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How To Make Your Own Simple, Grease-Cutting Homemade Dish Soap

dishsoap Homemade dish soap actually much easier than it sounds!

By now you probably know that I’m a big devotee of Dawn dishwashing soap. It’s a common ingredient in many of my favorite homemade solutions so I usually have a bottle or two stashed away somewhere in my house at all times. 

With my trusty Dawn always on hand, I haven’t had much need for making my own dish soap. However, over the years I’ve gotten a few emails from readers asking for a good DIY dish soap recipe. I’ll be honest that until recently I hadn’t given it much thought.

However, I really do love making and using my own DIY recipes whenever possible and I recently decided it was time to give making my own dishwashing soap a try. After hours and hours of researching “recipes,” I started to have second thoughts. Why? Because there is a ridiculous amount of advice out there! It’s a lot of information to weed through and I’m all about saving time not wasting it. 

While this temporarily made me regret starting the project, I’m not one to give up on a challenge. Instead, I became even more committed not just to find a good recipe, but to find the very best one around. I can now say in retrospect that the results were worth the effort.

dishsoap

I’ll admit I probably made this task harder on myself than it had to be for one reason in particular: I set a very high bar for the cleaning products and methods I use and pass along to my readers. When it came to dish detergent, I was looking for a recipe that met a few very specific requirements, including the following: 

  • Simple to make
  • Only a few ingredients
  • Cuts grease
  • Smell goods or at least not BAD! :-)

I had an additional stipulation, as well. I didn’t want a recipe that makes a GALLON of soap because I just wanted one bottle. A lot of the recipes you can find out there make enough soap to supply a small army. Unless you’re working with a huge amount of space, it’s challenging to find room to store that much soap. Personally, I’d rather make less more often. But that’s just me! I’m a big believer in the “to each their own” principle so if you’re in the “make more less often” camp, feel free to double, triple or quadruple the recipe.

After much searching and experimentation and even more searching and experimentation, I could finally rest easy: I’d come up with what I’d been looking for! I think you’ll like it, too. (And again, if you’re the type of person that would prefer to whip up a big batch, you know what to do.)

Homemade Liquid Dish Soap Recipe

dishsoap

Ingredients:

*Note: Sure, you can grate your soap by hand with a box grater, but it’s pretty tough work. I prefer to make my blender do the hard work for me. I just chop the bar of soap into chunks, drop them into the blender, and pulse until the pieces are small enough. It’s much less backbreaking work with no sacrifice of quality or end result.

dishsoap

Directions:

  1. Pour the water and grated soap into a saucepan and place it on your stovetop over medium heat.
  2. Stir the mixture until all the soap has melted into the hot water. DO NOT let the mixture come to a boil. (Just turn down the heat if it seems like it’s starting to simmer/boil.)
  3. Once the soap has completely melted into the water, remove the mixture from the heat. Allow it to cool off for a few minutes before proceeding.
  4. Next, stir the vinegar and glycerin into the warm water and soap mixture. (The glycerin is optional, but it does help to thicken the mixture and make it feel less watery.)
  5. You can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil at this stage, if desired. I used about 5 drops of lemon essential oil for the fresh scent and an extra boost of cleaning power offered by citrus. However, the sky’s the limit when it comes to choosing a scent. If you prefer lavender, peppermint, tea tree, lemongrass, eucalyptus, grapefruit, or something else entirely, it’s up to you!
  6. Allow the mixture to rest in the pot until completely cooled, then pour it into your preferred soap dispenser. Voila! Your homemade dish soap recipe is ready to go.

dishsoap

Using Your Homemade Dish Soap

First, I should make it clear that this soap is for use when you’re cleaning dishes by hand and not for use as a dishwasher detergent. If you’ve ever made the mistake of attempting to substitute dish soap for dishwashing liquid in a pinch, you’re probably already aware that this is a bad idea. This doesn’t mean you’re out of luck, however. Instead, just fill your dishwasher soap container three-quarters of the way to the top with baking soda and add just a few drops of this homemade soap, Dawn, or another one of your favorites. If you’ve got hard water, I recommend adding a quarter cup of salt to the mixture, as well.

I also want to stress that this is not your mother’s store-bought liquid soap. In fact, there are a couple of important differences to note between this homemade version and the store-bought stuff. 

The first difference? Bubbles, or lack thereof. You’re probably used to the extreme sudsy-ness of store-bought dishwashing soap. But as it turns out, the presence of bubbles has little to do with the effectiveness of a cleaning product. In fact, I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret of the cleaning product industry: more bubbles don’t mean cleaner. In fact, manufacturers actually add foaming agents to soaps to give the impression that a product is working better. Even worse, these foaming agents aren’t just unnecessary, but they contain harmful chemical surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate. It’s all just a (very effective) marketing strategy, and I caution you not to fall for it. Bubbles may be fun, but they’re just that.

All of that being said, you should know that while this homemade soap will NOT get as sudsy as the typical store-bought dish soap, it works just as well. If you’ve ever tried my favorite homemade laundry detergent, you may already be aware that while it doesn’t get very sudsy either, it also gets the job done as well as a commercial laundry detergent. An added bonus of the lack of suds in this DIY dish soap: if you do slip up and use this in your dishwasher, you don’t need to worry about a bubble-induced overflow.

The second difference between my homemade dish soap and store-bought products is thickness, or lack thereof. This soap will likely be thinner than the store-bought versions that you’re used to. Thicker soap may seem luxurious but that’s what the glycerin is there for. Adding this clear liquid oil to your concoction should help combat the issue so you can achieve the desired texture.

Lastly, the preferred soaking method for this soap is NOT filling the sink and soaking the dishes. Instead, just apply the soap directly to a wet sponge and clean away. You’ll save more water using this approach, too, especially because most people tend to overfill their sinks when doing dishes by hand. Another water-saving tip: scrape your dishes in advance to remove food residue.

dishsoap

Increasing the Cleaning Power of Your Dish Soap

While my DIY dish soap recipe works just fine as it is, there are some extra things you can do to ramp up its effectiveness. 

The fifth step of the recipe introduces the option of adding essential oils to the mixture. I’m a big fan of essential oils and use them every chance I get, including in my homemade cleaning products. So while the dish soap doesn’t need essential oils to get the job done, they can help in several ways. First, who doesn’t love the heavenly scent of essential oils? Second, certain essential oils, including lemon, eucalyptus, sweet orange, geranium, and lavender, have powerful antibacterial properties. Citrus oils, meanwhile, are great for cutting through grease.

If you’re a frequent visitor to my website, you’re probably already familiar with my enthusiasm for things like baking soda, borax, coconut oil and olive oil, all of which which serve a wonderful multitude of household cleaning purposes including everything from boosting laundry soap to conditioning wooden cutting boards. Well, it’s time to add one more use for baking soda to the list! While baking soda should not be incorporated directly into the soap mixture, it can give your dish soap a beautiful boost when added to the dishwater. For best results, I recommend at least two tablespoons of baking soda for each sink of dishwater.

One casualty of lots of time spent washing dishes by hand: dry, wrinkled skin. Another thing I love about this recipe is that it also does double-duty as a hand soap. Just add moisturizing oil — I recommend aloe vera gel or vitamin E oil — to the mixture and you’ll have a new weapon in the fight against dry skin! On that note, this can also be used as a hand soap. The only thing I love more than one excellent cleaning product is one cleaning product that serves multiple functions, and this absolutely delivers.

dishsoap

I’m happy to be able to personally attest to the effectiveness of this recipe. I have used this soap several times to clean dishes, and it did a great job! Again, I’ll warn you that it’s a little disconcerting not to see sudsy bubbles while you’re hand washing and scrubbing, but the soap obviously does a great job at cutting through grease and getting everything clean.

If you’re looking for a DIY dish soap that gets the job done, I highly recommend giving this one a try the next time you wash dishes. Whether it becomes your go-to soap for everyday dishwashing or something you whip up in a pinch, this is another of my cleaning recipes that will not disappoint!

Make Your Own Dish Soap

Homemade Dish Soap

Jill Nystul
Here's a simple way of making a batch of homemade dish soap that's simple to make, only requires a few ingredients, cuts grease, and smells great!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Active Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Cost $1
Yield 2 cups

Equipment

  • Blender
  • Saucepan
  • Soap Dispenser

Ingredients
  

  • 1/4 cup Fels-Naptha soap or similar bar soap or Castile soap
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable glycerin optional
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil optional

Instructions
 

  • Chop the bar of soap into chunks and drop them into the blender. Pulse until the pieces are small enough. You can grate with a box grater if you do not have a blender.
    dishsoap
  • Pour the water and grated soap into a saucepan and place it on your stovetop over medium heat.
  • Stir the mixture until all the soap has melted into the hot water. DO NOT let the mixture come to a boil. (Just turn down the heat if it seems like it’s starting to simmer/boil.)
  • Once the soap has completely melted into the water, remove the mixture from the heat. Allow it to cool off for a few minutes before proceeding.
  • Stir the vinegar and glycerin into the warm water and soap mixture. (The glycerin is optional, but it does help to thicken the mixture and make it feel less watery.)
    dishsoap
  • You can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil at this stage, if desired. I used about 5 drops of lemon essential oil for the fresh scent and an extra boost of cleaning power offered by citrus. However, the sky’s the limit when it comes to choosing a scent. If you prefer lavender, peppermint, tea tree, lemongrass, eucalyptus, grapefruit, or something else entirely, it’s up to you!
  • Allow the mixture to rest in the pot until completely cooled, then pour it into your preferred soap dispenser. Voila! Your homemade dish soap recipe is ready to go.

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • Fels naptha has triclocarban. Please Google to see why that ingredient is REALLY bad. The FDA ruled Sep 2016 to ban it, along with triclosan, from antibacterial soaps which is where troclocarban is usually used. This is not good for the environment amd most especially, not for humans. I’m sorry to share this news and I am a huge fan of dyi products and saving $, but you’ll need to repace an effective, non-toxic grease cutting soap in this recipe.

    I wish castile soap could cut grease because that is the only truly nontoxic soap I know of. If anyone knows of a castile soap based recipe for dishwashing that can truly cut grease, PLEASE share!

    • I just did an exhaustive internet search on fels naptha and tricocarban and it did not come up as one of the many ingredients. The soap does have titanium dioxide, which some people consider harmful, but it does not contain triclocarban.

  • Thank you for another great recipe!

    Out if curiosity, what is similar to fels naphtha? I’m allergic to that and would love another option to use in these diy products.

    Thank you!

  • Since I am single I wash my dishes by hand. In fact I am having the dish washer replaced with a cabinet. I digress, I tried this and for greasy messes I had to add Dawn to get the glassware clean.

  • I wonder, since this is ‘less thick’ than regular dish soap, if it could be used in a foaming dispenser without being diluted. Just a thought

  • Jillee, I’m a little confused (sorry). If this works like blue Dawn for dishes, it seems you saying it’s not a replacement for/does not work like blue Dawn in your cleaning cleaning recipes, otherwise I’d think you’d would want to make it in larger batches unless it is not shelf-stable. Can tis replace blue Dawn in homemade cleaners?

  • Hi Jill, Thsnk you for sharing your great tips, recipes and ideas I need a a good recipe for dishwasher detergent. I use the baking soda & dawn…it works sometimes. I’m used to the shine of the finish tabs. Thank you Natalie

  • I buy dawn in gallon or bigger containers I call the company and they send me a coupon for any size of Dawn..I use it a lot, only the hubs and I and I use it on lingerie and hard to remove stains I am always getting on my clothes.. There is just no substitute for my Dawn and I only get platinum cascade dishwasher tabs they really clean my dishes, I scrape them off in the sink and pop them into the dishwasher and voila they work great..I use vinegar in the rinse cycle and they come out fabulous I also call for coupons for Cascade and sometimes they send me a coupon for a free box, wow whee it pays to compliment proctor and gamble fabulous products!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Thats good for large families (lots of children). I am retired, no children, so give me good ole Dawn, I love it!! Thanks Jillee I look forward to reading your posts daily. Have learned a lot from you even at the ripe “young” age of 80!!

    • I’m single and I purchase dish soap by the gallon. This better for the environment and cheaper. I am no longer buying Dawn if this works.

      • I am just wondering where do you get dish soap by the gallon? I never see that size in the regular store. Do you have a restaurant supply store you use? Just wondering.

  • I started using Dawn because of the cleanups of animals in our region. I felt if they could use it on birds and such, it must be OK. I felt it supported the environment. Although I am not a fan of Proctor and Gamble and some of their other products. But Dawn and castile soap are my go tos when grease or oil is an issue. Seems to be the only thing that works for me.

    • Kathy…..it would seem that Dawn is ok for the environment…however, if you go to the Environmental Working Group website, EWG.org…they rate Dawn with a D….it is really not as totally safe and environmentally friendly as we are lead to believe. Hoping this post isn’t deleted.

      • So sorry, but I feel obliged to share this with whomever reads this and uses Dawn on a daily basis. One of the reasons it is not good for the environment is that it still contains chemicals. One of which is, METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE as a preservative, and if I may add, I’m highly allergic to. It also contains PE1-14 PEG-24/PPG-16 COLPOLMER, PHENOXETHOL, and PPG-26, all of which the EWG does not approve of as food additives or in cosmetics. EWG.org. Just needed to speak up because it is not safe for everyone and everything. You make up your own mind.

  • Can this be used in your other recipes that use Dawn in them? What about the weed killer recipe (which I REALLY like. I can’t believe it really works. No more weeds have returned where I used it. Yay!) and others? Thank you so much for your blog. I have used many of your ideas.

  • I like the idea of homemade soap. I liked this version,but it’s too much work. I actually like Dawn. The homemade version I saw on ehow I liked better.. It used Castile soap, olive oil, and lemon extract. This version was for regular soap. It would have to be cost effective to make it myself. Our family uses Dawn a lot for cleaning and scrubbing pots.

  • This is a great post….Thank you….I thought Dawn was very bad for the environment though it seems to be the best grease cutting soap I just do not use it. And the scent and smells and feels toxic. But I have noticed that all the natural dish soaps out there do not cut grease. I must wipe all the oil off my dishes or containers etc before I can even begin to use the natural soaps for cleaning….So Thank you

  • There are two things I would like to past along they will save time, it has for me.

    # 1 Unwrap your soap and let it dry-out for a week are two. Dry soap grades easier than un-dried.

    # 2 Go to the thrift store and fine a salad shoot for very little cost. it does the job of grading with very little
    effort.

  • I love this! I absolutely do not like dawn dish soap at all. Absence of suds doesn’t bother me, all that means is that the Sodium Laurel Sulfates do not exist, which is a Major PLUS!

  • Very good, CC. I wondered about the toxicity level using the Fels Naptha. I appreciated the link to check toxicity levels of other products as well! There are 10 formularies for Castile soap at my local Earth Fare market. Any suggestions for which fat base is best? I.e. : olive oil, hemp oil, almond oil et cetera.

  • Love all your great tips but living in Scotland, I too cannot get some of the products you use, is it possible for you to give alternatives? I realise the results may not be exactly the same.

    • Any bar soap meant for laundry will work wonderfully in place of the Fels Naptha. You’ll have find vegetable glycerin, though, but I imagine you can find it on Amazon :-)

  • I have found that castile soap works better at cutting grease than Dawn does, actually. I use it instead of Dawn when I have to clean the pot that I make homemade bone broth in for my pets that tends to get yucky at the water line. The castile soap cuts through it and dissolves it better than the Dawn and has a better toxicity rating than Dawn (which has a ‘C’ on the A to F scale).

    Fels-Naptha had a ‘C’ rating as well, so depending on how you feel on the subject, you might consider just using castile soap. I just use the water and castile soap foam mixture I use for hand washing to clean the things in the kitchen that are unusually greasy, so it’s no hassle to use.

    If anyone is interested in checking out the toxicity of Fels-Naptha (also a ‘C’ rating) or any other cleaner, soap, shampoo, sunscreen, etc., etc., etc. here’s the link:

    http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/441-FelsNapthaHeavyDutyLaundryBarSoap#.WXBVO1G-xK8

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