How to Make Zero Waste Liquid Dish Soap With Non-Toxic Ingredients in Just Minutes

Dish soap made with solid olive oil soap

You might be surprised by how easy and fast making your own cleaning products can be! Hubby and I are lazy people, so we are all about simple solutions, or else there is no way we would incorporate that into our daily lives. This dish soap can be made in only one minute if you use liquid castile soap. If you use bar soap, you will have to add 5-10 minutes of grating. Or you can always chop it into chunks and have your food processor take care of the rest.

Environmental Effects of Conventional Dish Soap

Dish soap, even the eco-friendly brands, is always sold in plastic bottles. And plastic bottles will eventually become plastic waste. Besides, conventional store-bought dish soap is based on surfactants. Surfactants are usually made from fossil fuels, and even “eco-friendly surfactants” are based on palm oil (read more on the problem with palm oil).

Surfactants lower the water’s surface tension. Some are not biodegradable, and even the ones that are biodegradable can take up to four weeks or longer to break down. In this time they can still be toxic to animals and entire ecosystems!

There Is Soap and There Is Soap

Liquid hand and dish soaps sold in stores aren’t soaps in the traditional sense. Hand and dish soaps today are surfactant based, while traditional soaps are saponified oils. Castile soaps are soaps made by saponifying oil into either a solid bar of soap or liquid soap without any additives. This makes them the perfect base for multiple-purpose uses!

Soaps made this way biodegrade faster and very easily. They are alkaline, so adding acid neutralizes them.

However, many castile soaps are either not vegan because they are based on tallow (in a sense, they weren’t lying on Fight Club 😉), or they are vegan but based on palm oil. Dr. Bronner’s is a popular brand, but unfortunately, all of their soaps, too, are palm oil based. We are lucky that we can get liquid palm oil free castile soap at the Soap Dispensery in Vancouver (it’s their house brand).

Before we moved to Vancouver, we stuck to traditional olive oil soap that usually only consists of saponified olive oil. Sometimes laurel oil is mixed in. This soap is still made according to the simple, traditional method in almost every Middle Eastern country, in Greece, and in Marseilles, France. Even though they usually add palm oil, because soap making in Marseille has a long tradition of using palm oil. You can often find olive oil soap in bulk Middle Eastern stores and health food stores that sell French soap.

Another palm oil free castile soap is Kirk’s Original coco castile bar soap. I am not sure if the wrapper is made from paper or plastic though. If you know, please leave a comment below!

And of course there is always the option of making your own soap. Check out Kathryn’s 4 in 1 soap tutorial on her awesome blog Going Zero Waste for that. Kathruyn’s soap is based on coconut oil

Say No To Products On Steroids

We have come to believe that we need one highly specific product for each surface, room, purpose. I mean, come ON! Since when do we really need rocket science to clean our homes? The reason for the vast variety is to make us buy more, because we think we need one of each at home.

And yes, these products might be overachievers, but using these cleaning and personal care products on steroids also comes at a price. And personally, I think our health and destroying the planet are quite the high price to pay for a super dooper grease cutting dish soap that makes your dishes dry even faster…

This homemade dish soap is indeed less effective than their pimped cousins in the stores. However, with this dish soap you can clean your dishes, your hands, you can even use it to wash laundry—and you don’t have to worry about your health or the environment. Yes, it is true that it does not cut grease as well as store-bought dish soap. So what we do is to just use the olive oil soap or liquid castile soap straight on greasy dishes and that works fine for us.

Dish Soap Recipe

My recipe is based on this recipe by the German blog Zum Ursprung zurück about a self sufficient life 💚. I have modified the recipe over time though.

  • EITHER 25-30g palm oil free castile bar soap (we use traditional olive oil soap) OR 170ml palm oil free liquid castile soap (all of Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps are unfortunately palm oil based) OR you can use up whatever bar soap you still have at home, but in that case please note that the dish soap might not be free from harmful substances anymore and please make sure to read the troubleshooting below!
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 600ml water
  • 3 drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)
  • 1 soap dispenser and maybe a jar for the surplus

The version with the liquid castile soap cuts grease better, but it is not easy to get palm oil free liquid castile soap.


Grate the soap. We usually grate a huge bar while watching some TV show and keep the soap flakes in a jar for next time or other recipes. If you have a food processor, well, lucky you! You can just chop the bar into chunks and let your food processor do the shredding.

Seife raspeln

Bring water to a boil. Turn off the stove, add the soap flakes. Stir with a spoon until the soap has dissolved. Let cool. Add baking soda when the mixture is still warm, but not so hot that you could not touch it. We like to let it cool down overnight.

Shake before you transfer in into a soap dispenser. Also shake from time to time.

Instructions for using liquid castile soap

This is the dish soap made with liquid castile soap.

Mix the castile soap with hot water (not so hot that you couldn’t touch it), add the baking soda and stir to combine.


My Dish Soap Turned Into a Jelly Block!

This has happened to many of my followers and readers of the German version of blog, and it has also happened to us when we were using up my mom’s collection of these tiny hotel soap bars.

The reason is because most bar soaps are not castile soaps, which means they contain additives. You can still use the dish soap. All you have to do is to blend the jelly block and shake the dish soap before use.

The Plates Did Not Turn Out Streak-Free

Some of the readers of the German version of my blog have reported that the plates do not turn out streak-free with their olive oil soap based dish soap. This has never happened to us. But then again, we do not wash our dishes the German way, which is to fill up the sink with soapy water, soak and wash all the dishes in the soapy water, and then leave them out to dry without rinsing. Instead what we do is:

  1. We rinse the plates slightly and of course we turn off the water immediately
  2. We put the dish soap onto the cloth (we don’t use disposable sponges but cotton cloths) and wash the plates.
  3. We rinse the plates with water.

Without filling the sink with soapy water, the dish soap does not get diluted and is more effective. We also rinse off any residues, so our plates are streak-free afterwards.

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Filed under Article, Housekeeping, Kitchen, Zero-Waste Alternatives


  1. Pingback: How to Make Your Own Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products at Home | Inspiralist

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