ISSUE 2  |  Back to Basics 2016

Easy DIY: Homemade Dish Soap

July 21, 2016 9:00 AM

BY Justine Hand

Choosing dish soap for me boils down to a question of economy versus ecology. According to The Naturally Clean Home, most commercial soaps are not soaps at all but harsh detergents “made from petroleum distillate, a toxic and nonrenewable resource.” Eek. The more environmentally friendly soaps, on the other hand, are often expensive. What’s an eco-conscious, design-minded individual on a budget to do? Make your own.

Turns out it’s easy and fun. Plus you can customize your concoction with the scent and container of your choice.

Photography by Justine Hand for Remodelista.

DIY natural dish soap, ingredients 2, by Justine Hand for Remodelista_edited-2-733x1100

Above: Most of the ingredients for making dish soap are readily available at your local grocery and health food store. The key to reducing cost is to buy in bulk. The products below cost about $57, which seems like a lot until you consider how long they last. And most can be used for making other homemade cleaning products as well, such as dishwasher and laundry powder.


Ingredients and recipe adapted from Hello Natural.

  • 1 1/4 cup distilled, filtered, or boiled water
  • 2/3 cup unscented castile soap. Dr. Bronner’s is $17.99 for 32 ounces.
  • 1 Tablespoon aloe gel (optional, for sensitive hands). Lily of the Desert gel is $11.50 for 32 ounces via Amazon.
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons washing soda for extra grease-fighting power. Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda is $9.89 for 55 ounces via Amazon.
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin. NOW Solutions Vegetable Glycerine is $10.99 for 16 ounces via Amazon.
  • 20 drops essential oil. I used pink grapefruit from Cambridge Naturals, my local store. NOW also makes grapefruit oil; $6.89 for one ounce at Whole Health.

Note: Many dish soap recipes call for vinegar, but vinegar shouldn’t be combined with castile soap. Because soap is a base, it reacts against acids such as lemon or vinegar, effectively canceling out the benefits of both and leaving you with a lumpy mess. (Read more here.)


DIY natural dish soap, distilled water base, by Justine Hand for Remodelista-733x488

Above: Start with distilled water.

DIY natural dish soap, adding soda, by Justine Hand for Remodelista-733x488

Step 1: Heat water until it’s warm and add washing soda (sodium carbonate). Stir to dissolve.

DIY natural dish soap, adding castine soap, by Justine Hand for Remodelista-733x488

Step 2: Add castile soap (a natural cleaning agent made from coconut or olive oil that is both renewable and biodegradable).

DIY natural dish soap, adding essential oil, by Justine Hand for Remodelista-733x488

Step 3: Add glycerin (a natural solvent and softening agent) and essential oil. In addition to adding a nice scent to your dish soap, some essential oils have antibacterial properties. Here’s a list of the Top 5 Green Cleaning Oils.

Note: I could go on for a while about essential oils. (If you’re curious, Crunchy Betty provides a comprehensive tutorial.) But I’ll just stick to the basics. First, make sure you use pure essential oils, not aromatherapy oils, which have been diluted with a carrier oil. Second, a word of caution: Essential oils are highly concentrated and can irritate your skin if you use too much, so stick to the recipe. Finally, because they smell “yummy,” it’s recommended that you keep them out of reach of children.

DIY natural dish soap, finished, by Justine Hand for Remodelista-733x1100
Step 4: Place in the container of your choice (I recycled a water bottle) and you’re done.


DIY natural dish soap, results, by Justine Hand for Remodelista-733x488

Above: My homemade dish soap in action. I love the grapefruit scent and my dishes come out clean.

Want more eco-cleaning solutions?

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on February 27, 2015.