DIY Laundry Detergent for Sensitive Skin

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Despite labels that tote a detergent as being great for sensitive skin, I have finally discovered that the best laundry detergent for my children with eczema is laundry detergent that I make myself. This sort of makes me Ma Ingalls, and I fully plan on learning how to churn butter and also crochet doilies.

Make your own laundry detergent. Great for sensitive skin/eczema.

Actually, making the detergent is CRAZY-easy. My biggest headache was finding the ingredients. My first batch required that I run to a few different stores, but I’ve since wised-up and now I buy my ingredients online.


– four bars of Dove Sensitive Skin Unscented Soap

EDIT: Dove now makes pistachio soap, and we’re unsure of risk of cross contamination. Will be updating post soon.
– six cups of Borax
– four cups of washing soda
– one and a half cups of baking soda

diy-detergent-soap  Directions:
1) Grate the soap. You *can* chop it up and then use a food processor, but fair warning. Dove soap is incredibly soft (most recipes use the harder, more potent Fels-Naptha) and the heat from the blades *will* melt the soap. Ask me how I know. You can just use a cheese grater and shave it into a bowl, or use a food processor, but with caution.

2) Mix the shaved soap, the Borax, the washing soda, and the baking soda into a container.

3) There is no Step 3. Like I said, it’s crazy-easy. Seeeeee? :)

Before I put laundry in my washing machine, I toss two tablespoons of my detergent right into the drum (I don’t bother with the detergent dispenser), throw the laundry in, and then wash as usual. I generally will press the button that tells the machine to add another rinse at the end, but it isn’t necessary.

The detergent is not very pretty, admittedly, and there are only four ingredients, so note that this isn’t the most potent detergent out there – and it shouldn’t be. It’s lacking a lot of chemicals and dyes. Soooooo, if your laundry is extra dirty, I suggest putting a tablespoon of Oxiclean Free in with the two tablespoons of detergent, wash, and then run it through one more time with just the detergent. My daughters’ skin does not like the Oxiclean Free (despite the “free” being less potent than the original Oxiclean), so I make sure to do that extra wash to get rid of any of residual Oxiness (not a word).

BONUS: Even though allergen-friendly food and organic clothing are super expensive, this is actually way cheaper than buying detergent. Boom.

Roo Ciambriello

If Scratch or Sniff founder/editor Roo Ciambriello could list all of her favorite things, they'd include her sweet little family, food trucks, and every AMA Snoop Dogg has done on Reddit. Roo is a copywriter out of New Haven, Connecticut, and loves writing fun stories on the backs of potato chip bags and cereal boxes in Whole Foods, Target, Nordstrom, Kroger, y mucho mas. Roo creates voices for brands, ghostwrites for celebrities, writes a personal website, and is (much to the chagrin of those around her) pretty active on Twitter. You can also find her providing commentary on advertising/branding at Adweek and eating fajitas on deadline days.

25 Comments to DIY Laundry Detergent for Sensitive Skin

  1. I recently started making my own laundry detergent as well and it has been the BEST decision, especially for those with pesky post-college budgets like myself. It smells better than the store bought stuff, saves a ton of money, and I swear it gets our clothes even cleaner!

    I’ll have to try Dove soap next time, I have typically used Fels-Naptha…man that stuff sucks to grate!

    • Roo Ciambriello

      We tried Fels-Naptha, but the girls’ skin didn’t seem to love it. I’ve heard conflicting stories – great for eczema/awful for eczema. The Dove works for now, but the bar is suuuper soft.

  2. Mandi

    Pro tip: (at least this works with fels-naptha), heat the soap in the microwave until it gets all fluffy. Then DON’T TOUCH IT (unless you like molten soap being fused to your skin… ). After it’s cooled off, it’ll crumble in your hands. No more grating.

    • Mandi

      *You do have to cut it into smaller chunks, though, to heat it evenly.

    • Roo Ciambriello

      Oh yeah, I wouldn’t try it with the Dove soap since it’s so “melty” already. But when I tried with the Fels-Naptha, I did read that tip! Totally afraid I was going to make the microwave explode.

  3. This is great. I have Celiac Disease & suffer from the DH problems because of it so I have to be really diligent about checking labels to make sure I don’t get open sores on my scalp or super irritated skin. My dermatologist said Dove is the hands down best soap so this is cool to see as part of a laundry detergent :)

    • Roo Ciambriello

      If you try it, let me know how it works for you, Elizabeth!

    • Jane Ashley

      So glad to read your comment. I too have celiac and some skin issues. Thanks. And thanks to Roo for the recipe.

  4. Megan

    I don’t know what ingredients are in the Dove Sensitive, but I have been making my detergent with fragrance-free Kirk’s Castile soap. Four ingredients: Coconut Soap, Water, Vegetable Glycerin, Coconut Oil. Kirk’s may be a little pricier, but you can buy it in bulk from their site and it’s pretty reasonable. We like the Castile soap, because my husband thinks that the tallow in most other soaps is what makes your laundry smell funny if it sits in the washer for a while (not sure if he read that somewhere or if he is just hypothesizing). I also don’t add baking soda, and our laundry is super clean! It gives me joy every time I make or use my homemade detergent :)

    • Annie

      My husband has sensitive skin as well. He only uses Kirk’s Castile soap.( I don’t like how it makes my skin feel ) I’ve made the homemade detergent with fels-naptha and it irritated his skin. I never thought of using the Kirk’s. Thanks for the tip!

  5. Maggie

    FYI there’s lots and lots of organic clothing for kids and grownups on Steep and Cheap today!

  6. Rachel

    Maybe Oxy Boost from would save you that extra wash if you use it in place of oxiclean. It works for me, but I don’t have any experience with sensitive skin.

  7. Amber

    Hey Roo, my boys get patches of itchies from time to time, so I’ve been using arm and hammer free for years now, but would love to save the money in making my own. I have been wary of the fels-naptha, and wanted to try something else, but was told that Dove is a beauty bar instead of an actual soap…I know that what you posted works for your laundry, and I trust you, but I wanted to know what, if anything, you or other folks have heard about that. Thanks! :)

    • Roo Ciambriello

      Hey Amber, I haven’t! I am on the search for other soap, though, simply because Dove is so soft and crumbly. I’ll definitely update if I come up with a better recipe. :)

      • Courtney

        I use cetephil soap. Great for sensitive skin!!

  8. Crystal

    Does this work in HE washers?

    • Megan

      According to, yes, it does. I’ve never tried it personally, though.

    • Roo Ciambriello

      I use it in my HE washer!

  9. Ingrid

    I made my own and used ZOTE as the bar soap. I like it better than the fels naptha (which also smells like old people to me) that I used last batch. But I had oxy clean in my recipe and gain scent boosters, so I think the detergent still was irritating my son’s skin. But look for it at wallyworld and see if that is a better, a little less crumbly soap than dove. I put it through the food processor and it was fine!

    • EH

      Thank you so much for this comment. I have been making my own powdered detergent for years. I’ve had some itchy reaction to this latest batch. I completely forgot that I added some oxyclean that I wanted to use up. I bet that is the culprit!

  10. Jennifer Krahulik

    I have excema as do some of my children and the only “soap” I have ever been able to use is Cetaphil. I do admit that there are a lot more soaps on the market then 30 years ago, so I will have to try the Dove soap. I was thinking though that maybe the Cetaphil will work as well? I might give it a try. I love the Fels Nappa as it makes things super clean,but I can not use it on anything that touches my skin. Thanks for the tip.

  11. nikki

    How many loads does this make??

  12. Victoria

    What soap could I use to get a nice smell on the clothes? I’ve been using a castile soap but it’s leaving a fishy soap smell on clothes. Thanks.

  13. Agustín

    Hello Roo,

    Thank you for your great website.
    About that laundry detergent for sensitive skin: I know you use Dove unscented soap. But does that mean that the final detergent won’t have any smell? What I mean by this is, will any of all the other ingredients provide any scent or fragance to the final product?

    I ask, because for me it’s really paramount to have a scent-free detergent, as I experince allergies otherwise.

    Thank you.

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