Make Your Own Antibacterial Soft Scrub Cleanser

homemade soft scrubI have been so excited about this post I could hardly wait for today to come! That is either a sign that it’s a really great idea…or that I really need to get a life! lol.

Either way…I think you are going to LOVE this one! Once again, I had to ask myself…why haven’t I thought to try something like this before!?!  I really have no good answer for that. I guess I wasn’t a big user of Soft Scrub to begin with…so it didn’t really occur to me to make a homemade version of it. But now that I have TRIED the homemade version….I’m a FAN! I think you will be too.

A big “Thank You” to Emily at Live Renewed for sharing this homemade solution I never knew I always wanted to try! :-)

Before I tell you how to make it…I’m going to have to eat my words on any past disparaging remarks I have made about liquid castile soap. A couple of things I’ve tried in the past that I didn’t particularly like involved castile soap…so I let that “sour” my opinion of it. I have actually had a big bottle of the stuff under my kitchen sink that has been unopened for MONTHS…until I finally cracked it open for today’s post.

Well, I don’t know what happened before….because I LOVED the way it worked in this recipe. As a matter of fact, it has me re-thinking the Liquid Dish Soap I posted a week ago….more on that later.

I did make one tweak to Emily’s recipe and added some Tea Tree Oil for its’ antibacterial properties.

Homemade Antibacterial Soft Scrub Cleanser:

3/4 cup baking soda (you can add a little more if it seems a little thin after it’s all mixed together.)
1/4 cup castile soap (I used Dr. Bronners Citrus Orange)
1 Tablespoon water
10-15 drops of tea tree oil
1 Tablespoon vinegar

homemade soft scrub


In a medium sized bowl, combine the baking soda and castile soap. Add the water and tea tree oil and stir with a fork.

After the first 3 ingredients are well combined, SLOWLY add the vinegar. The mixture will bubble up because of the chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar.

Stir until you achieve a paste-like consistency. (I had to add a little more baking soda at this point until it was the “perfect” consistency.)

Transfer to a repurposed dish soap container (or any other container you prefer), grab your sponge and start cleaning!


homemade soft scrub


I had the perfect “challenge” for my new cleaner. My white ceramic kitchen sink, that was NOT looking very white at the time. ugh. It gets so nasty looking! I used to use Ajax and Comet cleanser on it before I discovered Barkeeper’s Friend (a more eco-friendly choice, but still spendy.) Not anymore!  The results below speak for themselves.


homemade soft scrub


This stuff worked every bit as good, if not better! And I LOVED knowing that all it contained was my beloved baking soda, some vinegar, essential oil, and my new friend….castile soap. :-)

Can’t wait to give it a try in the bathroom! (Yep, I definitely need to get a life!)

UPDATE – 10/10/12:  There have been some concerns raised about this recipe retaining its’ effectiveness over time. I just wanted to add a postscript this morning (3 weeks later) to say…IT DOES!  Just got finished scrubbing the kitchen sink…again….and it worked every bit as well as the FIRST time I used it.  Plus, I LOVE the smell. :-)  So there ya go.



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  1. KarenDF says

    @Jillee, you did it again … I love this & love all of the ingredients for cleaning. I sprinkle my tub or sink with baking soda & squeeze liquid soap before scrubbing. Must try your recipe since I miss Soft Scrub!

    Does it keep well or do you make it in small batches?

    I’m so glad that you’re embracing castile soap … I love it. Don’t get me started! For one, I refill foaming hand soap dispensers in my kitchen and bathrooms with diluted peppermint or almond castile soap. The peppermint is great for the kitchen to tackle the scents our hands come in contact with when cooking (i.e., onions, garlic, raw fish, meat, etc.).

  2. Meghan says

    will definitely try this!
    does it matter if it’s white vinegar or apple cider vinegar? (are these interchangeable in most circumstances? don’t really understand the difference in the first place aside from one being made from apples)

    • says

      Meghan…..White Vinegar has a higher acidity than Apple Cider Vinegar, that’s why it is more often used for cleaning. Plus, Apple Cider Vinegar (or ACV) has a yellow-brown coloration because it’s usually sold unfiltered with the ‘mother of vinegar’ settling at the bottom of the container. That makes it less desirable for most cleaning recipes. But it has GREAT health benefits! :-) Just my .02 cents on the subject!

  3. melissa says

    this sounds great….it sounds like our product Vim up here in canada. my question though is this castile soap. i have chemical sensitivities, hence the reason i cant use Vim but i love how well it cleans.

    anyways, how strong is this castile soap and has anyone with the same or close to the same conditions i have used it before? my hands dry out and hurt after a prolonged use of dish soap, most hand soaps and cleaners. the only one i can use without a huge problem is ivory soap, and even that will cause problems after awhile.

    • Katherine says

      I also get contact dermatitis if I use soaps, we have a product here in Australia called QV which is a soap free cleanser which is fine on my skin. I just mixed up a batch of this cleaner using QV and used it on the shower and toilet…it still works!!

    • Cindy says

      Hi Jillee~ this is my first time to comment though I’ve been starting my day with your blog for about 2.5 weeks now. I love it all- Great Job!! :)

      Hi Melissa~ I think you would be pleased with the Dr Bronner’s soap. I also have chemical sensitivities and can use this even as a body wash. Here are the ingredients (from the site) for the baby mild and you can always try the 2oz trial size: Water, Organic Coconut Oil*, Potassium Hydroxide**, Organic Olive Oil*, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol
      ** None remains after saponifying oils into soap and glycerin

      Other choices will have added oils, but I have still found them to be friendly with my chemical-sensitivities. Hope that helps:)

    • Sarah says

      I have similar issues with many soaps, but have done great with castile soaps–no reaction, itching, dryness, etc. I use castile soap as my face and body wash, and plan to refill my hand soap dispensers with it when they’re empty. I always use gloves when cleaning, even when it’s with a more friendly cleaner like this.

    • Karen D. says

      @ Melissa
      I have a sensitivity and/or allergic reactions to almost everything I swear, but I can say from MY experience that the castile soap is very gentle. Effective yet gentle!! I use Dr. Bronner’s lavender on my face, hair, & body and my body’s never been happier! However, baking soda itself CAN be a little bit drying…hence it works really well on grease stains. So you may want to wear gloves anyways, no matter what soap you choose to use.

    • AngieMama says

      Melissa, if you can use Ivory soap, you’ll have no problem with castile soap, which is made from vegetable. My daughter and I have terrible eczema and contact dermatitis and we use castile soap with great results.

    • Wendy says

      I don’t know if you’re still looking for an answer, but I just found this post.
      I have developed skin sensitivities over the past few years, and haven’t had any problems with Castile Soap. My best friend also uses it daily – her hands are so bad now that she has to bring a little bottle of Castile soap with her in her purse wherever she goes to avoid reactions from other soaps. I hope this helps!

    • JeanneS says

      Vinegar cuts grease and has antimicrobial & deodorizing properties, so I would imagine that’s the point of using it in a cleanser. I use vinegar-and-water spray for a kitchen & bathroom cleaner specifically for those reasons. (Plus, of course, it’s completely safe to use in food-preparation areas and it’s really cheap!)

      The vinegar-and-baking-soda reaction is great for cleaning drains that you can’t get to and scrub out, but since this is for surfaces you’ll be able to scrub, I would assume the baking soda is added because it’s gently abrasive and helps remove stains.

  4. Katie Toledo says

    Jillee, I made this in about 3 minutes! It really doesn’t get any easier than that! And it cleaned my kitchen sink better than the Bar Keepers Friend I normally use! AMAZING RESULTS!!!! Thanks again for such a great recipe to save both time and money!

      • Ali says

        I tried this with Dawn cleans wonderfully but is a bit sudsy. A little bit goes a long way. I’m going to experiment with different ratios of baking soda and dawn. I couldn’t find castile soap anywhere where I live and saw this comment and immediately tried the blue dawn.

      • Carol says

        It is not just ‘greener’, it is much safer, and less toxic. Pure Castile soap, like Bronners, is made with olive oils as it’s base. The other ingredients are also non-toxic, safe, natural and organic. (the lye is gone after the process is over, and you can’t MAKE soap without lye)
        Dish soaps have many ingredients, many of which are extremely toxic and harmful to you AND the environment. Just read the labels of Dawn or other mainstream dish detergent and the label of a Bronners bottle ( only the ingredients, read the entire label and you’ll be days doing it! ;-)
        If you want healthy, non-toxic, green and safe, don’t use dish detergents.

  5. Linda Linke says

    Jillee….I just LOVE your blogs….I have also turned my sister on to you….she is now also a fan!!!!! My whole family is accusing me of turning Amish with all the home-made cleaners etc. that I have been making lately, thanks to you!!! I think you are awesome!!!

  6. Jennifer says

    I like Castile soap for its ingredients but didn’t like the way it felt. It made my skin feel dry or almost sticky so I stopped using it very often. I started using it again after mixing it with baking soda for a face cleanser/exfoliant and loved how it felt. The baking soda helped with everything I didn’t like about it and left my skin feeling soft and refreshed. I’ve also seen that you can’t mix vinegar with it because of the base/acid reaction but I’ve seen lots of people use it successfully. I have yet to experiment and mix the two together myself…maybe I’ll do that today.

      • Kimm says

        no, it would be fine. Baking soda is what is recommended to be used on your fine crystal dishes to shine them up or to remove stuck on food, etc. and it works WONDERS for that, with no scratching. I have no doubt that since it wont scratch up crystal, that your stainless steel sink will be just fine!

  7. Shawna Landers says

    Dr. Bronner’s has a Tea Tree Oil Liquid Castile soap. That might eliminate having to buy 2 ingredients when you can get by with one. I realize you had a bottle already so GREAT JOB of using that up but you might try the Tea Tree onle next!

    Thanks for the post. Definitely going to give it a shot!

  8. Deb says

    I’m just about to run out of soft-scrub, hate spending the money and don’t like the kind with bleach in it, which is the only one you can usually buy in bulk, and therefore cheaper. This came just in time. Thank you!

    • Ayshela says

      While the green side of the sponge is effective for removing stuck bits of food, it doesn’t actually do anything to remove stains. The baking soda is the stain remover, in this case. I’ve scrubbed my sinks, my coffee cups, my cutting boards, anything which has food stains with baking soda for years because it’s the most effective stain remover I’ve found and it’s food prep safe. We had a ceramic coated cast iron kitchen sink when I was growing up that always got tomato stains, and baking soda was the fastest/easiest way to clean it up. We just sprinkled some on the damp sink and let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing it off, though. =)

  9. Amy says

    Jillee, i love your stuff. Just a note though: Dr. Bonner’s website says do NOT mix castille soap and vinegar as they neutralize each other. Same with baking soda and vinegar. Baking soda is a base, vinegar is an acid. They bubble like crazy then go neutral.

    • says

      Amy…. I have read that article before as well, but after trying this personally, I still recommend it….highly. By the way…in case people are worried…this article does not suggest in any way that the combination is dangerous….just not as effective.

    • says

      Worse than that is that vinegar actually breaks down the castille soap into its base oils and water. It has de-saponafied it, making it no longer soap. The reason this recipe still works is that the baking soda soaks up the oil just as it would if you were using it to scrub a dirty greasy pan (or the tub after using a homemade scrub made with oil). So you’re no longer getting the benefit of the soap OR the vinegar, this is just baking soda and water now with some tea tree oil. Simply remedied by removing the vinegar, though.

  10. Leigh Anne Crowell says

    I’ve been using my own version of this, only with hydrogen peroxide instead of vinegar–basically, I sprinkle the baking soda over the surface to be cleaned, spray with hydrogen peroxide, and squirt just a bit of Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint on my sponge. I find that the HP works really well with the baking soda, and the soap cuts any grease I encounter. I love the recipe, though–thanks for validating my own concoction!

  11. says

    THis is awesome! I use BKF almost daily for our stainless steel pots and pans and rental kitchen sink (YUCK!), but I’m getting down to near the end of my giant tube, and this sounds promising! Think it would help with stainless?

  12. says

    Wow! Thank you so much for this! I have become so weary of commercial cleaning brands with all the chemicals that are used. I am going to make a bottle of this for myself this weekend. LOVE how you can change the scent, too, with different types of Dr. Bronners. Thanks, again!

  13. Trixie says

    Can anyone tell me what Castile Soap actually is? I’ve seen it in the store and it is WAY overpriced as far as I can tell. What makes it special over any other kind of soap (aside from it’s claim to be “all natural”)? I’m not a purist when it comes to natural cleaning products, but I AM a purist when it comes to my budget…..(and no, I don’t need anyone to remind me about how much more expensive my medical bills will be later and how good health is worth the cost). I just want to know what it is and why Castile soap would be key in this recipe. Thanks.

    • Judy Ann says

      Hi Trixie, I have used Dr Bonner’s Castile Soap for years! MY favorites are the Almond and Tea Tree ones.
      A bottle lasts forever….it only takes a few drops to wash your hands- and it is very concentrated. If you ever see a bottle in a store (Health Food Stores in my area carry it) you can read all the many many uses for it. I put less than an ounce in a “Foam Pump” to use in the bathroom for hand washing and it makes my hands feel so clean! I also use it to clean greasy spots on the kitchen counter, and stovetop. Works like magic. Hope this helps you to discover this wonderful liquid soap. I have not tried the bar soap. I don’t use any bar soaps, only liquid.
      Judy Ann

      • Trixie says

        Oh ok, I was just wondering. I read online (Wikipedia I think) that castile soaps don’t work very well in hard water areas and that, in fact, they can actually clog your pores. Do you have hard water where you live? Ours is like taking a shower with B.B.’s. LOL

        • Judy Ann says

          I do have hard water! It is awful well water in Florida. I use bottled water with the castile soap in my foam pump.
          ….and I have sensitive skin and this soap cleans very well. You can also find it at Get a 2 oz bottle to use at first to try it. Then if you don’t like it, not much money involved. It can be used full strength to shave as well.

    • says

      Castile Soap is actually SOAP, whereas most “soaps” we buy are actually DETERGENTS. What makes Castile soap different from other true soaps is that it’s made with olive oil and potassium hydroxide instead of sodium hydroxide. (the potassium instead of sodium renders it a liquid instead of a solid bar or granules.) So it’s much more gentle on most people’s skin than regular soap, which in itself is usually much more gentle than the detergent bars we buy.

      I’ve used baking soda and Dawn to make a “soft scrub” before and it works just great. Dawn is a great grease-cutting detergent. If you use some other brand of detergent it might not cut the grease the way vinegar will. That’s one of the reasons for adding it. Plus, of itself, it’s a great germicide.

  14. Nicole says

    Ok, I LOVE the idea if this. I WILL be giving this a try. A) there is no bleach to potentially ruin clothes, B) BAKING SODA!!! (I love, love, love baking soda, what CAN’T you do with it?! I buy it in a 10 lbs. bag at Costco), C) homemade,eco-friendly, non-chemical! Thank You! ;)

  15. Marianne says

    I like to use soft scrub with bleach in the kitchen sink after I’ve handled raw meat. I figure it’s a good way to kill all those nasty meat germs. Does this homemade cleaner work as well as bleach? Because if it does I might just have to go find some castile soap! (I’ve got all the other ingredients.) BTW, where DOES one find castile soap? The soap aisle? The laundry aisle? The dishwashing aisle? As you can probably tell, I’ve never bought the stuff before. :)

    • Judy Ann says

      Marianne, I get my Dr Bonner’s castile soap at the Health Food Store. If you do not have one nearby, they sell it on! My favorite is the Almond or Tee Tree one. Hope you find it, and read all the many uses for it on the label. Awsome stuff and only a drop or so goes a long way. Use it full strength to shave for one use. Love it! I have been using it for years!

  16. Maile Montierth says

    Yay! I was just thinking to myself yesterday as I was scrubbing my tub using Comet… I winder if there is a way to make a homemade soft scrub and Jillee did it again! Thanks you are awesome! I lookforward to my email update!

  17. Kelly says

    Thank you for this recipe! I quit buying soft scrub long ago and just settled for vinegar with baking soda. This recipe works and smells so much better! I didn’t have the tea tree oil and used a lavender scented Castile soap and love it! My kitchen sink looks so much better! It’s a pain to clean because its a porcelain double sink with double drain boards on the sides, but this did the job very well! :)

  18. Judy Ann says

    Jillee…Again you have hit a home run! I love soft scrub………so making and using this recipe is going to be money saving and awsome! I have a granite sink in the kitchen – and soft scrub is all I have used on it. I am thrilled that I can make my own- WITH products that I already have in the house! Even better!!!

    I am so glad you can use your Dr Bonner’s Castile soap! I don’t bathe in it, but use in my foam pump to use for hand washing. In some cases, it makes a good spot remover on my clothes…I know a loady that cleans her dentures with it! For real! Many uses for it listed on the bottle…and it is great to cut the grease on the stove and countertops. I mix it with coarse salt for a foot scrub- wonderful thick scrub, and it is awsome to shave with. Go For it Jillee!

    Thanks for this soft scrub recipe….

  19. Anne says

    I seriously love your blog!!! I can’t wait to make this! I think that I will make a few changes, though. I think I will use Dawn (because I have it) and Hydrogen Peroxide instead of vinegar (because vinegar makes me want to gag).

    I’ve noticed no one has mentioned Tea Tree Oil being an ingredient of concern. I’ve read that Tea Tree Oil may alter hormone levels, specifically estrogen & has been linked to unexplained breast enlargement in boys. Doctors advise pregnant women and woman of child-bearing age to not use Tea Tree Oil products (as well as Soy products). I would also think that menopausal women should be aware as well. Sorry, I don’t mean to “school” – my husband and I are trying to conceive, and I will basically do anything to increase our chances!

    Do you have any other suggestions of oils? Is the oil necessary, or was it added as a bonus anti-bacterial ingredient? I have Lime essential oil which I think works as an antibacterial, and antiviral agent. I’m not sure how it will smell with the Dawn dish soap. I’m a sucker for good smelling products! I can’t wait to try it!

  20. Jen K. says

    i get kirks bars and dissolve them in water and make my own liquid. i really like it, but it turns into a gloppy slimy mess when i add vinegar… i think ill try this and just omit the vinegar.

  21. says

    I absolutely LOVE LOVE this!! I made up a batch, using the peppermint castile soap that had been lingering in my cupboard for years. I started with the kitchen sink and kept going! It worked wonders on mildew and other stains. I even used it to clean the shampoo rack that had started to rust. Most of the rust came right off! The rack looks great after just one application! The best part? No bleach stains on my clothes from cleaners! And…I love the scent! I added some lavender just because I love lavender. My house is clean and I didn’t have to choke to do it! Thank you!

  22. Jessica says

    This is one of your best “recipes” yet! My kitchen sink looks shiny and new. I had no empty dish soap bottles, so I ended up using a maple syrup bottle! :-) Thanks for making my night-fellow cleaning nerd!

  23. Jessie says

    Made this today and I LOVED IT!!! My tub/shower (along with the stainless steel shower organizer) needed a good, deep clean. This did the job!! No nasty chemical smells and no rubber gloves needed. Just the mixture, a scrubbie and a little elbow grease and it the tub/shower was CLEAN! I actually used eucalyptus essential oil instead. It has the same antibacterial properties as the tea tree oil and it doubled as aromatherapy for my stuffy nose!

    Jillee— I LOVE YOUR BLOG!!! My husband scoffed when I started making my own laundry soap (thanks for your awesome step by step picture instructions!), but now he is a believer in homemade cleaners! Now I always have on hand borax, baking soda, washing soda, vinegar, castile soap and essential oils for any/all cleaning needs. I haven’t bought a cleaner from the store in over a year! I had made my own dry scrub (like Ajax), but this Soft Scrub works sooo much better!

    Thank so much for your AWESOME blog! I <3 IT!

  24. Joan says

    F. Y. I. On a video at Bread Beckers (dot) com , Sue uses grapefruit seed extract liquid concentrate to disinfect her hands,counters and cutting boards after handling chicken and beef. A study at a university that shows it killed organisms better than chlorine bleach and more safely.

  25. Denise Holtz says

    Made up some of this today, but didn’t have the Castile soap, so I used another mild soap I had on hand – baby wash! It works amazingly on my porcelain sink and tub, and smells great!

  26. Jo-Ann W. says

    I have loved and used the Dr. Bronners line for years. I use the peppermint as a body wash in the shower, and the lavendar also. I am thrilled to find so many home made solutions I can incorporate them into. I also have numerous allergies and sensitivities in my family, and we can All use their line of soaps. Thanks for all the wonderful ideas…love your site!

  27. Alia says

    I wanted to try this tonight, but didn’t have Castile soap, so I used Dawn. Seems to work great, though Hubby relies on the bleach in Soft Scrub for his cleaning and I don’t think this quite does it, but I’ll definitely keep testing.

  28. Joan says

    Jillee thanks so much for sharing this fabulous recipe. I had run out of my usual tub cleaning solution and decided to try your recipe. Not only does it smell great it just cut thru the horrible dirt ring around the bath with very little elbow grease it does a better job than the store brought cleaner totally converted. Now to search your site for some awesome multipurpose cleaner.

    One question though whats so special about Dawn as its not available in New Zealand and noticed it in a few of your recipes.

    Thanks again for sharing

  29. Web Chic says

    I tend to lay down a layer of baking soda then spray it with vinegar to get the reaction. If you use Dawn instead of Castile soap, this should still work.

    However, I am going to try it without the vinegar. This seems like a good thick option.

  30. Colleen says

    I have been a devotee of your blog since first discovering it via Pinterest. I knew when you had initially posted this I had to try it! I have been using Barkeeper’s Friend since May and loved it because it could tackle the disgusting hard water/stains dirt on my textured shower and bathtub floors. While I loved it, the high cost made me cringe. I made up my first batch of the DIY Soft Scrub and all I can say is HOLY COW! I used it with a Scotchbrite greenie and it literally made everything sparkle! I even poured some on the edge of toilet brush and took out the nasty stuff under the rim with very little scrubbing. I am hooked! I am going to make up a double batch today to have ready to use. Thank you so much for your inspiring blog!

  31. Gina says

    Thanks so much for this recipe! Just a note, though: If you are using washing soda (like I did), it takes A LOT more water to get the right consistency. I couldn’t figure out what I did wrong when I made it and it was so thick! I guess the washing soda just doesn’t dissolve the same way as the baking soda. I haven’t tried the scrub yet, but I’m assuming it’ll work just fine. But I’m going to make another batch with baking soda when I get some more from the store! ;-)

  32. Rebecca says

    OMG THIS IS THE BEST EVER. Seriously. Bar keepers friend scratches things. I made this today and my tub is cleaner than it has been in years. AND my sink is sparkly, and my toilet, and I’m pretty sure this mix will do the shopping for you if you hand it a checkbook. I had almond Dr Bronners on hand and it smelled great. OH and grout! Thank you so much for this. I try so many baking soda concoctions and this was really stellar. However, I did wipe it on and let it sit for about 20 minutes. I’m telling anyone who will listen about it.

    Found you via Pinterest. :)


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