9 Natural Laundry Detergent Alternatives That Actually Work

By Marilee Nelson |

9 Natural Laundry Detergent Alternatives That Actually Work

Word is getting out about the dangers of chemical ingredients in laundry detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets, stain removers, oxygen bleach, and bleach.

This has many people seeking out laundry detergent alternatives that are effective, sustainable,   and affordable.

Plus, it’s nice to know what you can use as a laundry detergent alternative should you ever run out of your favorite product.

In this article, you’ll discover 9 of the best non-toxic laundry detergent alternatives, including premade laundry products, and how to use items from your pantry to create DIY detergent, fabric softener alternatives, stain removers, oxygen bleach alternatives, bleach alternatives, and more!

Top 9 Alternatives to Laundry Detergent 

Whether you’re ready to toss the toxins at home by switching to natural laundry products or found this article because you’re out of detergent and need help fast, here are 11 non-toxic alternatives to laundry detergent.

(For an in-depth look into the toxicity of chemical laundry detergent, check out: How To Toss Your Toxic Laundry Detergent.

1. Branch Basics Concentrate, Oxygen Boost, & Wool Dryer Balls

Branch Basics Concentrate and Oxygen Boost are a powerful pair of laundry detergent alternatives. At the same time, our Wool Dryer Balls replace the need for fabric softener and dryer sheets.

Our Concentrate can be transformed into a natural laundry detergent by adding water that cleans your clothes, removes stains, and softens them.

Oxygen Boost was designed as a deodorizer, natural whitener, and brightener and makes a great laundry booster, stain remover, and bleach alternative.

And our sustainably sourced and made Wool Dryer Balls make the perfect reusable fabric softener and dryer sheet alternative.

To use Branch Basics Laundry in the Washing Machine:

  1. Dilute Concentrate with water per bottle instructions.
  2. Add 3/4 of a capful to your washing machine.
  3. If desired, add a scoop of Oxygen Boost.
  4. Wash your clothes.
  5. Add wool dryer balls to the dryer to naturally soften clothes, and reduce drying time, static, wrinkles, lint, and leave your clothes smelling extra fresh.
For handwashing a few items, generally one teaspoon of Laundry dilution is plenty. For soaking stained clothing, add about half a scoop Oxygen Boost to a basin of water.

Learn more in: 

2. Baking Soda + Vinegar

Whether you’re interested in how to make your own laundry detergent or looking for laundry detergent alternatives, baking soda and vinegar are must-haves.

These simple pantry staples will clean, soften, and deodorize your clothes while helping clean, deodorize, and descale your washing machine.

Here’s how to use baking soda + vinegar to wash your clothes in the washing machine.

  1. Add half a cup of distilled white vinegar to your washing machine.
  2. Add 1 cup baking soda.
  3. Run the desired laundry cycle, and that’s it.

For handwashing, reduce the amount of each product you use. For example, a small wash basin or bowl would require 1-2 Tablespoons of baking soda and 3-4 tablespoons of vinegar.

*Note: Vinegar is an all-natural product that contains acetic acid, which, when aerosolized, can irritate the lungs. Using vinegar in the laundry does not pose that problem as the vinegar is not used as a spray.

Baking soda and vinegar also work wonders on various stains; vinegar is excellent for cleaning your washer, and baking soda makes a wonderful natural deodorizer.

Learn more in: 

3. Baking Soda + Lemon Juice

If you have baking soda but not vinegar, lemon juice makes a perfect substitute.

Lemon juice’s natural acetic acid and enzymes help dissolve dirt, grease, and grime while leaving clothes extra soft with a fresh scent.

To use baking soda and lemon juice as a laundry detergent alternative, follow the instructions above, replacing the same amount of lemon juice with vinegar.

4. Straight Vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar work great used together.

However, if you’re out of baking soda you can use straight vinegar as a laundry detergent alternative.

To use, add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar to your washer and wash and dry clothes as usual. 

Will vinegar make your clothing smell like vinegar? Thankfully no, your clothes will not smell like vinegar after the washing and drying is complete.

5. Soap Nuts

Soap nuts are a great, very economical, choice because their natural saponins clean clothes and act as a fabric softener. Plus, they’re reusable, biodegradable, and can be used to create various household cleaning products.

To use, place 4-5 soap nuts in a cotton bag and launder as usual.

You can find soap nuts in natural food stores and co-ops, health food stores, and natural living stores.

6. DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent

Those interested in self-sufficiency and DIY projects may enjoy making homemade laundry detergent. 

We already shared a simple formula for using baking soda + vinegar or lemon juice.

You can also make a basic DIY homemade laundry soap using a borax substitute (sodium sesquicarbonate, washing soda, and natural bar soap.)

Note: Sodium sesquicarbonate is being used as a replacement for borax in the UK and EU since borax was banned in 2010. I used sodium sesquicarbonate for laundry when my son was at his most sensitive. Sodium sesquicarbonate is rated a 1 on EWG Skin Deep, whereas Borax is rated a 5. Substitute sodium sesquicarbonate for borax in these homemade Laundry Soap recipes from DIY Natural and Wellness Mama.

You can also find Borax-free homemade laundry soap recipes that typically use just washing soda, baking soda, and bar soap.

7. Natural Bar Or Castile Soap 

If you’re in a pinch, just a few shavings of natural bar soap added directly to your washer can replace laundry detergent.

Bar soap also works great for removing stains and handwashing clothes.

8. Pure Castile Soap

Many natural living enthusiasts swear by liquid Castile soap for laundry, cleaning, and more.

To use, add 1/3 of a cup of liquid Castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) with an optional half to 1 cup of vinegar in the washing machine. 

Note: These are general instructions for using castile soap as a laundry detergent alternative. Be sure to check the bottle or manufacturer’s website for specific laundry instructions, as different brands’ amounts and concentrations may vary.

9. Peroxide For Whiter Whites

3% hydrogen peroxide (the one in the brown bottle) is an excellent bleach alternative and brightener for white clothing.

To use, add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide directly to the washer.

Peroxide also works wonders to remove nearly any type of stain from white clothing and is a natural disinfectant.

Laundry Detergent Alternatives FAQ

Using natural products to replace laundry detergent for the first time can raise many questions.

Here are our answers to some laundry detergent alternative FAQs.

Why should I use laundry detergent alternatives?

There are several reasons to consider laundry detergent alternatives, including:

  • Cost: Brand-name chemical laundry detergent is expensive, and that adds up if you’re doing laundry for a family.
  • Environmental concerns: Laundry products may contain various chemicals such as bleach, phthalates, petroleum products, and surfactants (to name just a few) that are toxic to the environment, our waterways, wildlife, septic systems, and aquatic life. Not to mention all the packaging waste.
  • Toxicity: We discuss this at length in How To Toss Your Toxic Laundry Detergent (which we encourage you to read and review the science), but in a nutshell, chemical-based laundry detergent contains chemicals linked to:
    • Diabetes
    • Obesity
    • Hormone disruption
    • Skin, eye, and throat irritation
    • Respiratory illness and lung irritation
    • Fertility issues
    • Cancers
    • Neurological, immune, central nervous system, cardiac, kidney, and liver damage
    • Death due to poisoning
    • Developmental and reproductive toxicity
    • and more. 

    In other words, these products are not safe and have no place in a healthy home.

    In contrast, non-toxic laundry detergent alternatives are safe, effective, and cost-effective. 

    Can dish soap be used as laundry detergent?

    Dish soap is tricky to use as a laundry detergent substitute because too much will cause a foaming nightmare in your washer.

    However, dish soap can be used for handwashing and removing oil stains.

    For hand washing, use a tiny squirt in a basin of water, wash, and rinse well.

    For oil stains, apply directly to the oil stain, work in, and allow to dwell for 30 minutes to overnight. Learn more in: How To Get Oil Stains Out Of Clothes Naturally.

    If you decide to try dish soap in the washing machine (not recommended!), only use it with a top loader and only use the tiniest dab.

    Better yet, try one of these  alternatives instead!

    I’m afraid that my clothes will still have odor or stains after washing. Does homemade laundry detergent work?

    The idea that you need chemical-based, heavily fragranced laundry detergent, fabric softener, and bleach or oxygen bleach to get clean, good-smelling-stain-free clothes is a complete myth.

    The truth is even the most soiled clothing can be thoroughly cleaned and deodorized using non-toxic methods.

    Think about it. Our ancestors typically didn’t bathe more than once a week, didn’t have deodorant, lived on farms, worked outdoors and in filthy conditions, and still managed to launder their clothing (and look respectable, which was very important) using only natural soaps.

    Some of the best non-toxic options for deodorizing clothes include:

    • Baking soda
    • Vodka
    • Lemon juice
    • Oxygen Boost
    • Hydrogen Peroxide

    For tips on how to get stains out of anything using non-toxic products, check out our Stainmaster Guide here.

    Invest In Non-Toxic Laundry Detergent With Branch Basics 

    To recap, our top 9 favorite laundry detergent alternatives are:

    1. Branch Basics Concentrate, Oxygen Boost, & Dryer Balls
    2. Baking Soda + Vinegar
    3. Baking Soda + Lemon Juice
    4. Vinegar
    5. Soap Nuts
    6. DIY Laundry Detergent, Powdered orLiquid,Natural Bar Soap
    7. Liquid Castile Soap
    8. Hydrogen Peroxide for Whites:

    Whether you try Branch Basics for laundry or test out another of these DIY laundry detergent alternatives, you’ll be well on your way to creating a healthy home.

    To learn more about Branch Basics Laundry products, check out our Premium Starter Kits, which contain everything you need to replace every cleaning and laundry product in your home, or our Laundry Kits, available in plastic or glass.

    Marilee Nelson

    Marilee Nelson

    Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.