This is a great recipe for freshening your carpet, sprinkle it on and use one of those swifffer-like things (with a reusable, microfibre cloth) dampened with vinegar and water (1:1) and rub it swiffer all over the carpet. Allow it to dry and vaccum. Smells lovely.

    Just a note, Borax is incredibly toxic. It does not take much to poison you or a pet. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe. Our is in the locked cabinet, use gloves when you use it and be careful about breathing it in. When I use it to clean the carpet, I always lock up the cats and wait until my kids aren’t home.

    Awesome recipe! I followed through from Twitter (I’m @MsJoyFG). Good for you ladies.

    • Good point Joy, just because something is natural, doesn’t mean that it’s safe (rhubarb leaf salad, anyone?). I personally only use Borax when making detergent and store it in a kitty-safe location the rest of the time. When it comes down to it though, the point of this recipe isn’t only to provide the natural or biodegradable alternative, but to encourage us to examine what exactly is in the products we consume. While some products are able to be completely replicated in more natural or safer ways, sometimes it may only mean choosing the lesser of two evils.

      Is the Bulk Barn soap laundry soap specifically? I’ve tried some of their goats milk bars and they’re great! Definitely recommend.

  5. I love home cleaning product recipes! yeah!

    Anything for cleaning soap scum out of the shower? I haven’t had much luck with ones I have found online. We’re moving next week and I have to do the dreaded Deep Clean.

  6. Great post Krista! I think it’s a great idea to use home-made spray cleaner as well (vinegar/borax/lemon juice… works just as good as the store-bought stuff, with no nasty smell!). However my Mum’s tried your recipe for laundry before, but finds that it leaves a residue on her clothes. I wonder if there’s a way to make sure that doesn’t happen? Or maybe she could have done something differently?

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