Homemade All-Natural Laundry Stain Remover

Written by contributor Emily McClements of Live Renewed.

Last summer, I did a whole series on my blog about green and natural laundry care. I tried out many, many different types of laundry detergents and stain removers. And while I settled on a detergent that works well for our family, I still struggled with stain removal on a regular basis.

And it makes me so frustrated at times! I want clean clothes and clean laundry for my family, but I also really don’t want to use chemicals to get them clean, and I don’t want to spend a fortune on green and non-toxic stain removers.

Some natural stain removers worked really well on certain types of stains, I found, but nothing worked really well across the board. So, for every load, especially my kids clothes, I could spend at least 15 minutes treating different stains with different types of stain removers.  It was getting to be a big pain.

Recently, I came across another idea for a natural stain remover, and I combined it with one of the basic stain removers that I was already using, and I think I’ve finally come up with a natural stain removal method that works pretty well on almost every type of stain.

Photo by Emily at Live Renewed

Homemade All-Natural Laundry Stain Remover


  • Washing Soda or Borax
  • White Vinegar
  • Water
  • Old Toothbrush (oops, forgot to put that in the picture)


• Put Washing Soda or Borax in an old Parmesan cheese container so you can easily shake it out.

• Mix white vinegar with water in a 1:1 ration in a spray bottle.

• Shake the Washing Soda or Borax onto the stain and the spray the stain with the vinegar and water mixture. Use the toothbrush, if necessary, to create a little bit of a paste and scrub it into the stain.

• Let sit for 10-20 minutes if possible.

Then, wash your clothes as usual, using your favorite natural laundry detergent.

Photo by Emily at Live Renewed

A Few Notes

*Always remember to label your homemade cleaning products!

You will probably have to experiment with which works better, washing soda or borax, for your washer and your type of water.  I have found that washing soda works the best for us, but I also like to add some borax to my washer along with the clothes because I think it helps to remove detergent residue and makes clothes softer without having to use fabric softener.

If you don’t like the smell of vinegar (it does come out completely in the wash), you can also try using a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water.  Vinegar and water, and hydrogen peroxide and water, have been my go-to stain removers since last summer, but neither of them were as effective as I wanted them to be. The addition of washing soda to my stain removal routine has made the difference.

I know some people may not be comfortable with Borax as a safe product. My take on it is that borax is far safer than many of the chemicals found in conventional cleaners and stain removers. Keep it well-labeled, and of course, away from children. It rinses out cleanly in the wash, so you shouldn’t have to worry about any residue left over on your clothing.

If you’ve been struggling with laundry stains, I hope you’ll find this recipe works as well for you as it has for me!

*This stain remover recipe was inspired by stain removal ideas from the book Make Your Place.

Do you struggle with removing stains naturally? Or do you already have a tried and true natural laundry stain remover? If so, please share!

About Emily

Like many moms, Emily began her journey toward natural living when she found out she was pregnant with her first child. From cloth diapers to homemade green cleaners, she began making small changes toward a simpler more natural lifestyle. When her husband lost his job a year later, she scrambled to also learn how to live as frugally as possible. She quickly realized that many things that save money also save the earth, and began chronicling her journey toward living "frugally green" at Live Renewed. She is now the proud mama of two little ones, and although her husband sometimes wonders what she has done with the woman he married, she is passionate about helping her family live differently and responsibly as they strive to be a good steward of all of the resources God has provided them with.


  1. I think that today was a laundry post kind of a day :-) I put up my recipe for homemade laundry soap. I have been trying to figure out stains recently, because my 3 year old has the uncanny ability to stain clothes the first time she wears them. I usually just use a little borax and water, I never thought to use the vinegar as well. Will definitely have to give it a try!

  2. I will definitely have to try this. I already clean with water and vinegar anyway and add vinegar into the fabric softener spot on my washer. My fall back has been oxyclean but I’m sure it’s not that chemically friendly. Have you ever had the chance to look into it? Also I’d love to know what detergent you settled on. I’ve been using country save and rocking green for diapers. Please excuse typos nursing and typing in my phone.

  3. I bought some borax for my daughter’s science experience. It says on the label that it is a good laundry booster. I figured you could use it for stains, but I wasn’t sure. Thanks for the formula.

  4. I’m assuming this works on grease stains as well? Those are my biggest obstacles, and take me the longest, as I first put cornstarch on them and shake off, then use a toothbrush to work in some dish detergent, and that usually does the trick, even after they’ve been through the dryer first. But I would LOVE something a little easier, just haven’t found it yet. So, will this be my magic solution? :)

  5. My bottle of Spray and Wash is about empty and I was thinking I needed to buy another. I am so going to try this instead. I have been slowly switching things over to natural, or more natural than before, and this is one I had never thought of!

  6. I can’t wait to try this out, Emily. Thanks for sharing!

  7. You know I’m going to ask too…does it work on grease stains? I’m sure I’ll have some soon to test it on, maybe with oxygen bleach or baking soda instead as I don’t have the other ingredients on hand – I’m making chicken stock tonight and that always hits something it shouldn’t! 😉 Katie

  8. Thank you for posting this! I’ve been using Shout for my stains, my number 3 is quite messy. I’m excited to try this!

  9. I haven’t tried this method. Can’t wait to see how it works. I’m such a messy cook and always have stains to contend with, even when I’m wearing an apron!

    At the moment I use Bac-out to treat stains. It seems to work fairly well.

  10. Cool. Thanks for the easy recipe :) :) I’ll have to keep that in mind, and give it a try. Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  11. I’ve had good luck with this combo as well. Borax, natural soap shavings and washing soda makes a really good cleanser too.

    Be careful with peroxide. It can bleach many kinds of fabrics. That said, when you do use it, if you will dab it on the stain, let it sit about a minute, and then pour boiling water through the stain it is very effective.

    When you stain treat white clothes, if you will put them into the sun until the spot dries BEFORE washing, that helps fade the stain a lot.

    Can you tell I have 5 kids?

  12. Deborah C. says:

    I have been using Fels Naptha for all stain removal for quite a while now. Wet the clothing where the stain is, rub the Fels Naptha into the stain so it’s a little sudsy, then wash. It’s fast and easy, and it gets out everything for us, greasy food stains or various arts and crafts materials, and we have two young kids who always seem to wipe their hands on their shirts. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s in bar form, wrapped in paper like a bar of soap, and found in the laundry aisle at any regular grocery store chain, probably costs about $1.50 a bar.

  13. I have been meaning to make my own laundry soap for some time now and I am going to try making this as well!

  14. Thanks for this great laundry recipe! I’m currently reassessing my entire laundry regime. Now what to do with the 55 gallons of water used by the average clothes washer??? Keep up the good work! Jennifer Train~ Going Green Today

  15. I second the Fels Naptha comment by Deborah C. i have used it for at least 5 years and it works GREAT (even for grease), cheap, a classic! And if I have a whole load of really dirty clothes i also use it as a “booster”: by using an old box grater to grate the Fels Naptha bar several times right on top of the detergent in the washing machine. Really helps our green cleaners work better for super dirty loads (e.g. sports uni’s).

  16. what is washing soda? is it diff then baking soda?

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  18. poopppppppppppp!!!!!!!!! hi so it didnt work what do i do?

  19. Elizabeth says:

    AWESOME grease and stain remover
    1 part Vinegar and/or Ammonia
    1 part Dish Soap
    1 part Water

  20. Hello. I have read your post last night after finding 7 of my husband’s shirts covered in gel ink. . .after they had been through the dryer. I knew I had a long night ahead of me. Let me just say, I gave up and put all of the shirts in the wash with extra water. I then put 1 c. alcohol (all I had left after dabbing one shirt), 2 c. vinegar, and 1/2 c. oxyclean in the washer. I let it go and waited for the washer to finish. Everything came out SPOTLESS! Thank you so much for the inspiration.

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