Homemade Laundry Detergent, Charlies & Soap Nuts

washer-machineI have been exploring the world of various natural laundry detergents in my home after choosing to avoid borax in my cleaning, which is a common ingredient in homemade varieties. Most commercial detergents are filled with harsh chemicals and the natural alternatives often contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and other ingredients that are now being debated over their safety. Most commerical detergents leave perfumes (cover scents), brighteners, and/or fabric softeners on your clothes to cover up the fact that the detergent really didn’t clean anything. These additives can easily cause skin irritations. I have found some frugal natural alternatives!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Recipe adapted from Green Clean by Linda Hunter

1 cup castile liquid soap (Dr. Bronner’s or Mountain Rose Herbs are good choices as they are organic and main ingredients are coconut oil & olive oil) OR Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds
2 cups water
1/3 cup salt
1 cup baking soda or washing soda

Warm the salt and baking soda in water until mostly dissolved. Transfer to a one gallon container. Add your soap fill the rest of the jar with water, this giving you 1 gallon of detergent. Use 1/4 -1/2 cup per load, depending upon how dirty the load is. Add a tablespoon or two of vinegar to your wash during the rinse cycle. This works as an effective  fabric softener and disinfectant. Depending upon the hardness of your water, you may want to decrease the water quantity or increase the soap quantity.

Please note: do not add essential oils to your detergent. These oils will break down the fiber in your clothing. If you want a particular fragrance, try putting a few drops of essential oils on a rag and throwing it in the dryer. This will add fragrance but not transfer to your clothing.

Review: This recipe does clean very well, although I was not impressed by the cleaning job it did on my cloth diapers. Hard to give an exact price calculation on this one, but I figured this recipe makes enough detergent for 64 loads (at 1/4 cup per load) and with the ingredients costing no more than $4.00 (on the generous side), your total cost is most likely less than $0.06 per load.

charlies-soapCharlies Soap

Charlies Soap is an non-toxic, biodegradable soap that works effectively on tough cleaning jobs. It is highly concentrated so you only have to use 1 Tbsp per load. It is made with a unique blend of biodegradable coconut-based detergents and high-grade, completely soluble, Green River washing soda. Made in the USA.

Review: I love how Charlies Soap dissolves so well in all water temperatures and you only have to use 1 Tbsp per load. It is non-suding, but cleans remarkably well. We have found this detergent helps us avoid diaper rashes, although other reviews say some have experienced reactions to it. This costs about $0.11 per load if you purchase the 5 gallon bucket, which is a large up front purchase of $144. Otherwise, it costs approximately $0.17 per load. If you go in with friends on a bucket purchase, it is definitely a reasonable price.

picture-5Soap Nuts

Soap Nuts are the only laundry soap that grows on trees, thus giving us the most sustainable and natural option out there. It is 100% safe and natural for the most sensitive skin. Soap nuts are the dried fruit of the Chinese Soapberry tree. They contain saponin, a natural cleaner. They are simply harvested, de-seeded, and then dried in the sun. Great for hard water and high efficiency machines. It is biodegradable, hypo-allergenic, brightens colors, low sudsing, and contains a natural fabric softener. You can reuse a handful of nuts for 5 or more loads (depending upon water temperature, etc), and then they can be added to your compost! Most soap nut orders come with a reusable cotton bag which you use to place the nuts in and then throw in the washer, keeping them contained. The best price I have found is the NaturOli Soap Nuts. If you buy it in larger quantities ($50 for 800 loads), you are looking at around $0.07 per load! You can also purchase them in smaller quantities, which will be no more than $0.12 per load. Plus you will save additional money as there is no need for dryer sheets or fabric softeners.

By simply boiling soap nuts in water you can use it for: all household cleaning, liquid hand soap, plant cleaner, jewelry cleaner, produce wash, toothpaste, and even shampoo! It has also been found to be effective for skin allergies. For all the how-to’s, try the Soapnut Soak. You can even use some of this liquid in your dishwasher! I am in the process of experimenting further with soap nuts for these uses. I will let you know how it goes!

Review: When I first used soap nuts, I was a little turned off by the fact that they are rather sticky to touch, they reminded me of dried prunes. Otherwise getting over the sticky feeling, they cleaned our clothes perfectly fine. No strong smell of detergent, just nice and clean! Again, perfectly safe for all cloth diapers and cleaned them well. By the way, if you are washing in cold water, it is best to place your bag of nuts in a bowl of hot water to soak for 5-10 minutes. This makes them more effective in their cleaning power.

UPDATE: The first brand I tried was Maggie’s Soap Nuts (as described above). NaturOli’s were quite the opposite – no stickiness whatsoever and carefully inspected for quality nuts. No chipped nuts and not packaged in plastic wrap as Maggie’s came to me.

All these recipes or products above are non-sudsing, But don’t be afraid or think that your clothes will not be clean because of this. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is the additive that brings the suds. Suds are not necessary for clean clothes – trust me! All recipes work equally well work in hard and soft water and high efficiency compatible.

UPDATE: Please note that after extended use of soap nuts with my cloth diapers (Bum Genius pocket diapers), they started to repel and leak profusely. Once I switched back to Charlies Soap for my dipes, they began working properly. So I can unfortunately no longer recommend their use for cloth diapers. But I continue to still highly recommend their use for all your clothing, towels, sheets, and other household needs.

Price Comparison

Let’s conclude with a little price comparison to some standard brands on the market (as originally published here):

The following are various commercial detergents in typical sizes and pricing. The numbers of loads are as per the manufacturers’ instructions.

- Seventh Generation’s Free and Clear Natural Laundry Detergent 2x Ultra: $11.99 for 50 loads. ($0.239 per load)

-BioKleen Liquid Laundry Detergent: $14.39 for 64 loads. ($0.224 per load)

- All’s Small and Mighty 3x Concentrate for HE washers: $8.49 for 32 loads. ($0.265 per load)

- ECOS Laundry Detergent, Ultra Concentrated with Soy Fabric Softener: $9.49 for 26 loads ($0.367 per load)

- Tide’s 2x Concentrated Laundry Detergent: $14.99 for 32 loads ($0.468 per load!)

- Dreft’s 2x Concentrated Baby Laundry Detergent: $31.99 for 110 loads ($0.290 per load)

As soap nuts are very frugal, can accomplish so many different purposes in one product, and is completely sustainable…that seems to be the way to go!

Stay tuned for a Soap Nut giveaway and further details on how to use it for multi-purposing around your home!

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

254 Responses to Homemade Laundry Detergent, Charlies & Soap Nuts

  1. LoadsofLove March 19, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Regarding Update: I’ve never heard of soap nuts repelling or leaking water on diapers. Moms with kids in diapers are some of the biggest fans of soap nuts.

    • CHRISTINA LANDRY December 16, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

      I have been using soapnuts on my diapers for a couple of months and dont have that problem, maybe it takes longer but my diapers are not even repelling a little. Hmmm now Im curious. I love love love my soapnuts for my diapers, I handwash them with it and hang them to dry and they are clean and nice and soft too, even after hanging inside in my window.

  2. Blake Morgan February 26, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    I am a college student and am working with my mom to get our all 100% natural pure essential oil laundry detergent off the ground. Check out our blog and come learn more! pure laundry.blogspot.com

  3. Kelsi October 4, 2012 at 3:55 am #

    Hi Lindsay, I’ve been using your homemade laundry soap recipe and love it. I’m wanting to look more into the reasons for/against using Borax, and you’re one of the few who don’t. I clicked on the link in your post, but the page is gone and I wondered if you had any other thoughts/posts/research on the pros/cons of Borax? thanks!

  4. Anna July 31, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    I just made this, and the baking soda fizzed when I added the water. Did that just totally null any benefit it would have had? Do the salt and soda ever completely dissolve? I’m gonna try washing my sheets with this tomorrow.

  5. Melissa Boggs June 12, 2012 at 7:12 am #

    I realize this post is long outdated, but I had a question in regard to your use of soap nuts for cloth diapers. Did you ever strip your diapers and try to keep using soap nuts, or just automatically switch? I find that I occasionally have to strip my diapers (with some blue Dawn or bleach for any microfiber (BG actually recommends this, and Fuzzibunz recommends it once monthly for their microfiber inserts. I try to avoid the bleach, but do strip occasionally, as it seems a concern no matter how they are laundered) no matter what detergent I’m using. I really liked how my homemade soap nuts liquid worked on my diapers while I was waiting to receive my Charlie’s soap. Unfortunately, we seem to be some of the ones who experience rashes with Charlie’s, so I’m trying to sort out for sure what I want to do, and LOVE the multiple uses of soap nuts. Streamlining would be wonderful in this area! Do you remember how long you used soap nuts before noticing buildup problems?

    • Lindsay June 12, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

      Yes, I actively strip my diapers before switching detergents as it is essential. I personally just didn’t feel like they cleaned them thoroughly enough but you may have a different experience. It worked fine with prefolds in my experience but not with my pocket diapers.

  6. Shea May 25, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Okay, so I’ve been doing a little research on soap nuts and cloth diapering. We have hard well water and are on a tight budget so that’s what I’m trying to work with. After researching I found that the people who most liked soap nuts for cloth diapering were those who used Econuts, Naturoli nuts, and Yorganics (sp?). However many of these people also mentioned that after a couple months they had the need to strip their diapers. Now, the most effective way to do that, again after much research, was to use RLR Laundry Treatment. This has been raved about by many different CD moms who all use completely different detergents from eachother.
    I also found this to be the most cost effective way to launder your cloth diapers and other cloths.
    I am going to try NaturOli soap nuts purchased from Amazon ( around $.12/load) and RLR Laundry Treatment also purchased from Amazon ($1.60/month supply, if I strip diapers once a month).
    Another note, my parents have been using soap nuts for all 10 of them for about 7 months now and they do an average of 15 loads per week and they are just getting down to the bottom of a 1lb. bag! That’s over 420 loads for a 1lb. bag! That’s like 3x what they advertise it will do!

  7. Shea May 25, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    This is a very interesting and helpful article pertaining to using soap nuts with you cloth diapers. CHeck it out!


  8. Sophia May 24, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    I am so glad i found this site. i have been making my own laundry detergent using Borax for a few weeks and just realized I may be having a reaction to it, becoming very itchy whenver clothes touch me such as when i go to bed etc. Breaking out in firy hives then it goes away…my husband says it does the same for him. i posted a recipe for DIY detergent on my own webpage and I have been looking for another recipe to update it for those readers who may have a reaction to it as well, I love your idea of using castille soap. I am going to try that and give it my own spin. thank you for the laundry boost.

  9. Clarissa April 7, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    I know this is an old post, but I was wondering why you didn’t like the homemade soap for cloth diapers?

  10. Sam March 27, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    Awesome post friend. I must share it with the friend which use homemade detergent but sorry I use only Berry Soap

  11. Shelly February 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    I just wanted to mention that this laundry soap recipe works phenomenally well on makeup brushes, as well! The vinegar/ warm water trick did nothing for my foundation brushes, and face soap has never worked very well for me, either. I had some older brushes that I had not washed as I should, and had, for some time, been using them with Estee Lauder’s Double Wear foundation (one of the heaviest, longest-lasting foundations available). Needless to say, they were in bad shape and probably should have been thrown away. They now look like new! I cleaned them in a small bowl using the castile laundry soap recipe, and once all the makeup was gone, I swished them in a vinegar/water rinse with a few drops of tea tree and lavender essential oils to sanitize. Works beautifully!

  12. Nikki February 7, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    Is there anything wrong with using Oxyclean for your cloth diapers? I believe it is environmentally friendly. Another idea is to use a hand-cranked Wonder Clean Wonder Washer. It uses steam to blast through tough stains. My friend told me that her clothes have never been cleaner.

    • Lindsay February 7, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

      It is best to check with the manufacturer on that one.

    • Rachael March 5, 2012 at 7:52 am #

      Just commenting on the OxyClean comment here: I would suggest 2 things, 1) the main ingredient with Oxyclean is peroxide, so you can substitute direct peroxide. A friend of mine chooses to use it in all kinds of cleaning situations including carpet cleaning and in her laundry. 2) I choose to buy the OxyClean FREE which has less chemicals.

  13. Andrea Jardon January 25, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

    Have you every heard of or tried Country Save? http://www.countrysave.com/prods.php

  14. Shaina January 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    I just ran out of my usual homemade laundry detergent so perfect timing to try one of these! I think I’ll start with your homemade recipe since I fortunately have all those items on hand! I’ve been wanting to try soap nuts as well so maybe I’ll try those next. Thanks for sharing…and by the way I absolutely love your blog! :)

  15. Charlotte December 13, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    Hi! I was wondering how you figure you get 64 loads out of the first recipe? I think at 1/4 cup per load you should only get 16 loads. At 1/2 cup per load you would only get 8 loads out of a batch. Thanks!

    • Kitty December 13, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

      you’re not counting the gallon of water that you add after it’s all mixed. a gallon of water is 128 oz.

  16. Mindi October 24, 2011 at 4:59 am #

    I really do like this liquid detergent recipe! Even my husband likes it and he would really prefer for me to use a name brand detergent. I would like to know if anyone has used vinegar, instead of water, to make up the gallon of detergent after the salt, water, soap and the washing soda mixture?

    • Kitty December 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

      Soap is a base, remember science class? similar to baking soda. Vinegar removes soap, counteracts it. I don’t think they will do much to help you if they’re mixed together. try using the vinegar in the rinse to remove the soap residues for best results.

      • kathy March 5, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

        you can put the vinegar in a downy ball

  17. Amanda October 5, 2011 at 1:50 pm #


    I was wondering how you sanitized your diapers when you use Charlie’s Soap. I’ve been reading that it doesn’t disinfect really well and I love the idea of hanging diapers outside, but during the winter that will not work here.

    Do you use anything with the Charlie’s soap to sanitize? Also do you use your dispenser or just put it on top of the clothes?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Lindsay October 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

      No, I don’t find there is need for anything else besides Charlie’s soap powder. I put it in first allowing it to dissolve a bit before adding the diapers in the washer.

    • Cathy November 14, 2011 at 10:10 am #

      In response to sanitizing diapers (or any clothing) with a natural soap product, the temperature in the dryer is high enough that it does the sanitizing. It doesn’t whiten and brighten tho, for that you need another agent. If you don’t use a dryer, you would need another agent (like vinegar) in your wash to do the job. However, natural soap, by its very nature, is disinfectant. Adding borax, a natural chemical, helps break down the chemicals in water so that the positive natural soap chemicals, or surface active agents, can attach to the negative dirt chemicals and take them out of your clothing (or off your skin or other surface). Don’t be afraid of “chemicals”. Everything is a chemical! We, ourselves, are made up of thousands of chemicals. By the way, water is a chemical…It sustains life but it can also kill!

  18. Brittany September 1, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    Has anyone tried soap nuts or the homemade laundry detergent on sweaty, running clothes? Does it get rid of the stink?
    Thanks :)

  19. Nicole August 27, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    Hello –

    I’m wondering if someone can give me some advice. I tried Charlies and my son has developed a diaper rash that will not go away. Whether or not the detergent caused this is unknown though I’m suspicious since nothing else has changed (same cloth diapers, wipes) and no new foods have been introduced.

    Any good advice on diaper rashes?

    Has anyone else had any problems with Charlies?

    We cannot use soap nuts so I’m also curious about Rock’in Green?

    Sorry for all the questions.


    • Christine August 28, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

      I decided not to try Charlie’s after hearing numerous stories like yours. My guess is it most likely is that particular soap. Have you tried switching to a different brand to see if that clears it up?

      • Nicole August 30, 2011 at 6:44 am #

        Hi Christine – I’m in the process of stripping the diapers and then may try Rock’in Green. I really liked the way the diapers felt after using Charlies so I’m bummed that it didn’t work for us. One thing I have heard is that different soaps can react differently depending upon the water being used.

        His diaper rash is finally getting better (yeah!).


    • Lindsay August 29, 2011 at 6:05 am #

      You probably just need to strip your diapers. I found every time I changed diaper detergents things would get weird – diapers leaking or causing rashes. Try washing with one teaspoon of dawn dishwashing soap and then run through several hot washes to strip. I use Charlies all the time for my diapers without any issues. For diaper rashes, try my homemade recipe for diaper cream. It works great! Rock’in Green is another good detergent, it is just more expensive.

      • Nicole August 30, 2011 at 6:48 am #

        Hi Lindsay-

        Thank you for directing me to your diaper cream recipe. It looks great!

        I started stripping the diapers after reading your post and am going to give the Rock’In Green detergent a try. I really liked the way Charlies felt and your right the cost is much cheaper.

        Thanks again :-)


      • kris August 20, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

        Leave the diaper rash exposed to the sun or a light bulb had some persistent rash on one of my girls so when she was a new born i would have to lie her in her crib with a light bulb pointed at her bum later on when she moved more i found if i gave her an hour or so a day with no diaper the rash would not come back

    • Rebecca December 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

      Hi, I have never used any of the products before. I simply came across this webpage in search of a homemade laundry “recipe” and noticed your comment. Is your son allergic to tree nuts (especially coconut)??? I see that Charlie’s contains coconut. I know that any soaps with coconut in it bother my daughters skin and make her itchy. After taking her to an allergist, I discovered she has a very small allergy to tree nuts. It’s not life threatening – just uncomfortable.

      Just wanted to put in my “2 cents” in hopes that it may help! =)
      Good luck!

    • Sadie February 14, 2012 at 11:18 am #

      Hi, I had a diaper rash problem with my daughter…after a year of using the same diapers, same detergent (store bought), she got a rash that wouldn’t go away. After going to the doctor 2x, and trying various different creams, the only thing that got rid of her rash (almost immediately) was to use disposable diapers. My daughter has sensitive skin, and the only thing I could think of regarding the cloth diapers is that after using them for years (she is my 2nd child), that there must have been a build-up of something in the diapers that irritated her skin.

      • Felicia July 19, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

        Hello! The rash could also be caused by the skin being wet. We went through this with DS and he was red and his diaper area peeled when I wiped him. I tried lanolin, CJ’s ect… nothing worked. Then I read somewhere that a liner (wool or fleece) wicked away the moisture. His rash was gone within a couple of diaper changes. Hope this help’s cause rashes on little one’s is no fun!

    • Emily August 8, 2012 at 7:46 am #

      A buildup of ammonia in cloth diapers will burn the skin in short order, making it susceptible to staph infections. Staph is something we all carry on our skin but don’t normally contract. A staph infection in the diaper area looks like a red bump or bumps with an oozy center and it doesn’t heal well in the cloth diapering environment. Putting the child in disposables for a few days and treating the infection will clear it up but unless you thoroughly strip those cloth diapers you’ll have the same problem when you use them again.

  20. Andrea Bartholomew August 11, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    Love, love, love this blog!!:) I’ve gotten so many great ideas here, and this one I will definitely be trying out. It’s so amazing how dependent we all have become on big corporations for EVERYTHING! I dont begrudge these companies, I just want to be able to do for myself as much as i can. This blog has helped me so much in these efforts! God bless all the great contributors here!! Thanks for the awesome content!!

  21. Ronnie Turpiano June 25, 2011 at 3:33 am #

    Wow! There are no words…

  22. jenny poe June 19, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    I bought the Naturoli soap nuts a few months ago and have been using them religiously.. however- i’ve noticed that my clothes have not been getting clean, and they now have a sour smell to them like i haven’t washed my clothes in months. A girl at my work told me that my clothes smelled like “fried food” haha
    SO – I am retiring the soap nuts, as they’re not a good fit for me.. or maybe it’s our water type too.

    My husband is on his way to the store right now to find a different option, and a healthier one to tide or gain. :)

    Thought Id throw in my two cents.

  23. Sarah June 14, 2011 at 7:39 am #

    Wondering what water type you have? (used with soap nuts). I felt conned into buying some while at a natural store, haven’t tried them yet but wanted to until I read your update about cloth diapers. Was the diaper repelling or the inserts?

  24. Heather June 8, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    Looking for alternatives to laundry soap. Will the above recipe work on my HE machine? Thanks.

    • Lindsay June 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

      Yes. I’ve used it in my HE machine.

      • Lindsay Meadows February 4, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

        I am interested in trying this recipe, however, I’m not sure how to add the vinegar to the rinse cycle. Do I have to time it, or stand and watch it to know when the rinse cycle is?

        I love your website!

        Thank you,
        Lindsay Meadows

  25. Misty June 6, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    Has anyone tried using this recipe with a bar soap melted instead of the Dr. Bronner’s liquid? How did it turn out and how much did you use? 1/3 of a bar for the 1 gallon? I’ve seen a similar recipe but it uses a full bar but it’s for a lot more detergent. Thanks!

    • Kate September 10, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

      I just made this soap for a second time with some bar soap I made myself a while back. I use 1/2 bar; it is a smaller recipe, but you only use 1/4 cup per load so I think it event out :)

  26. Dan Martin June 2, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    This is a great article, you would think more people would avoid harsh chemicals for cleaning our clothes. Clothes are directly against your skill all day, this is probably where everyone should be most careful. Thanks for sharing this info.

  27. deanna h April 29, 2011 at 3:50 am #

    The Dr. Bronners Sal Suds does contain SLS in it. Is that bad for just laundry detergent? I have been making my laundry detergent for about 9 months now using Borax and really love it. But I want to try with Dr. Bronners since there is questions now concerning Borax.

  28. Jennie April 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    Hi Lindsay-
    I have heard that you shouldn’t use baking soda in the washing machine as it does something to the pipes. I really want to try to make my own detergent, especially because my clothe and especially the dish rags always seem to carry a smell with them. Tide seems to be the only thing that gets them really clean but it is so expensive and I am looking for a more frugal alternative. I have never hear of using castile soap like Dr. Bronners, it make me wonder. Have you ever tried the Dugger’s recipe?

    • Lindsay April 17, 2011 at 5:50 am #

      No sure about the baking soda issue, but I am sure it is something you could just remove from the recipe, as the Dr. Bronners is quite effective on its own. I have never tried the Duggar recipe.

  29. Jewel April 7, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    *Very thick, not very think. lol

  30. Jewel April 7, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    What consistency is your homemade detergent supposed to be? After sitting over night, mine turned very think.. like slightly more hard than Jello. Is that supposed to happen, or is it supposed to stay soupy? Thanks!

    • Lindsay April 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

      I have not experienced this, but I don’t think it will make any difference in the final run. Just use it the same way as if it was liquidy.

  31. Joyce Frankel March 8, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    I stumbled onto the website by accident and have found a gold mine!! Lindsey thank you so much for creating all of this. I’m telling all my friends about it and can’t wait to start trying out your ideas and recipes.

  32. IJBM March 4, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    Do you think I could use one of Dr. Bronner’s scented Castile varieties?

    • Lindsay March 4, 2011 at 11:31 am #

      Yes, but essential oils are not really recommended for your clothes as it break down the fiber.

  33. Julie March 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    An honest question for you… once you guys are overseas, what are you going to do about getting all these all natural products you like to use (like in deodorant, detergent, etc.)? Just wondering, because I’m not able to get lots of the ingredients these recipes call for (well, I could have them shipped for large amounts of $$$).

    • Julie H September 22, 2011 at 2:16 am #

      Julie, I understand your frustration.

      I too am overseas and cannot buy many of these natural ingredients either, but I think that it is great that Lindsay is doing what she can to live simply and use natural products with the resources she has in America and if God calls her overseas, I’m sure she will adjust and do her best with what she has there.

      Just because I can’t find a lot of natural products, doesn’t mean I don’t try to make do with what I have. I don’t know where you are or how primitive of an environment you are in, it may be truly impossible to get certain things, which is just part of life abroad.

      I live in China and after reading this blog I wanted to try to use more a natural and frugal laundry detergent, so I started researching. It turns out soap nuts are grown in China and I was able to order them online for a fraction of the price.

      One tip that has helped me find things in China is translating the scientific name. For example, translating “washing soda” could bring about a variety of results so try Sodium Carbonate or Na2CO3. Chinese are quite good at chemistry and this trick has helped me find everything from baking soda to borax (sodium borate decahydrate).

      I am not good at chemistry… so I use wolfram alpha to help me :-)


      I am still trying to find a local source for something similar to Dr. Bronner’s soap. Does anyone have any suggestions or ideas about how to make it yourself?

      • Shelly January 25, 2012 at 8:33 am #

        Yes! There is actually a tutorial on youtube called how to make liquid castile soap from scratch that is super helpful.

      • Judy March 21, 2012 at 3:45 am #

        I just noticed your post and I’m in China, too. WHERE did you find borax? I’ve been trying for a year with no luck. Any help would be most appreciated.

  34. Anianna February 24, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    The salt+baking soda+vinegar mix is also good for cleaning drains. The salt acts as an abrasive with the baking soda/vinegar action. Just put equal parts salt and baking soda at the drain and then pour vinegar on it. We do this regularly in the kitchen sink to keep the drain clean and we have used it to clear slow drains in bathrooms, as well.

    I use the NaturOli soapnuts for my laundry. Perfumes irritate me and when I switched to non-perfumed detergents, our laundry stunk. I’m convinced that the soapnuts are far superior to grocery store detergents because it gets the source of the smells out instead of simply covering it up with perfume. I also love that my clothes come out soft without softeners, even when we dry them on the line. This stuff is fantastic.

    We do get a little static without dryer sheets using the soapnuts in the wash, but a bit of fabric with some olive oil on it seems to reduce most static on almost everything. A load of only fleece comes out a little zappy, but not nearly as much as without the olive oil. I’m told that wool dryer balls will work, but I haven’t had a chance to try those yet.

  35. Jamie February 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    Have you done a review of Rockin’ Green detergent?

    • Lindsay February 9, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

      I have never personally tried it.

      • Jamie March 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

        My friend posted your blog on Facebook, and I love it! I actually work for Rockin’ Green if you ever want to try out some samples, let me know. We would love for you to do review. :)

  36. Jennifer January 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    Hi Lindsay!

    I’ve been following your Passionate Homemaking site for close to two years, and I cannot thank you enough for all of your advice, tips, and stories! When I first started reading, my husband was in the middle of his master’s degree and I was working full-time. We didn’t have any children, since we wanted me to stay at home (which wasn’t an option at that point), and I loved reading through all of your articles and dreaming of the day when I could put a lot of your “Mommy advice” into practice.

    My husband graduated from his program this past April and we moved from Oregon to Washington where he is now a pastor or family ministries…we love it! And the Lord has blessed us even more, as we are now expecting our first child, due in June!! We just discovered that we are having a little girl, and we are thrilled!

    All this to say…living on a pastor’s salary and having me stay home means that budgeting is an absolutely “must.” Though it will be difficult at times, I am honestly very thankful because we will be forced to keep a more heavenly perpective on material things and what really matters. We’ve decided to use cloth diapers for our little one, both to save on the cost and because it seems to be better for the health of our baby. I had a quick question for you: I know that you often make your own laundry soap (I do too…such a money saver!), but do you still use Charlie’s Soap for your diapers? I want to make mine last as long as possible (we’re going with BumGenius 4.0 one-size pocket diapers…they’re supposed to have better elastic than the 3.0, but we’ll see. If not, I know you have a blog about how to repair them!). I’m just trying to figure out what is the BEST way to wash the diapers and keep them going strong! :-)

    I love how passionate you are about the phenomenal call of being a wife and mother…it has been a huge blessing to me! I think you are a year or two younger than I am (I just turned 26), which means we’re about the same age. I feel like our generation hasn’t had near the exposure to what true womanhood is (in comparison to generations past), and it’s so encouraging to read your blog and know that there are other young women out in the world who desire to worship Christ in their daily lives of wifehood and motherhood, and raise up children in the knowledge and fear of the Lord. So, thank you for being such a wonderful encouragement and witness to all of us who desire to follow Him this way!!

    Blessings on you, Aaron, Karis, Titus and your new little one!!


    • Lindsay January 30, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

      Dear Jennifer,
      Thanks for sharing! It’s a joy to hear from you and hear about your new blessing! How exciting! Yes, I still use Charlies Soap for my cloth diapers. I found that anything else causes them to start leaking, smell, or repel after a few washes. Never have this issue with Charlies. God bless!

  37. Jess December 21, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    I halved the recipe and made a half gallon. I love this stuff! I’m using Dr.Bronner’s almond soap, so it smells yummy but doesn’t really leave a smell on the clothing. I am going to buy Rockin Green detergent for my cloth diapers, but using this on my clothes will be perfect! Thanks for the recipe. I have tried many homemade detergents and this is the only one I like.

  38. Day December 18, 2010 at 9:34 am #

    Recently, I stumbled upon your site and am enjoying reading your posts.

    I have made and used the Duggar family recipe for soap for almost two years. About six months ago some of my clothing starting smelling bad. After a little research the possible answer to this problem is the high content of polyester in some of our clothes. Polyester fibers are odoriferous and have to be treated so they won’t smell so bad. Supposedly, modern detergents take this into account and have additives that target this problem. Our little family tends to wear our clothing until they fall apart, so maybe families that have a higher clothing turnover would never experience this problem.

    Since I enjoyed the cost savings and the convenience of having materials on hand to make soap whenever I needed it (one vehicle), the search was on for a new recipe. I found one over at one of my favorite blogs: down—to—earth.blogspot.com. It is a dry recipe that has worked well for me for the past month or two, but is loaded with borax.

    I was intrigued by your post about the use of soap nuts. So I Googled for more info and found this at Wikipedia.

    “Most saponins, which readily dissolve in water, are poisonous to fish.[8]Therefore, in ethnobotany, saponins are primarily known for their use by indigenous people in obtaining aquatic food sources.”

    Are they tipping spears with this? Or just floating a few hundred on the surface of a pond, stream, etc? Gee…if we all start washing with this will fish start floating belly up downstream from our homes?

    I love the idea of something I could possibly grow in my own backyard and then use for washing, but I don’t want to do more harm than good.

    Another interesting side note according to Wikipedia, soapnuts are poisonous to cold blooded animals. Living in Oklahoma the land of poisonous snakes, I think I like this side effect. Just kidding (not) I know they serve their purpose. YIKES!

    I am very interested in any information that you or your readers have on this subject. Thank you very much!

    Blessings from the middle of the U.S.

    • Anianna February 24, 2011 at 8:05 am #

      You piqued my interest with your reference to the Wikipedia article on saponins and their use to poison fish. I checked out the articles referenced in the Wiki and the ones I have access to do not mention soy at all. The ones I don’t have access to don’t mention soy in the abstract. Regardless, that wasn’t enough for me.

      I am in school and currently have access to an extensive library of articles and peer reviewed materials. There are several articles regarding the use of plants to poison fish, including in the U.S. Midwest, and many of them refer to saponins, but not a one of them mentions soy. Several of these articles list the plants used by specific tribes and still soy is not included.

      I cannot definitively say that soy is not harmful to the environment, but I can find not evidence that it is.

    • Adica March 12, 2011 at 10:31 am #

      Since soap nuts/saponin are natural products, they fully biodegrades in the environment. So high concentrations would probably kill fish (or other cold-blooded animals), they’ll probably be fine with regular use because the bacteria, etc. will break them down until they’re not harmful any more. (Not so for unnatural harmful products!) :)

    • Kitty November 12, 2011 at 8:50 am #

      the saponins used to obtain fish as food are concentrated at the point of use, but dissipate rapidly and should not bother fish downstream. there’s much to much water in the streams and in the processing plant that clean out water before it goes into the waterways.

  39. Kevin November 14, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    Can you use this homemade soap in high-efficiency washers? We’ve read a lot about HE soap and most sites say HE soaps are low-sudding, which this soap is – so we assume it will work. Any feedback – please email.
    Kevin (and the fam)

    • Jess December 6, 2010 at 10:40 am #

      I’m using this homemade soap in my HE washer. I use 1/4 cup per load and it works great!

  40. Susanna November 3, 2010 at 10:36 am #

    Thanks so much for the great information! Do you think the Soap Nuts would work on 100% cotton pre-folds? Or am I better off not using them at all for cloth diapers?

    • Lindsay November 3, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

      Yes! They work great on prefolds. Just not on pockets.

      • Laura May 2, 2011 at 9:28 am #

        I know this is an old post, but I just got some Soap Nuts and a had a question with cloth diapers. Were the pockets that didn’t work made out of microfiber/polyester? I have all cotton prefolds, but a few microfiber inserts so I was wondering if that was where the problem is when Soap nuts didn’t work. If that’s the case, would the soap nuts cause problems for microfiber cleaning cloths also? I use these all the time for cleaning.

        • Lindsay May 2, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

          No, is was just the suedecloth/fleece that I had issues with using soap nuts. They worked fine on the microfiber inserts.

  41. Fletcher Prattis October 23, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

    This is probably one of the better articles I have located on this subject. Have you considered the other side of the topic of natural health? Personally, I think a decent argument could be made either way, but let me know if you have any more articles or sources on the Web that back up what you are proposing.

  42. CP October 21, 2010 at 6:41 am #

    I used to use Dr. Bronner’s castile soap for my laundry, but over time I had terrible buildup issues, causing smells and mildew problems on all my clothing. Soon after switching back to commercial laundry detergents, the buildup problems went away. I do not recommend using castile soap on clothes.

    Here are some recipes I plan to try:
    1 part ground bar soap and 1 part washing soda (or 2 parts baking soda) as a basic laundry detergent. (Basically the same as Charlie’s Soap)
    2 parts washing soda, 1 part salt, and 1 part ground bar soap as a detergent good for diapers.

    • leanne January 2, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

      i just wanted to say that i use the castile soap with vinegar, and have had no build up problems at all… i use 1 part castile soap, 2 parts water, 1 part vinegar and that’s it!
      i don’t really get the salt thing…i see how it would soften the water. well, maybe i’ll add it to the mix and see.
      oh, ya..for the softener., i use a mixture of water, vinegar and baking soda.I put the baking soda and warm water in a BIG container (like 1 cup soda and 2 cups water) , mix them up well, and then SLOWLY add 1 cup of vinegar. this mixture will foam up a LOT at first, which is why u make it in a big container with a lid lol. works great
      gl with everything!
      happy 2011

  43. Cristin October 15, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    Hi, I need your help. I’ve been attempting to make the homemade laundry detergent 3 times this week and can’t get it right. I have been making a half batch from what you put on here b/c I have a half gallon container. Once I put the baking soda and salt into the container I add 1/2 cup of soap and then water and all it does it bubble and separate so there are bubbles on top and water in the middle and then the undissolved bs on the bottom. I’ve let it sit and shook it up but it still comes out super watery into the washing machine.

    Do you have any idea what I could be doing wrong.


    • Lindsay October 17, 2010 at 6:27 am #

      Yes, this recipe does not gel up as you might expect. It is watery but still just as effective. Simply shake up before use.

    • Cheryl August 30, 2011 at 5:30 am #

      You have to warm the salt and soda with some water first – to disolve. Then add the soap and the rest of the water.
      See if that helps

  44. Charmaine October 11, 2010 at 5:06 pm #

    Hello! I want to thank you for the genuine inspiration that you have given me, to find purpose in my homemaking as well as trying your recipes. I have made this detergent recipe twice now, and the baking soda really does not dissolve. I just stir it up before putting it in the wash, but I wonder if I’m doing something wrong.

    • Lindsay October 11, 2010 at 7:58 pm #

      No, I should clarify that it doesn’t really dissolve completely. I always would shake it up as well.