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Store-bought liquid dish soap is fairly cheap and convenient, and there are many eco-friendly brands that are plant-based if you’re looking for non-petroleum-based dish cleaners. So why would anyone trouble themselves with making liquid dish soap at home?
First, with homemade liquid dish soap you have greater control over what goes into the soap, and therefore, you have more control over what’s going on your dishes and down your drain.
Second, even if you find a great plant-based liquid dish soap that works well, doesn’t contain any controversial ingredients, such as sodium lauryl sulfate, and doesn’t cost you a ton of money, it likely comes in a plastic bottle. Recycling is good, but the truth is, recycling is not the optimal solution to our plastic waste problem for a variety of reasons. Reducing the demand for plastic bottles is ultimately a much more environmentally friendly way to go.
A lot of people recycle as much as they can out of a sense of duty, but the process can be tiresome, especially if you’re the one dragging the garbage and the recycling to the dump each week. The practice of cleaning out empty bottles and hauling them around gets old pretty quickly. It’s a lot more fun, in my opinion, to throw together a batch of dish soap when you need it.
How to Make Homemade Liquid Dish Soap
Making your own liquid dish soap is a lot easier than you probably think. The recipe I use, which is based on the one found at One Good Thing, uses 4 basic ingredients: water, Castile soap, vegetable glycerin, and essential oil. Plus, it only takes 20 minutes to make from start to finish.
When I first started making my liquid dish soap, I used the recipe from One Good Thing, mentioned above, that calls for adding vinegar. Then I read several articles that point out why adding vinegar directly to soap is a bad idea. Adding an acid to soap breaks it down into its component oils. While the recipe I was using didn’t appear to be breaking down at first, after a few days of using the dish liquid it would start to feel slightly oily, which is obviously not what you want when cleaning your dishes. Luckily, vinegar is not an essential ingredient in the recipe, and it can simply be removed.
Here’s what you need to make a pint of liquid dish soap:
- 1/4 cup of grated Castile soap
- 2 cups of water
- 1 tablespoon (T) of vegetable glycerin
- A few drops of essential oil
- Grate the Castile soap with a box grater.
- Combine the Castile soap with the water in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir until the soap is fully melted, being careful not to boil the mixture.
- Remove the soap and water mixture from the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes.
- Add the vegetable glycerin and essential oil.
- Let it cool, then pour it into your soap dispenser.
If you’re wondering how much of a bar of Castile soap this recipe takes, it’s about a quarter of a 4-oz. bar.
Choosing an Essential Oil for Your Dish Soap
What kind of essential oil works well in this liquid dish soap recipe? For added cleaning and antibacterial power, you can choose from a wide variety of essential oils, including lemon, orange, lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint, and rosemary. My favorite is rosemary, but the choice is yours, and you can switch it up each time you make the recipe, which is half the fun.
Making Homemade Liquid Dish Soap to Save Money
You may be wondering why I didn’t list saving money as a reason to make your own dish soap. You can, potentially, save money with a homemade recipe. However, you have to pay close attention to the cost of your ingredients and the current cost of buying store-bought dish liquid. When I decided to make my own dish liquid, the cost per fluid ounce (not including my labor) was comparable to buying Seventh Generation (my regular product) in bulk as a subscription on Amazon. For me, the choice to make my own dish liquid came down to wanting to reduce my recycling load. If you’re moving from a standard, economy dish liquid made with a petroleum-based surfactant, it may actually cost you more to make a homemade recipe. That, for better or worse, is the power of mass production.
How to Use Homemade Liquid Dish Soap
It’s time for another reality check. You know how you fill your sink with water and suds to get your dishes clean? That’s not how you use homemade dish soap. Because homemade liquid dish soap doesn’t contain surfactants (e.g., sodium lauryl sulfate), you won’t get the bubbles that you’re used to seeing. Instead of filling up the sink, you put the homemade liquid soap on your sponge or dishwashing cloth or directly on what you’re washing, clean it, then rinse under running water as usual. The homemade liquid is not as thick as store-bought dish soap. It can take a bit to get used to, but your dishes still get clean.
Have you tried this or another homemade dish soap recipe? How did it go? Let me know in the comments section.