How to Make Homemade Dish Soap

A jar of homemade dish soap in a bowl with a spoon resting inside it.

Adapted from Paul Lowe | Sweet Paul Eat & Make | Rux Martin/HMH, 2014

This homemade dish soap is a godsend for home cooks who get a little giddy about something that’s gentle on the hands, natural and free from chemicals and unpronounceable preservatives, and relatively inexpensive. Seriously, this liquid dish soap is going to change your life. Well, sorta. It’s only mildly sudsy compared to standard dish soap. But don’t let that fool you—it still does the trick. It’s particularly perfect for delicate china and glassware, although it’s effective at everyday 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. And we swear our hands have gotten softer since we started using this natural alternative. –Renee Schettler Rossi

Homemade Dish Soapquick-glance-dish-soap

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Container to hold your soap (a Mason or other vintage glass jar with a screw-top lid works nicely)
6 tablespoons unscented liquid Castile soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s)
2 teaspoons vegetable glycerine (available online and in pharmacies)
5 drops essential oil of your choice (optional)
2 cups water


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 and when scrubbing messy pots and pans you may need to use a touch more soap. Originally published July 15, 2014.

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In the container, combine the Castile soap, glycerin, and essential oil, if using.

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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Recipe Testers' Reviews

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.

This homemade dish soap recipe intrigued me since I love to sort out the puzzle of how so many things are made.

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.

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.)

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.

I finally made this homemade dish soap and WOW! What was I waiting for? Love it. What made me want to try this recipe is knowing exactly what is in the final product and not relying on extra chemicals that we don't need.

I must admit I was worried if I was saving money, as the bottle of Dr. Bronner’s is pretty steep, but then as I started calculating the amounts needed I was happily surprised to realize it would actually be a substantial savings. The final product not only cleans even tough, greasy pans, but left my hands nice and soft!

For the first bottle, I used lavender essential oil. For the second, I used lemon.

This homemade dish soap was a fun project. It's very easy to find the ingredients and you can choose your own scent (which was a real plus for me, as I dislike strong and fake-y scented products). I used a grapefruit essential oil and added an extra drop, as I thought the scent was actually too faint otherwise. The soap works quite well and smells lovely. It just isn't as viscous as regular dish soap and I think you end up using more of it for that reason. (I tried it with double the glycerine, but that didn't make a big enough difference. I may fiddle with the proportions a bit.)

The recipe suggests keeping your homemade soap in a glass jar, but I found this wasn't so great. While a 1-pint canning jar is just the right size, the wide mouth means that you pour out more than you mean to, and there is a lot of messy spillage over the sides. I put mine in a saucer to keep the counter soap free.

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.

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.

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 5 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.

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 3 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!

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


  1. Love seeing homemade products. I’ve been using diluted Lavender Castile 1:10 for my dishes and face/hands for years. Even on my hair now and then. I’ll start adding lemon juice for my dishes as your reader suggested, great idea.

    May I suggest a homemade cleaning solution that I have been using for years: in a sprayer bottle, mix water and white vinegar in equal amounts, 2 tbs Rubbing Alcohol and 5-10 drops of your favorite essential oil. (I use Lavender Essential Oil.) I use it in the kitchen and bathroom.

    Happy Cleaning :)

    1. Love this, Randi. Love it. Thank you so much! I, too, rely on rubbing alcohol for cleaning but I wasn’t sure how much to dilute it. Going to try your approach beginning immediately! Thank you!

      1. YW! Forgot to mention when you use this mixture on mirrors, it may take a few seconds to dry it thoroughly (as it doesn’t have all the chemicals that create the instant dry). I use rubbing alcohol too: straight out of the container on faucets, door knobs, etc. Especially during flu season. Isn’t it nice that we’re going back to the cleaning basics of our grandparents? :) All you need is vinegar, baking soda, and rubbing alcohol.

        1. I’m so relieved to hear you say that you use rubbing alcohol straight up on faucets and door knobs and such, Randi, as I’ve been doing the same. I was wondering if I was being wasteful, but I feel like those places that get a lot of hand traffic sorta require a heftier dose! And yes, absolutely, am relieved that we’re returning to a simpler approach. My theory with a lot of things in life is if my grandma didn’t need it, I don’t.

          1. Yes to all your thoughts :) Rubbing Alcohol is the least expensive sterilizer. TY for sharing all these books you find, I picked it up at the library and enjoyed the concept of recipes and crafts. It’s beautifully designed too.
            Happy Cleaning Again !

  2. I don’t have a picture, but I have a suggestion. When I made the homemade dishsoap, I loved the smell, but I had learned adding lemon juice boosts the cleaning power. And it adds a wonderful scent behind.

  3. My new kitchen re-do included a farm sink made of soapstone………this lovely, natural soap just seems to be a natural fit. I made some using tangerine essential oil and another batch using a blend of rosemary and myrtle. Its lovely and fresh and makes my hands so soft! Last year I gave home made vanilla (using your recipe) to some of my friends….this year they are getting hand knit cotton dishcloths with a pretty bottle filled with all natural dish soap. Thanks for another great “recipe”!!!

  4. 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.

    1. 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!

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