Is Castile Soap An Effective Green Cleaner?

If you've ever stumbled upon the Environmental Working Group's (a non-profit organization bringing awareness of the current scientific knowlege about ingredients used in cosmetics) website: or else revisited your choice in cosmetics, you have likely discovered that toxic chemicals exist in most of the beauty products readily available from body wash to toothpaste. Companies argue (and the government supports) that small amounts of carcinogens are harmless, but when you consider that the average woman uses 12 cosmetic products containing 168 ingredients a day, the aggregate effects are far more serious. In light of this, many people have opted to take a hard look at their cosmetic choices and purchase only non-toxic products. Myself included.  


One of the first things I discovered was the magical cleaning properties of castile soap. Castile soap is the result of saponifying natural oils like olive and coconut. After adding potassium hydroxide to the oil, the saponification process removes all traces of the potassium hydroxide leaving a natural substance that will stick to dirt and oil and wash away with water. When I discovered this gem, and found out that it is hypo-allergenic, fair-trade, organic, not tested on animals, vegan and non-GMO, I was hooked. I started using it as a body wash, hand soap, and face wash with excellent results. My skin felt clean and castile soap didn't leave it feeling dry like a lot of other soaps. My face was clear and didn't have any adverse reactions like it did to many of the commercial face washes available.  

It is truly an amazing product that I will continue to use for years to come. However, as I continued my conversion to non-toxic products, I eventually came around to cleaning up my cleaning products. I found many recipes online that use castile soap and many claims about the house cleaning value of castile soap. I was intrigued. As I already purchased a large jug of the stuff, it was an appealing idea to have one product to rule them all. So I tried, and I tried and I tried to make castile soap work in my cleaning routine. But what I consistently found was that castile soap left behind streaks. Whether on the counter, on the floor or on the wall, castile soap leaves behind a film. This film is what makes it so amazing as soap for your body because it replenishes the oils it removes from your skin. It actually cleans and moisturizes at the same time.  


But as a cleaning product, castile soap falls short. Some people have suggested that using vinegar after castile soap is how to effectively use it as a cleaner. But let's be honest. Are you really going to use two products and double your cleaning time? There are so many green cleaning options now, that it just doesn't make sense to waste the extra time. Other people have suggested mixing vinegar and castile soap so that you have one product that does both. Bad advice! The chemists out there may understand this intuitively, but because I'm not a chemist, I learned from experience.  

Vinegar de-saponifies the oils in the soap. This means that the soap's ability to wash away with water is gone and what you are left with is a sloppy, oily mess. Go ahead, give it a try. No matter what formula you use, vinegar and castile soap do not mix. I got some on my hands as I was dumping my failed experiment down the drain, and it wouldn't come off! It just stuck to my hands like glue and even regular soap had a hard time getting it off. You can imagine that this is an even less effective cleaning solution than castile soap on its own.

Although it is true that castile soap reacts differently in hard water than soft water and can account for some of the varying claims of its green cleaning value, I live in Toronto. Toronto has hard water. As I can't change the water, I have to choose products that can work in hard water. 

Verdict: Castile Soap is not an effective green cleaning tool and will actually make more work for yourself.  Have you had a different experience? Leave a comment below.