Dr. Bronner's

Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile vs. Sugar Soaps

castile vs sugar soaps

If Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap is so versatile, why make another kind of soap, the Organic Sugar Soaps? Which should I buy?

Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid 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 Soap 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 Organic Sugar Soaps

The Organic Sugar soap is based on the Pure-Castile Liquid Soap but the addition of a few ingredients makes all four of these desires a reality.

The Organic Sugar 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.
  • Read more about the amazing qualities of Shikakai on my post, Benefits of Shikakai Powder for Hair and Body.
unscented sugar soaps

Why use one soap over the other?

Personal care

The Organic Sugar 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 Soap because of dryness or intensity, the Organic Sugar Soaps 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 after feel 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 Organic Sugar Soaps. The 12 oz. bottle 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 Organic Sugar 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.

Is the Organic Sugar Soap as effective as the Pure-Castile Soap in eliminating germs?

Yes, the cleaning action of the Organic Sugar Soap is just as effective as the Pure-Castile Soap. They both latch on to germs and grime and carry them away. The recommendations for cleaning hands are the same: wash for 20 seconds, rinse well, and dry.

Further reading

This use and many more are in my book, Soap & Soul: A Practical Guide to Minding Your Home, Your Body, and Your Spirit with Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, available now in hardback on or at your favorite bookseller, and as an eBook and audiobook (read by me!) from wherever you download or listen.  

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Julie says:

How is the Sugar Soap with hard water versus the Castile soap.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Julie- The Organic Sugar Soap begins with a base of our Unscented Castile Soap and so it too is a true soap and has the same reaction with the minerals in hard water. It sounds like your question is about soap scum build up or the white film in sinks, showers, and tubs. The good news is, there are some easy remedies:
• Dry surfaces with a towel.
• Scour away with baking soda or my GIY Soft Scrub
• Spray weekly with a 50/50 vinegar water (not on soft stones like marble or travertine)
Read more about eliminating soap scum here:

Cieanna Powell says:

Is the sugar soap easily rinsed off of shower glass and tiles after use? I want to avoid having a residue on my shower glass door.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Cieanna- I find the Organic Sugar Soap rinses off the glass shower door and tiles just fine. You might be referring to the residue that can build up on glass shower doors over time, which is good ‘ol soap scum – and is really just a mineral deposit. It is a sign, though, that you are using a true soap – like our Organic Sugar Soap or Castile Soap – and not a synthetic detergent. It can be easily avoided by squeegee-ing the shower door after each use, or remove build up by spraying it with a solution of half water/half white vinegar and letting it sit for a few minutes, then wipe it away.

Chelsea says:

Can the sugar soap be put into a foaming dispenser and diluted with 3/4 water?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Chelsea – The Sugar Soap is already user ready and does not need further dilution. Also, the Shikakai powder that makes the soap softening and mild to the skin might interfere with the foaming mechanism. Better to use it in a regular pump than a foamer.

Mitchell says:

Will you be making more sugar soap scents in the future? Why is the lemongrass-lime scent only available as a sugar soap and not a Castile soap?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Mitchell- At this time we don’t have plans to release any new scents in the Organic Sugar Soaps, nor a Lemongrass Lime scented Castile – although I too would enjoy both these options! I’ll be sure to pass your request along to our development team.

Eric Brown says:

Why must you use palm oil? There must be a more sustainable alternative? Love the sugar soap but I stopped using it for this reason.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Eric – I’m so glad you are aware of the issues surrounding palm oil! The point to keep in mind that it is not an evil crop, but the methods of production have been catastrophic. If we shun the ingredient itself, then the demand for some ingredient will take its place that will be produced in equally destructive ways. We must reform the production methods. This is what Dr. Bronner’s is doing with our Serendipalm operation in Ghana. Utilizing methods of regenerative organic agriculture – including dynamic agroforestry (intensive intercropping of complementary species, just like nature), composting, mulching, cover cropping – we have been bringing depleted existing farm land back to life, restoring its soil and nutrient density, and demonstrating that there is no need to take any more forest land for crops. With such methods, habitats are created, farmer livelihood is secured, crops are more resilient, productive, and year round, carbon is sequestered out of the air and put back into the soil. It is revolutionary. It not only does not cause damage, it reverses damage that has been done, healing the land and all its inhabitants. Please read more about our pioneering work in agriculture in my article Making Sustainable Palm Oil a Reality.

Electra says:

I have oily skin and that’s why I have been using the pure castile tea tree oil soap for years… it has helped with body acne… would trying the sugar soap version improve or worsen acne on oily skin?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Electra- It’s great to hear the Tea Tree Castile Soap works so well for you! It’s what I use most often on my face as well. The Organic Sugar Soap is made with a base of Castile Soap and as such, the ingredients don’t vary significantly. I’ve used both formulations – I prefer the Sugar Soap in the dryer fall and winter months and my skin needs the extra moisture and nourishment – with equal success. If your skin is on the dryer side or feels tight after washing, I’d give the Organic Sugar Soap a try. Give your skin a week or two to adjust to the new regimen. Let me know how it goes!

Marina says:

I bought a half gallon refill for sugar soap w tea tree oil, it has become too thick to pour, how can i liquefy?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Marina – Over time, the sugar content in the soap can float and be quite thick at the top. Try shaking the bottle vigorously (lid on!) to re-blend it. If it is still too thick, add a bit of water until of a pourable consistency.

Trish says:

If I replace using castaline soap with sugar soap in a hand wash recipe would you know what the ratio would be please?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Trish – If this is for a foaming soap, I have not tried this. I am not sure if the shikakai powder would do well in the aerating apparatus. If you want to give it a try, maybe start by diluting it in half with water.

About Lisa Bronner

My grandfather was Dr. Bronner, my family makes soap, and I share ways to use it plus tips on greener living.

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