How to Make Homemade Insecticidal Soap for Plants

By: Julie Day
Spray bottle and natural soap

Use pure, natural soap and water when making insecticidal soap for your plants

Thanks to insecticidal soap, controlling soft-bodied insects in your garden and on houseplants has never been easier! Here’s a simple recipe for making your own homemade insecticidal soap using ordinary household ingredients.

Homemade Insecticidal Soap Recipe

The simplest insecticidal soap is nothing more than a 2% soap solution. To make this at home, you will need:

  • Sprayer: Any clean spray bottle or garden sprayer will work fine for spraying insecticidal soap. Make sure the sprayer or bottle hasn’t been used for herbicides.
  • Pure Soap: Use a pure liquid soap, such as Castile, or all-natural soap. The active ingredient in insecticidal soap comes from the fatty acids in animal fat or vegetable oil, so it’s important to use the real thing. Don’t use detergents (which aren’t actually soaps), dish soaps, or any products with degreasers, skin moisturizers, or synthetic chemicals. Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap is usually pretty easy to find in stores, or check your local natural-foods store for other options.
  • Pure Water: Tap water is fine for making insecticidal soap. If you have hard water, you may want to use bottled water to prevent soap scum from building up on your plants.

To make homemade 2% insecticidal soap, mix together:

  • 5 tablespoons soap to 1 gallon of water

OR

  • 1 heavy tablespoon soap to 1 quart of water
Containers of garlic, pepper, vinegar, and cooking oil

Other ingredients that can be added to homemade insecticidal soap

Homemade Insecticidal Soap Recipe Variations

Like any other home remedy, there are as many variations on this recipe as there are gardeners! You can also try:

  • Diluted Solution: If the spray causes damage or burns your plant foliage, cut the amount of soap in half and try a 1% solution. This is the concentration usually found in commercial sprays. The lighter solution might be less effective but is gentler on plants.
  • Cooking Oil: To help the solution stick a little longer, add two tablespoons of light cooking oil (such as corn, canola, olive, or safflower) per gallon of water to the mix.
  • Vinegar: To make a spray that also targets powdery mildew, add a teaspoon of cider vinegar per gallon of water to the mix.
  • Garlic or Pepper: To help repel chewing insects, add a teaspoon of ground red pepper and/or garlic per gallon of water to the mix.
  • Bar Soap: For a less-exact recipe, drop a bar of pure soap (such as organic bar soap or Ivory) into a gallon of water and leave it overnight. Remove the bar and shake well before spraying.

Further Information

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82 Comments on “How to Make Homemade Insecticidal Soap for Plants”

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  • Official Comment:


    Lindsay Hughes Says:
    August 5th, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments and questions. Many answers to your questions can be found in Julie Day’s article on how to use insecticidal soap, whether homemade or store-bought. You can read it here: http://www.todayshomeowner.com/how-to-use-insecticidal-soap-on-plants/



  • LarrCh Says:
    August 5th, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    That’s all well and good with these comments/questions but why are there no answers to the questions?
    What good are queries if there are no replies?



  • Keith Turner Says:
    July 14th, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Does this also work on fungus gnats?



  • Lauren Says:
    June 21st, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Does this only work as a preventative? Or would it help with a caterpillar and snail problem that has already started?



  • Joy Says:
    June 1st, 2016 at 9:37 am

    I used the Dawn dishwashing liquid and water solution but did not rinse the leaves. They are now brown ,should I cut some of them back? btw, I also dusted cayenne pepper on the tomatoes themselves. No more bugs eating them. But afraid b/c the leaves are now brown.
    Thanks!
    Joy



  • polly Says:
    May 25th, 2016 at 9:50 am

    I’m growing cherry tomatoes for the first time, and something’s eating the leaves( not the entire leaf, but making holes). Do I spray the leaves, or the stems and tomatoes also? They’re now small and still green?thank you!
    This is a great community.I’m new at this and would love to grow more of my own veggies, for cost and health reasons.



  • jmichael Says:
    May 7th, 2016 at 9:22 am

    I dip all plants I buy ..pot and all..in a bucket of water with a hefty squirt of Dawn dishwashing soap. This has stopped white flies and aphids that seem to have been in the soil at the green house. I also save egg shells all winter and crumble them and put them around my cabbages and melons and this stops slugs and cut worms.



  • Terra Ayres Says:
    April 21st, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    No problem with rabbits eating plants since I started spraying with Ivory soap dissolved in a spray bottle of water.
    Yea !!!!!



  • Pat Eiring Says:
    April 16th, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    I have had a problem with a light green wormy bug on my geraniums that eats all the blooms. This year they are on my petunias and I tried commercial spray but they still are eating the plants. Any suggestions for a natural spray? Thanks!



  • Sujeet Says:
    February 13th, 2016 at 1:38 am

    Even I have the leaves of my tomato and Marigold plants turn white and ultimately dry up because of these flies. Heart bleeds to see so many marigold buds not able to bloom into flowers because of leaves drying up. I have tried neem+detergent sprays a few times, but does not seem to help. Do not want to use any chemicals. What other options do I have?



  • Joseph Says:
    January 3rd, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    I wonder if insecticidal soap will work for Chafer Beetles in the lawn?



  • maria delagrave Says:
    October 16th, 2015 at 9:56 am

    I have a gardenia tree I bring in for the winter. I have a problem with spider mites. What can I do and will the soap work for my tree?



  • Nikki Says:
    October 11th, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    There are many different scents and versions of the Dr Bronner’s Castile soap that you recommended. Does it matter which one you use in the insecticidal recipe? I saw the lavender pictured above, is that the best one to use? Thanks so much for your help!!



  • Alice Gahan Says:
    September 27th, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Will this control the fruit fly’s in my compost bin???



  • Carol Says:
    September 21st, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    I have white spots on hosta leaves that I believe are bird or squirrel droppings. I tried to clean with garden hose. Any ideas for cleaning without having to scrub each leaf.



  • Karen Verhoef Says:
    September 19th, 2015 at 11:41 pm

    Thanks for the homemade bug spray recipe with variations, I’ve had the best results adding both the garlic and red pepper. Thanks also for explaining why I was getting a lot of soap scum when I used the Dr. Bronners soap! I was so dissapointed when I tried mixing the Dr. Bronners and ended up with a bunch of soap scum! From now on I’ll use deionized water or hopefully get some rainwater to use instead of the rock hard water that comes out of my homes pipes.



  • Emmanuel Umesiobi Says:
    September 19th, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    I would like to know more about natural method of making insect killer.



  • sharon Says:
    September 6th, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    I had aphids on my hibiscus tree. I used dawn, water and vegtable oil to spray all the leaves. I aphids are gone but where there are buds where new leaves are coming, they are dropping off before they open up. The leaves are shiny from the oil, should I spray it off with water? I never had a problem with the tiny new bud of a leaf fall off. thank you so much.



  • Melanie Says:
    September 5th, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Hi,
    I have one of those garden sprayers that you hook up to a hose. Using canola oil, dawn & water to control Aphids on my Crepe Myrtle, weeping something & hibiscus. Wondering how much of this combination to use in the sprayer since it will be diluted with hose water. Thanks so much.



  • Gloria Koburi Says:
    August 31st, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    WHITE FLY MIXTURE FOUND ONLINE

    32 ounce bottle
    2 parts rubbing aicohol
    5 parts water
    1 teaspoon ivory or castille soap

    So far this has been the most help without hurting my plants.



  • Pammyc Says:
    August 28th, 2015 at 7:31 am

    We used the ivory soap mix on my knock out roses earlier this year. I haven’t had to use a commercial spray on the roses all summer. In previous years I was constantly going to the store for more spray and it was costing a small fortune. My roses actually looked much better this year thanks to their ivory bath.



  • Ed Latacz Says:
    August 18th, 2015 at 9:06 am

    Thanks for the idea. Have white flies on my Kale. It would be nice if you answered more of the questions asked. Just saying!


  • Official Comment:


    Ben Erickson Says:
    August 14th, 2015 at 6:48 am

    Hi Shamra,
    Glad to hear our article on homemade insecticidal soap helped your hibiscus. Thanks for the feedback!



  • Shamra Says:
    August 13th, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    I wanted to thank you for this information. I had a Hibiscus that was covered in aphids. I don’t like using chemicals and I’m on the thrifty side, so I tried putting a bar of Ivory soap in water and then spraying my plant for about three weeks. It has been a month since then and I’m getting beautiful flowers again and there is no sign of bugs!! Great advice and the whole treatment cost me about $1. Thank you!



  • Ryan Says:
    August 10th, 2015 at 8:38 am

    Is it best to spray the soap mix at night to prevent burning?



  • Miss Paula Says:
    August 4th, 2015 at 12:05 am

    Hi there! I love using the organic/home-made remedies for not only growing flowers and veggies… I use home-made things on almost everything; washing the dog, showers, cleaning thr house, etc!!!! My question is this: instead of using a best of ivory that u mentioned; Do you think it’ll be ok if I substituted for Dawn dishing washing liquid? I wasn’t sure if I should use the Dawn until I can get some advice… I browsed through SO MANY websites that I’m a bit confused. to say the least!!!! Lol. Half of the people said, ‘Yes, that’s gine’ & others said to never use it.
    I’d appreciate a timely response!!!! Thanks again!



  • Lisa Says:
    August 2nd, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    What about Dawn dish soap with water? I got cherry tomatoes big boy tomatoes green peppers and yellow bell peppers. What every it is its got holes in the leaves of my plants.



  • George Says:
    July 28th, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    This is what i do for ‘MITES’ mainly and works for any other little black insect that eat on top or bottom side of the leaves which suck the life of your plants, trees, flowers ect..:

    Use any liquid soap or dish washing soap that is as close to unscented as possible. Just smell it, and make sure it does not have a heavy smell, if scented look for “EDTA” – (ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid) in the ingredients. Make sure there is NO CREAM, or type of HAND MOISTURIZER in the ingredient… then buy any ordinary PURE SOAP with FATTY ACIDS and OILS in the ingredients.

    1.) 5 liters of water to 5 not over-filled teaspoons of liquid soap.

    2.) Drop a bar of pure soap in the water and let it sit over-night.

    3.) Shake well and spray.. NO MORE MITES!!!!!

    4.) Or you can mix all the other ingredients for the other types of insects. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Keep in mind that solution only works while “WET”, and is recommended to wash off the soap when plants, trees, ect.. dries off, … it will not harm but will leave a soapy taste if its edible 🙂



  • alsatian Says:
    July 26th, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Can I use regular dishsoap and water or does it have to be pure soap? I have beans and a Hibiscus tree that are getting eaten alive.



  • lorrainejacobs Says:
    July 21st, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Do you have a natural formula for Japanese beetle?



  • Rodney Vanalstine Says:
    July 7th, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Sue, to get rid of the itch, put alcohol on the bite, like hand sanitizer. It will burn but only for a second and the itch will disappear.



  • Sue Says:
    June 30th, 2015 at 8:58 am

    I have chigur bits. Is the a solution to get rid of the itch? I sprayed skin so soft baby oil on my feet, legs and arm. Have bit on elbow and feet. Can I and peppermint oil to it


  • Official Comment:


    Ben Erickson Says:
    June 29th, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Marina,
    Yes, just mix all the ingredients together.



  • Marina De Guzman Says:
    June 29th, 2015 at 7:04 am

    So Amazing. Do I just need to mix all the ingredients?



  • marilyn mouse Says:
    June 14th, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    Would prefer to control insects the natural way.



  • Phil S Says:
    June 12th, 2015 at 4:01 am

    If you are going to use natural soap i.e. dervived from fat and caustic soda (saponification) and live in a hard water area, you are going to have problems with the soap reacting with the dissolved calcium (scum) – use clean rainwater straight off the roof which will be calcium-free, assuming that it is not a new roof with concrete tiles – this is the closest you will get to deionised water. Alternatively, get some EDTA (ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid, disodium form, commercially known as Versene and others) and mix a small amount, say a teaspoon to 1-litre, before you add the soap – you should get a nice clear soap solution.
    If you are not sure if your house mains water is hard or soft, get a small glass jar with a lid, half fill with tap water and flake in some soap. Shake well – soft water will give a good permanent lather and a clear solution, hard water will take a lot more soap flakes, will form scum and will not be a clear solution.

    Qualified to advise? Retired water scientist and engineer and avid gardener and rainwater harvester



  • peter Says:
    June 7th, 2015 at 7:39 am

    what soap mixture can i use to kill aphids?



  • Brenda Says:
    June 1st, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    I have Dr. Bonner’s Castile soap but it’s scented. Will this still work without harming the plants? Our lavender has Spitbugs all over, and I was advised to purchase an Insecticide soap.



  • Claudia Says:
    May 19th, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    I have clover mites on my retaining wall by my rock flower bed and they are also all over my containers that have petunias in them. Will this soap get rid of them??



  • Aislinn Says:
    May 11th, 2015 at 11:26 am

    Does it work on aphids? Thinking of trying this out on my Bonzai



  • marilyn ridings Says:
    May 9th, 2015 at 11:54 am

    can lye soap be used in your recipes? I have everything else on hand to make my own spray.



  • Tanisha L Says:
    May 3rd, 2015 at 9:30 am

    Can you spay the soil of houseplants?



  • karen askren Says:
    May 1st, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Hi…need help for my 2yr old potted dwarf Mulberry plant. The leaves have some”bumpy spots” and there is a browning around the edge of the leaves..I’m afraid to spray anything,i.e. soap, neem oil etc. ( I killed my Meyer Lemon last winter by using neem oil on the leaves which had some critters..I really could use some Help here…..thanks so much !



  • debbie Says:
    April 14th, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    hello. I made the insecticidal soap according to your directions and sprayed all of my vegetable plants top side and bottom side of leaves and the white flies were not phased by it. Any suggestions?



  • Donald Madison Says:
    April 10th, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    What can I use to spray and kill wasp and hornets that nest in my bush hedge flower beds? Is there anything natural I can use. Thanks appreciate advise.



  • manjunath Says:
    March 22nd, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    sir,
    Requested for help to continue my Rose trees. There is a problem in flowers. Insecticides ants eating the flowers. I have consulted more than 100 persons still I am not able found any solution. Please help me.



  • Modzaka prosper Says:
    March 16th, 2015 at 7:10 am

    Am happy i found this site. In fact, I have being trying to control aphids and other insect in my okro farm but not working. I will try homemade insecticide and see what happens. thank you



  • Jennifer Says:
    March 9th, 2015 at 4:15 am

    I have a potted pinepple plant, a orange and lemon tree. I noticed that I have ants living in the soil. These plants are very large. What is the best way to evict these nuisancant pest?



  • Dewi Says:
    February 19th, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    Will the soap affect the soil?



  • Ana Baleikorocau of Fiji Says:
    February 14th, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Great!!! I will try this today on the bugs that are eating my palm-leaves and post the results soon.



  • Rob Reiman Says:
    February 12th, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Vince – If you are using cold pressed pure neem oil, I recommend using 1 tsp of liquid soap per 2.5 ounce of neem. Mix these two ingredients together BEFORE adding to WARM (or very warm) water. The quantity of water depends on the concentration you are attempting to achieve.


  • Official Comment:


    Ben Erickson Says:
    January 27th, 2015 at 9:11 am

    Vince,
    No special procedure, you just mix the ingredients together.



  • Vince Arjay :D Says:
    January 27th, 2015 at 7:54 am

    Are there any procedures..?

    or just mix it together..? 😀

    plss answer ..!!!!! ^_^

    thankssss



  • Perry Says:
    January 24th, 2015 at 8:27 am

    Any good dish soap works for me.



  • varunraj Says:
    January 9th, 2015 at 9:31 am

    sir, i have problem in dissolving neem oil in water. it is written that using insecticidal soap we can dissolve neem oil in water..can u please suggest a soap and its concentration.i am from india



  • Mohammad Says:
    November 19th, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Will Unscented Pure Vegetable Glycerine soap work okay?



  • Bonnie Bond Says:
    November 13th, 2014 at 12:28 am

    Thanks for the help. The silky spider type webs are gone!



  • Amanda hughes horan Says:
    October 23rd, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Whenever I have a problem with fire ants I just boil some water and pour it right into the middle of the mound…. Works like a charm every time ha ha!!



  • jim Says:
    September 30th, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    I stumbled upon this website and found that I was on the right track.
    I have a problem with fire ants. As a maker of hot salsa , I decided to try this to the ants. I threw about 4 or 5 hot peppers in the blender along with vinegar and dish soap. I strained the ingredients into a measuring cup and placed it into a spray bottle. I then got this idea about adding some vegetable oil to the mix and shook it well, to emulsify it. I figured that the hot pepper would stay longer on the ants because of the oil. I then went out to the ant nest and dug around to agitate those little b&*&##S and when they came streaming out I sprayed them and the ground,and little eggs too. The next day I came back looking for another fight only to discover that they were not there. I have done this on two nest. I will video tape the next one.



  • Patti T. Says:
    September 21st, 2014 at 8:29 am

    Thanks for the help with recipe for insecticidal soap. I was just going to use Dawn dish soap and a drop of veggie oil, then I found your article. I am using it on my house plants before I bring them in for the winter. Thanks again.



  • susan Says:
    August 23rd, 2014 at 5:04 am

    Wondering what to use on my Tomatoes the bugs are eating right through them even before they ripen , this has been the worst year yet for my tomato plants !!



  • Christina Says:
    August 22nd, 2014 at 11:33 am

    Do I need to spray the insecticidal soap into the soil as well.. they are sucking the life out of my potted flowers!



  • JohnHerrick Says:
    August 8th, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    Looks like you’re using lavender scented soap rather than unscented. Any particular reason? BTW – I found my Dr Bronner’s at Whole Foods.



  • Dennis Fane Says:
    August 2nd, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Thanks so much, I needed something for my tomato plants but the stuff I bought kills 100 kinds of bugs and I am thinking do I want to put this on something I am going to eat? Thanks again.



  • Lana copeland Says:
    August 1st, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Will ivory bath wash do.



  • L. Brown Says:
    July 28th, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    My roommate left a pair of floating oil candles on the center deck post on my patio. It rained really hard last night and coated my plants with lamp oil.
    What can I use to clean the oil off my plants? My bonsai was directly underneath the oil shower, so all of it is soaked in oil. The leaves, trunk, roots, soil-every part of it is covered. Also, I need to wash the oil off my patio, since it is now flammable. The patio is surrounded by perennial plants that I want to keep alive. My bonsai has been rendered waterproof.
    Help!



  • Jean-pierre Says:
    July 18th, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Using the bar method, how many gallons would one whole bar make?
    thank you



  • Julie Says:
    July 9th, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    You don’t have to rinse off insecticidal soap, but it’s not a bad idea. The solution is only effective when it’s wet, anyway. Some plants (hawthorns, plums, cherries, and some tomato varieties, to name a few) are sensitive to insecticidal soap, especially if it’s overly concentrated or made with harsh soap. To reduce or prevent damage to plants, it wouldn’t hurt to rinse it off a few hours later, after it’s good and dry.



  • Beth schuler Says:
    July 8th, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    In response to r.kimbels post; I think you’re supposed to rinse off the plant after a few hours



  • Alex Says:
    July 3rd, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    incidentally I’m on here because we have thrip on the lottie and this recipe looks cracking – any other suggestions greatfully received



  • Alex Says:
    July 3rd, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    asparagus beetle, clear them by hand each day or spray them, buggers!



  • raetta kimbel Says:
    July 3rd, 2014 at 6:58 am

    when you spray the plants with the soap and water mixture , do you leave it on or rinse it off after some time?



  • Allen Peek Says:
    June 28th, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Thanks you have been very helpful.



  • jenny house Says:
    June 28th, 2014 at 7:14 am

    will this solution keep the mice away in my greenhouse?



  • RAJ PATEL Says:
    June 20th, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    I made & use Homemade Insecticidal Soap for Rose Plant Work good,Thank You Sir



  • Charlie Reid Says:
    June 9th, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    If you can use Ivory bar soap, can you use the Ivory soap flakes?



  • Karen Says:
    June 6th, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Betty

    Bar Soap: For a less-exact recipe, drop a bar of pure soap (such as organic bar soap or Ivory) into a gallon of water and leave it overnight. Remove the bar and shake well before spraying.



  • Betty Nance Says:
    May 29th, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    I dropped a bar of ivory soap in a gallon of water and left it until it all de-solved. Will this be to much soap for insecticide or should I add more water. I do not want to kill my plants.



  • Beck Delvecchio Says:
    May 27th, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Is Castillo soap solution ok on vegetables?



  • Dianne Says:
    June 5th, 2013 at 12:14 am

    I have something eating on my asparagus ferns. It is stripping the plant and leaving just the stem. Will the soap solution help this problem?



  • Michael Tulloch Says:
    September 13th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    I have a four gallon spray pan. If I used the bar soap technique how long would I need to leave the soap soaking / how many soaps would I need for it to be effective as an insecticide?



  • Louis Finsand Says:
    August 5th, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Does Fels Naptha work as an insecticidal soap?

    Thank You.

    Louis Finsand


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