Homemade Soap Sprays

Phelan, CA(Zone 8b)

When a homemade recipe calls for "liquid soap" does it mean a liquid soap product like what you might use in the bathroom? Or does it mean liquid dishwashing soap, like Dawn (not the kind for dishwashers)? TIA!

Bay Village, OH

I've always assumed that a low phosphate soap is what they mean but I really don't know.

Murphy's oil soap household cleaner is a low to no phosphate vegetable oil soap. Package says it is biodegradable and phosphate free...so this is what I've always tried.

Haven't any experience with dish soaps.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

If it's for killing insects, a lot of people use dish soap for that. But I think ideally you'd use something like Dr. Bronners or Castille soap which are actual real soap (dish soap doesn't actually have soap in it, it's synthetic detergents, same thing with liquid hand soap) If the only things you have around are hand soap and dish soap, I'd go with the dish soap, it's probably got higher levels of detergent in it so it'll kill bugs better, and even though it still has some fragrance and other things that plants don't need, it won't have as much extra stuff in it as hand soap would.

(Lynn) Omaha, NE(Zone 5a)

I've always used liquid dish soap.

North Brunswick, NJ

Dish "soaps" like Dawn & such are actually detergents, not soaps. Your best bets are something like Dr. Bonners or Murphy's oil soap. The detergents are not healthy for the soil.

Burlington, NC

From the new gardener, again. What are you talking about when you speak of using soap sprays? Will it kill whatever is eating on my bell pepper plant, or do you use it as a preventative and spray all plants? Also, what is the ratio of mix and how often and what plants do I use it on? Thanks, Carol

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Soaps will kill soft bodied insects like aphids but won't have an effect on things like beetles that have a hard shell. It also doesn't do much good unless you spray it onto the insects, so I'd only use it if you see insects on your plants. Personally I prefer to use the commercially available insecticidal soaps--with them you know they are at the right concentration to kill things and they don't come with other stuff like fragrances which your plants don't really need.

Marquette, MI(Zone 5a)

A profession sprayer once told me that he used the dish soap as a sticker. That is, it helps the insecticide stick to the plant.
My favorite home-made recipe; and most others I've seen; call for Ivory dish soap. Many of them say specifically to use Ivory only. This spray has made a tremendous difference in the quality of my hollyhocks, they were not chewed to rags by beetles and are outstanding this season. Also, it has made a noticeable lessening of powdery mildew on the leaves of phlox and some others. BTW, in a gallon of water, this recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon.

Waterman, IL(Zone 5a)

I use diluted Dawn dish soap in a garden sprayer to spray the side of my house when it's covered with Boxelder bugs. Works great. They don't stand a chance when I start my "mission".

Deland, FL & Hot Spr, AR

My neighbor told me that when she was growing up b.d. (before dishwashers), they had a gardenia beside the kitchen door, and her mother regularly threw their dish water on it, and they had one of the nicest plants in the neighborhood. I notice that gardenias are great magnets for aphids and between the aphids and the careless workmen who recently worked on our house, our gardenia was barely making it, however, I am happy to say that it is now recovering and I hope to see flowers next year.

Champaign, IL(Zone 5b)

Oh my gosh, it works on boxelder bugs?!?! Why didn't this ever occur to me?? We get MILLIONS of them every fall, and sometimes spring....when we first moved here they got in the house ALL the time. I'll have millions of them congregating on my porch trying to crawl through the crack in the door. Thanks so much pastime for mentioning boxelder bugs.....I've used it for aphids and stuff on plants, never THOUGHT to use it on those stupid boxelders and my house!

Bay Village, OH

My nasturniums had some little black bugs on the undersides of the leaves that were just eating them up. I mixed up a little Murphy's in water and blasted them with a spray bottle.. Worked a treat.

If you have any sensitivity to chemical fertilizers/insecticides like I do it's a good substitute. Better than just surrendering the plants to Mama Nature's chewers.

Phelan, CA(Zone 8b)

Thanks for all the answers! I was/am having a problem with spider mites and aphids. I read somewhere online to use a 1/2 and 1/2 solution of rubbing alcohol and water. I've been trying that at least once a week and it definitely worked on the aphids. Not so sure about the spider mites but I'm not seeing much webbing anymore. A lot of damage has already been done to the foliage so it's hard to tell if that's new or if it was already there from before I used the alcohol. Hopefully, it's not terribly toxic to the environment! If I use Murphy's, how much do I add to a spray bottle?

Brampton, Canada

I have used soap solutions but nothing including chemicals has done the trick for me this year, but .... Here in Canada our public broadcaster (CBC) has a wonderful garden phone in Mondays from 12:30 PM or thereabouts every week. The resident expert extols the virtues of organic pest control, and he recommends 1 part soap (not detergent... use liquid hand soap) to 40 parts water. Detergents like dishsoap are not good for the plants or environment. If you want to listen to the show on line, google CBC Radio and look for Ed Lawrence on "Radio Noon" .

Middleton, WI(Zone 4b)

My neighbor swears by Borax and a little gin. I'm not sure why gin over vodka or what it does. In fact I haven't even tried it yet.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Actually liquid hand soap isn't really soap either, it's made of synthetic detergents too. The ingredients in hand soap are milder on skin than dish detergent but they're still not soap. For true soaps, you need to look to things like old fashioned bar soap or Murphy's oil soap, or even better go for an insecticidal soap that was designed to be used on plants.

Phelan, CA(Zone 8b)

Hence my confusion, ecrane!

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

It is confusing, that's why personally I always go for the insecticidal soap that you can buy ready made--that way you know the concentration is the right amount to kill the bugs, and there's not all sorts of extra stuff in there that's not good for the plants.

Phelan, CA(Zone 8b)

Well, right now I've had to resort to a pyrethrin spray......reluctantly. I'd prefer to go 100% organic. I have to look around and see if I already have some commercially prepared soap spray.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I'm not sure if they're certified by OMRI or not, but you can buy products that contain naturally derived pyrethrins as opposed to the synthetic ones. They're still pyrethrins of course and will still kill good bugs along with the bad so they wouldn't be the first thing I'd try, but if you need to go with something strong you might be able to feel a little better about using the naturally derived ones.

San Jose, Costa Rica

I am just starting to lear about gardening, but I know for a fact that my grand ma solves lots of problems in her garden with soap lol, She says bugs don't like the flavor of the soap, She uses the soap to do the laundry mixed in water and only put that mix in the afternoon when the sun is gone.
I've tried garlic and cayene pepper mix on my roses and so far they haven't had any problem with bugs!!!

Mona in Metcalfe, ON(Zone 5a)

also something that works well in vegie gardens is to blend tomatoe leaves just a couple and all some vegie oil take liquide and delute and spray it is amazing to kill bugs in the garden

Ogden, UT

This is facinating and I am benefitting from the advice. I am learning to navigate Dave's and asked a question about using systemic insecticides on another "forum"?? I guess I should have read the right "thread". (I'm learning)

My neighbors have lost their cottonwoods to some kind of beetle. I want to protect my cottonwood/poplar hybrids (they are huge) and I am seeing signs of infestation.

This may sound stupid, but could the soap be used in the same manner as the systemic insecticide? I want to plant a butterfly garden about 25 feet from my trees, and I would prefer not to go with the systemic chemical option for many reasons.

Has anyone else tried this? Advice anyone?

BTW - If nothing else, using soap about my trees could make it interesting when it rains! :)

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Soap isn't usually very effective on hard-bodied insects like beetles, it works best on soft bodied things like aphids. Also it's not long lasting like the systemic--systemic insecticides get taken up into the plant tissues and remain there for some period of time and poison the bugs as they eat the leaves. The soap doesn't have a long-lasting effect like that, you get the best results if you spray it right on the bugs that you're trying to kill, but if you miss a few or some come along later then you need to spray again (assuming of course the soap is even effective at all in the first place). If you're just trying to avoid using a systemic, I'd try to find the name of the beetle and then google on how to control that particular beetle, there are typically multiple options to choose from.

I agree that liquid soap solutions dont last very long. I have two crawling lantanas and they were daily infested with white flies this year. i mean, clouds of the things. I was told to spray with Joyce dishwashing liquid and water, which i did and noticed that yeah, the bugs hated it. They would swarm at me as i sprayed the plants. Nevertheless, i had to spray about every 3 days to control this things. I finally got tired of it and bought some Ortho insecticide that listed white flies on the label. Boy, did that ever work. I sprayed over and under the plant twice over a period of about a week and for the last couple weeks have not noticed any more swarms. I was very happy that a product actually did what it said it would do. The lantanas are growing quickly and have lots of beautiful white blooms all over now.

Ogden, UT

Thanks eCrane and Az.

During the depression, my grandfather send hard-earned money to buy a "'sure-fire way to kill potatoe bugs". When his package came, there were two wooden blocks. The instructions said "Place bug on block A. Squash bug with block B". True story. Well it WORKED, but wasn't very practical :)

I think I will skip the soap and go with the systemic insecticide.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

If you want to avoid using the systemic I'm sure there are other options you could consider--soap just isn't the best choice. You might try contacting your local extension office, they will probably know the name of the beetle and tell you what your options are.

Spokane, WA(Zone 5a)

I've used the same homemade mixture I use to clean my countertops (it was handy at the time!) to spray a Brugmansia infested with aphid & spidermite (at the same time, wierd!). It worked immediately on the aphids but had to be used over and over (combined with a sharp stream from a hose) to get the spidermites. I don't have any insecticides on hand because I've never had a bad enough infestation to warrant it, so I figured the mixture was close enough to a store bought insecticidal soap to give it a try!

16 oz spray bottle
Healthy squirt of Dr. Bronner's Castile soap (mmmm Lavender flavored)
About 1/2 an eye dropper of Tea Tree Oil (About 15-20 drops)
Fill bottle with water

IRNBTFLY: I would imagine your cottonwoods are infested with borer, either Poplar Borer or Cottonwood Borer, same family of insect, very much the same damage.

Here's a link to the Utah University Extension office website: http://extension.usu.edu/

and another to their list of factsheets on Ornamental Landscape Pests (#15 Poplar Borer):

I would contact your extension office about how best to take care of your cottonwoods.

We have similar issues with borers in our poplars and our birch trees in WA, especially our birch. I know with birch the best thing to do is prevent infestations with ample (lifetime) irrigation because the trees actually send out chemical signals when they are drought stressed that attracts the insects. In most cases here, once you see crown die back in the tree it is too late, which is heartbreaking.

Ogden, UT

Thank you everyone for sharing your knowledge with me! This has been most helpful!

Palatka, FL

I recently sprayed my impatientes with a eco insectcu=ide for grasshoppers, crickets etc, it last all of one night, since it was expensive, I went to the dollar store and gort garlic podwer and sprinkled it on wet plants so far no new damage, but the garlic chased out a bettle I can not identify I will try to descrie it solid black mmostly body very small head basically you could only see those two parts.

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