A Recipe for Homemade Dish Soap

Dish-soap-homemade-mason-jar This recipe does not contain vinegar.

Say whaaaaaaat?  No vinegar?

While most homemade dish soap recipes contain castile soap, they also contain vinegar, or lemon juice.  If you don’t already know– and I hate to be the bearer of bad new;, but, vinegar (or any acid) and castile soap do not belong together.

Ya…I was doing it wrong for many years until I read this post in 2011. Lisa Bronner, Dr. Bronner’s kin and an authority on castile soap explains what is simple chemistry.

Here’s why:

In great part it’s due to the fact that vinegar is an acid and the castile soap is a base. They will directly react with each other and cancel each other out. So, instead of getting the best of both (the scum cutting ability of the vinegar and the dirt transporting ability of the soap), you’ll be getting the worst of something entirely new. The vinegar “unsaponifies” the soap, by which I mean that the vinegar takes the soap and reduces it back out to its original oils. So you end up with an oily, curdled, whitish mess. And this would be all over whatever it was you were trying to clean – your laundry or counters or dishes or whatever.

In short– castile soap and vinegar go great together.  Separately.  One to wash and the other to rinse.

In the time since, I have messed around with many a recipe, mostly throwing together what I have on hand and eyeballing the amounts.  I’d like to share my favorite dish soap concoction with you; one that closely resembles the store-bought stuff.   I did my best to recreate it for you with proper measurements, but it works best tossed willy-nilly in a jar.  What I have come up with is viscous, and grows thicker as it sits.  It gets a lot of bubbles when given a good shake, lathers and cleans wonderfully.  It is easy to make, and uses a small amount of castile soap to make it ever more frugal.  It owes it’s brownish hue to the homemade soap I used.  Break out your favorite essential oils and scent it differently every time. 🙂

Dish-soap-homemade

In a pint jar, (with a homemade dispenser top), combine soap flakes, (an old-fashioned lye soap works well), and boiling water.  Stir with a fork until all flakes are dissolved.  Add super washing soda and stir.  Add castile soap.  Stir.  Allow to cool and add essential oils of your choice.  I like to give it a shake or a stir every now and again.  Over time it gels up a bit, (especially if I add too much super washing soda), and I like to shake things up a bit to keep it all incorporated.  Also, we have noted that if our house gets too cold, the soap gets super thick, so if you keep your house cold you may want to use less super soda.

If you need a “home” for your new homemade dish soap, follow this tutorial for instructions on how to make your own mason jar dispenser!

DIY Mason Jar Dispenser

DSCF1504

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  What about you?  Do you make your own dish soap?  What do you put in it?  Do you use vinegar?

Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below, or on my facebook page.  

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85 Comments

  1. I will soooo have to try this! Thanks again for great ideas 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing! I didn’t know that Castile soap and vinegar didn’t go together either. Great info! Your blog is looking so great! And getting better every time I visit! Keep it up!

  3. If you don’t make your own soap bars, what can you use? Something like ivory or fels naptha?

    • I have only ever made it with homemade soap so I can’t 100% say for sure, but those two soaps would definitely be my first choice! I think any that you have would work.

      • I used a solid brannier’s bar in mine, worked wonderfully. Just have to put a bit less of the washing soda because otherwise it solidifies too easily. Cuts the grease super easy. Awesome recipe by the way. I love it, making more today,

  4. I made this last night….LOVE it! I used homemade Bunny’s Castile, Dr. Bronner’s, and regular washing soda. I scented it very lightly with orange oil. I was inspired to wash the whole sink-full of dishes, LOL! Thank you for the terrific “recipe”; this is a keeper!

  5. how does a lime ess. oil not ‘curdle’ the soap like a lemon does (personal experience there)

  6. Have you tried using this in a dish washer? That’s the one that I’d really like to replace with a home made version.

  7. Do you have a recipe for homemade soap? I’m really excited to try this! I have used Castile and Vinegar together and was very disappointed when I had an oily film afterwards…no wonder 😉

  8. THANK YOU so much for putting the quote up about vinegar and castille!! I saw this a couple of months on their website and every recipe I see has vinegar in it!! It drives me crazy! I am so glad that you put it out there!!

  9. This is great! I want to do this, but I need more info. I don’t make homemade soap, but I want to, I want to get started. Do you have a recipe for the homemade soap that you would use in this recipe? If you can give me any advice or tips on how to get started I would deeply appreciate it. I can’t wait to get my sis, involved. We make homemade laundry soap together, and we love it. We want to go to some more natural items like this.

    • You could start with fels naptha or ivory if you didn’t want to make your own soap right away. This dish soap is really easy to make, a great place to start. You need to stir it occasionally after it’s made. If you were interested in making your own soap for this, I suggest an old-fashioned lye soap, out just a basic home made soap recipe. I haven’t blogged about the one I use yet, but will someday 😉 Best of luck to you and your sis on your homemade and natural journey!

    • Hello Vernell! Washing soda is an old time laundry ingredient (soda ash) and comes in a bright yellow box so it is not confused with baking soda. You should be able to find it on the laundry detergent aisle of the grocery store or I get mine at Walmart. (You might see other items around it such as Fels Naptha soap bars or Twenty Mule Team Borax). Super Washing Soda is also used in many homemade laundry detergent recipes. If all you use it for is for homemade dish soap a box will last you a very long time. You might consider storing the box inside a large ziploc bag to prevent it from getting damp over time, if you live in an area with humidity. I wish I could upload a picture here of what the box looks like. Here is an Amazon link with the picture but for Pete’s sake don’t buy it there. Way too expensive! I pay less than $4 for a whole box at Walmart.
      http://www.amazon.com/Arm-Hammer-Washing-Detergent-Household/dp/B004HCLFDI

      • Hello Could’nt you use the old fashion “20 mule team- “Borax” instead of the Washing Soda are’nt they about the same thing? Thanks for any info. on this.

  10. I’m just now trying this recipe with some of those little sample soaps from motels/hotels. I’m wondering if I could use some “fragrance oils” instead of essential oils. If I’m just going for the fragrance, I’m thinking that they might work, and I have a TON of them! What do you think?

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  12. Hi there. I tried the recipe but used soap flakes instead of a grating a bar of soap. When the mixture cooled it hardened. I might try this again with maybe only a tbsp or less of soap flakes.

    • Hi Audra, mine hardens sometimes depending on the temp of my house. I do have to stir it from time to time. Experiment with the amounts of washing soda and soap flakes. I usually make it by sight so it’s different every time 😉 Cheers, Jerica

  13. I just have to say you guys are the best and I have tried a lot of sites and blogs. I have learned so much from your site! I did try this recipe after trying so many that I wasn’t happy with and this got very solid but I just added more water and it works wonderfull !! I also used fels natha soap…thanks so much !!

  14. Hi. First time on your blog. Found it when I googled homemade dish soap. Just whipped up a batch. I used zote soap because I don’t have homemade. Followed the recipe. It’s still cooling but it does not suds up or make bubbles. What did I do wrong?

    • Hi Dawn,

      It’s probably the type of soap you used??? (I can’t say for sure, and am not familiar with that one). With any soap you use, it will probably never bubble like a commercial soap. They use hefty chemicals to get those bubbles. I bet it still cleans really well though, right? Maybe next time try a different soap and see if you get a better result. When I make mine, it turns out pretty thick, which I like, and I get a decent lather, but not crazy amounts of bubbles. When I first make it, I get a lot of bubbles if I shake it, but not after it sits for a week or so. If it get thicker than I want it to, I stir in small amounts of hot water occasionally. Well, that’s my soap science 🙂 Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful!

  15. Great post! I use a similar recipe for my Homemade Laundry detergent! I am wondering if the washing soda addition makes your hands SUPER dry? I will have to give it a try! The only dish soap I have made was a LIQUID soap recipe I made{potassium hydroxide}.It worked well in a foamer and makes LOTS of bubbles:) I sell my handmade soaps (chemical/preservative free) at my Etsy shop: honeybeeholistics if anyone is ever interested in getting some over IVORY or FELSNAPTHA which are a ways from being Natural!

  16. Hello I was wondering if you could use “20 mule tem Borax” instead of the Washing soda is it about the same thing?
    Thanks for any info. and answers ahead of time.
    Have a good day!

    • Hi ,Teresa, I’m not an expert in their chemical makeup, but I do use both products. I know that Washing Soda and Borax are similar, but they are not exactly the same. From my understanding washing soda is basically a water softener, helps to remove grease, and acts a mild bleach. Although Borax can do some of that, too, it’s more of a detergent, odor remover and stain remover. However, there are some concerns from some people about the safety of borax (although it is natural and it is NOT boric acid). It hasn’t officially been proven 100% safe by research so I consider that it may not be non-toxic, so I use it with caution. In fact, I use it as ant killer and it works which makes me a little more cautious about using it for myself! I know the EWG lists borax is a moderate risk due to possible reproductive damage, but I also know that it doesn’t really absorbed into the skin very well. It’s more of a problem when ingested, but if it’s coming into contact with your dishes.. then it may be entering your body that way, too. Personally, I use it in my laundry detergents, but I make sure that my dishwashing detergent is 100% borax free.

      I hope that helps!

  17. Opps I meant to write “20 mule Team Borax …first one I wrote tem for team….sorry!

  18. So I am wondering I made some with half a bar soap a tbsp washing soda I made out of baking soda and a tbsp of vinegar pls the water was very thick. But what I am wondering is I read washing soda is very alkaline and shouldn’t be used on the skin because it could cause a burn is this true? I was trying to see if I could add it to my body soap since it was super liquid and came across that.

  19. So true about Mountain Rose Herbs. Have been using their herbs, spices, essential oils, and teas for several years. They are the best, hands down!

  20. This is a wonderful recipe, but I’m honestly more excited over the DIY mason jar dispenser. Pure GENIUS!

  21. I just made this a half hour ago. I used a 1/2 bar of Lemongrass soap I got from Whole Foods. When I grated it, I grated the four corners, then just rounded it off so what I have left is a round soap. The bar soap cost me 2.00. I also used the unscented Dr. Bronners, and only 1 T. washing soda, and then 10 drops of Lemon Essential Oil. If it doesn’t thicken a little more, then next time I will use 1 1/4 T. of the washing soda. It lathered up nicely, I really like it…..and it goes together quickly. 🙂 Thanks for the recipe.

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  23. I used sal suds by dr bronner thinking this would work you can mix it with vinegar and/lemon juice and it does but my hands are so dry from using it I’ll save it for the shower and gloves.

  24. Thankful for this post!
    I had bought some Homemade Dish Soap from a sweet local homeschooling family at our Farmer’s Market. It never.quite.did.the.job… Wasn’t quite thick enough. And just didn’t make my hands feel clean CLEAN.
    Making this here in a bit with 10yo-son for “Science”.
    🙂 Brandee

  25. Hi! Tried this with Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap and a grated bar of Dr. Bronner”s bar soap but it is leaving a distinct film on dishes. Any idea what the problem is?

    • Karyn, I think castile soap is known for that sometimes. I have heard of some using vinegar as a rinse after washing, but for my dish reginmen that is not practical or applicable. I make the recipe with liquid castile and then a non-castile bar soap, and I have no problems with film. Maybe try that, or if a vinegar rinse works for you, that should help. Good luck! 🙂 Jerica

  26. You can make washing soda by baking “baking soda”. it is extremely easy and one batch will last quite a while

    • Most of the recipes I’ve read also say that the borax is not needed something to check out.
      Dr Bronners Sal-Suds can be mixed with vinegar and it makes a very strong cleaner.

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  29. I followed the recipe initially to the letter and mine turned completely solid. My bar soap was a solid Kirks castille so I don’t know if that was a factor. Also I used only the 1 tbs of washing soda instead of the 1.25 tablespoon. It wasn’t supposed to be teaspoon was it? So bummed! I even re-melted the solid and added another cup plus of water and it still completely solidified. Please let me know if you have any thoughts why.

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  31. I was curious if you, or anyone else trying their hand at this recipe, has substituted all liquid castille soap, as opposed to part grated and part liquid. I prefer to keep things as simple as possible, but understand some ingredients are there for a very specific purpose and can’t be substituted. Thanks in advance!

  32. Mine is not foaming. Is this normal? First homemade detergent.

  33. I am brand new to natural cleansers. But I’ve done a lot of research about the chemical alternatives and I’m thoroughly convinced this is the way to go for my family. Thanks for being a great place for me to start!!

  34. Great recipe! Although I am concerned about whether rubber gloves should be worn while doing the dishes… The notice on the box says to be careful while handling washing soda, as it could irritate skin, and I have noticed my hands to be a bit dry after using the detergent. What do you think? Thank you for all the great info!

  35. I really like this recipe! Our house is very cold so when I woke up this morning my soap wasn’t just a little bit it hard, it was a completely solid block I’m the container. I want to make this again but I don’t want to have to thaw my soap every time I go to use it. How can I keep it loose?

  36. Hi, today i decided to make my own dish soap. Looked on line and found your recipe. Already had made liquid soap all i needed to add was the baking soda! Love it! I especially loved how it made a stubborn coffee stain on a favorite cup disapear. :D. Thanks! Oh i used the small hand held blender (sorry forgot what call it), it worked great. Thanks again, sharing recipe on my FB page.

  37. I made this last night – Kirks’ Castile for the bar, Dr. Bronners for the liquid. I added 1T washing soda and let it sit all night. This morning it was liquidy and separated. Any suggestions as to what I did wrong? – or how to correct it? Should I reheat it and add more soda?

  38. Hi! Love this!

    I was wondering about the acidity of essential oils, like, would it interfere with the castile soap if I used grapefruit essential oil, or lemon, or orange? Or are they not acidic?

  39. Thanksnso much for the recipe! It workeds and im so excited about it! It’s nice anf thick and feels like commercial soap but way better 🙂

  40. Yes,,,Its very hard to find a blog with the RIGHT information about Vinegar and Castile Soap….but you got it RIGHT Dearie!!! The two do NOT mix…that is why you add vinegar to the RINSE CYCLE after washing your clothes in Castile Soap….its becasue the Vinegar will RINSE down any soap residue…..it does NOT mix with Castile Soap…and I get so upset seeing recipes online where they say to ADD the Vinegar to the Castile Soap….I think to myself, its basic Science Here, but not very many ppl see that. Thanks for placing the RIGHT information online on this subject 🙂

  41. Hi there! Thanks for this recipe. Since I have not yet embarked on making my own soap, do you think Dove soap bars would work? Thanks again!

  42. I made this recipe today and it came out like soapy water. So i added more washing soda and it did not help. Do you have any suggestions? Although it works great as a floor cleaner as i dropped some on the floor. I am hoping i can get it a thicker. I love how it makes my hands feel.

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