DIY Dish Soap That Actually WORKS – It’s Simple, No Melting and No Waiting!

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This post has been a LONG time coming. I have been trying to find a recipe for dish soap that ACTUALLY works, for at least a year now. I have tried just about every single DIY all-natural “crunchy” soap recipe that I could find! Every one of the recipes that I found contained castile soap in them, but I was looking for something less alkaline. The cold hard fact of the mater is that castile soap whether in liquid form, grated bar form, or even a combination of the two just wasn't working well enough to cut the grease and clean my dishes effectively. While those with soft water don't see any issues using castile soap, those with hard water find that all their dishes are covered in mineral deposits or spots.

Many people make a simple mistake

To make matters worse, a very large amount of blogs out there purport the MIXTURE of vinegar and castile soap to cut the grease (I even accidentally did this when I first started my blog) but when these two are used as a mixture rather than one after the other, the vinegar chemically acts as a de-saponifier to the castile soap, separating the oil from the water making it no longer soap. This renders the whole concoction basically useless. Dr. Bronner's own daughter, Lisa, wrote an entire blog post dedicated to this exact topic.

Sal Suds comes to the rescue with my hard water

So, what's a girl with hard water and an affinity for clean dishes, to do? I have finally figured out the answer to the problem! After a lot of reading through blogs I still didn't really have an answer, nearly all of the recipes that I found used castile soap and that wasn't very effective; especially with hard water. I then learned about Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds, and it instantly became my new favorite cleaning product in the house. Sal Suds is (as per the bottle):

Sal Suds is a balanced formulation of naturally derived surfactants with natural fir pine needle oil. It cleans and rinses with exceptional power, yet is mild & gentle on the skin. Sal Suds is equally effective in hard or soft water, rinsing freely, hot or cold. It is 100% cruelty-free. Sal Suds will biodegrade rapidly after it has done its job, without affecting nature's balance.”

My secret to thickening the mixture is simple

Being that Sal Suds is extremely concentrated, like castile soap, I had to come up with a great recipe that dilutes the Sal Suds. The only problem that I had with that recipe, was that dilution made it so watery that it seemed almost wasteful how much would come pouring out of the bottle. I needed to find a way to thicken the soap so that it would be the same consistency I was used to using in my old dish soap. After scouring soap forums, I came across some information that I can't believe I hadn't found sooner. The answer to thickening my soap was plain old table salt. NO WAY!!! Seriously, I was as shocked as you. Apparently, many liquid soap manufacturers use salt just for this purpose! The recommended amount to start with is  1 tsp. per 8 oz. of liquid soap. Literally, when you stir in the salt, you see it instantly turn into a thicker gel. It's like partaking in a really fun science experiment.

I have read many recipes that use washing soda to thicken the soap, but every single one that I tried, turned into this gloopy mess that would get worse over time. I did not experience this with the addition of salt. The other benefit to this recipe is that though you can not mix castile soap with vinegar because of its alkaline nature, you can combine Sal Suds with vinegar because it is acidic in pH! If you clean with castile soap, you can still RINSE with vinegar. It's the COMBINATION that chemically causes the soap to be de-saponified.

dish soap2

Homemade Dish Soap

I added citric acid to this recipe for even better cleaning power and grease cutting, but if you don't have this on hand, you can substitute it with lemon juice instead.


  • 1/2 cup Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar or herbal infused vinegar (I like to use orange peel infused vinegar in this recipe!)
  • 1/2 cup warm filtered water ( The minerals in some tap water may react with this solution and cause this not to thicken.)
  • 1 tsp. citric acid (if you don't have this, substitute lemon juice)
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt (note, this recipe works just fine with sea salt but kosher salt is the only recipe that I have been able to add essential oils to without it turning back to liquid)
  • 20 drops MRH lavender essential oil or PT lavender eo


  1. In a medium sized bowl combine warm water and salt until salt is completely dissolved.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine Sal Suds, vinegar, and citric acid.
  3. Stir  Sal Suds/vinegar mixture into salt water mixture and continue stirring until thickened. If adding essential oils, you can add them now.
  4. Store in a recycled dish soap container.
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  • omg…….i have made tons of infused vinegars over the years for cleaning and otherwise…..i do not know why i didn’t think of this….you are a genius! I will edit the post to add in your wise words and my favorite herbal infused combinations!!!

    • Adriane Tyson

      Haha! Happens to the best of us. Far from a genius. YOU are the genius!

      Oh! I also discovered that since I do not like using gloves to wash dishes, my hands were getting super dry. Maybe the vinegar? So I added 2 tbsp vegetable glycerin and 2 tbsp carrier oil like almond oil or herbal infused oil. Much more moisturizing now and it didn’t interfere with the liquid consistency 🙂

      • brilliant! I love your ideas!!!!

        • Susan Giantvalley

          Yes, I use my garden Rosemary sprigs to add to the vinegar as it sits for 2 weeks. You could use any garden herbs.

  • so glad that you love it!!! <3

  • Adriane Tyson

    What is the purpose of vinegar in this recipe? Love it by the way! It worked perfectly for me. I didn’t change anything and used plain ol’ tap water. I live in Los Angeles.

    • vinegar is a great cleaner! It’s used because this is an acidic blend and it mixes in well and cleans fantastically! It’s really great to use on dishes to get rid of water spots and what not too, a fantastic rinse agent!

  • you can’t sub castile soap for sal suds because they are made differently! Castile soap is highly alkaline so it will curdle with acidic additions, but sal suds is a naturally derived surfactant so it’s able to work with acidic products! This recipe does not work with castile soap!

  • oh! That IS strange! I have not ever had that reaction! Maybe try adding half the amount of salt and see how that does! It could be the mineral content in your water!

  • Liz Hince

    I have tried this 3 times and my mixture turns to what looks like curdled milk? HELP!

  • Sarah

    You could just give a little squirt of neat sal suds and use that? No storage worries and no thickening problems.

  • no because it is basic and will react to both hard water and vinegar in this recipe!

  • if you don’t want the gelling properties don’t use salt. You can use less salt in the recipe for less of a gelling action!

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  • beachgirl

    Thanks so much for this recipe. I’ve been using it for a few months and LOVE it!


    Has anyone tried adding vegetable glycerin(e)? That should help thicken it. I will try this recipe when my current stock of Bon Ami has run out. it’s been discontinued since Summer, 2014, but the store I buy from has only been out of it for 6 months. I had my own private stock, that is extremely low, which is why I am surfing for a suitable replacement.

  • Diane

    Thanks for this great recipe. I skipped the essential oils so I wouldn’t have to worry about it getting diluted. I think it smells great anyway. This works well in my built-in soap pump and seems like just the right suds level for hand washing dishes!

  • Vicki

    I like a few suds in my dish soap. Does this soap have at least a few suds ?

  • Gillian Murray

    I had given up on successfully making dish soap until I saw your recipe. I followed it exactly and its amazing. My family will never go back to shop bought again. Thank you, thank you. Gill from Ireland.

  • lydia

    This recipe is amazeballs. I’ve been using it for months and it really works.

  • Emily

    I’ve been looking around for a way to thicken Dr. Bronner’s sal suds for awhile. However, this recipe has you mixing vinegar with the Sal Suds, which Dr. Bronner’s specifically says not to do. (I guess it reacts and neutralizes the soap, so it essentially becomes nothing.)

    • Jennifer

      At the very end of the article it says that this does not apply to Sal’s Suds since its chemical make-up is different. That vinegar can actually enhance the soap.

  • Rebecca

    Does this dish soap really dry your hands out? I have a terrible time in winter as it is, was wondering about dryness. Thanks!

  • KimBreathe

    Yay!! I didn’t have kosher salt and was worried about it staying too liquid but it worked wonderfully with pink himalayan salt! Thank you!

  • Janelle

    Could you scent it with those fruit flavors you linked in the wax melts post? Also, do you have a good hand soap recipe? I’ve been experimenting but so far… meh.

  • I had no idea that I can make my own dish detergent. Thanks a lot for sharing all of these incredible recipes here.

  • Thank you for this post! Not only is the recipe exciting, but I am glad to learn about the salt! I am learning how to make all my own household cleaners. I a testing recipes now!

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  • Miriam Gouveia

    happy new year! I tried this, i love it, i can attest it works. One thing! I cant get past the vinegar smell. I have put my doterra oils in it, but it still has a potent small of vinegar but suds and is every effective no goop like the other formulas. So whats a girl to do about that part? 1/2 i used white vinegar.. any thoughts?

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  • Tammy brown

    Where do I fine Sal suds.

  • Just made this! Works good and easy to make!

  • Sarah

    I bought Sal Suds specifically as I am looking for something that is septic friendly and safe for greywater recycling but am concerned that the addition of salt as salt is well known as a fantastic weedkiller that stays in the soil so nothing will ever grow again. Any ideas for an alternative gelling agent that won’t harm my soil?

    • Christina

      You could thicken it with Guar gum powder try using hot water rather than cold so that you can whisk in the guar gum powder! Start with a 1/2 tsp. and go from there!

      • Sarah

        Thanks for that suggestion but I can’t buy Guar Gum where I live so rather than increase the carbon footprint further (shipping the Sal Suds internationally is already too much) I have just used Sal Suds with water. Works perfectly on everything so far (dishes, floors, rug, leather)! Thanks.

  • Joy Gibson

    Courious about how much does this dish soap recipe make? I recently made homemade laundry soap and it works great and makes, about 10 gallons which will last me a long time since I’m by myself right now. I am really getting into making homemade stuff to save money since I’m on a fixed income..

    • Christina

      this recipe doesn’t expand when you mix the salt in, so it makes exactly how much is in it, 1 1/2 cups of dish soap. I recycled an old dish soap bottle, and it holds 2x this recipe, or 3 cups of soap!

  • Bonnie Sanders

    Just made my 2nd batch of this dish soap. I am loving it. Also, a friend was visiting from out of town recently, she loved it so much she took the recipe home with her. Thanks!!

  • Amanda

    I was told castile soap and sals suds are bad for a septic system.. could you use this recipe without the sals suds?? ..all the other ingredients used, clean the way you want them to.. do you use Sals suds for a thickening agent?

    • Christina

      castile soap and sal suds are two completely different products! From every single site I have read, Sal Suds is on the Environmental Friendly Soaps that are safe to use in a septic system! Sal Suds is a naturally derived detergent, basically, while castile soap is soap made with a ton of oils.

      • Amanda

        Thanks!! I understand they are 2 different products but I read the ingredients in Sal suds and saw there was oil on there too, which made me a little skeptical to use it. I will definitely try it now though, thanks for the info and quick response!!

        • Christina

          Not a problem! Sal Suds works better for dishes anyway, because it’s not a castile soap and is acidic rather than a base (as far as chemistry goes). I find that castile soap reacts to hard water and really doesn’t help get hair or dishes clean in that instance! Happy crafting and if you have any other questions, I am always here! 🙂

  • I finally had the chance to make this after getting the sals suds and also running out of dish soap. It didn’t gel up quite as much as I would have liked, but I think that’s because I used tap water and sea salt. But it works beautifully! Used it to clean some bail canning jars that have been in my basement for a couple of years. I’m sold… Thank you!

  • Ashley

    Can you use regular liquid castile soap in place of Sal Suds? I am not familiar with Sal Suds.

    • Christina

      Liquid castile soap will not work in this recipe as they are totally different from one another. Castile soap should especially be avoided for dish cleaning if you have hard water, as it will leave residue on all of your dishes. Castile soap doesn’t react well with hard water and does a much less effective job of cleaning stuff because of it. Also, castile soap is basic while the rest of the ingredients in this recipe are acidic. The acid from vinegar and citric acid will cause the castile soap to de-saponify and render it useless in cleaning because of it’s neutralized state. You should avoid recipes that combine vinegar and liquid castile soap for this reason.

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  • Maria Medina

    Hi! I was wondering which essential oil you add to your recipe? I wanted to purchase one for this recipe but there are sooo many, I don’t know which to get. What do you recommend?

    • Christina

      Hi there Maria! I find that when cleaning dishes, lemon is really one of the best options! It cuts grease like a champ, smells good, and lifts the mood!

  • Evelyn Bayer

    Hi! I have tried two dishsoap had vinegar (NOT good), the other one was similar to the first just without vinegar. They work awful and almost make me cry! Lol:) they leave a nasty scum. So I did research and found your looks a little more promising..I have city/hard water so I think that causes problems. Anyway my question is how do you know what distilled water is? We have a filter that we filter our water through to drink etc..would this be distilled? How can I know? Thank you!

    • Christina

      Distilled water can be purchased from the grocery store for around a $1 for a gallon. It is not the same as filtered water, as they use a steam distillation process which completely removes all bacteria and toxins from the water (i.e. flouride included). For dish soap you can always try it with the filtered water and if it thickens properly you are fine. I only suggest distilled water because water is so different from city to city that I wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t be a problem in getting the soap to thicken. I use water from my sink and have no issues, so you could too 🙂

  • Jennifer

    Just made this!! Came out great. Just wondering what are your thoughts on using it to say clean a cutting board used to cut up meat? Will it kill all the germs and grossies that are left?? Or do you suggest something else for this?? Thank you!! 🙂

    • Christina

      yes! That’s a great question and this will most definitely kill all the germs. Not only is the Sal Suds highly antiseptic, but vinegar has been reputed to have strong antibacterial properties. One test by Good Housekeeping’s microbiologist found that 5% vinegar is 90% effective against mold and 99.9% effective against bacteria

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  • shaindy pinsky

    I have tried to make the Sal suds dish soap twice, both times it remained watery,any ideas of what I should do,I really want to use this recipe

    • Christina

      I have no issues with it going liquid as long as I don’t use essential oils and I am using kosher/table/sea salt not epsom salt. I have had it go liquid with too many drops of essential oil (and certain ones will just make it stay liquid…I can’t for the life of me find any information on why that is though) and when I used epsom salt instead of kosher salt (which is what I use). To get this to work, I would try not making it with essential oils. That would be your best bet, as that seems to be the usual problem for me when trying to make this recipe!

  • jo

    I bought Sal Suds intending to make this recipe, but I’ve been lazy and haven’t gotten around to it yet. In the meantime I’ve just been using it straight and it cleans dishes great. Only need a little bit on the sponge and it lasts a long time. So not sure I see the point of doing all this. It would be nice to add a new fragrance as I’m not terribly keen on the pine, but otherwise it’s just fine as is!

    • Christina

      The sal suds is great by itself! For sure! The reason for going to all this trouble is a) by diluting you are conserving more sal suds, just like liquid castile soap it is very concentrated. b) the addition of vinegar, salt, and citric acid cuts grease even better and also has more disinfecting power making it even more powerful as a dish soap! When I clean my dishes that have coconut oil/shea butter/beeswax from all of my hippy ways, this recipe is the best at helping to clean those dishes!

  • Ali

    Does Salsuds smell like fir and spruce? Hate those scents

    • Christina

      It has a slight pine smell to it but it’s really not noticeable enough to me within this recipe to be bothersome to my nose!

  • Shawnna

    Thanks for this recipe! Which essential oils do you use personally for this soap? Not brand, but scent(s). I’m making your dishwasher detergent this weekend along with this one!! Found your site recently and really appreciate your hard work!!! Tons of helpful information!!!

  • Alison

    Hi there! Just stumbled upon your blog tonight and I’m so excited to make my own dish detergent and dish soap! Just a quick note: I’m using doTerra essential oils in my home and I’ve been told that they are very potent and will eventually erode plastic. I say this because I’m curious if the oils could erode the plastic dish soap container and release toxins from the plastic into the soap…

    • Essential oils CAN in fact erode plastic (not just doterra but ALL essential oils) but, all hope is not lost. PET plastic (the most recyclable kind) is actually the best plastic to use with essential oils because they won’t erode it, which is why if there is a plastic product in my store (spray bottles and what not) they are in PET plastic containers. This recipe though has very little essential oils in it, and I would not go overboard because I am still trying to find the right ratio that doesn’t re-liquefy the recipe. I have been successful with up to ten drops of essential oil per batch, without it going from thick to watery.

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  • Linda

    I have tried this twice now, each time using some essential oils, adding salt as the last item, and BOTH times, it stayed watery. I am 100% certain that I followed the instructions exactly. I even tried adding extra salt. It also separated in the bottle. – still usable and a very good cleaner – but its like pouring water on my dishes. Any ideas what might be going on???

    • Hi there! I just updated the recipe in this post to reflect my newest findings (this happened to me too every time I added essential oils.). Try following the new directions and omitting essential oils and I believe you will get the gel like liquid 🙂 I hope that helps!

      • Joelle

        Hi. Just made this dish soap and I love the consistency of it. I will give it a try as I clean up from breakfast this morning. I haven’t researched this but I have a theory as to why regular salt doesn’t work in this recipe. My understanding is that the main difference between kosher and regular salt is the fineness of the grind. When you substitute regular for kosher in cooking you have to use less to compensate for that. I think that salt is also a water softener. So I wonder, if you used less regular salt than your recipe calls for of Kosher salt if that would solve the problem. If someone wants to experiment it would be interesting to see what happens.

  • Caris

    Others may have noted further down the comments, but Sals Suds has SLS as its 2nd ingredient 🙁

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  • sherrie

    I ended up finding sal suds at heb….. Now trying to tweek the recipe for dishwasher soap. Tried one recipe so far, was horrible. Tried one to make tabs, but honestly forgot the salt, so gonna try that recipe one more time. Any ideas for dishwasher soap

    • I am currently working on a liquid dishwasher soap that works well in hard water. I am utilizing the sal suds but it’s taking some trial and error of course to get the right concentration because it’s so concentrated to begin with and will over bubble if you use too much. I will post my recipe here soon when I am done testing my different formulas!

      • Carr

        HI, did you ever get this figured out?

  • Donna

    Omg. Im going too have to try this. I was just washing dishes tonight and thought i need to make my own. I bought ingredients for laundry soap, so i might as hunt for dish soap

  • dawna

    do u have to use Sal Suds or can you use ivory

    • You can try using Ivory though I am not sure (since I haven’t tried it out) if the salt will thicken it or not. I have tried castile soap to thicken it with salt and it failed, but the reason I came to find out is that soaps with coconut oil or large amounts of coconut oil don’t thicken using salt. I have read that borax works for those types of soaps to thicken but I haven’t investigated further yet though (it is in my plans to do so though because it would make a better hand soap than melting down bars and mixing with water).

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  • Julie

    I found Sal Suds at The Vitamin Shoppe.

  • Michelle

    Hi Christina. thank you for the revision. I made it today.. and am hopeful. We actually have a softener system so don’t actually have hard water but hope it works for us. Also, I have been looking for ways to thicken our body wash and hand soap…..would salt be too drying for the skin?? Thanks

  • sherrie

    i have tried a few dishsoap recipes and what you say about the washing soda is soooo true!! the first recipe i tried turned into a big white clump of “stuff” inside the bottle.. it was usuable, but almost everytime i had to “add” water…. it was crazy!!
    where did you find your dr bronner’s sal suds? i found almost the full line of castile soap(both liquid and bar) at Target and some at my local Krogers in the organic section….
    if i find this locally(the sal suds), i’m going to make it asap!! thanks so much for sharing!!

    • Hi Sherri! You know I have not seen Sal Suds anywhere here in my local Target/Whole Foods/Kroger. I buy mine on Amazon (this is an affiliate link):

      • sherrie

        Hi christina!!! Thanks for answering back 🙂 I tried yesterday at whole foods….came upon a very nice array of essential oils, wahooooo!!! Anywho….. no luck on finding sal suds though…. I did ask my local krogers and the purchasing guy for the organuc section said all hed need is the upc code, but I cant find one on the internet so ill just order from amazon…. lol
        I love my diy laundry soap…. still trying to find a fabric softner recipe that works….. I tried a few b ut it always smells too ” vinegary”… might have to tweak the recipe some…..

  • Mary

    Can you put it in a dishwasher?

    • I am currently working on a version to go into the dishwasher, but this recipe is too concentrated to go into the dishwasher. My recipe will be coming soon!

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  • Chrystal @ Happy Mothering

    I am totally trying this after I run out of dish soap!