Just how organic is dish detergent?

acowellsJune 25, 2006

Thanks to some helpful replies a previous post of mine (http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/pests/msg061154594545.html?28435), I'm making strides against earwigs with a combo of soy & oil traps and dish soap spray. I use Palmolive.

The dish detergent water really kills them, which made me wonder what chemical is in the soap and what other insects it might be killing. Any ideas? I know it's biodegradable and definitely better than something like Seven, but just how organic is dish detergent as an insecticide?

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username_5(banned for no reason)

I don't think any dish soap would be considered organic in the strictest sense.

Virtually all of them have some chemicals in them.

Having said that it works because it breaks down the protective layer on their bodies and causes them to dehydrate. It also 'clogs' the breathing pores on some insects suffocating them.

If you want to be strictly organic you can get insecticidal soaps made from plant fats. If you ever intend to use soaps on plants you should get a commercial product intended as an insecticidal soap as these are refined and tested to be plant safe. The household soaps aren't. If you are just nuking the bugs though, it doesn't matter. It all works.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2006 at 11:22AM
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Buy some from Seventh Generation or other enviro-friendly sources.

Stay away from anti-bacterial soaps and detergents. The antibacterial in them persists even through sewage treatment plants.

I think in the strict sense of the word, detergent is not organic -

-and the idea of organic is to be gentle/renewable/sustainable on the earth so even things that *are* strictly organic, like urine, in excess are not a good idea in keeping with the end goal.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2006 at 12:20PM
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peggy_g(Melbourne,Fl Z9)

I like to use Dr. Bronner's liquid soap concentrate. It is all natural. They now make organic bar soap, but I don't know if the liquid is certified as organic. Great stuff; never had any problem using it in the garden. Saw this on the web:

"The Bronner Family pledges to continue to responsibly produce the fine ecological soaps you have loved and lathered with for over 50 years, while sharing our profits with our workers and worthwhile causes worldwide. You can make a difference."

    Bookmark   June 25, 2006 at 12:53PM
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Most all dish soaps today are detergents and detergents are made from petroleum products, not from out perspective organic although those products are carbon based and to a chemist would be organic. Soaps that are still rendered from animal fats and lye would be acceptable to an organic gardener, Ivory, Fels Naptha, and a few of the specialized soaps. Do not use antimicrobial or antibacterial soaps since the "stuff" in them gets into the soils and water and allows the target pathogens to build up immunities to them so they will be ineffective before too long.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 7:12AM
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Did you ever check out the store shelves and notice that there are beauty bars, deodorant bars, bath bars and such....not many are labeled 'soap'. 'Real' castille soap should be olive oil and lye. Lye is made from an electrical current running through brine. Or, I think, the old way was running water through wood ash to get liquid lye.....which is probably why years ago homemade soap was sometimes harsh as I think it would be hard to be consistant with the amount of lye in your lye water. True castille soap and many other handmade soaps don't lather well but they are still surfactants and will clean your skin without lots of lather. They also may 'melt' or turn to goo if they sit in water between uses. Coconut oil used in soap making helps a lot with suds and making a harder bar of soap. I have heard that the shampoos that don't burn your eyes simply have something added to make your eyes numb, lol, don't know if that is true.
Most liquid cleaners contain detergents so they are not truely soap.
Somewhere this was about gardening and I've lost that so I'll hush now.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 4:09PM
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PaulNS(NS zone 6a)

No, that was very interesting Kiki and interesting thread. I bought some "Ivory classic dishwashing liquid" thinking it was soap, as opposed to detergent, and would be okay for garden use - eg. knocking out earwigs. But I find the smell noxious (perfumy) and now I look at the bottle there is not one mention of 'soap' anywhere. It does say "Contains biodegradable anionic and nonionic surfactants" - no idea what this means.

My wife and I used a lot of dish detergent ('Sunlight', usually) to try and control the earwig invasion, spraying plants with it at night, until it occured to us we were putting an awful lot of chemical in the garden that way. We quit spraying plants and started using earwig traps, knocking the earwigs into a bucket of soapy water which we then pitch in the ditch. Now I go out of my way to buy Dr. Bronner's.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 5:02PM
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I did forget to say that if it is soap it IS made with lye. So many people are afraid of lye soap. During the soapmaking process it is chemically changed so that it is no longer 'lye' in the finished soap. Label requirements are iffy so many handmade soaps may say something like

Contains the saponified oils of olive, coconut, palm, hemp or what ever ........that means it was made with lye. EVS (evil corporate soap) label requirements are the same and I can't remember how they are worded. Unless the labeling laws have changed since I stopped selling soap.

And if the recipe is good it is good stuff.....soap made with just olive oil and lye and water is probably the skin friendliest soap there is. Just not as sudsy and most people are wantin those suds.

Soooo (I keep forgetting...gardening!) if you GROW olives you can squeezem and make your own soap.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 8:12PM
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peggy_g(Melbourne,Fl Z9)

More on Dr. Bronner's:

"Dr. Bronner's Soaps & Sal Suds
Click here to read our Frequently Asked Questions.
Quality Soaps Explained
Soaps have been made for millennia. Aside from making fire and cooking food, "saponifying" oil and fat into soap is one of the oldest and simplest chemical reactions known to humankind. In fact, the first soaps were accidentally made by fat dripping into the ashes of cooking fires.

Soap is made by saponifying a fat or oil with an alkali. A fat or oil is a "triglyceride," which means that three fatty acids of various carbon lengths are attached to a glycerine backbone. The alkali is either sodium (for bars) or potassium (for liquids) hydroxide, made by running electricity through salt water. The saponification process is a simple one-step reaction with no waste generated: the glycerine is split off from the fatty acids, and the fatty acids combine with the sodium or potassium to form soap, while the hydroxide forms water. The result is soap, glycerin and water (no alkali remains in our soaps).

Quality soap-making consists in great part of choosing the right proportions of the right oils with their different fatty acids. Most commercial soap manufacturers skimp on quality because of cost and use lots of tallow from beef fat with a little bit of coconut or palm kernel oil. Our unsurpassed soaps are made with olive, hemp and palm oils instead of tallow, and contain three to four times more coconut oil than commercial soaps. Saponified coconut oil generates high-lather cleansing even in hard water because it has shorter-chain saturated fatty acids. Hemp, olive and palm oil-based soaps make a mild, smooth, creamy lather because these oils contain longer-chain unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fatty acids.

Other Ways Dr. Bronner's Makes a Higher-Quality Soap
Unlike most commercial soap-makers who distill the glycerin out of their soaps to sell separately, we retain it in our soaps for its superb moisturizing qualities.

We superfat our soaps with hemp and jojoba oils for a milder, smoother lather.

 We use natural plant-derived vitamin E and citric acid to protect freshness.

 We do not add any chelating agents, dyes, whiteners or synthetic fragrances.

 We use pure and powerful high-quality essential oils.

 Our liquid soaps are 3 to 4 times more concentrated than most so-called "liquid soaps" on the market, and are only a few percent away from being a solid, which ecologically saves on packaging materials.

 Our new plastic cylinder bottles are made from 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic.

 Our soaps are a superb value, costing less than less-concentrated, inferior detergent body-wash "liquid soaps."

 Our soaps are most popular for at-home washing, but they also are the soap of choice for many campers and hikers, as they are so biodegradable and nature-friendly. Dr. Bronner's soaps have spread by reputation for quality and word-of-mouth into virtually every health food store in the country."

    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 8:05AM
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My preference is to look for horticultural,registered chemical formulations which allows access to label foldouts of tables,(i.e.:precautionary statements;-tank mixing notations; application rates per insect pest or disease matched to host plants;sensitivity listings of hosts;specific comments;timing of applications,suggested rates matched with plant stage of development environmental factors of concern (i.e.temp.; (my input:type of applicator used,;mist;WSPS) ....)First Aid,/ 800 numbers, and further research of product investigations one can make on the internet...(and I'm referencing table charts off a year-round pesticidal/hort oil product designed for the conscientious homeowner....)I figure that I'll take advantage of their manufacturing /liabilities/precautions/ testing expertise ...to each his/her own,I suppose...

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 4:25PM
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