How to Make Organic Pesticide with Soap

Woman working with soap and essential oils
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 20-50
What You'll Need
Essential Oils (Optional)
Spray Bottle

Chemical pesticides are something more and more gardeners are trying to avoid in their gardens. Unfortunately, managing the bugs that attack your plants is still going to be a problem. Green gardeners are experimenting with organic pesticides made with soap. Applied appropriately, soap pesticides can work effectively to rid your garden of bugs without damaging the environment. The components can be purchased for moderate cost and combined at home.

Step 1 - Choose a Soap

cut up pieces of soap

Soap works as a pesticide because the fatty acids in it penetrate the insect coverings and cause cell failure. This means it is vital to use either a natural soap, made with oil and lye, or to add oil to the mix. Detergents, soaps made with chemicals, are not effective pesticides on their own.

One option is to make your own soap at home. Be sure to balance the lye with the oils properly and allow the mixture to cure, or the lye will burn your plants.

Organic soaps can be purchased that are made of nonchemical soaps. Simply check the ingredient list before you buy. Health food stores are excellent sources for such soaps.

If all else fails, it is possible to use liquid dish soap in this recipe. Just be sure to add oil to the mix to provide the fatty acids necessary to kill the bugs.

Step 2 - Mix the Pesticide

Mix one teaspoon of organic soap for each cup of water in the spray bottle. Shake and use.

If using a detergent, combine one cup of oil with one tablespoon of detergent. Mix. Then add two teaspoons of the mixture for each cup of water in the spray bottle. Shake and use.

Step 3 - Use the Right Technique

spray a houseplant

To be most effective, a soap pesticide should be sprayed on the insect directly. Once the soap dries on the plant it no longer has any effect. Carry the spray bottle around the garden and zap any insects you see, or regions where they tend to congregate. Be sure to get the underside of leaves. Do not simply spray over the whole garden as you would a commercial pesticide. This will not kill the insects, and may put enough soap into the soil to cause complications.

If used in the heat of the day, organic soap pesticide may cause plant leaves to burn. It is best to use this pesticide in the early morning or evening to protect your plants.

Tip - Add Essential Oils

To strengthen the effectiveness of your pesticide, consider adding an essential oil that is known to repel insects. This will continue to work even after the soap has dried. Suggested oils include citronella, peppermint, and neem. Add a teaspoon of essential oil to a spray bottle of soap and water mix and see if it helps.

Be careful when adding the essential oil. The concentration of essential oils can be harmful if it splashes on your skin.