Soap – the deal with castile

If you’ve been dabbling into going green, you’re likely to have seen castile soap mentioned in books and various web sites.

What is castile soap?

Castile soap isn’t a brand but a type of soap made exclusively from vegetable oil rather than animal fat or synthetic substances. The purists feel it should be made from olive oil but there’s a wide variety of castile variants that use oil from plants such as coconut and jojoba. The simple nature of the soap means a lesser enviromental impact due to reduced waste stream during manufacture and also faster biodegradability.

While castile soaps can have additional synthetic ingredients, usually you’ll find if it’s marketed under that name, it’s a fairly natural sort of product.

Castile soap – so versatile

Castile soap has many uses aside from washing your skin – it’s also known as seafarer’s soap due to its versatility.

I use an olive oil based one in place of shampoo – works great for me and I don’t need to use a conditioner. I also don’t have to wade through the dozens of shampoo brands at the local supermarket trying to translate what all the darned chemicals they use are any more – I tried that once and gave up in total confusion. As the soap I use comes in a simple paper based box, that also saves on packaging. Another benefit is that castile soap is far cheaper than other fancy label soaps and shampoos!

If you’ve ever tried using normal soap to wash your hair, you would have likely found your hair very dry afterwards, but for some reason I haven’t experienced that with castile soap – it’s likely because the glycerin content is retained, whereaas in normal soaps much of the glycerin is removed and sold separately in moisturizers.

Liquid castile soap uses

While bar castile soap is pretty amazing stuff, in a liquid form it’s even more versatile.

– Liquid castille soap can be used for a shaving lather

– It can be used as a pet shampoo

– Great for washing clothes and diapers

– General cleaning, diluted and used in a spray bottle

– Heavy duty degreasing

– I’ve heard that pure liquid castile soap can even be used for brushing your teeth! But of course, don’t swallow the stuff. I don’t think it would kill you in small doses but I’m sure it would taste pretty yuk.

– It can also be used in place of dishwashing detergent and even in your automatic dishwasher! “Green” automatic dishwasher detergents are hard to come by, but a Green Living Tips reader, Kathy Stevens, contributed this recipe (Thanks Kathy!):


1/2 cup liquid castile soap
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 drops tea tree oil
1/2 cup white vinegar


stir all ingredients together until blended. Store in a squirt top bottle. Use 2 tablespoons per load of dishes, shake well before use. 

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The other great thing about castile soap is you can make it at home and there’s a ton of recipes available online. Just a word of warning; in soap-making, lye is used which is a corrosive alkaline substance – sodium hydroxide; so handle with care.

If you’re a castile soap convert and have found some great uses around the home for it, please add your tips below!