A simple homemade dish soap recipe with long-lasting fluffy bubbles that get dishes squeaky clean. Perfect for the natural and zero-waste home #soaprecipe #soapmaking #homecleaning
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Homemade Dish Soap Recipe for the Zero-Waste Home

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A simple homemade dish soap recipe with long-lasting fluffy bubbles that get dishes squeaky clean. Perfect for the natural and zero-waste home.

I’ve been making handmade soap for over ten years but in all of that time, I’ve focused on body soap. Cold-process bar soap for whole-body use, and liquid hand soap for filling up pump dispensers. Natural cleaning doesn’t stop with personal care though, which is why I’m sharing how to make homemade dish soap. Unlike most body soap, this recipe creates very hard bars that are long-lasting and extremely effective at cutting through grease. It leaves dishes clean and sparkling while also being unscented, palm-oil free, Vegan, zero-waste, and best of all, 100% natural.

This recipe makes four to six bars of dish soap and the method is a very simple cold-process recipe. There’s a unique adjustment for the amount of lye you’ll use, and the two fats used are not in a proportion that you typically see in a soap recipe. Together, they create a soap that’s ready to use after two days and that has a thick sparkling lather for cleaning pots, pans, utensils, and dishes.

A simple homemade dish soap recipe with long-lasting fluffy bubbles that get dishes squeaky clean. Perfect for the natural and zero-waste home #soaprecipe #soapmaking #homecleaning
Wet the brush or scourer and rub it against the dish soap to create a thick lather

Cold-process dish soap

Most of the time when you make cold-process soap you add a superfat. This is a percentage of extra oil that does not saponify (change into soap) and stays free-floating in your bars. This extra oil makes body soap conditioning and gentler on the skin, but it can also leave an oily residue on dishes. When making cold-process dish soap you make the bars with 0% superfat to avoid this issue. Homemade dish soap also needs to have a much higher cleansing power than body soap, which is why this recipe is 70% coconut oil and 30% soy wax.

Soy wax is high in stearic acid and helps create a soap that has a long-lasting and stable lather. Stearic acid also helps bar soap to last longer when it becomes wet. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is highly cleansing, and most soap recipes tend to include it at a rate of about 25%. Sometimes a bit more, and sometimes a bit less, depending on your skin type and the superfat. When used at 70%, it creates a soap that can clean dishes (and your skin!) of oil. If you have sensitive or dry skin, I’d recommend using washing-up gloves when doing the dishes with this homemade dish soap.

A simple homemade dish soap recipe with long-lasting fluffy bubbles that get dishes squeaky clean. Perfect for the natural and zero-waste home #soaprecipe #soapmaking #homecleaning
The thick soap lather has a slight fizzing sound from cleansing citric acid

Using Citric Acid in Soap Recipes

Soap scum is bad enough in the shower, but it’s even worse on dishes. That’s why we add citric acid to dish soap recipes. Citric acid is a naturally fizzy substance that you often find in bath bombs; it’s also antibacterial and has a host of other useful properties. The magic of citric acid in soap making comes down to how it reacts with lye though. That reaction creates sodium citrate, a chelator that greatly reduces soap scum.

However, citric acid can also neutralize lye in cold-process soap making. What that means is that each gram of citric acid will neutralize 0.624 g of sodium hydroxide (source). Because this recipe uses 14 g of citric acid, we need to compensate by adding an extra 8.736 g of sodium hydroxide. If you fail to do this, then your soap will have a superfat of about 11%. Meaning that 11% of your oils do not turn into soap and that when you use the dish soap it will be slippery on your dishes and may leave a greasy residue.

Don’t worry though, I’ve worked out the difference and have worked it into the recipe.

A simple homemade dish soap recipe with long-lasting fluffy bubbles that get dishes squeaky clean. Perfect for the natural and zero-waste home #soaprecipe #soapmaking #homecleaning
This dish soap’s thick fluffy soap lather gets dishes squeaky clean

Washing dishes with homemade dish soap

The bars this dish soap recipe makes are pure white, very hard, and very brittle. Though you can pour the soap batter into a mold for traditional bars, pouring the soap into ramekins is even better. They’re perfect little containers that both store the soap and give you a surface to hold onto when creating the lather. After use, you can conveniently set them next to the sink or in a cupboard for the next time you wash up. Soap and soap dish in one! The ramekins I’m using are glass and the type that some desserts come in at the supermarket.

Washing dishes with homemade dish soap is a little different than using liquid dish soap. First of all, the soap is solid so you’ll need to work up a good lather on the brush. At this point, you can either wash the dishes with the brush or add the lather to your basin of hot water. The lather can be a little more slippery than conventional dish soap and you should thoroughly rinse the dishes with water before leaving them to dry. Without that rinse, it’s possible to get a soapy residue on your dishes and it’s particularly noticeable with glasses.

A simple homemade dish soap recipe with long-lasting fluffy bubbles that get dishes squeaky clean. Perfect for the natural and zero-waste home #soaprecipe #soapmaking #homecleaning
Protect your homemade dish soap with beeswax wraps

Storing Zero-Waste Dish Soap

Homemade dish soap using my recipe has a zero percent superfat. That means that it’s extremely good at cleaning dishes while not leaving an oily residue. It also means that there are no extra oils floating around in the soap to go rancid. Once made, this soap has an indefinite shelf life but once you begin using a bar, make sure to use it all within six months. Until you use a bar, keep it stored in a place that’s dry and room temperature.

Handmade soap is best stored in the open, rather than in a sealed container. There is natural glycerin in handmade soap, and if you store it in a sealed container it has a tendency to draw moisture to it. However, beeswax wraps are breathable and will protect the soap from dust and spills. Simply fold the wrap over the soap and ramekin, and store until needed.

A simple homemade dish soap recipe with long-lasting fluffy bubbles that get dishes squeaky clean. Perfect for the natural and zero-waste home #soaprecipe #soapmaking #homecleaning

A simple homemade dish soap recipe with long-lasting fluffy bubbles that get dishes squeaky clean. Perfect for the natural and zero-waste home #soaprecipe #soapmaking #homecleaning

Homemade Dish Soap Recipe

Lovely Greens
A homemade dish soap that you can use for washing pots, pans, and dishes. It's ready to use two days after making it and is a great zero-waste cleaning product for the natural home. We also use citric acid in this recipe at a rate of 3% of the main soaping oils and because it neutralizes some of the lye, we compensate for the difference. Creates 4-6 solid white bars that last a long time and create thick, cleansing lather. Technical details: 0% superfat and a 35.7% water discount
4.89 from 9 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Curing time 2 d

Ingredients
  

Lye solution

Solid oils

Citric acid solution

Instructions
 

  • Prepare your workstation with your tools and equipment. Put on rubber gloves, eye protection, and an apron. Carefully pre-measure the ingredients. The oil and wax into the pan, and the lye, 2x distilled water amounts, and citric acid into each of the four jugs.
  • Prepare the ramekins by washing and drying them thoroughly and setting them on a sheet of greaseproof paper. The ones I'm using came from a supermarket dessert pack and are 3¼" in diameter. At that size, you'll be able to perfectly fill four ramekins.
    If your ramekins are smaller, prepare a few extra and I imagine you can get six, or possibly more dish soaps. You can also pour the soap into ordinary molds but the soap hardens very quickly so I'd advise silicone cavity molds. If you use a loaf mold and cut the soap after two hours (or so) of making it, then it will crack and break as it's very brittle.
  • Next, dissolve the lye (sodium hydroxide) crystals in water designated for the lye solution. In an airy place, outdoors is best, pour the lye crystals into the water and stir well. There will be a lot of heat and steam so be careful. Try not to breathe it in. Leave outside in a safe place, or in a shallow basin of water to cool.
  • While the lye solution is cooling, make the citric acid solution. Pour the citric acid into the water set aside for it. Swirl and stir until the citric acid is fully dissolved. This can take up to a minute as the water will be room temperature.
  • Melt the coconut oil and soy wax in a stainless steel pan on very low heat. When melted, remove from the heat and set on a potholder. Pour in the citric acid solution and stir together well. You'll notice the citric acid solution beading up at the bottom of the pan. This is normal and simply because oil and water don't naturally mix.
  • Measure the temperatures of the lye-water and the contents of the pan. You should aim to cool them both to be about 125°F / 52°C*. The lye solution can be slightly higher than this but try not to soap at lower temperatures for this recipe.
  • When the temperatures are just right, pour the lye solution into the pan of oils.
  • Dip your immersion blender into the pan and with it turned off, gently stir the mixture. Next, bring it to the center of the pan, and with both your hands, hold it on the bottom of the pan and blitz it for just a couple of seconds. Turn it off and stir the soap batter, using the blender as a spoon. Repeat until the mixture thickens up to 'Trace'.
  • Trace is when the soap batter leaves a distinguishable trail on the surface. The consistency will be like thin custard. Trace happens very quickly in this recipe so please be prepared.
  • Working quickly, pour the soap into the ramekins. Give them a tap to settle the soap.
  • Leave the soap in a place that it won't be disturbed for two days. Saponification will be complete and you can begin using dish soap from that point. However, soap always performs better if you leave it to cure for at least 28 days.
  • To use your homemade dish soap I'd recommend using gloves, as the soap may be too cleansing for your hands. Wet the soap and work up a lather with a dish brush or scourer. When you have a good lather, use it to wash dishes or to add to your washing up water. Rinse dishes thoroughly with fresh water before drying.

Notes

* We can make this recipe at 125°F / 52°C for most types of soy wax. However, please check the melting point of your particular brand.
Keyword soap, soap recipe
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

52 Comments

  1. hello. merci pour cette recette que j’ai très envie d’essayer mais je n’ai pas accès à la cire de soja est il possible de remplacer par de l’acide stéarique directement en repassant la recette dans soapcalc par exemple pour les changements éventuels de la quantité de soude?

    1. Hi Betty, your message in google translate says: ‘Hello. thank you for this recipe that I really want to try but I do not have access to soy wax is it possible to replace with stearic acid directly by ironing the recipe in soapcalc for example for possible changes in the amount of soda?’ –> If you are comfortable and experienced with customizing a soap recipe, then try it out. Remember that lye will need to be manually adjusted due to the amount consumed by the lye, though. Good luck :)

  2. 5 stars
    Hi, Tanya!
    Thanks so much for sharing your recipe.
    I have two questions about it.
    1. Where did you find NaOH SAP of soy wax?
    2. How did you calculate the amount of Citric acid ?
    I appreciate if you let me know them.

  3. Hi Tanya, I have question. Can we replace citric acid directly with natural pure lemon juice or orange juice in this recipe? In that case, how do we calculate the amount of lye used in the recipe?

    1. Very sorry, but you need to use powdered citric acid since the citric acid amount in citrus fruits is not nearly enough for this recipe. 2 TBSP of lemon juice only contains about 1.2 g citric acid. To get the 14 g required you’d need 11.5 oz of lemon juice. That’s 3x more liquid than the recipe calls for and would likely result in a soft and wet mixture.

  4. Well, I was so excited to make this recipe, I’m a little sad it didn’t work out. I have soy wax that says heat to 180 F for candles. When my oil mix was about 136 the wax looked like it might get too solid, and the lye was at about 124 so I put them together with a few drops of lemongrass eo. it seized right up, wasn’t even able to give one burst with my blender! Do you have any suggestions for my next batch?

    1. Hi Beverly, this soap traces FAST. You could probably make it without the use of a stick blender if you wanted to try it that way next time. Also, remember that the melting point of mixed oils is different from that of the singular oils in it.

    2. Lemongrass EO also speeds up trace. I discovered this trying to make a camping soap to keep bugs off while outdoors. I had to eventually just stir my oils together, leave at room temp and also do the same for my Lye solution. I add Lemongrass EO Before I add my room temp lye water.

  5. 5 stars
    I always have used Sunlight soap for my dishes as it cleans and leaves the sink shining. I thought that making dish soap would not be cost effective. I decided to read the label and found that Sunlight soap is made from palm oil.
    Wow! Fantastic recipe with a clear and very good tutorial. The soap makes great long lasting suds (much better than any soap or liquid I have tried) that stay even when you are washing greasy dishes, my sink is sparkling and it costs about the same as Sunlight soap. The dishes dry crystal clear no streaking at all

  6. 5 stars
    I love this recipe!! I almost have up with dish solid bars altogether as the few I bought didn’t lather and left so much residue. Then I came across this post… I liked the citric acid in it and I was curious to try. I have zero experience in making soap but I did it and it is amazing!! Definitely use it again and again. So effective and lathers so nicely after only 2 days of curing so it can only get better. I live in a very hard water area. I tried it on my silicon oven mats and no feeling of oilyness left behind. Super happy I found this post!! :) :)

  7. 5 stars
    Hi Tanya
    Well – I finally made this dish soap today
    Oils and citric acid solution were 52 degs C and lye solution at 56 degs C
    It comes together so quickly – barely pulsed on low and used stick blender to whisk then pulse on low again – did that 3 times and it was ready
    pours beautifully – got 4 nice wee ramekins and 2 rounds in a silicone mold – was able to level the silicone mold ones but left the ramekins with a bit of a swirly uneven top but i dont care about that
    as i do it more i will learn how to smooth it if i want to
    now – can i add an essential oil like lemon or peppermint??? – and would i work out the percentage according to the weight of the coconut oil and soy wax base combined weight???
    i am so looking forward to trying again – but must find more of the wee ramekins like the ones i used today – the only ones i can find are the deep ones now – but will keep on hunting on the net and when i am next in the big city i will try to find a junk shop and look through there – i live about 200km from the nearest city so it will be a while away before i get there
    thanks for the inspiration
    Liz

    1. Great to hear Liz! The ramekins I use are the types that pre-packaged desserts come in at the grocery store. I’m not sure if you have the same products in your region, but here, you can get inexpensive chocolate mousse, panna cotta, and other things in these glass ramekins. As for essential oil — it can be dangerous if ingested. Even the smallest amount left on a plate or cup can cause reactions in people if it gets into food or drink. That’s why I didn’t include essential oils in the recipe and why I don’t recommend them in dishwashing soap.

  8. Hi Tanya,

    When I made this soap it was slow to trace for some reason, so I’m wondering if I did something wrong and if it is Ok. After two days, I tried it out. It looks good, makes a lot of lather, but the pH is 11. Does it sound Ok to use? If it is lye heavy, could I use this bar for laundry? Years ago, my mom used to make soap and put the bar right in the washing machine.

    Thanks for your website. It’s great!

    Lynnette

    1. Hi Lynnette, not really sure but I wouldn’t worry about the pH too much. Continue using it to wash dishes :) Also, if there’s any chance that the superfat is more than zero, then the soap will unfortunately not be suitable for laundry. There’s a chance that superfat oils can leave an oily residue on your clothes.

      1. Hi Lynette,
        I grate up all my soap left overs, fails, end bits and ugly bits. Then add an equal amount of washing soda (sodium carbonate) to the grated soap and bingo washing powder. I have been using the washing powder for a while now and the clothes are clean with no residue or soap burns.

  9. Hi, absolutely love this recipe – but I’m trying to use less coconut oil in soap making and using local oils produced in Europe. Would you recommend swapping the coconut oil for olive oil (or another oil)?

    1. Hi Sophie, you can’t directly substitute olive oil for coconut oil in this recipe as the lye amount would change too. It’s possible to make a 0% superfat olive oil soap but please be aware that it wouldn’t have a good lather and would not have the cleansing power of coconut oil soap. I wouldn’t recommend it so don’t have a recipe to share.

  10. Hi Tanya,
    I’d like to make this into a liquid dish soap to use as a refill for old plastic bottles…could I grate this soap into flakes and use it in a liquid dish soap recipe (with distilled water, a bit of washing soda, glycerine, essential oils and a touch of xanthan gum to thicken)? You’re my hero with these recipes. I love your site and was googling around for a good dish soap without thinking to search here and ended up on your site anyways because it’s exactly what I needed!
    Thanks so much! Can’t wait for your new book!

    1. I’ve not yet tried grating and diluting this soap with distilled water, but it would probably work. I’d leave out the washing soda, essential oil, and glycerine though :) If you do end up trying it out, let me know how it goes?

  11. Hello,
    I love the look of this recipe! I am new to soap making and have been searching for a dish soap recipe. My only question is how to replace the soy wax. I have a severe soy allergy so I definitely don’t want to use soy wax. Do you have any suggestions on how to make the recipe work without it?
    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Karen, if any of the ingredients are changed in this recipe, then the amount of lye used changes too. The same goes for any from scratch soap recipe. The end product will be different from the original recipe too and in this case, you would not get the thick stable lather that you see in this dish soap recipe’s photos. As long as you are aware of that, you can make a soy-free dish soap using the recipe below. It will not be as good as my original but it will be better for those with soy allergies.
      Lye solution: 92g Sodium hydroxide + 120g Distilled water
      Base oil: 454g Coconut oil
      Citric acid solution: 14g Citric Acid + 30g Distilled water

  12. Hi there. I’m looking to make this recipe and am wondering what my ramekin has to be made out of. Will A porcelain ramekin work? Can I pour my soap directly in to cure in there?

  13. Hi, I’ve been making cold process soap for about 20 years. Just recently I’ve been trying to reduce my plastic usage and branching out.
    I’m the first to admit I’m no chemist! I find a recipe I like and stick with it.

    Here’s my problem. I have made another hard dish soap which worked wonderfully at our lake house. . Tons of suds and no residue. So I thought this is great and brought the same ramekin to our other place. It’s horrible! No lather waxy feel….so sad. I’m thinking the water has to be the difference. We have very soft water at our lake house.
    Do you think the addition of soy and citric acid will make a difference? My last recipe was coconut oil and tallow that came to zero fat.
    Now I’m afraid to make a another batch before the last can be used up.

    Care to give an opinion.?

    JR

    1. Hi Janet, and you’re bang on the money with the water quality. Hard water can impede the lather of all-natural soap. However, adding citric acid to the recipe, as mine does, helps the soap to lather in hard water.

  14. 4 stars
    Hello,
    I really love this soap. The bubbles are truly fluffy and it lasts through piles of dishes!!! We dont get any residue on stainless steel pots or glass cups, they actually sparkle! But both my husband and I feel a little waxiness left on rubber or plastic material. I feel waxy residue leftover on our sponge and hands too even after a thorough cleaning, is this how the soap should feel? Is there any recommendation for reducing the waxy feel? Still very happy to have found your recipe, thank you!

    1. Hi Leydie, there shouldn’t be any waxy residue left in the soap as this is a zero superfat soap recipe. That means that the lye uses up every drop of oil and wax. If there’s a residue, it’s possible that you accidentally added too much oil or wax, or not enough citric acid. I’m glad it’s cleaning your pans and glasses though :)

  15. Hello Tanya,
    I made these soaps but when I added the lye to the oil mixture it became in to trace instantly… I am not sure why this happened so I stirred really quickly and put it into the mold as fast as I can.. another thing is that I was excited to use these so when I tried it, on stainless steel pots and in the sink it gives like a white /film coating … so it doesn’t really feel clean… I wonder if this is from soy wax? Do you know what I did wrong?
    Thanks,
    Michele

    1. Hi Michelle, this recipe does trace VERY quickly, but it’s possible that you experienced a false trace. That’s when the temperatures that you’re working at are so low that the solid oils re-solidify when you add the lye solution.

      1. I am not sure if that was the case because I made sure temperture in both oil mix and lye solution was at 125 degrees.

  16. 5 stars
    hi tanya
    i am sooooooooo keen to try this recipe – you gave the measurement for the ramekin as 31/2 inches diameter – not a problem there – but what i am wondering about is the depth – my ramekins look so much deeper than yours and i dont want to make a huge block of it – i also have the 6 mold of round deepish pucks which i may end up looking for a dish to pop them in once they are set up – but if i could have the depth of the ones you used it would be easier to look for them
    hope that made sense – lol
    liz

  17. 5 stars
    Hello Tanya, thank you for this wonderful, simple, and easy to make recipe. I made it as directed and it’s working great–so bubbly! I bought some cute ramekins on Amazon to match my kitchen. Love that I can use them over and over. This recipe filled six (6) traditional ramekins.

  18. Hi Tanya, thank you for sharing your dish soap recipe. It seems really different from most I’ve researched so far. Can you share more about why you add the soy wax, it seems counter intuitive to me, and I’m afraid of clogging up the pipes in my old house.
    Ramona

    1. Soy wax is high in stearic acid and creates a soap that’s long-lasting and with big fluffy stable lather. From your question, I can tell that you’re a beginner and I recommend that you pick up a copy of my Guide to Natural Soapmaking. It will introduce you to the chemistry of cold-process soapmaking and lead you on to how to make your first batches of natural soap.

      1. Hola recién estoy incursionando en los jabones y quería sabes si es q le pongo más agua a esta receta podré obtener un jabón líquido

        1. I put your comment into google translate and got “Hi, I’m just getting into soaps and I wanted to know if I put more water in this recipe, I can get a liquid soap”

          The answer to this is no. Making liquid soap is a much different process, using a different type of lye. Here’s my recipe.

  19. 5 stars
    Hi Tanya!
    I love your website, recipes and helpful tips! Thanks so much for sharing your hard work! My question is also about the soy wax. I don’t have any on hand, but I do have stearic acid. If I put that in the soap calculator along with the coconut oil and citric acid, will that produce the same hard bar with fluffy lather? I saw a S.C. with citric acid on the list, but I can’t remember which one. I think soap calculator made the needed adjustment for the citric acid. Assuming I can find that calculator again, would you recommend the use of stearic acid as a substitute to soy wax?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Lisa, I don’t work with stearic acid in soapmaking personally, but yes it’s possible to add it to the recipe to compensate for the 26% lost from the soy wax (The total recipe contains 28% stearic acid naturally occurring in the oil and wax.) Doing that will help keep the lather thick and creamy.

      1. Hi Tanya! Thanks so much for the reply! I will experiment with this and see what I can come up with. If I run your original recipe through the lye calculator, I can make the needed adjustments from there. I was wondering which soap calculator you used when formulating this recipe. Since this will be an experiment, I’d like to keep all the other values the same. Thanks for your help! I’m excited to try your recipe!

  20. Wow, amazing. I’ve never gotten into soapmaking before, and want to see if it is cost-effective.

    Do you have any suggestions for buying sodium hydroxide or soy wax in bulk?

  21. Can it be any wax that you use I have beeswax and would prefer to use that or how would you adjust this recipe for that? Can you give me any advice? And also can you put essential oils in this soap?

    1. Hi Shelly, to answer your question, no, you cannot replace the soy wax with beeswax. Handmade soap with more than 2% beeswax loses its ability to produce lather and to clean. If you wanted to make this recipe without soy wax, you could make it with 100% coconut oil but the lye amount would change. You would have to work that out using the SoapCalc and manually add the amount back in that the citric acid uses up.

      As for essential oils, I wouldn’t recommend using them on items that you wish to eat from. I don’t recommend that they’re used in dishsoap.

      1. Hi Tanya!
        I was looking online for soy wax and all I am seeing is soy wax for candle making. Is this the same soy wax? I just want to make sure I buy the right kind. :) Or, can you suggest a brand or share an Amazon link?
        Thanks!
        Theresa

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