Homemade washing detergent: all the ingredients needed for a homemade detergent laid out on a table.

Here’s how you can make your own environmentally friendly detergent

Buying clothes that are environmentally friendly is important, but it is also important to wash clothes in a sustainable way. By using eco mode and the right amount of detergent, you can help to protect the environment and save electricity and water at the same time. If you want to go the extra mile, a lot of zero-waste pioneers recommend making your own detergent. If you are looking to give it a go, here are three different types of homemade detergents for white clothes, coloured clothes, and delicates.

What ingredients do I need to make a homemade detergent?

If you want to make your own detergent, you can find various recipes. The exact amount of ingredients vary, but the basic ingredients are usually the same:

  • Washing soda will remove stains

  • Curd soap has an effective cleaning power

  • Baking soda can help soften water and remove odours

  • Citric acid powder has a slight bleaching and decalcifying effect

  • Bile soap is optional, but it works well on stubborn stains

  • Essential oils such as lavender, lemon or orange for adding some fragrance to your detergent, but this is optional

If you would like to make liquid laundry detergent, then you will need to add some water.

To store your DIY detergent, you can use clean jars for washing powder or you can reuse empty glass bottles or tubs for liquid detergent. 


If you make your own detergent, you can decide which ingredients are used, such as the amount of essentials oils. If you tend to be allergic to fragrances or have particularly sensitive skin, you could easily omit this ingredient.

Make your own detergent: DIY washing powder is quick to make.

Make your own washing powder for light and dark fabrics

In no time at all, you can make your own heavy-duty detergent. Using the following ingredients, you can make a washing powder by using washing soda, some grated curd soap, bicarbonate of soda and some citric acid powder. This detergent has a slight bleaching effect and is, therefore, better suited to light fabrics.

Ingredients for homemade washing powder:

  • 150 g washing soda

  • 150 g baking soda

  • 100 g curd soap

  • 100 g citric acid powder

  • (Optional) essential oils

Make your own washing powder:

  1. Using a grater, grate the curd soap into fine flakes.

  2. Mix all the ingredients together in a clean bowl.

  3. Pour the homemade detergent into a jar. Alternatively, you can pour the ingredients into the jar and then shake the jar to mix them together.

You can add some essential oils to the washing powder if you want it to have a nice fragrance, but you will need to add the essential oils separately before each wash.  


When making homemade detergents, you should be careful when handling these products. Washing soda can irritate the skin, eyes, respiratory tract and citric acid can also be an irritant. Therefore, you should wear gloves if you have sensitive skin and avoid contact with your eyes. Try not to breathe in any of these substances as they can irritate the inner lining of your nose.  Be careful when handling the different ingredients as they are very fine and can quickly become messy.

Homemade detergent: with just a few ingredients you can make your own liquid laundry liquid detergent.

Homemade liquid lLaundry liquid detergent: great for light and dark fabrics

If you are looking for an environmentally friendly detergent that can also be used to wash colours and dark fabrics, the homemade laundry liquid detergent without citric acid would be the most suitable choice. Making it is a little trickier than washing powder, but it’s still easy to make.

Ingredients for liquid laundry detergent:

  • 20 g curd soap

  • 20 g bile soap

  • 5 tablespoons of washing soda

  • 5L – 3.0L water

  • (Optional) essential oils

If you want to make a vegan detergent, use 30 g to 40 g of vegan curd soap instead of using bile soap.

Make your own liquid laundry detergent:

  1. Grate the curd and bile soap into fine flakes and mix thoroughly with the washing soda in a bowl.

  2. Pour some water into a big pot.

  3. Then add the grated soap and the washing soda.

  4. Mix all ingredients using a whisk and let the mixture boil for a couple of minutes. Be careful as the homemade detergent can quickly start to foam.

  5. Stir the detergent mixture well until the soap flakes have dissolved.

  6. Leave the detergent to cool for about an hour and then bring it back to the boil again for a couple of minutes so that the ingredients are well mixed.

  7. Using a funnel, pour the cooled homemade laundry liquid detergent into a clean bottle.

You can also use the liquid laundry detergent for a hand wash.


Before buying curd soap, double-check the ingredients as a lot of curd soaps contain palm oil or animal fats. Vegans can use plant-based alternatives and generally make sure that the soaps only use fair-trade, organic palm oil or other oils such as olive oil.

Make your own homemade liquid laundry detergent: using a funnel to fill a bottle with the cooled detergent.

Homemade wool and delicates detergent

You can also make a detergent for a delicate wash, but the way it is made is a little bit different. shing soda and baking soda would cause delicate fabrics such as wool and silk to swell, therefore a different ingredient needs to be used to help remove fat and dirt. DIY detergent experts recommend using methylated spirits for this.

Ingredients for homemade wool detergent:

  • 250 ml water

  • 100 ml methylated spirits

  • 50 g curd soap

You can also add some essential oils.

Make your own wool and delicates detergent:

  1. Grate the curd soap into small flakes.

  2. Mix the grated curd soap and water together in a pot and then bring to the boil.

  3. Take the pan off the heat and leave the mixture to cool.

  4. Then add the methylated spirits to the mixture and mix well.

  5. Once cooled, put the wool and delicates detergent mixture into a clean bottle.

The methylated spirits can make your homemade wool and delicates detergent smell strongly of alcohol. By using some essential oils, you can create a more pleasant fragrance. Using the measurements from above you should add around 10 drops of essential oils.

Homemade detergent in a glass clip top jar.

How to use homemade detergents

Using homemade detergents is no different from shop-bought detergents, but you may need to give it a few goes to find the correct amount needed for doing a wash. However, this all depends on the hardness of the water, the weight of the washing and how dirty it is. The following amounts can be used to help give you an idea:

  • Homemade washing powder: use around 1 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 50 g)

  • Homemade laundry liquid detergent: use around 100 bis 200 ml

  • Homemade wool and delicates detergent: use around 50 bis 100 ml

When using liquid detergents, make sure to give the mixture a good shake before use in case the curd soap has separated.

It’s recommended that you pre-treat stubborn stains with curd or bile soap. You can also remove larger stains or unpleasant odours by soaking the laundry overnight in a bucket of water with dissolved washing soda.

Safe handling of DIY detergents: make sure to regularly clean your washing machine

Both shop-bought detergents and homemade zero-waste detergents can cause deposits to form in the washing machine, especially if you have hard water in your area.

Therefore, it is important to regularly clean the washing machine with a descaler or with a suitable washing machine cleaner. You need to make sure to clean the inside, the detergent drawer, the door seals, the lint filter and if necessary, the wastewater hose. You should also put a 60 or 90°C wash cycle on at least once or twice a month to kill any bacteria in the machine and to remove any detergent residue. It is often recommended not to use any harsh products such as vinegar essence because it can damage the seals, hoses and metal parts of the washing machine. For the best tips on keeping your washing machine clean and working, check the manufacturers’ handbook in which cleaners or descalers are recommended.

Summary: with just a couple of ingredients you can make your own environmentally friendly detergent

Making your own detergent is not only quick and easy, but it also gives you an insight into how various ecological household cleaners such as citric acid, baking soda or sodium bicarbonate work. Many households completely avoid shop-bought detergents, instead they have been using zero-waste detergents for several years. On zero-waste blogs or in household forums you can exchange tips with other users on the measurements for making homemade detergents and read other testimonials to get a better idea.

Give it a go even if you don't want to switch completely to a homemade detergent, as the experiment side of it is a lot of fun. Take a closer look with your children at how the ingredients work together. This can be a fun learning experience, even if in the end you stick to a shop-bought detergent or another organic alternative.

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(Accessed on 06.04.2022)

(Accessed on 06.04.2022)

(Accessed on 06.04.2022)

(Accessed on 06.04.2022)