How To Make Your Own Dish Soap

Yesterday I got an email from someone asking about a Homemade Dish Soap recipe. My initial reaction was “I’ve already done that!”, but then I thought about it for a minute and realized that is something I HAVEN’T done a post on before! I could hardly believe it. lol. How could I have missed THAT one?

My only explanation is that since so many of my really effective homemade solutions include Dawn Dishwashing Detergent, I almost always have it on hand. So when I DO need a liquid for washing something by hand…I usually just turn to that.

But since I really, really LOVE making my own products whenever possible…I definitely wanted to give this a try. So I started doing some research and HOURS later was almost SORRY I had taken this on! Do you realize how many different “recipes” there are out there for DIY Dishwashing Liquid? A LOT!!!

I had a really hard time coming up with a combination of ingredients I liked, because I was looking for a few very specific things.

  • It had to be SIMPLE to make.
  • It had to have only a few ingredients.
  • It had to cut grease.
  • It had to smell good. (or at least not BAD!) :-)
  • And finally…it couldn’t contain Castile Soap. Nothing against it per se. I’m just not a fan of how it feels on my skin.

Oh and I didn’t want to make like a GALLON of the stuff! I just wanted one bottle. So many of these homemade recipes call for making enough to supply a small army, making it challenging to find places to store it all. I’d personally rather make less, more often. But that’s just me. (If YOU like to make MORE, LESS often, you can easily double or triple this.)

homemade dish soap

After looking at dozens of different concoctions, I finally settled on an adaptation of THIS recipe I found on Hillbilly Housewife.

Homemade Dish Soap

  • 1/4 cup soap flakes or soap shavings (I used Fels Naptha.)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar or lemon juice (I used vinegar.)
  • 1 Tablespoon glycerin (optional)

homemade dish soap

Pour water and soap into a saucepan and slowly heat it over medium heat. Stir the mixture and keep heating it until all the soap has melted into the water. DO NOT let the mixture come to a boil. Turn down the heat if needed.

Allow the soap mixture to cool a bit, then stir in the vinegar. Keep it sitting in the pot until it is completely cooled, then pour it into an old dish soap bottle. I decided to use the DIY Mason jar dispenser I’d made. This recipe made JUST the right amount to fill it!

diy dish liquid

You can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil if desired. I used about 5 drops of Lemon and it smelled so lemony fresh clean!

Two very BIG difference between the homemade stuff and the store-bought stuff  —-  Bubbles (or lack thereof) and Thickness (or lack thereof). This liquid dish soap won’t have any bubbles to speak of and it is pretty runny…but I personally don’t mind. I learned LONG AGO when I started making my own laundry detergent that bubbles do NOT equal CLEAN.

After dinner last night I decided to give my new soap a try. I ran into a slight complication, however, when I went to the kitchen sink and found the hubster working on something underneath it! (Something to do with pipes and such, I didn’t ask.) So I improvised and took a few dishes to my bathroom sink to clean.

The water had virtually NO bubbles. But it still did a terrific job on these little glass bowls that earlier had coconut oil in them! They looked and felt squeaky clean. The vinegar did a great job of cutting the grease! If it hadn’t, it would have definitely been a deal-breaker for me and I wouldn’t be typing this post this very moment. :-)

Just look at those sparkling clean dishes! I just love a good homemade solution! :-)


A Note: Depending on the soap you choose, you are going to get different results!

Here are a couple of tips:

If your soap ends up being too thick, use an electric hand mixer to break it up.
If your soap ends up too runny, make a solution of 3 T. table salt and 8 oz. hot water, stir until dissolved, then add to dish soap.


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  1. says

    The problem I have with Dawn dish detergent is that I don’t see the ingredient list on my bottle of it. There are so many toxic chemicals that I want to avoid, which is one reason why I make my own laundry soap… with fels naptha, borax and washing soda. I use the Young Living Essential oils vs. the DoTerra brand… I haven’t tried the DoTerra brand yet but if they are cheaper then I would consider changing.

  2. Andrea S says

    You’ve read my mind! I was just thinking about how with all the homemade cleaners and soaps you’ve made, I hadn’t seen a dish soap yet and come to read this morning and here it is! Awesome!! I can’t wait to make some this weekend. Thanks again Jill!!
    (BTW-I between you and your sister, my husband says I am stalking you both because I am constantly on your blogs, reading and finding new things. What’s helpful is that it’s all changed my family for the better-I’m laid off and money is tight so these simple things are saving us money in unexpected places! Thanks so much for all your wonderful ideas and keep them coming!)

  3. Mary says

    I like knowing that, when I run out of something, I can just look here and find out how to make it. I usually get Dawn pretty cheap (or even free) with coupons though so I’m wondering if it might be cheaper to just stick with the Dawn?

    I have been using Dawn in my dishwasher with great results BTW. I followed your recipe and had to tweak it a bit probably because my dishwasher is old and my water just won’t dissolve powders very well. So I’ve been using a little less than a tsp of Dollar Tree Oxy-clean and a generous squirt of Dawn. If they’re really yucky, I rinse first with some vinegar in the machine and then re-start it with my “recipe.” The little soap door won’t open like it should or it would be easier. If I didn’t pre-rinse and they’re still a little icky, I rinse with vinegar after the wash.

    The newest Finish Quantum tabs were working well, but this way is SO much cheaper!

  4. GT2 says

    I found good old Octagon soap years ago and have used it since. I rub it on spots on clothes, wash dishes with it, wash the dog with it, my grandson uses it for acne control, a good paste of it dries up poison ivy, I rub it on insect bites, soak my feet with it. For dish washing, just put the bar in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes, then remove bar and dump the bowl contents into the dishwater. Love how it cleans the pots and pans! Also, I occasionally use it in mop water.
    To be 60, my skin in very smooth from a good washcloth scrubbing several times each week with the octagon. I love Octagon soap.
    This is such a great site. Thank you all for making me think about daily choices.

      • GT2 says

        Octagon soap has been around since late 1800’s and was a staple in most households. I live in the south, and can find the large bars in most any grocery store for about .75 cents. It is large, green, and ugly. Lasts a long time;, too. My Daddy, 86 years old, told me his mother used it when he was little, but it had a different shape (hence the name) and was brown. I am 60 and remember those brown bars. It was very commonly used when folks washed their clothes in a big iron pot over a fire in the yard. Wish my Mother was still here so I could ask her what she used, because that is the way she washed until she married Daddy in 1946. Also, the Octagon is great for flea prevention and is the reason I use it on my little Stevie dog. You should be able to search online and find a local store that sells it, or ask the owner of a small store to order it. It is produced by Colgate in a very limited supply. Think I will order a case of it to keep back in case we have an economic collapse. I have found it in laundry section and in soap section. You will love this bar when you try it. Amazing stuff!

      • Jea Kirt says

        I looked for octagon soap and came across a posting that said colgate wasn’t making it anymore when I went to colgate I ended up some how at amazon. I’d load up on those bars some were not cheap on amazon there was a listing for 10 bars for $30. that’s $3.00 a bar not including shipping and andling.

  5. says

    Looking at your container after you were done, it’s a little over half full. I’m guessing by the amount left in the container that you had to use quite a bit. This DIY solution seems like too much work to save a few pennies. I’ll stick to stocking up on whatever’s on sale. Thanks for the post though. I love seeing what you come up with!

    • says

      So observant! :-) The reason so much is gone from the container is because I had to fill the sink in our bathroom a few different times before I got the pictures I needed. (It tends to drain when its’ not supposed to!) And this I blame on the hubster who was monopolizing the kitchen sink at the time. So inconsiderate! :-)

      Just an fyi.

  6. Trixie says

    I have tons of Dawn in the pantry right now but if I were to find myself out of dish soap I would DEFINITELY whip this up because I will do almost ANYTHING to avoid going to the store – I just hate it! >:[

    Anyway, since this doesn’t make suds, includes vinegar for grease cutting and water softening, would this not be a great addition to your “Dishwasher Triple Threat”? Just curious about your thoughts on that.

    Thanks again for a great post and have a fabulous weekend (0=

    • says

      I hear that Trixie!! I hate going to the store too! Especially at 6:30 in the morning like I did today! ugh! Let’s just say it was a ‘female emergency’ and leave it at that. :-)

      Hmmmm….I’m going to have to give it a go in my dishwasher now! I’ll let you know how it turns out!

      You have a fabulous weekend too!

  7. Lynn says

    Everything I h e read said not to use fels naptha for dishes. Could you share your references showing it is safe?

    • Denise says

      “U.S. Food and Drug Administration deems it safe for food and cosmetics and personal care products like sunscreen and toothpaste.” From a site that researched it but for the life of me, i cant seem to copy it to here. (i am at work so maybe be the bank’s privacy settings?) I probably wouldnt like it in a tooth paste though lol lol I use it for almost everything and I have tender skin that i have always had to watch out for. It would be fine. I am not dead yet nor is my family. :) :)

      • says

        Lynn…. the original formula for Fels Naptha contained Stoddard Solvent, which has a small amount of petroleum product in it. In 1998 the formula was changed – it now does not contain Stoddard Solvent.

        Thanks Denise!

      • Lynn says

        I realize it doesn’t contain the solvent anymore but there are still too many ingredients I don’t know on the list. I will stick with my homemade ( i use food grade lye) or kirks castitle soap. I make a version of soap specifically for cleaning anyway.

  8. Georgeann says

    I was wondering if this recipe would work in one of those spongy things that people have at their sinks to wash dishes with or would it get gunky?

    • Shana says

      Spongy thing. Are you talking about the ones that have the soap dispenser already built in? I would definitely think so, in fact, I would imagine this would be too thin!! :)