Are you looking to save money on cleaning products and work toward a more natural lifestyle, eliminating chemicals and toxins from your everyday products? Do you love the challenge of making your own cleaners?

If so, you have to try our simple recipe for homemade dish soap. Not the kind that goes into a dishwasher, the kind you squirt into a sink full of water when you’re stuck with the chore of hand-washing the dishes. (I say yuck, Matt actually likes doing it that way.)

Homemade Dish Soap


Even though we wrote a book on how to make all your own household cleaners, we continue to create new recipes and improve the old ones. This recipe (not featured in the book) is simple, natural, cheap to make, and cleans dishes to a sparkling shine.

Natural Liquid Dish Soap Recipe

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Heat water to boiling.
  2. Combine borax and grated bar soap in a medium bowl. Pour hot water over the mixture. Whisk until the grated soap is completely melted.
  3. Allow mixture to cool on the countertop for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally. Dish soap will gel upon standing.
  4. Transfer to a squirt bottle, and add essential oils (if using). Shake well to combine.

Now you’re ready to use your liquid dish soap just as you would use any commercial brand!

Video Tutorial

Enjoy this video tutorial with step-by-step instructions.

(If you cannot see the video click here to view it in your browser.)


Increase the cleaning power of your Soap

Antibacterial essential oils can be used in this dish soap recipe to naturally increase the cleaning power. Oils such as lemon, eucalyptus, sweet orange, geranium, or lavender have antibacterial properties. Using a citrus oil will also help with cutting grease. I personally prefer eucalyptus lemon dish soap, with about 10 drops of lemon and 6 drops of eucalyptus essential oil. The aromatherapy makes the chore of washing dishes a little more enjoyable.

Using your homemade dish soap

If you’re accustomed to using commercial dish soap that foams and bubbles, it will take some time to get used to homemade alternatives. Commercial dish soaps have added harmful chemical surfactants (like sodium lauryl sulfate) to create suds – more for the visual effect, not necessarily more cleaning power. Suds are actually not necessary to get things clean, but we’ve been conditioned to think that bubbles have to be present for cleaning. This is not so.

When you squirt your homemade dish soap into the sink, you’ll notice a little bubbling at first, but then the water will just look a little cloudy. This is normal. Your dishes will still come out clean. I always wash silverware first, then dishes and glasses, and save pots, pans, and really greasy dishes for last.

Note: If your homemade dish soap ever gels up too much in the bottle just give it a shake and it’ll be ready for use again. You can also dump it all in your blender and blend for about 10 seconds. This should prevent future gelling and/or separation.

On Borax

There are all sorts of concerns about the toxicity of borax swirling around on the Internet. Many readers have expressed concern about the inclusion of borax in our dishwasher detergent recipe and laundry detergent recipe. We have done tons of research on it, and feel it is a safe, effective addition to homemade cleaners. You may be interested in reading this article on the subject, or this article, or doing more research to help make your own determination.

Happy dish washing! Let us know what you think of the recipe.


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Comments

  1. Lisa Quenon says

    Thanks! Going shopping today for all sorts of supplies…will include these. I think I’ll get some orange and lemon essential oils. I’m particularly fond of citrus…the scent as well as the grease-cutting ability! Awesome! Thanks! Happy New Year!

  2. Carol says

    I use Dawn dishwashing liquid not only to wash dishes but to also remove food and grease stains from clothes. Will this also work in this capacity?

      • Kn8e says

        How do you pretreat with that laundry detergent? Any suggestions on how to leave your clothes with a scent using it? Also, I looked at the recipe for cloth baby wipes. As I do not use cloth diapers, do y’all have a recipe suggestion for the type of homemade baby wipes that use paper towels? Loving your site! Love the laundry detergent’s cleaning power and looking forward to trying the dish soap and dish detergent!

        • Betsy Jabs says

          We pretreat with our powdered laundry detergent by rubbing a little of it on stains with a wet toothbrush (designated only for this purpose). See our homemade fabric softener and dryer sheets article for tips on scenting your laundry: http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-fabric-softener-dryer-sheets/

          For homemade baby wipes made with paper towels you can use the diaper wipe solution from our article as the liquid. (http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-baby-wipes/)
          Just cut a paper towel roll in half, and pour the diaper wipe solution over top. I would recommend doubling the recipe for the liquid and pouring it over one half of the paper towel roll. (If you’re using both halves of the paper towel, just quadruple our recipe for wipe solution.) Hope this helps!

          • Kn8e says

            Thank you so much, Betsy! That is really helpful! Is it ok to pretreat stains that way and wait to wash them for 3 days or so?

  3. Laura says

    I’ve been waiting for a recipe like this! Once my 7th Generation gets low, I’ll have to try this out! Thanks so much!

  4. cristin says

    I literally was looking for a dish soap recipe on your site just yesterday! you are oh-so thoughtful to have read my mind ;-)
    THANKS!

  5. cristin says

    and may I add …. I’ve kept my (store-bought) dish soap in an olive oil bottle – the kind with a pourer spout – for years now. looks nice on the counter and there’s no need for plastic :-) eager to fill it with my homemade batch today.
    blessings!

  6. Hannah R says

    I live in Asia and have been unsuccessful in finding borax. Is there a good alternative for it?

  7. says

    I think the issues with toxicity of borax is mostly coming from those who have confused it with boric acid. I’ve run into this frequently.

  8. Donna M says

    Would Fels Naptha be a suitable bar soap for this recipe or is that a bit too much for dishes? I keep it on hand for the Laundry Detergent recipe (thanks so much for that!). Also, if I just absolutely have to have some bubbles, can glycerin be added to this recipe with no problems? Thanks for all that you do.

    • says

      Glycerin wouldn’t hurt anything so give it a shot and let us know how it goes. I wouldn’t do Fels Naptha if you can help it, as you suspected it’s not made for this type of use. Grab a bar of Dr. Bronners, Kirks Castile, or Ivory.

  9. Robin says

    Borax is natural, but so are alot of other things I wouldn’t ever use in my home.It has long and short term side effects on your health, some of which can be lasting. I have throughly researched and also know the difference between the 2 products.

  10. Cheri says

    Love the sound of this, will have to try it out soon. I do want to say that when we bought our new stainless steel pans the sales person reccomened (as well as the manufacturer) not to use anything with lemon as it will damage the pans, so be careful with the lemon oils.

  11. Stephanie says

    The only bar soap we have in our small town is Sunlight – works for laundry just fine, even in our very sensitive skin household. Would it work for this recipe though? I admit to being pretty new to all this and I don’t know the differences between the natural soaps yet. Why isn’t Fels Naptha ok, for example?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Fels Naptha would probably work, but it’s designed as kind of a heavy duty laundry soap. However, I know folks who use laundry soaps for dish soap…so it’s really just a matter of preference. I’m not familiar with Sunlight, but if it’s gentle enough for your family’s skin then you could certainly try it.

    • Marie says

      I wouldn’t want this anywhere near my dishes… how about you?

      Fels NNaptha Ingredients:
      Soap (sodium tallowate*, sodium cocoate* (or) sodium palmate kernelate*, and sodium palmate*), water, talc, cocnut acid*, palm acid*, tallow acid*, PEG-6 methyl ether, glycerin, sorbitol, sodium chloride, pentasodium pentetate and/or tetrasodium etidronate, titatium dioxide, fragrance, Acid Orange (CI 20170), Acid yellow 73 (ci43350)

      *contains one or more of these ingredients

      • Marla says

        All soap has these things unless you make your own. Even Ivory. As for these ingredients, Fels-Naptha contains soap consisting of sodium tallowate and sodium cocoate or sodium palmate kernelate and sodium palmate. The word “sodium” refers to sodium hydroxide, the lye used to make soap, in this case with tallow, coconut oil, palm oil or palm kernel oil. It also contains water and talc. Coconut acid, palm acid and tallow acid are fatty acids derived from plants and animals. They are emollients and surfactants, cleaning agents in other words. PEG-6 methyl ether is an extract of juniper. Fels-Naptha also contains glycerin, an emollient; sorbitol, a sugar alcohol derived from fruits, corn and seaweed, a moisturizer; and sodium chloride, ordinary table salt. Pentasodium pentetate and/or tetrasodium etidronate are inorganic salts used as emulsifiers and dispersing agents. Titatium dioxide is an opaque white pigment. The soap also contains fragrance, source not specified and acid orange and acid yellow colors.

        Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/176905-information-on-fels-naptha-soap/#ixzz2LSx9NBwT

    • Betsy Jabs says

      The essential oils are optional. :) They boost the natural cleaning power of your dish soap, but the soap will still work without them.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      We have very soft water where we live now, so I haven’t used it in hard water yet. If you decide to experiment with it, be sure to return and let us know what you find out!

  12. Marissa says

    For the recipe you need castile soap and you said for essential oils you can use eucalyptus oil, so I’m just curious do you think I could use Dr.Bronner’s eucalyptus hemp pure castile soap for this recipe? It says it has eucalyptus globulus oil.

  13. shelby says

    do you have to use the essential oils? i already have the other stuff from making the homemade laundry soap. i would love to make this tonight, but if i really DO need the oils, i will have to wait.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Go ahead and try it! I’m not sure if you will end up with the same gel consistency as the borax gives. I experimented a bunch with washing soda, and it gave me lots of problems (separated from the mixture after curing). However, you may want to try substituting washing soda or baking soda for yourself…you may end up with good results. :)

  14. Trudy says

    I will definitely try this one the next time I need more dish soap. I made the dish soap recipe in your book but it came out solid, I added a heap more water and now it looks like mucus… a bit off-putting washing your dishes in it. It does work though.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yeah, I will say these recipes can be a bit problematic at times. I have found temperature plays a role in how they “set up,” and the type of soap definitely plays into the quality of the finished product. Ahhh, the joys of DIY products. :)

  15. shelby says

    i made my first batch of this last night, but i tripled the recipe since i have more bottles to fill… i left it on the counter to sit for the 6-8 hours, but after an hour when i went back to stir it, it was very very thick… almost like jello if not thicker. is this normal? if it is how is it supposed to go into a soap bottle and squirt out?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      This recipe seems to work best when made in smaller batches. Don’t throw away your thick soap though…just add a little water at a time, stirring after each addition, until it’s the consistency you like.

  16. Maxine says

    Thanks for the recipe. I made this the other day and added eucalyptus and lemon oils as recommended. I’ve been using it a few days now and find it lacks big time in grease cutting power. I used Dr. Broners soap. Any thoughts on how to make this cut the grease better? I’m about to run out to the store and buy some Dawn.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Sadly, it just won’t cut grease as well as the commercial soaps with chemicals. Sometimes I change my dish water half way through washing to eliminate some of the grease in the water, and other times it just takes a bit more scrubbing.

  17. Marie says

    I’m wondering if using more of the Washing Soda would help with the grease cutting??… because Washing Soda is ‘da bomb’ for cutting grease…. and Please IF you decide on a commercial dish washing soap, choose one that is environmentally safe such as Seventh Generation as opposed to Dawn…. I thank you and the Earth thanks you :) :)

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Hmmm. I have never had this recipe fail to gel for me, but let’s go over a few possibilities… Was your water boiling before adding it to the other ingredients? Was every last bit of soap dissolved before you stopped stirring? Did you stir a few times as the soap set up? It could be any of those factors. You could also try using a different type of grated soap to see if that makes a difference.

      • Lynn says

        I had the same problem as Lauryn and did everything on Betsy’s list here. I even tripple checked everything as I had done it. Could I bring everything back to a boil and add more grated soap?

  18. rebecca s says

    i love this idea, and to top things off, use a drop or 3 of food grade dye(like you use to color eggs) I like my dish soap to be purple and match my kitchen, plus i always put it in a pretty glass bottle. Hate the ugly plastic dish soap containers.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Oh, I love your colored dish soap idea! I have some vegetable-derived dyes sitting in my fridge going bad, and I was wondering how I could use them up! :)

  19. Janice says

    Oh my I am sooooo excited to have found this! We do not have a dishwasher and will not be able to get one until we do a total kitchen remodel so I am hand washing dishes and am allergic to pretty much every dish soap I’ve tried! And our family is in the middle of a total overhaul of all of our cleaning products because I am so sick of bringing chemicals into my home! Thank you!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      You’re so welcome Janice! Hand washing dishes is an awful chore, not to mention having an allergic reaction to the chemicals in your dish soap!!! We hope you (and your hands) like this recipe. :)

  20. Nichole says

    Im looking into a homemade dish soap. I tried a recipe using the Fels-neptha but it seemed to leave a film on my glasses. it seems to clean ok but looking into trying something new. I found your recipe and I am wondering if using the Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap how much would I use? Still The tablespoon or a little more.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      You can actually use the Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap full strength for washing dishes. It won’t work the same if you add it to this recipe, because this recipe is designed to gel with the addition of the grated bar soap and borax. If you don’t mind a thin consistency, just squirt Dr. Bronner’s directly into your wash water & you won’t have to worry about mixing up a “recipe.” :)