Natural Laundry Detergent


Borax, washing soda — not baking soda, but washing soda — and a bar of grated Zum goat’s milk soap, and water; let it sit overnight; shake before use, and use vinegar for fabric softener
I shook the bottle on the right just before taking the picture

So…December 31, at the grocery store, contemplating my next recipe: what to make? I meandered to the little section where they mostly have Burt’s Bees products and a few other things; I picked up a locally bottled bottle of emu oil. Hmmm….then picked up the baobab oil. I was googling both of those, not knowing what exactly their properties are, and three ladies, each from a different generation, sauntered by. It sounded like they were from Missouri, in for a funeral. They were debating the propriety of buying store-brand toilet paper for “Mom’s house.” One said out of respect for Mom, she’d buy it herself and not worry about getting paid for it.

Ah…sounds somewhat familiar.  My family and I have been through the same experience this year, with my mother walking on.

They were just cruising by, as I stood there, trying to stand out of their way, waiting on the iPhone to pick up the website telling me about baobab oil.

One of the ladies remarked about the Zum products there on the end cap. The youngest one, about the age of my future daughter-in-law, and who looked for all the world like her, even sounded like her, said “oh yeah, I use those to make laundry detergent.”


I said “how do you make laundry detergent?”

She told me — it’s the usual borax and washing soda and 2 gallons of water, bring that to a gentle boil, then shred one bar of Zum goat’s milk soap, gradually add that to the boiling powder & water mixture, stir it all in, and let it cool in a big bucket. It forms a gelatinous substance, she said.

Aha! The borax and washing soda mix — and instead of Fels Naptha, she uses Zum! Any scent! WOW!

  • 1 Cup Borax
  • 1 Cup Washing Soda 
  • 1 Bar of … Zum!

IMG_2244The washing soda and borax were the next things on my list — no kidding. I have them already, but use them, and am about out of them. I picked out (it’s hard to choose; they all smell SO good) five Zum soaps!

So I told them — by that time it was all three of them — about the makeup recipes I’d just found: arrowroot, cocoa powder, and cinnamon. You can put it on your face AND eat it right off again.  And you can make eyeliner from burnt finely-ground almonds.  Who knew!

I mixed this up on New Year’s Day and washed a few loads of laundry with it after letting it sit overnight.  For big loads I use 1 recycled yogurt cup (1/2 cup) of detergent; for small loads I use half a yogurt cup (1/4 cup) of detergent.  In the automatic softener dispenser, instead of fabric softener, I put a matching amount of plain white vinegar — so, when I use 1 full yogurt cup of detergent, I use 1 full yogurt cup of vinegar, and it comes out in the rinse cycle when it’s supposed to.

You have to shake up the jar of laundry detergent before you use it.  That’s pretty much it.  Just use it as you would regular laundry detergent.

I picked a bar of Lime-Basil Zum soap for my first recipe; it’s a lovely light sage green and smells soooooo good!  And it works just as well as regular laundry detergent, I’d say, although I haven’t rigorously, scientifically tested it.

Here, however, is someone who did do a comparison test:  And based on this webpage, I decided to go with the above recipe.  Everyone on all the blogs I’ve read online uses Fels Naptha soap.  I did not; I don’t like the smell of Fels Naptha and I am suspicious of some of its ingredients.  I was tickled to just kind of serendipitously run into someone who used Zum.  That’s a winner, to me!


Edit:  It’s now April 5 and I’m going to make my second batch of laundry detergent.  One batch has lasted this long (three months).  I still have half a recycled orange juice bottle of the original recipe, so I probably wouldn’t actually have to make another recipe for another few weeks or a month, but I’m in the mood to do it today.  One Zum bar…$3…the other ingredients, probably under a dollar combined.  This time it will be mint flavor!



About Susan Bame

Writer, Mediator, Facilitator, Teacher, fascinated with indigenous forms of conflict resolution. I love watching people become empowered. I have a master's degree in conflict resolution and a personal interest in organic food, detoxing and healing the body, alternative holistic approaches to health, self-empowerment and win-win solutions through mediation, Structured Water™, and energetic healing. I lived on the Omaha Reservation in northeast Nebraska for ten years, worked with Native families in the area, and have a great interest in Native history, culture, practices, traditions, stories, and current affairs. View all posts by Susan Bame

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