DIY Dish Soap With Essential Oils

Man washing a dish with a green sponge.

Ah, dishwashing time. It’s one of those never-ending chores that you merely tolerate or loathe with a passion, although some people enjoy the quiet solitude and the chance to reflect back on a busy day as family members mysteriously disappear after dinner.

For those who have begun to question the safety of many store-bought cleaning items, one glance at the warning labels and long list of chemicals, fragrances, and dyes on the back of dish soap bottles is enough to leave you wondering if there is a better way.

Can I make a DIY dish soap with essential oils? Yes, you can make a simple, yet effective, homemade dish soap yourself with cleansing, all-natural ingredients like castile soap and washing soda, glycerin for moisturizing qualities, and essential oils for pleasant scent and antimicrobial benefits. 

What better way to ensure that your dish soap is free from harmful chemicals and is safe to use than to make it yourself?

Get ready to embark on a journey toward a healthier lifestyle as you learn how to make your own dish soap with all-natural ingredients and antimicrobial action from essential oils.

Why Make Your Own Dish Soap?

The next time that you’re in the grocery store, head on over to the cleaning aisle, and take a moment to study the shelves of dish soap with fresh eyes.

You’re instantly assaulted with a rainbow of color, right? 

Bright orange, cheerful yellow, deep blue, tranquil green, pretty pink, and even purple vie for your attention.

Have you ever paused to consider why dish soaps are so brightly colored? 

Does the color indicate special cleaning power? Nope.

Are the colors all natural and non-irritating? Nope.

Are colored soaps better than clear soaps? Nope.

Then, why? Those colors have one goal: to get you to purchase the product.

Yep, it’s all about marketing strategy. Years ago, manufacturers figured out that bright colors can influence buying decisions, help to establish brand identity, and lead to customer loyalty.

Nice to know you’re so easily manipulated, huh? Don’t feel bad; I’ve fallen for their tactics too. 

Harmful Dyes

Those pretty colors are produced from dyes, which are known skin irritants, may trigger allergic reactions, and can damage the endocrine and reproductive system.

Some are even suspected carcinogens and can harm your vision.

Unknown Fragrance Ingredients

Unfortunately, colors are far from being the only concern in many dish soaps. Check out a few ingredient lists and you’ll likely see “fragrance” on all of them.

Hmm. The ingredients are oddly undisclosed. This is to protect formulations, but the consumer is left in the dark.

What we do know is that “fragrance” typically receives a very poor safety score from the Environmental Working Group. 

Potentially Dangerous Chemicals

If you’re on the fence about making the switch to a homemade dish soap, head on over to the EWG’s website and type in your favorite brand to see how their ingredients rate.

Prepare to be shocked. Ingredients of concern include:

  • Methylisothiazolinone.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate.
  • Lauramine oxide.
  • Triclosan.
  • Cyclohexanediamine.
  • Ammonium C12-15 alkyl sulfate.
  • Formaldehyde.

You should be aware that many of the chemicals found dishwasher detergents are just as bad. The good news is that you can easily make a homemade version that really works.

How to Make a DIY Dish Soap With Essential Oils

Concocting a homemade dish soap with all-natural ingredients and germ-fighting essential oils is easier than you might think.

Feel free to try out each of the recipes below. They can all be easily halved to make a smaller batch or doubled if you like.

Recipe #1

  • 1 cup of liquid castile soap (I use Dr. Woods Unscented)
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 2 teaspoons of glycerin (Viva is excellent and 100% pure)
  • 10 drops of essential oil such as orange, lemon, or lavender

To make: Carefully add all of the ingredients to a container of your choice, put the lid on, and shake gently to combine. 

It doesn’t get any easier than that.

Recipe #2

  • 1 cup of liquid castile soap 
  • 1/3 cup of washing soda
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon of glycerin
  • 25 drops of essential oil of your choice

To make: Warm the water on the stove or in the microwave. Add the washing soda and stir until it is dissolved.

Slowly pour the mixture into a jar, and add the castile, glycerin, and essential oil. Top the jar with a lid, and shake to mix.

Recipe #3

  • ¼ cup of grated all-natural bar soap (I like Kirk’s Castile)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon of glycerin
  • 30 – 40 drops of lemon essential oil

To make: Combine the water and grated soap in a saucepan on your stove, and over medium heat, stir until the soap is completely melted (this step can be done in a heat-proof bowl in your microwave too), and remove from the heat. 

Don’t allow the mixture to boil, or it might seize. If it does, run the mixture through a blender until all the soap is incorporated with the water.

Stir in the glycerin and essential oil slowly. Be careful, as the mixture will be hot. Pour into a clean jar, cap tightly, and shake gently.

Hint: While you can grate the soap with an ordinary box grater, the job will be much easier in a food processor. My Hamilton Beach Food Processor gets the job done in under one minute.

You could also use pure soap flakes and skip grating all together.

What Type of Container Should I Use?

Essential oils can damage some plastics, causing the plastic to leach chemicals into the liquid or even leak.

Glass bottles are a better choice when essential oils are involved.

Regular canning jars will work, and they look nice too. You’ll just need to purchase a pump dispenser to go on top. 

Since essential oils degrade in direct sunlight and my kitchen sink is directly under a southern-facing window, I use amber glass bottles as a precaution.

They even come with screw-on pump tops and cute little chalkboard labels.

Why Add Essential Oil to Dish Soap?

Essential oils are naturally produced by many, but not all, plants. For example, there’s no such thing as apple or strawberry essential oil.

With plants that do contain essential oil, the oils are extracted through either distillation or cold-pressing methods.

These natural oils are prized for their use in aromatherapy, physical healing (though the FDA does not support these claims), and cleansing abilities.

Of the many essential oils that have been thoroughly studied, all exhibited, at least to some degree, antimicrobial properties.

This means that they are effective against not only bacteria, but viruses and fungi as well. 

Most homemade dish soaps contain only a small amount of essential oils, so their purpose is generally more for the aromatic benefits.

The soap in dish soap is responsible for reducing water tension and surrounding oil and grease molecules so that all grime can be rinsed away easily.

However, the more essential oils a product contains, the more microbes will be destroyed.

So, if you feel better knowing that your dish soap is not only washing away the junk, but is killing microbes as well, then feel free to increase the amount of essential oils in your batch.

Which Essential Oils Should I Add?

Citrus oils such as lemon, grapefruit, or orange are powerful cleansers and disinfectants and are commonly seen in DIY soaps, but peppermint, tea tree, lemongrass, and lavender are fantastic too, as are many others.

With over 90 to choose from, each with individual strengths and properties, I’ll leave the decision up to you.

What to Expect

Expect clean dishes. These DIY soaps really work, though you’ll need to use hot water just as you do with commercial dish soaps.

Don’t expect to see quite as many bubbles as you’re used to, and know that these soaps are thinner than their store-bought counterparts, but equally effective.

Additional Tips

  • Steer clear of any dish soap recipes containing borax. Though it is an all-natural mineral compound and used in many recipes for DIY laundry detergent, it can irritate your skin with prolonged contact.
  • Do not use soaps containing washing soda on aluminum cookware.
  • Add a few tablespoons of white vinegar to your rinse water to prevent mineral spots from hard water.
  • If you have sensitive skin and use a recipe containing washing soda, wear gloves each time you wash dishes.