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 teaspoon 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.
Instructions for using a bar 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.
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
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:
- We rinse the plates slightly and of course we turn off the water immediately
- We put the dish soap onto the cloth (we don't use disposable sponges but cotton cloths) and wash the plates.
- 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.
Thank you very much for the tips !!! Is it pure cotton white cloth or ??
I use 100% cotton cloths, sometimes these are just cut up old towels though 😀
Thank for the great tips !!
Maria Jose says
What do you think about alepo soap bar?
Thank you very much for your tips 😉
Aleppo soap is one of the traditional olive oil based castile soaps I talk about :). It is called Aleppo soap because it is produced in Aleppo, but the recipe is actually the same.
I've tried 2 other recipes with no success 🙁 both used "savon noir" (I'm in France ) which I see from the ingredients is made from flax seed oil. It seemed to be too greasy and left a serious film on everything but maybe it was just improperly dosed. I have Marseille soap flakes but I just realized that the ingredients list doesn't say if there is palm oil (so most likely yes!)
I will try your recipe with my olive oil soap block!
PS- I just discovered your blog (from Instagram) and I'm really enjoying it! We definitely have a lot of the same ideas
My blog is in French but I Instagram as well, @truegreenjo!
Kyoko Kikuchi says
Thanks for the tips always. I enjoy reading your blog.
I have to admit I haven't read articles and the labels enough that I have been using Dr. Bronner's soap thinking it's the best and easiest choice. One more to simplify my life...
Jennifer T says
This is a very informative article! I didn't know about surfactants. I was using Dr. Bronner's soap because it was rated nontoxic on an app called "Think Dirty" that I use. I didn't think to check for palm oil. Thanks for raising awareness on this issue!
The Soap Dispensary store looks amazing! How did you find that store in Vancouver? I live in southern California and I'm trying find stores where I can buy things package free. I've found a few stores, but I have a feeling there's gotta be more out there! Do you use certain search terms online to locate these stores? Or is there an app? Thanks!
Kirks packaging is recyclable, but I'm not sure what it is made of exactly. It looks and feels like like coated paper.
I love this recipe, and I like that it brings awareness to Palm Oil issues. I am new to going to zero waste, and my biggest question is how can I buy these ingredients to make my homemade cleaners without buying so much stuff in packaging. Maybe I don't live in the right area or I haven't found the right store, but I would love to get all of these ingredients by bringing my own container to the store, or sometimes things just don't need to be in packaging at all (like bar soap).
I forgot the part about letting it cool before adding the baking soda. It went very foamy... Oops! I'm sure it will work all the same, but my heart skipped a beat when the high of the foam threatened to escape the pot!. I put some lemongrass extract in it, it smells great!
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Hey I just found your blog super cute. I’m in the Vancouver area too where is the best places to find the soap ? Also do zero waste shopping hoping to make the change.
what do you think about quinn's liquid castille soap, ingredients: Purified Water, Coconut Oil, Potassium Hydroxide*, Argan Oil, Jojoba Oil, Hemp Oil, Olive Oil, Vegetable Glycerin I can find pure olive oil soaps online, eg. country rose soap, penn's, but the soap is super expensive.
Part 2: how about Or La Almona liquid castille soap: Saponified organic olive, coconut and sunflower oils, organic aloe vera, organic shea butter, natural rosemary extract and citric acid. They all come in plastic bottles though
Not a big fan of the plastic bottles obviously ;), but the ingredients are okay imo, even though the ingredients list could be shorter. In the end it's about going for the best option available to you though. If you have access to Kirk's that's a simply soap that works great, if you don't, go for your soap.
Why do you need the baking soda with the liquid castille soap, I usually just dilute Dr. Bronners for dish soap.
Maya Ayuso Wood says
Where is the plastic-free soap dispenser from?
Kerri McCoy says
Thank you for sharing these wonderful cheat recipes! I just ran into my kitchen and bathroom, pulled out what I needed, and boom! I am now set for the next year in just hand soap and fish detergent!! I make my own soap, laundry soap, and now……anything soap! Thanks again!
Ellen Richardson says
Hi Shia, thanks for all your helpful and detailed zero-waste tips! Can you recommend an alternative to dishwashing sponges? I've been looking for some dishcloths that we can just put through the washing machine, but I wonder if there is a product you know of that something similar to the harder green part of a sponge for scrubbing dried food from plates and pans?
I have been using a loofah for the past couple of months and it’s holding up really well, especially on dishes. I just let it dry in between uses.
ashley west says
Thanks for that awesome write up. I really like how it was written.
Kirk's is my fave. They are wrapped in paper.
Haha, same here! Am sad I can't get Kirk's now I've relocated to Germany!
Thank you so much for this great post.They are providing helpful information for waste liquid dish soap with non toxic ingredients. I just ran into my kitchen and bathroom, pulled out what I needed, and boom.I will sharing your post to other users and tell to visit on this site.
Paramis K says
thank you Shia for your post. can you recommend a palm oil free liquid castile soap brand?
The reason is because most bar soaps are not castile soaps, which means they contain additives.
NO. This is incorrect.
First of all castile soap is named that because it is made (or should be) with olive oil only. You can very buy castile soap in both liquid or bar form - a bar castile will not necessarily have more additives simply by being in bar form.
Secondly, the reason bar castile soup turns to "soap snot" (gel) is because it is saponified with sodium hydroxide. Liquid castile soap is made with potassium hydroxide. To only way to get away from "soap snot" is to not use bar soap.
Also, if you're buying a bottle of liquid castile soap to make liquid dish soap, how is that waste free?
I've just made a batch of it and can't wait to try it out! How long is it supposed to last, as in, what is its shelf life? Thank yoou!! 🙂
I was quite excited to try this recipe and very disappointed with the results.
I made the version with liquid castille soap. I usually put my dish soap in the water and then wash as I go rinsing each dish. I got the glasses clean but once I put the cutlery in the grease just seemed to sit in the water. I could not get the cutlery clean. I had to give up and go buy soap the next day.
It also smelled strange but that's probably my fault as I did not add essential oils because I was in a bit of a hurry.
It turns the water cloudy which isn't a problem in itself but does look a bit gross.
Your site is a great resource, nicely done!
Fairway Supermarket sells their own brand of liquid Castile soap made from coconut, olive and hempseed oil
I've just made the dish soap, using a bar of soap I had in, I made sure I measured everything correctly, waited for it to cool and it is very thin, like water...is this right, or should it be a thicker consistancy like shop bought dish soap? If not I'm not sure what has gone wrong
Thank you for your advice.
Quick update... it thickened overnight, thanks for the recipe
What kind of olive oil soap do you buy? Thanks, excited to try it!
I understand Dr Bronner products contain sustainable palm oil and have done so for some time. I am trying to move away from plastic.
Just made the liquid castile soap version. SUPER EASY!! It literally took less than 5 minutes. And I washed pots and pans and it worked beautifully!!! I have a coconut allergy so I found an olive oil based liquid castile soap online, being sold as a body wash, but all it is is olive castile soap. (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00E78CFX6/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) I hope its ok to link to it here. It is not my product and I am not making money from it - just trying to help anyone else in my shoes.
I happened to have washing soda on hand, so I used that instead of baking soda. (Washing soda is just "baked" baking soda and works well also.)
THANK YOU for sharing this recipe! It is a lifesaver for me - quite literally.
Thank you for leading me to a palm oil free castile soap bar: Kirk’s Original coco castile bar soap!!!
While unstable palm oil is not something I support, I really think you should look into Dr. Bronner's Castile soaps and their Sal Sads. Yes: they use palm oil, however, they are completely reshaping the way palm oil is being grown and collected which in turn is doing more good than harm. Oh yeah, and it's being grown in locations that orangutans aren't native to so there are zero monkeys harmed in the process. You can find all of that information easily online.... so please stop vilifying an amazing brand.
Dammit, of course I read this a day after buying Dr Bronner's Castile soap! Doh
How much bar soap for this concoction? Thanks so much.
What is the purpose of the baking soda?
Also, "lazy hot-mess that happened to slide into a vegan minimalist zero waste and almost plastic-and palm oil free lifestyle" is EXACTLY ME TOO!! I want the max good/value/uncomplicated.
MapleX Naturals says
Super recipe on making a zero waste liquid dish soap..
Would also like to add that Castile Soap is also a better and alternative option when it comes to environmental friendliness ..