You can help protect your baby’s skin by laundering his clothes with detergent containing just the most basic ingredients. That means without questionable additives like sodium laurel sulfate (which shows up even in many baby detergents) or other possible irritants. Plus, making your own detergent is quick and cheap! Check out the recipe and tips below to make laundry day greener.

EasyDIYBabyLaundryDetergent-2

Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

Makes appox 1/2 gal.

And… that’s it, two ingredients! Chop up or grate the soap and mix with the washing soda. Use 1-2 tablespoons per load of laundry.

What about borax? Many homemade laundry detergents use borax. However, there’s concern over whether or not it’s safe and a possible skin irritant. Furthermore, most commercial detergents contain either washing soda or borax, so it is not necessary. It is also most effective in hot water, so if you wash your clothes in cold or warm water, washing soda is a better choice.
For loads of whites, add 1/2 cup of peroxide in the bleach compartment. The peroxide and washing soda together do the same thing as OxiClean.

What about fabric softener?

Instead of commercial fabric softeners, keep a bottle of white distilled vinegar in your laundry room. Add about 1/2 cup per load to the rinse compartment. Vinegar is a great fabric softener and also helps remove leftover soap residue.

You should always wash new clothes once or twice before use to get rid of any sizing or chemical finishes that may be applied (although some like formaldehyde are difficult and perhaps impossible to remove, so buy organic when possible!) Individuals with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) often soak clothes in vinegar before use. So if your baby has sensitive skin, you can also stop the wash cycle and let the clothes soak with vinegar or run them through a few extra rinse cycles with vinegar.

Drying

Go even more natural on laundry day by eliminating dryer sheets, which commonly contain a host of yucky and unnecessary chemicals. You can fluff your laundry, reduce static cling, and decrease drying time with simple wool balls (and they can be used when drying cloth diapers!). You can buy them already made or make them yourself.

If you want to DIY, you’ll need two 2 skeins of 100% wool yarn (check the label, it’s important that it be 100%) to make 4-5 wool balls and some steel wool. Simply wad the end of the yarn up until you can begin wrapping around it. Wrap tightly into a ball about the size of a tennis ball. Thread the end through several layers to secure it.

To felt wool you need heat and agitation. Add the wool balls to a pot of water and heat. Remove individually and rub the surface gently with steel wool. Repeat several times for each dryer ball. If you do not have any steel wool handy you can use anything to agitate the surface. Or, you can add the wool balls to a pair of pantyhose, tying each end off with a rubber band, and run them through several wash cycles with hot water and dryer cycles on high heat.


Want more ideas and tips on going green? Check out Daily Mom’s GREEN category!

Photo credit: The Whimsical Photographer

16 COMMENTS

    • Hi Brittany, thanks for your comment. The choice of castile soap above is because it contains a plant oil, whereas Ivory soap contains animal lard. If you require a vegan soap, you’ll want to avoid any soap (like Ivory) that has tallowate in it’s ingredients. If you have no objection to using animal oils, Ivory will give you a great clean.

      If you’re interested in the chemistry behind various ingredients and how it may affect their peformance, the information here is very thorough: http://www.healthycleaning101.org/english/SDAC_soaps.html

      As for how long it will last, it depends on how often you do laundry and how soiled the clothes are. I’ve gone through half a batch in about 4 months, using about 2 tablespoons for a full load. I do laundry frequently (my baby goes though several outfits a day) and we have a standard, non-HE washing machine.

  1. Hi, I was going to purchase a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap. Would this work instead of the Castile bar soap? If so, how much would I add to the 6 cups of washing soda?

    Also, could I add a few drops of an essential oil to the detergent to give baby clothes a nice smell? If so, how many drops?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Lauren,

      When using about 6 cups of the washing soda, I would use approximately 4-5 cups of the liquid Castile soap. For 6 cups washing soda and 4-5 cups of soap, add in about 1.5-2 gallons of water to the recipe. You’ll want to first dissolve the washing soda in a little bit of hot water, then add the rest of the water, and then lastly the Castile. You can add the essential oils last. I’ve read some people add up to 20-50 drops. Personally I don’t use them because I like to keep the recipe as hypoallergenic as possible, so I would start with fewer and add from there. Just be sure to choose one that is safe for baby, this book is an oft-cited source I’ve run across:
      http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Book-Essential-Oils-Aromatherapy/dp/0931432820/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1388955447&sr=8-1&tag=bomllcdm-20

      Happy Laundering! 🙂

  2. I can’t wait to try this out. Here’s my issue: our dog is a shedder. It is the ONLY reason I use dryer sheets. Do the wool balls pick up pet hair?

    • Hey Jessica! I can’t speak from experience since I don’t have pets, but reportedly it does work for pet hair; although YMMV depending on the type of dog hair. I think though that it is worth trying out in order to at least minimize the dryer sheets!

  3. I make our own detergent now, and now we are expecting our first baby. I use vinegar for the detergent i’m currently making. Do you recommend using vinegar for the babies detergent?

    • Yes! But I would use the vinegar in the rinse compartment (which is what I personally do). I wouldn’t mix it directly in with the soap (if you’re making a liquid detergent). There is a good thread here on why you should use them separately.

      Also, congratulations! 🙂

  4. My husband and I are looking for a natural detergent to use on our baby’s cloth diapers. Do you recommend this recipe for those too?

    • Hi Maria,

      I don’t cloth diaper myself, so my only advice stems from what I’ve read of other peoples experience — which is not to use certain soaps on your cloth diapers (Fels Naptha being the main offender, which apparently may cause pinholes and thus leaking, although some moms avoid all soap, Castile included). Of course, your own experience will probably depend on what type of cloth diapers you’re using, your washing machine settings, local water, etc.

      From what I gather, many homemade detergents specifically for cloth diapers include washing soda as the main ingredient, and leave out the soap, borax (not used here anyway), and vinegar (not good for the elastics in cloth diapers). Hydrogen peroxide (Oxyclean) seems to be used occasionally, but not on every wash.

      All that said, if you research the issue you’ll find many reports of diapers being just fine with homemade detergent, and other cases where the diapers deteriorated fast. I would test any detergent on your cheapest diapers a few times first just in case.

      Good luck!

  5. Hi Laura, thank you for the very useful article. I’ve been having so much problem searching for the right organic baby detergent! I’m thinking of adding a few drops of pure essential oil to the detergent but I’ve also heard that pure essential oil can be too strong for baby’s skin. What do you think?

    Also, I will be making the detergent in powder form. Adding the essential oil might cause the powder to clump together. Is it possible I add the essential oil directly to the washing machine instead? If so, should I add it to the detergent compartment or the rinse compartment?

    Thanks in advance! =)

    • Hi Hui Ling,
      I don’t add any essential oils to my detergent or laundry, although people of course do use them in home remedies, aromatherapy for babies. Naturally, be sure to double check that the oil you choose is safe for babies, and that it’s 100% oil (not “perfume oil”, etc.). If you’re invested in using essential oils (for both baby and in general), check out this book: The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, it includes sections on babies.

      As for the laundry, I would add the drops to your rinse/fabric compartment softener for each load. Then if your baby is sensitive to them, you’ll still have the detergent alone. I think some people also add a few drops to their dryer sheets (or dryer balls). Good luck!

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