Although I have a recipe for a homemade dishwasher detergent on my homemade cleaners page, we don’t really use the dishwasher all that much and just wash our dishes by hand. If you know how many times I’ve attempted to make a homemade dish soap and had it fail on me, you’ll understand why I titled this post the way I did.
Every single recipe I’ve tried just kept falling short. It didn’t suds enough (I know suds isn’t a sign of clean, but it was more than that – it just didn’t work!), or it wasn’t soapy or slippery enough, or worse, it left a nasty film on my dishes. There are lots of factors at play of course (type of soap, water hardness, etc.) so I’m not saying that those recipes didn’t work – just that they didn’t work for me.
So when I came across this recipe by Jerica from Sustain, Create, and Flow, I was a bit apprehensive at first. But then I read the post in its entirety, including all of the comments, and felt very optimistic. I went ahead and shared it on my Facebook page and it had a great response with dozens of people liking and sharing it!
Let me tell you first that I’ve tried just diluting Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap to use as a dish soap, and although it kind of got the job done, “kind of” just wasn’t enough for me. I love Dr. Bronner’s soaps for so many things but a simple dilution just wasn’t cutting it this tme. What I loved about Jerica’s post is that she included a quote from Dr. Bronner’s daughter, Lisa, which explains why vinegar should not be used in recipes that call for castile soap – yes, a few of the recipes I’ve tried did call for vinegar and even if the vinegar is added at a different time, the resulting dish soap always left that weird film on my dishes. Lisa’s quote explains why.
So on to the dish soap recipe in all it’s glory!
For this awesome dish soap, all you need is some grated bar soap, liquid castile soap, washing soda, and some (optional) essential oils. I used Dr. Bronner’s baby mild bar soap and liquid soap. Washing soda (NOT the same as baking soda) can be found in your laundry aisle near the Borax. It’s in a bright yellow box, but if you can’t find it locally, you can either purchase it online at Amazon, or try making your own from some baking soda! I used orange and tea tree essential oils because I love the smell of citrus in the kitchen and the tea tree is anti-bacterial, but you can experiment with all sorts of fun scent combinations!
The recipe is super easy too. You’ll just mix the grated soap flakes with some boiling water and stir. Once the soap is dissolved, you’ll add the washing soda and stir, then add the liquid castile soap and stir. Once the mixture has cooled, you can add your essential oils, then transfer the mixture to a repurposed container (an old dish soap bottle works great!). Jerica even has a neat tutorial on how to turn a mason jar into a soap dispenser (then you can just make up the batch right in the jar!).
So How Well Does It Work?
The verdict? Well, I think I already gave that away, but this stuff works! It acts and feels like a real dish soap – it bubbles up nicely, cleans very well, and rinses away with no nasty film or residue. It’s initially very liquidy but it thickens up as it sets. The first day it was completely clear like the photo at the beginning of this post, and by the next day it had become a thick, white product. But I just shook it up real well and it loosened right up and was more gel-like, which totally works for me.
If it’s too thick to shake up, I just add a little warm water, give it a good shake and it’s good to go. Since not all kitchens or water systems are the same, your soap may behave a little differently depending on the temperature of your kitchen and the hardness of your water. You can play around with the amount of washing soda in the recipe until you find an amount that works best for you.
I was tempted to make up a double batch next time, but realized that if I did that, the soap wouldn’t have much room to move around when I shook it. So I’m sticking to the single batch recipe for now…
Important Note on Dishwashing Method: I just wash my dishes with a wet sponge and soap – meaning that I don’t fill the sink with water and let the dishes soak. The soap has great suds on the sponge, but I have to make sure I don’t add more water to the sponge after I’ve put soap on it because then the soap starts to lose its suds. So I can imagine that using this soap with the soaking method probably wouldn’t work very well.
- 1 1/4 cups boiling water
- 1/4 cup (tightly packed) castile bar soap, grated
- 1 tablespoon washing soda (use a little more for a thicker soap)
- 1/4 cup liquid castile soap
- 10-30 drops essential oils (optional; I use 20 drops orange and 10 drops tea tree)
- Add grated castile soap to boiling water and stir until dissolved.
- Add washing soda and stir.
- Add liquid castile soap and stir.
- Let mixture cool, then add essential oils.
- Transfer to repurposed soap dispenser and use as regular dish soap.
- Soap mixture will harden as it sets. If it's too thick to pour, just add a tiny bit of warm water and give it a good shake to loosen it up.
- The amount of washing soda you use will dictate how thick the soap gets, so adjust accordingly. The temperature of your kitchen is also a factor.
What’s one homemade product that you’ve attempted and failed at a few times before finally finding “the one”? What is your favorite natural dish soap (either store bought or homemade)?