I believe in natural products, but I realize that natural doesn't always mean safe.
What Is Castile Soap?
Castile soap is a versatile natural multipurpose cleaner. It derives its name from the Castile region of Spain. Olive oil and sodium carbonate—also known as washing soda, soda ash, or soda crystals—was mixed with the oil to make a hard, white soap bar. This process is called saponification.
One of the first known uses of castile soap dates back to the 11th century.
A Vegan Soap
Since castile soap is completely plant-based, it is considered vegan. Many soap products on the market today are made with synthetic ingredients and may therefore also be considered vegan. Synthetic ingredients are cheaper which is what makes them so popular.
Olive oil is one of the original oils used to make soap. Over the centuries it has been replaced with other plant-based oils like avocado, coconut, hemp, jojoba, palm kernel, and sunflower oils. Some manufacturers may even blend several oils in their recipes. The ingredient list on my castile soap lists olive and sunflower oil.
Natural or organic soaps may contain animal fat, like lard, and are called tallow soaps. So check the ingredients. Just because something says it's natural or organic, does not mean it is vegan.
Be wary! Some manufacturers may use nut oils like walnut or almond. So, if you have a nut allergy, please always look at the ingredient list of castile soap.
Soap vs. Detergent
A liquid soap is made with either plant-based oils or animal fats. If they don’t contain plant or animal oils and is made with synthetic ingredients it is not a soap. It is a detergent. The synthetic ingredients may have been sourced from a natural ingredient like coconuts but because it is heavily processed until it becomes part of a detergent, it can no longer be considered natural or organic.
Benefits of Castile Soap
- Castile soap is non-toxic and biodegradable and therefore more ecofriendly than most other soaps on the market.
- The oils in the soap give it a smooth moisturizing property while still being an effective cleaner.
- It’s vegan and is not tested on animals.
- It's a bit more expensive but because it's so concentrated and you dilute it before use, a little bit goes a long way.
Why Is pH Important In Soap?
Castile soap registers at around 8.9 on the pH scale.
The pH scale ranges from 1 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline) with 7 as neutral. Anything below 7 is considered acidic and anything above 7 is alkaline. At 8.9 on the scale, castile soap is considered alkaline.
Knowing what pH level your cleaning agent has makes a difference because alkaline cleaners are more effective at cleaning dirt, oil, and organic materials. Acidic cleaners will work better to clean calcium, rust, and minerals.
Some pH examples for cleaners include:
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- Bleach – pH 13 – alkaline
- Bathroom cleaners for tubs and tile – pH 11 - 13 – alkaline
- Borax – pH 10 – alkaline – I use this as a laundry detergent booster.
- Vinegar – pH 3 - acidic
- Lemon juice – pH 2 – acidic
- Toilet bowl cleaner – pH 3 - acidic
Safety Precautions to Consider
- Don’t mix castile soap with an acidic agent like vinegar. Both are great cleaning agents on their own but by mixing them you diminish their effectiveness. This mix will leave a white film on your surfaces. This rings true for all acidic cleaners like lemon juice for example.
- Castile soap and hard water don’t work well together. Consider installing a water softener first.
- I don’t recommend using castile soap as a shampoo for human hair unless you condition it well afterward.
- If you color your hair, stay away from castile soap as a shampoo. It tends to strip away some of the applied color.
Uses For Castile Soap
Since this soap is non-toxic and biodegradable, it’s safe to use around the house, kids, and pets. It’s incredibly versatile. The Environmental Working Group (EWG.org) lists castile soap as a ‘product of low concern’ which means that it scores very low on cancer risk, reproductive toxicity, allergies, and immunotoxicity.
Dilute to a ratio of 10 parts water and 1 part soap. It doesn't foam as much as other soaps and detergents (create suds) but it will cut through the grease on your dishes.
Combine 1 gallon of warm water with ¼ cup of castile soap. Decant it into a spray bottle and use to clean household surfaces including appliances, counters, floors, toilet, shower doors, and windows.
A quick tip: If the item you’re cleaning needs scrubbing, sprinkle baking soda on the area before spraying the soap solution on it. The baking soda will offer the friction needed to rid you of that stubborn dirt. Baking soda and castile soap are both alkaline, so they won’t cancel each other out.
Foaming Hand Wash
I bought a foam soap dispenser online that fits on a mason jar. I fill the jar with 3 tablespoons of liquid castile soap, top it up with water and screw on the dispenser. You could add a teaspoon of olive, avocado, or fractionated coconut oil to the mix for a moisturizing cleanser. I found that the oil clogged my dispenser over time though.
If you want to add fragrance, consider adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil. I prefer lavender and tea tree oil because both have antibacterial properties.
Face and Body Wash
Since castile soap is so concentrated, you don’t need a hole lot to get a complete clean. A squirt on your face cloth or sponge is enough for your whole body and a couple of drops in wet hands will remove all the dirt and grime from your face including makeup.
Men could use it instead of shaving foam. It lathers well on the face. This will work for shaving underarms and legs too.
I clean my art brushes and my makeup brushes by adding about a teaspoon of the soap concentrate to a large bowl of warm water. I leave them to soak for a few minutes, then rinse clean.
After rinsing your dog’s hair with water, squirt some concentrated soap in your hands and lather it through her coat. Rinse thoroughly.
By using castile soap instead of a multitude of synthetic detergents, we support our environment while taking care of ourselves.
EWG - Environmental Working Group
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Celeste Wilson