Homemade Dish Soap

Homemade dish soap is easy and inexpensive to make. This formula comes from my friend Sacha Dunn, founder of the fabulous natural cleaning supply company Common Good. Essential oils are available in health-food stores, craft stores, and online. Vegetable glycerin is available in some grocery stores and drugstores and online.–Paul Lowe

LC Swooning Alert! Note

Swooning Alert! If you’re the sort of home cook who swoons to dish soap that’s gentle on the hands, free from chemicals or unpronounceable ingredients, and pleasantly unscented or mildly aromatic, we have a hunch you’re about to change your life and start making this homemade dish soap. It lacks a lot of incomprehensible preservatives and petroleum and other pretty petrifying things, so it doesn’t have as many suds as standard dish soap. But don’t let that fool you—it still does the trick. It’s particularly perfect for delicate china and glassware, though it’s effective for everyday sorts of dishwashing as well. If you’re about to tackle a crusty lasagna pan or brownie baking dish with lots of baked-on chocolate goodness, you may find it necessary to reach for an extra squirt of this soap and a scrubber. Anyways, we like it. And we swear our hands have gotten softer since we started using this homemade dishwashing soap. Seriously.

Homemade Dish Soap Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 5 M
  • 5 M
  • Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

  • Container to hold your soap (I like to use an old glass jar but you can use a plastic squeeze container or a pump container)
  • 6 tablespoons unscented liquid Castile soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable glycerin
  • 5 drops essential oil of your choice (optional)
  • 2 cups cold water

Directions

  • 1. In the container, combine the Castile soap, glycerin, and essential oil, if using.
  • 2. Top with the water and gently mix. Keep at room temperature. You may need to stir to recombine prior to using.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Alexandra M.

Jul 15, 2014

What a nifty little recipe this homemade dish soap is! I'm certainly benefiting from this dish elixir since I'm an enthusiastic home chef without a dishwasher. The scent is very subtle, so I'd double the essential oil to 10 drops next time. While it works like a charm on wine glasses or dinner plates, working with this detergent requires some elbow grease on crusty pans. That's to be expected from a natural detergent, though. Also, I found that I used more detergent than usual, and I suspect it's because this version doesn't lather up like the commercial brands. I prefer using this over store-bought stuff, though I'll keep the Ajax under the sink for eggy skillets. Also, I did the math, and this recipe only costs about $1.50—a nice little savings! Last thing: It's so nice that I can go gloveless if I feel like it! This stuff doesn't dry out my hands.

Testers Choice
Jo Ann Brown

Jul 15, 2014

Yes, I have a dishwasher, but there are still some items that are vintage and dear that need a gentle hand-washing. To make this great homemade dish soap, I used a popular brand of unscented Castile soap and glycerine from my local pharmacy. Both were easy enough to find. I relied on my favorite essential oils and added 2 drops Atlas cedar, 2 drops pine needle oil, and 1 drop bergamot (the floral, citrus backbone of Earl Grey tea). When dish soap smells like heaven, it's a pleasure to stand at the sink to do this chore. I also like that the soap can double at the sink for hands and, unlike commercial dish soap, it washes off my skin much easier. Find yourself a lovely container to store it in. I used a pint mason jar and repurposed a liquid pump in the spirit of doing it myself.

Testers Choice
Julie Houser

Jul 15, 2014

This homemade dish soap recipe intrigued me since I love to sort out the puzzle of how so many things are made. The ingredients were easy to find; glycerin was the only semi-tricky one, as no one at my two grocery stores had even heard of it. I eventually found it myself, much to their embarrassment since they'd told me they didn't carry it!  (Look in the pharmacy area--near the Q-tips.) Assembly was a cinch, but it was so watery that I was really skeptical. I filled a squirt bottle, tackled some really dirty dishes with no real optimism, and found, to my great surprise, that it worked great. It was plenty sudsy, had great grease-cutting ability, and I used the same amount as I would have with a concentrated soap. Unfortunately, the only essential oil I had at home was lavender and that was not my favorite choice for detergent. I will definitely make this again with a different scent.

Testers Choice
Megan M.

Jul 15, 2014

Once you have the components to make this homemade dish soap, it comes together in less than 5 minutes. You can easily customize the scent by using any essential oil you happen to have in your possession. Rosemary or citrus would be lovely. I happened to have jasmine, which in the future I'll save for something else. The soap is rather thin but creates a very nice lather. It cut through oil nicely and didn't leave any streaks on glasses. As soon as I have a plastic container available, I will transfer the soap. It just isn't practical for me to have soap in a glass jar near my sink. Now that I have the components for this soap, I can see myself making it again and again.

Testers Choice
Michelle P.

Jul 15, 2014

I am always game for trying a good DIY household cleaner. I like to know what's in my house and and what types of chemicals I'm exposing myself and my family to, and if I can save a few bucks doing it, then all the better! I have plenty of mason jars, finding the Castile soap was easy enough, and I already had some essential oils (although I took this as reason to add to my supply). The one thing I did have a hard time tracking down was the vegetable glycerin. I went to three stores and drugstores before deciding I should call ahead to confirm whether it was carried or not. So that was a slight frustration with this homemade dish soap recipe. However, there are many sources online and I'd probably go that route in the future. I used orange and mint essential oils for a clean, fresh scent. It's great! At first, the cost of the ingredients seemed kind of high. However, after making one batch and seeing how many more I can make with what I have, it seems reasonable now. So again, saving money and keeping my family away from harmful chemicals is a win-win in my book!

Testers Choice
Elsa M. Jacobson

Jul 15, 2014

No one who knows me even a little would be surprised that I jumped right on this homemade dish soap recipe. Easy and inexpensive are just the start! You can also impress your friends, as it makes a great gift. How better to use five minutes of your time?! I used Dr. Bronner’s unscented liquid Castile soap, which is sometimes stocked in the baby or children’s area of the store. The vegetable glycerin was located at a health food store. It seems to me that the essential oil could be replaced with a nicely fragranced liquid Castile soap of your choice. This occurred to me when I saw the array of fragrances Dr. Bronner’s now makes—almond, orange, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, and rose all sound like they’d work just fine for dish detergent. I also saw another brand of liquid Castile soap at a sporting goods store with fragrances such as lavender mandarin, grassy mint, pomegranate açaí, and lemongrass clary sage, which also sounded appealing to me. My new dish soap is lovely, filled with ingredients I know and love, and, most importantly, works! I used plastic squirt bottles in lieu of the glass jar suggested; having a glass jar near the sink where slippery wet hands will be seems like a bit of an accident waiting to happen. If I were to gift this detergent, I might decorate the bottle with a nice label, but for me the unadorned clear plastic squirt bottle is just fine.

We tested this homemade dish soap after making lunch for a crowd. We had to use more soap than we would with a conventional dish detergent since the liquid is thin, but it worked well and cleaned the oily plates and bowls thoroughly. We enjoyed mixing up this simple solution and will make it for family and friends and present it in pretty bottles as gifts.

Testers Choice
Jeanie McCallister

Jul 15, 2014

This homemade dish soap was easy to make and worked great! I used lavender oil, and it smelled divine.


Comments
Comments
  1. Lori says:

    I very much prefer homemade solutions compared to the big box products. Your recipe reminds me of something I would see at the local Botanical Gardens. Great!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      So do we, Lori. So do we. Let us know if you try it. We’re quite smitten with this recipe and have been making it in big batches and stashing the extra in a large Mason jar beneath the kitchen sink. Swell stuff!

  2. Natalie says:

    This is such a great idea and easy to do. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Julie says:

    What a fun idea! Thank you for sharing. May I also ask where you got the jar? That is really beautiful!!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      You’re very welcome, Julie. We’d like, in turn, to thank the kind folks at Sweet Paul Magazine, as we merely shared their brilliance. As for the jar, we’re checking with the stylists over at Sweet Paul to see if they recall where they found it, and if they do, we’ll be back in touch with you. In the meantime, would love to hear what you think of the DIY dish soap!

  4. Susan says:

    I love the idea of this dish soap, especially as I don’t have a working dishwasher…well except for my own two hands! (My dishwasher serves as a giant dish rack right now.) Do you suppose that you could boil the water and add fresh sprigs of rosemary, mint or lemon peel or whatever suits your fancy, then let it cool and strain it to use instead of the drops of essential oil? I may just test this first to see if it works. I’ll let you know. Also, I’m not sure about what effect the vegetable glycerin my have but it seems this could be used as a gentle shampoo, as well.

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