This dish washing liquid works great and is gentle on your hands. It doesn’t make many suds, but we know that suds don’t clean (the surfactants in a “soap” attach to greasy and dirt and wash away with water). For example, automatic dishwasher detergent doesn’t suds, but it cleans.

We also use this dish washing formula to safely wash our fruits and veggies.dishsoap

So why make your own dish washing soap?

First, by using a few common ingredients to make all of my household and beauty products, I can reduce the amount of waste that we produce because I am not buying separate bottles of everything. I buy large quantities of my ingredients, and they last a very long time. I make my products in reusable containers. I am also saving money, trips to the store, and fuel in transporting products from the factory to the store.

Second, I know exactly what is in my homemade products. I used to buy many Seventh Generation products, and I like that their company fully discloses all of their ingredients and makes an effort to be good to our environment.

However check out the ingredients of their dish washing liquid: Aqua, sodium laureth sulfate, cocamidopropyl betaine, cocamide MEA and coceth-7, sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, citric acid, essential oils and botanical extracts* (citrus aurantifolia, lavendula angustifolia, mentha spicata, mentha piperita, cananga odorata), hexahydro-1,3,5-tris (2-hydroxyethyl)-s-triazine (preservative, less than 0.05%). *d-limonene is a naturally occurring component of these ingredients.

Are all of those safe ingredients?? I don’t know, I don’t have the energy to look up all of them.

Here are the ingredients of my dish washing liquid: Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild Liquid Soap (Water, Saponfied Organic Coconut Oil*, Saponified Organic Olive Oil*, Organic Glycerin, Organic Hemp Seed Oil, Organic Jojoba Seed Oil, Citric Acid, Vit. E), vegetable glycerin, lavender essential oil.

Are these ingredients safe? Absolutely, 100% yes. Also, most of Dr. Bronner’s ingredients are organic and many are fair trade (*signifies fair trade). The Environmental Working Group rates Dr. Bronner’s a level 1 out of 10 for hazzard. And I know my products are vegan.

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foampumpI am eliminating more and more “purchased” products to ones that I can make at home with simple, natural ingredients. I use Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap for my hand soap and spray cleaner so it was a natural base for gentle, homemade, vegan face soap. I love this formula; it leaves my skin feeling clean, but not dry, and I apply my face moisturizer after washing for great healthy skin!

  • 1/2 cup distilled water
  • 1 tablespoon of Dr. Bronner’s baby mild liquid soap
  • 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin
  • 12 drops of lavender essential oil
  • 4 drops of tea tree essential oil

Put all of the ingredients in a foaming hand soap container and shake. For the first week, I shake this before using it, but then it stays mixed.

You can adjust the formula to meet your skin needs. Increase the soap for oily skin. Increase the glycerin for dry skin and/or add a few drops of jojoba oil.

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I have been using my recipe for dishwasher detergent for about 6 months. Sometimes my dishes had a dull film on them (as report on other sites). To fix this, I used Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent once per week. It seemed to keep things under control, but I wanted to create a formula that worked all on its own. I read about using citric acid and finally ordered some from Mountain Rose. The citric acid was THE ANSWER!! After using my new and improved dishwasher formula one time, the inside of my dishwasher was white and clean. And my dishes were sparkling!! I have been using it all week with excellent results – no film, only squeaky clean dishes. I am very excited!!

  • 1  cups borax
  • 3/4 cup baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons citric acid
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of ground castile bar soap

Pour borax, baking soda, and citric acid into a glass jar. Shake to mix. Add soap and shake to mix again. Use about 2 TB per load.

I have soft water. I have read other recipes that call for about 1/4 cup salt, which may help for hard water areas.

Notes about soap: I use a food processor shredder attachment to shred Dr. Bronner’s bar soap (any flavor) and then I use the regular food processor blade to mince it into a powder.

**Update 2/16/09: I have been using this recipe now for over 3 months, and it still works extremely well, better than other natrual detergents that I have purchased. It seems to work best when fresh so I reduced the size of the recipe (changes are shown above).

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Last week, I shared the directions for simple foamy soap, but I have an even better recipe. I am a scent junkie. Since going with all natural, environmentally friendly, vegan products, I was missing the pretty scents of my old poisonous products. So I ventured into the world of essential oils, and it is lots of fun for a scent junkie like me.

Anyway on to the hand soap, my new favorite recipe will make your hands feel so soft and moisturized and it smells fabulous!

1 cup warm water
2-4 tablespoons liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild)
1 teaspoon pure vegetable glycerine
1 teaspoon almond oil

16 drops grapefruit essential oil
20 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops eucalyptus essential oil

Put all ingredients in a large jar with a lid. Shake to mix. Pour into a soap foamer.

Note: Vegetable Glycerine was a bit tricky to find. The pharmacy had glycerine, but it wasn’t labeled “pure vegetable glycerine” so it may have contained animal fat. Now Foods makes vegetable glycerine. My local drug store (Savemart) carries Now products, and they were able to order it for me. I wish that I could find organic vegetable glycerine.


Plain old soap and water kills germs as well as antibacterial soap, and plain soap doesn’t contribute to antibacterial resistance (see sources below, if you want proof). I prefer foamy hand soap because it seams to cover better and all around clean better.

Basically, foaming hand soap is watered down soap in a fancy pump. So save some money and be good to the environment – make your own. Put 2-4 tablespoons of liquid castile soap and 1 cup of water into a jar. Shake and pour into a soap foamer. Of course, Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap works great for this!

Soap Foamer: I am sure someone sells foamer pumps, but I like to reuse foamers that other people were going to throw out (like Dial Complete or Kiss My Face self foaming soap). I have tried several kinds of pumps, so far the best foamers come from Bath & Body Works. Now I am not suggesting that you go buy hand soap, just ask around, you must have a friend who would be happy to give you a hand soap pump that they were going to throw away.

Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective or Just Risky?, Chicago Journal (see full text article at DeepBlue)
Plain Soap as Good as Antibacterial, WebMD


Homemade All Purpose Spray Cleaner

I LOVE this stuff! I had been using mostly vinegar and baking soda to clean sinks, counters, and the tub. Although it worked, I didn’t like the smell of vinegar, and I was finding some stains tough to remove. This spray is the answer – wow does this work! The essential oils and borax make it a good disinfectant. It smells great and works better than vinegar at cleaning counters and the tub. It easily erases red wine and coffee stains and takes off tub residue. This recipe is based on the one in Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living.

1 cup hot water
1 teaspoon Borax
½ teaspoon washing soda

½ teaspoon castile soap
4 drops sweet orange essential oil
2 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops eucalyptus essential oil
2 drops tea tree essential oil

In a jar with a lid, put hot water, Borax, and washing soda. Shake until well blended. Pour into a spray bottle (preferably solid color or tinted, not clear to protect the essential oils). Add castile soap and essential oils. Shake. Spray on the surfaces and wipe off with a rag.

Note: I use Dr. Bonner’s Baby Mild Liquid Pure Castile Soap because it is exactly the same as their other liquid soaps without added scents. This allows me to add different scents depending on the use. Dr. Bronner’s is not tested on animals, 100% vegan, uses organic ingredients, and uses fair trade ingredients.

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I was so happy with my homemade vegan laundry detergent, that I decided to try a similar formula for dishwasher detergent.

1/2 bar Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap (any flavor)
1 cup Borax
1 cup baking soda

Grate the soap with a carrot grater or food processor. Place all ingredients in an airtight container and shake. Use 2 tablespoons per load. I have been using this recipe for a week now, and I am pleased with the results.

Notes: I used baking soda instead of washing soda because washing soda is not meant to be used on aluminum surfaces. Some recipes for dish detergent just call for Borax and baking soda – that combination alone did not thoroughly clean the oil off my dishes, but the addition of a little soap made it work well. We have an old dishwasher so we rinse our dishes before putting them in the dishwasher; I would be interested to see how this formula works in newer dishwashers without rinsing the dishes.

UPDATE 07/08/08: After using this for a few months, I have found that less soap flakes works better. I am now using 1 cup fluffy shredded flakes (or 1/2 cup compact food processed soap), 1 cup borax, and 1 cup baking soda. I think it 1 cup of shredded soap is about 1/4 of a bar.

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Most laundry detergents contain chemicals that are bad for the planet and bad for our health (see GreenGuide for more info). I had been using Biokleen Laundry Powder, I believe that it is safe, and I am happy with how it works. But to cut costs and harsh ingredients, and be gentle on the planet, I decided to make homemade laundry detergent. Most online recipes call for Fels Naptha Laundry Bar Soap. I emailed the manufacturer to inquire about the ingredients. Response: “[Fels Naptha] is a tallow based bar, and the source of the tallow is beef or pork.” Yum! Who wants cow and pig fat smeared all over their clothes?! So no Fels Naptha for me – bummer cause it is cheap!

Small Batch (18 loads)
½ cup Borax
½ cup Washing Soda
½ bar of Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Organic Pure-Castile Soap grated

Grate the soap with a carrot grater or food processor. Place all ingredients in an airtight container and shake. Use 1 tablespoon per load.

I found that this formula worked fabulously, but I believe results may vary depending on your laundry circumstances. We have soft water and a high-efficiency washer. For hard water and top loading machines, you may need to adjust the recipe and amount used.


Borax – also called sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, disodium tetraborate, is a naturally occurring mineral composed of sodium, boron, oxygen, and water. You can find 20 Mule Team Borax in the laundry section of your grocery store. Borax is an ingredient in Mrs. Myer’s and Seventh Generation laundry products and many other brands. Info on safety: Skin Deep,, and Greenfootsteps.
Washing Soda – also called sodium carbonate or soda ash, is made from common salt and limestone or found as natural deposits. You can find Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda in the laundry section of your grocery store. Info on safety: Skin Deep and Greenfootsteps.

Grated Soap – many sources state that you can use any bar soap in this recipe, I just like the purity and veganess of Dr. Bronner’s, and Fels Naptha is not vegan.

Cost – cheap, 10¢ per load! Borax $2.95 for 25 batches, Washing Soda $1.79 for 12 batches, and Dr. Bronner’s soap $2.91 for 2 batches. The 5 pound box of Biokleen says that it washes 50 loads (although I am skeptical), at $10.19 for the box that is 20¢ per load. Homemade is at least half the cost.

Scary Stuff – If you read all the info on Borax and Washing Soda, you may decide that this recipe seems too toxic, but if you research every single ingredient in commercial detergent (that is if they fully disclose the ingredients – most don’t), you will find lots of bad stuff. I believe everyone should be an informed consumer, and I am happy with my three little ingredients. If you have a safer laundry suggestion, please comment.

Update 2/16/09: I have cut back on the soap in this recipe a bit. Now, I grate the soap, then process it to a powder using a food processor, which yields about 1 1/4 cups of powdered soap per bar. I use 3/4 cups of this powdered soap to 1 cup Borax and 1 cup washing soda.

Update 5/10/10: Still using and loving this recipe!

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