Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile vs. Pump Soaps

If Dr. Bronner’s pure castile soap is so versatile, why make another kind of soap, the Organic Pump Soap? Which should I buy?

Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile soap is an extremely simple soap. It is my grandfather’s original, and if you have only heard of one Dr. Bronner’s product, it’s probably the castile soap and probably the peppermint. Its method of reacting oils with a strong alkali is millenia old; someone from the middle ages looking at our soap-making process would understand exactly what we are doing. The art of creating the perfect castile soap, though, lies in the choice and balance of oils as well as other processing methods. When you have the perfect castile soap, it is the most versatile cleaning agent possible. If you had to choose only one cleaning product for every aspect of your life, Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile soap is it. However, through the years, we have repeatedly heard a few requests:

  • “It would be nice if the castile were thicker.”
  • “It would be nice if it were more moisturizing.”
  • “It would be nice if it worked in a pump.”
  • “It would be nice if it were USDA certified organic.”*

Enter the pump soaps.
The Fair Trade & Organic Pump soap is based on the Pure Castile soap but the addition of a few ingredients makes all four of these desires a reality.

Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap vs. Shikakai Soap

The pump soap drops the water from the castile soap and adds Organic White Grape Juice, Organic Sucrose, and Organic Shikakai Powder. Here’s how each benefits:

Organic White Grape Juice:

  • Acts as a humectant, which is something that helps the skin retain its natural moisture

Organic Sucrose:

  • Also a humectant (which is why sugar scrubs are so popular for the body)
  • Caramelized sucrose keeps the soap from coagulating and clogging the pumps

Organic Shikakai Powder

  • Conditions Skin and Hair as it cleanses – Shikakai is derived from a south Asian tree, the acacia concinna, and has long been used in traditional Indian body care as a moisturizing skin and body cleanser
  • Thickening agent

Why use one soap over the other?
Personal Care – The pump soap is more moisturizing and works in a traditional pump dispenser.  Other than that, it is mostly a matter of personal preference. The two soaps feel different. They smell different. They react differently on different skin types. If you are in love with the Pure Castile soaps, chances are, you are not going to like the pumps. If you’ve turned away from the Pure Castile because of dryness or intensity, the pumps are your answer.
House cleaning – The Pure Castile soap is the only way to go. Your household surfaces do not need to be moisturized (for the most part), and the ingredients that provide the moisturizing afterfeel on your skin make it a little more difficult to rinse off of hard surfaces. Also, the very slight graininess of the Shikakai powder (kind of like cinnamon) might clog spray bottles.

A final note:
There is no difference in the formulation of the two sizes of pumps. The 12 oz. is more conducive to sink-side, hand-washing use, and the 24 oz. lends more towards in-shower, whole-body washing. There is also a refill half gallon size.

*A few questions that might come to mind:
Why doesn’t the Pure Castile soap have the USDA organic seal?
In order for a product to qualify for the USDA organic seal, it must be made with 95% organic materials. However, for our castile soap making process to work correctly, we must add over 7% of the alkali (sodium or potassium hydroxide) to the oil blend.  Also bear in mind that substances such as water, salt, and hydroxides are all by nature inorganic, which means they do not come from a plant source. Therefore, the term “organic” can never apply to them.  The water content in the Pure Castile soap is not included in the organic percentage calculation.  The Pure Castile soap does carry the label “Made with Organic Oils”.  However,  the Fair Trade & Organic Pump Soap does not use water, but rather organic white grape juice, for the reasons mentioned above.  The organic white grape juice does count in the organic calculation and brings the pump soaps above the 95% threshold.

Why not replace water with white grape juice in the pure castile soap?

The beauty of the castile soap is its simplicity. And it is this very simplicity that makes the pure castile soap so very versatile. Once we start fancifying it with anything, the soap will lose some of its attractiveness as well as its usefulness.

113 thoughts on “Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile vs. Pump Soaps

    • Thanks!

      Another question. I would like to use the castile soap for hand washing for children. What is the best dilution for this? (1or 2 drops doesn’t work as it is too complicated for 4 and 5 years olds.

    • Hi Mimi – A foaming pump dispenser for the tub works great with kids. Start with a dilution of 1 part soap to 3 parts water, but you might even want to try a more diluted formulation.

  1. Are the Shikakai soaps still available? I don’t see them anymore on Dr. Bronners website.

  2. Hi!
    Our house really loves the Shikakai (now “pump”) soaps – they are at each sink for hand washing. However, once in awhile, one leaks like crazy. It oozes out of the column of the pump mechanism (not the end where it’s supposed to come out) or from where the pump screws onto the bottle. I’ve tried making sure it’s really tight, but it seems to be a pressure thing (the bottle ends up compressed) and so I unscrew it a bit to relieve the pressure and have tried leaving it like that – but no luck. This looks exactly like the bottle I have trouble with: https://www.drbronner.com/DBMS/ORGANICPUMPSOAP/SD0605.html
    Any ideas what I can do to stop it from oozing out? Thanks!

    • Hi Mark – You’re not alone. It turns out we had a funky batch of the pumps, and they leak. We’d be happy to send you a new pump apparatus, or snag one off an old bottle that you know didn’t leak and use that. If you’d like me to send you one, please send me your mailing address. We are very sorry about that mess.

    • Thanks, Lisa. But that’s not at all necessary. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed I don’t get a bad one next time!

  3. Hello!
    I am trying to find a natural cleanser for my shoulder length coloured/highlighted hair and was wondering if Dr Bronner’s Shikakai soap would be safe?
    Thank you.

    • Hi Kirsty – Unfortunately, the Dr. Bronners Shikakai (aka Organic Pumps Soaps) are not recommended for colored hair. All soap has an alkaline pH which causes the hair follicles to open and the dye to leach out. You’ll have to look for a mild shampoo that is designed for color treated hair. The Skin Deep database is a good place to look for non-toxic options: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/shampoo/.

    • Thank you Lisa I will check out the link you sent me.

  4. Do you recommend a specific type of face lotion to use after cleaning with Organic Pump Soap?

    • Hi Sue – I apologize for my delay. The Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Coconut lotion works great as a very light facial moisturizer.

  5. Hi! We use your pure castile soaps in our soap dispensers at my workplace. I’m afraid that we are not diluting the soap enough. Do you have a recommendation for how much to dilute the soap for general hand washing for large batches?

    • Hi Merry – I apologize for my delay. Our Liquid Castile soaps only work in foaming dispensers. Dilute the soap at a 1 part soap to 3 parts water ratio.

  6. Hi Lisa
    I really like Dr Bronners peppermint castile soap. How much would you recommend diluting it for a dry beard. How much should I dilute it, in order to make it gentle enough for daily use? I really want to make this my go to beard wash. Thanks!

    • Hi Jeff – I asked some of the fellows around the office and have some suggestions for you. Several said that they don’t specifically dilute it for the beard, another said he uses a 50% or 30% dilution of peppermint, and another said he uses the Dr. Bronner’s Pump soap, which comes in peppermint, because it’s more moisturizing. One guy very much recommended a beard balm follow up, and uses the Dr. Bronner’s Body balm for that.

  7. Hi there, I would like to know your advice as to which one to use specifically as a shampoo? I have fine blonde hair. I do not dye my hair. My roots er on the side of oily however my ends can be dry as per my hair being finer. I am very stuck as to whether to get the liquid castile or the pump? And which one of the recommend variety? Thank you:)

    • Hi Liezl – I apologize for my delay in responding. I recommend the liquid castile soap for you. You’ll also need a follow-up rinse of either apple cider vinegar or the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse.

  8. I’m trying the pump soap as a facial cleanser. Do I need to use a toner and moisturizer after the cleanser? If yes, what do you recommend?

    • Hi Sue – This all depends on your skin type, weather, time of day, what your skin has been through. The Pump Soaps are very nourishing, and personally I don’t find that I need an additional moisturizer when I use them. However, if your skin is really dry or irritated, you might need a follow up. Start with the lightest option and work up from there. Simple is often better.

  9. Hi…I have extremely sensitive skin and a lot of allergies to soaps and detergents. At present I can only use Dove unscented for sensitive skin to bath with. Can you tell me what ingredients exactly is in your pumps? Thanks

    • Hi Cheryl – Here are the ingredients for our unscented Pump Soap: Organic Sucrose*, Organic White Grape Juice, Organic Coconut Oil*, Organic Palm Kernel Oil*, Potassium Hydroxide**, Organic Olive Oil*, Organic Shikakai Powder, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol
      **None remains after saponifying oils into soap & glycerin..

    • Hi Jeanne – Sure! It is a very mild and moisturizing soap. As with all soaps, please take care to keep it out of the dog’s eyes.

  10. The description of the Peppermint Pure Castile Soap states that it cools the skin. The Peppermint Organic Pump Soap does not have the same statement. I am looking for a product that could be used in the summer that could have a cooling affect. I also need a pump dispenser to use in the shower. Would either of these soaps work for what I need?

    • Hi Tammy – The Peppermint Castile is definitely what you want for the cooling effect. The Peppermint Pump Soap has a different mint blend with Spearmint and it’s just not quite as cooling and zingy. That would be a good thing for people who find the Peppermint Castile too zingy, but for summer cooling, nothing beats the Peppermint Castile. And here’s another awesome tip – The Peppermint Lotion – https://www.drbronner.com/DBMS/ORGANICLOTION/SD0302.html – also has that same cooling effect, so even if you can’t hop in the shower, but need a midday refresher, rub some of the lotion behind your neck and it will have a similar effect.

  11. Hi, just wondering if the shikakai soap can be used on the face (my skin has a tendency to be dry). Or, is there any other product available that can be used as a face wash? Thanks!

  12. Hi Lisa,

    I find that a combination of Dr Bronner soap and distilled water causes my foaming soap pump to jam up and get stuck a lot. Any suggestions? I followed manufacturers’ recommendation of 1:5. I’ve also tried another brand at 1:4. Both end up with the same issue, the pump mechanism gets stuck!

    • Hi Apple – I’ve had that happen as well with a variety of foaming pumps. I think it has to do with the quality of the pump. I’ve switched to the Cuisipro pump which I bought from Amazon and it is working fabulously well.

    • Thanks Lisa, but cusipro is plastic? Do you have a suggestion for any glass pumps?

    • I don’t, but since it’s really the pump apparatus that you need and not the bottle, you could snag the pump off the Cuisipro and see if you can find a glass bottle or jar that it fits. I haven’t seen a good working foaming pump apparatus that isn’t made out of plastic.

    • 1:10 works for me. Tip container back and forth before using to ensure soap is evenly distributed in the water.

    • Hi Cory – While I wrote about using the castile on babies here: http://www.lisabronner.com/using-castile-baby-mild-soap-on-babies/, I haven’t addressed the pump soaps. Newborn skin is so delicate that you want to use as few ingredients as possible on it. That’s why I would opt for the castile instead of the pump soaps. Not that the pump soaps’ ingredients are harmful, quite the opposite. However, I just like to keep things simple for babies. Also, as I say in the post on babies, our soaps are not tear-free so please take care not to get them in anyone’s eyes.

  13. Does the castile liquid soap has to be diluted for use on the face and hair? or Can I just use it without dilute?

    • Hi Kyung – I don’t predilute for the face and hair. I just use a few drops for my face and squirt for my hair. The water that’s already on your face and in your hair dilutes it.

  14. Hi Lisa,
    Can the Dr. Bronners Shikakai soap be used in the Cuisipro foaming dispenser, or only the Pure Castile?

    • Hi JoLynn – I haven’t tried it, but I wouldn’t recommend using the Shikakai soap in a foaming dispenser. Shikakai is a very fine powder, about the texture of ground cinnamon. I think eventually it would irritate the foaming apparatus. I would stick with the castile.

  15. Hi, do I need to dilute the shikakai soap to use on hair/body/face please? Thanks.

    • Hi Kat – No need to dilute the Shikakai. We formulated the Shikakai Pump soaps a little differently so that they could be used directly from those pumps. I hope you enjoy them!

  16. Hi, I’m confused. Before I found this website, I tried the Peppermint on my color-treated hair, once. Ok, so not again. But my skin is very dry, can I use the peppermint liquid soap? Which, if any, of the soaps is best? Is there an after shower lotion to use on damp skin? Thank you

    • Hi Judi – I’m glad you asked. Peppermint oil is naturally drying. I know that sounds counterintuitive because of the idea that oil makes skin, well, oily. However, different oils have many different properties. The Peppermint Dr. Bronner’s castile is super awesome if you have oily skin, or after a hot and sweaty day. It’s a recommended assist for battling poison ivy because it dries out the oils from the ivy. However, if you don’t have oily skin or any of these other scenarios, it probably isn’t the right one for you. Personally, it’s not right for me most of the time because it does dry out my skin, causing it to feel tight and look ashy. My daily shower soaps are the Citrus or Almond. If you like more floral, check out the Rose.

      My after-shower moisturizer is just a bit of pure coconut oil. Not too much, and it feels and smells absolutely awesome.

  17. Is the Dr Bronners Shikakai spearmint peppermint pump soap supposed to be brown? This is my first bottle.

    • Hi Isadora – Yep! I know it’s kind of strange, but that is the Shikakai powder itself that causes the color. Shikakai is a a ground up tree bark, roughly the texture of cinnamon. It has been a long used part of traditional hair and skin care in India because it is naturally very soothing and softening to the skin. If you ever see a supposedly “shikakai” product that isn’t brown, there’s not very much shikakai in it at all.

  18. I’m using the Castille Peppermint Soap to hand wash dishes. I feel an oily film on them. Is that normal? I have an olive oil dispenser will with full strength Soap and then put some on a sponge to clean the dishes…am I using to much? When I us a little it doesn’t feel like I’m getting them clean specifically the Popcorn Pot which has Coconut oil on the bottom.

    • Hi Sue – Do you happen to know how hard your water is? With hard water, the soap reacts with the minerals and can leave a film on the dishes. I have hard water and so I only use the Sal Suds to wash dishes, but another option is that after you rinse the soap off, dip them in rinse water with a cup of vinegar mixed in. Regarding the popcorn pot (and, just to say, popcorn with coconut oil is AWESOME), you might want to put a couple drops of pure soap in that pot to snag the residual oil.

  19. Thank you Lisa! Yes I do have hard water. BTW I live among a lit of evergreens and found Sal Suds to work great on getting the sap off the car roof!

    • Great tip! I have not-so-fond recollections of parking a pop-up trailer under pine trees and having the top turn black with sap and dirt. Sal Suds to the rescue!

  20. Hi Lisa! I have very sensitive skin and also oily skin which can break out and itch. I want to try the organic pump soap but am wondering about the PH of the product? Would the PH be too high for the face? Also how is the PH for down below hygene?

    • Hi Pennie – The pH of the Pump Soaps would be fine for your face. However, have you checked out this post: http://www.lisabronner.com/i-wash-my-face-with-castile-soap/ about my journey to using Castile Soap for my face? The Tea Tree in particular works really well for sensitive yet oily skin. Regarding washing down below, again the pH is fine, but I would caution against using it as a douche if you are trying to get pregnant. Any change to pH in that situation can have an impact on things.

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