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

Benefits of Shikakai for Hair and Body

Warding off Dry Skin with Dr. Bronner’s Soaps

12 Personal Care Ingredients to Avoid

Shaving with Dr. Bronner’s

Leave a Reply to Grey Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Lisa Bronner says:

It produces a creamy lather. It does not make a stiff foam like a conventional shaving gel would.

Suzanne Russell says:

I love Dr Bronner’s Organic Hand & Body Shiakai soap in Lavender. Guests comment on the lovely perfume. However, some of it dripped in the hand basin and I didn’t remove it straight away and now it has left a stain. Can you suggest what I could use to remove the stain.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Suzanne – I’m sorry to hear about the stain. Try a soft scrub of baking soda with a toothbrush and see if that brings it out. Let me know.

B. Rateau says:

Good Day, I work in a plant nursery and wash my hands a lot. I do wear garden gloves a good bit. My hands get so dry and cracked. Sometimes I also have trouble cleaning the ground in dirt out of the cracks in the skin. I have heard so many great things about your products but not sure which ones to start with. One that will help with the dryness while doing a good cleaning job!
Thanks, Betty

Lisa Bronner says:

Consider putting the liquid castile soap in a foaming pump dispenser, but at less of a dilution – let’s say 1 part soap to 2 parts water. Then, make a coconut sugar scrub using Dr. Bronner’s Coconut Oil (recipe: and use that nightly on your hands, working it thoroughly over your hands, rinsing it off in warm water, and then patting dry.

Joseph says:

Regarding outdoor enthusiasts who love Dr. Bronners, but also want to be ultralight. Water is the heavy element, so at first I tried the bar soap and mixing it with water. The trouble is if you cut little pieces off, it is hard to mix it with water.
The bar soap itself to use properly uses alot of water which is often scarce outdoors, and also then it is easy to waste alot of the soap via handling it, etc.

Another option is to dehydrate the water out of the liquid castile soap.

It would be nice if there was a ultra concentrated version of the soap.

Jeffrey says:

I’m wanting to use Dr. Bronner’s in my battery-powered soap dispensers. The regular castile soap is way too thin and squirts with exuberance! I have not yet tried the pump soap. Have others used the pump soap in a touch-free dispenser like mine? Straight-up or diluted? Other recommendations? Mine are not foaming dispensers — just a little squirt of soap. The manufacturer’s own refill soap is quite thick. Thoughts?

Debbie says:

Have you ever heard of cockroaches being attracted to the sugar (grape juice & sucrose) in the Shikakai soap? It appears that is what is happening in my bathroom.

Step Three: Pure as a Baby’s (Part I) – Elkie's Footprints says:

[…] In terms of liquid bath and shower soaps, where possible, ditch them. I do understand wanting liquid soaps for guest bathrooms or kitchens. If you want to keep this, then I love the products from Thankyou or Dr Bronner’s Shikakai. […]

Grace Padfield says:

Hi can you tell me how much hand soaps are. My son has dreadful eczema it is often open sores. I know he would also like a soap that he feels is antibacterial.

Thank you in anticipation.

Grace Padfield

Ed says:

Where can you find a store that carries all the products? I shop at Baron’s, Sprouts, and some have only the big bottles of the castile, no smaller bottles, only 2-3 fragrances. Is there a Bonner’s store someplace, or a web site that carries all their products?

Also, where does one buy the foaming dispenser tops/bottles to use with the castile soaps?

emily says:

Even diluted I find the castile soap to dry my skin out so much. It itches, became very sensitive and extremely dry; it often hurts. It has worsened my dry patches. I used rose, hemp, for body and shikakai on hands. I am sad to turn away from them because they are the only non toxic body wash I can find. The orange lavendar lotion is too light to combat damage done after bathing.

Angela says:

This is my first time using dr bronners I’m using the critus Castile soap am I surposse to dilute it when washing face and body because I just put about 4 to 5 drops on a sponge and washed myself from face to toes. I will say this it is great soap will not go back to using the other stuff I’ve been looking for some think that had no chemical in it and now I have found thank you for making this product.

Monica says:

So I have acne prone skin and have heard wonderful things about Dr. Bronner’s tea tree soap. My skin tends to get dried out easily so would you recommend the pure castile or the pump soap? I’m unsure which would work best with my skin..
Thank you!

Carolyn says:

I have been using Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap for awhile but am finding it drys out my hair. I read about the shikakI pump soap which is more moisturizing and would like to try it. I live in Vancouver, Canada and cannot find it. Do you know where I can purchase it? Thanks.

Sarah says:

Hi Carolyn! My husband discovered the Shikakai a while ago, and they are great. We used to live in Vancouver and recently moved to Surrey. We have ordered Shikakai through SPUD, and unfortunately it looks like they are going to stop carrying them (although some of the scents we don’t buy are still available). Try Whole Foods and some independent organic markets/”health stores”. I’ve seen a lot of Shikakai displays in windows around the lower mainland. If you’re ok with online ordering, tons of vendors sell the soaps including the Dr Bronner’s website and they do ship to Canada. Good luck!

jill says:

Hi, I have suffered horribly from exema on my inner thighs and arms. My mother used Bronners when I was chid, referd to her by our doctor. I didnt know this then, but just purchaced my first small bottle of the Orange citrus and used it onmy daughter last night. I did wash there hair with it and used our old caonditoner. I will be purchaseing the conditioner soon.
Any suggestions on conditioner for girls 6, and 9? I would love to learn more about the Shakai lotions. Is the Lavendar strong and will it make you sleepy? Thanks for all the post as they have been a help to many.

Bridgette says:

I have a question. Would the use of the ingredients – organic grape juice and the organic sucrose that’s in the Shakakai product, cause a problem with ones that may have a candida or fungal infections- by feeding these problems with the natural sugar? Since some will absorb into skin and then into bloodstream?

Erica Nader says:

Hi Lisa, can you tell me the percentage of your 18-in-one soap’s water percentage? I need it to use in an insecticidal organic spider mite control mix, in order to achieve a consistent, 2% Potassium salts of fatty acids, aka liquid soap, mix, in combination with peppermint and neem oils. Thanks!

Elizabeth says:

Have just bought the pump Shikakai soap, such fabulous hand soap. Am going to use all Dr Bronner products now.

Beth says:

I am completely new to the whole idea of chemical and sls free shampoos and the like. New as in just started my research new, I didn’t even know what sls’s were until yesterday, all due to my oldest (age 4) who has just started itching like crazy, she cant stop, and has very dry scalp. I have to say I have been extremely overwhelmed with all the information and different options and oil combinations and so on. I think I am more confused than ever. One thing kept coming up though and thats Dr Bronners. So I need HELP! trying to understand everything and find something that will help my poor child before she does some real damage. My husband also suffers from occasional psoriasis on his scalp and things I have read say going chem and sls free can help with that as well. What do I choose and where do I go. I have a family of 5 and would love to make this a practice for everyone if it works but I am lost.

minnie says:

I just got the shikakai soap and use it to wash hands at kitchen sink but I noticed it’s been leaving residue on my sink and beading the water up…is this normal?

Katherine says:

I have a question. How do the smells “mix” if you used, say the peppermint soap with the citrus rinse?? Is it best to find a “coordinating” scent or do they dissipate after rinsing?

Nikki says:

I’ve used both the Baby Mild Shikakai and the Lavender as a shampoo. My hair reacted much better to the Baby Mild Shikakai. Dr. Bronner’s is the only “soap” I’ve used in my hair for the past 1-1/2 years and that is only using it once per week. My hair has never been in such great condition. Hope this helps. Both products are fantastic.

Grey says:

Over the past 2 years I’ve been switching to everything organic/gmo free and have been using Dr. Bronner’s Castile bar soap or liquid soap, but I’m curious…..can you use the Shikakai soap as a shampoo too?

Amy says:

I’m a new Dr. Bronner fan and just stocked up on bar soap, liquid castile in tea tree and citrus, and the lavender coconut Shikakai soap. I have been making foaming hand soap out of the lavender liquid Castile soap (I’m a little obsessed with the lavender scent right now!), but was also wondering if I could use the Shikakai soap in my foaming hand soap dispenser? Thank you so much for all of the information on your blog! You’re making my journey into the chem-free world a lot less stressful 🙂

Jack says:

Like some other readers I’ve suffered from eczema and dandruff for many years. I normally use about 8 to 1 solution (a lot stronger than others it seems) and I find it okay on my skin.

To Tom who is struggling with buildup, I found that the only way to clean out the buildup from my sink was to use bleach… It might seem drastic but it worked for me!

Tom says:

Hi Lisa,

My wife has eczema and we use the Baby Mild Castile because of that. We live in Phoenix which is notorious for very hard water. What we find is that using the Castile soap creates what I would call “severe” soap scum build up on the shower walls, faucets, sinks…everywhere. We insist on chem free as much as possible, but dealing with this amount of soap scum build up / residue is so crazy. We’re urgently looking for solutions. Would all the soap behave this way when used in very hard water? Is that something maybe specific to the Baby Mild soap? Is there a trick or tricks for us poor souls who live in the desert (short of buying a water softener (all that salt!))
We typically use about a 10 to 1 solution in foaming soap pumps, and shower with a few drops full strength. We find we have to use much more soap due to the hardness of the water.

Thanks in advance (to anyone else who may have tips as well.)

Abigail says:

Hi. It’s the soap. I ‘m in Texas with that mean old water problem too. I find bon Ami takes off the scum. It’s eco friendly and from my hometown of KC.Wet sponge, shake on a good amount, rub, wipe down with a towel then rinse.They came out with a liquid form too that i i believe also can be used on glass, too. Haven’t tried it yet, but i’ve used bon ami since childhood as it dosen’t scratch. Sal suds is great too.Vinegar diluted helps too, but avoid vinegar on the brass plated faucets. It eats the finish off. And rinse ! Cheers.

Shannen says:

Hi Lisa,

I bought the Lemongras Shikakai Soap and I love the scent and creamy foam. Have you ever tried it for your hair too? I want to try it for my hair, but I’m not sure if how much I should take and if I need to dilute it. Any recommendations?


Erica says:

We’ve actually stopped buying the original castile soap. I use the Shikakai soap for hands and bodies and use Sal Suds for all of my cleaning. I still have some of the original castile soap around, in case I’m out of the others. We buy bulk bottles every couple of months. I couldn’t be happier with my cleaners! 😀

Jennifer says:

Can the Shikakai soaps be used with a foaming pump dispenser? I realize they’re already in a pump bottle, but I have some lavender shikakai on hand and just made very cute mason jar foaming pump dispensers. I know they’ll work well with diluted castile soap, but I was wondering if anyone had experienced diluting the shikakai soaps for use in foam pumps for handwashing. The almond castile is my favorite for body (LOVE that scent), but I’m thinking the moisturizing shikakai would be good for my hands – tend to get dry with frequent washing.

Steph says:

Good afternoon Lisa,

I have reviewed many of your articles concerning the use of Dr. Bronners soaps. I have purchased the tea tree pump soap (purely by luck) instead of the tea tree castile soap. I also invested in the lavendar pump soap to soothe my skin if it gets irritated.

I would like to know if I will be able to continue using a Witch Hazel toner or will the two products create skin issues due to interactions of the ingredients with Dr. Bronners soaps.


Abigail says:

Yep. Definitely you can use witch hazel with Dr.bronner’s. Did that for years.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Elena – I, too, switched from Cetaphil to Dr. Bronner’s. I went with the Tea Tree pure castile. It will feel drying for the first couple weeks, and some sort of follow-up moisturizer is a good idea.

Hi Christopher – Yes! Dr. Bronner’s soaps can be used for shampoo. I’ve written about that here: I’d be happy to hear more about your website and what you’re looking for. Comment back or email me at

Thanks, Eoin! I’m so glad this all is a help.

Hi Lisa – Two great options: During the day I use Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Coconut lotion. It is a very light and gentle moisturizer. At night, about once a week, I use pure coconut oil. It feels so fabulously awesome that I think I’ve been to a spa.

All the best,

Lisa says:

Hi I have rosacia and very sensitive skin. and am trying to switch to a more natural product for my face. I have been using the liquid baby castile soap and really like it. Now, I would like to start to use a more natural moisturizer. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks so much! Lisa

Eoin says:

I can’t imagine how many people who were unsure of whether or not to use your products have come across this blog and found the information they needed to make a decision. The openness of information available online about the products is one of the best selling points! It really helps you to choose the one that’s right for you from the start.

Personally I have skin that is naturally dry but I also get occasional spots. It’s a constant struggle to find products that combat dryness and spots at the same time. I find the tea tree castile soap is fantastic for cleansing the skin but leaves the skin dry and tight sometimes (to be fair I have never used it diluted). It’s is because of this that I stopped using it. I have just ordered the tea tree/shikakai pump and I have high hopes for this! Tea tree is really great for preventing spots. You can also use it or witch hazel as toners, both will combat acne. Witch hazel also smells like honey comb which is nice 🙂

Christopher Smith says:

Hi Lisa,

I stumbled on this article and am interested to learn if there are any of Dr. Bronners soaps suitable for making shampoo.
I run a small website on shampoo’s and would like to know more about this. Possibly a guest post from your side?


Elena says:

Hi Lisa! I’m looking for a natural alternative to my Cetaphil face wash. After years of blindly following the dermatologist’s recommendation, I have finally seen the light! However, I do love how gentle the Cetaphil is. I have acne prone, but very sensitive, skin. Would the pump soap be a good choice for me? And if so, which essential oil would you suggest? I was originally leaning toward the tea tree since I’ve heard that it works wonders for acne prone skin, but I want to be sure that it doesn’t dry out my skin. I usually use a bit of extra virgin coconut oil as a moisturizer after washing my face.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Eugenia – Welcome to Dr. Bronner’s! Yes, you would still need to use the Hair Rinse with the pump soaps. They would have the same affect as the castile as for as pH goes. They need to be balanced with something acidic. And yes, different essential oils definitely have different reactions on the skin. Tea Tree and Peppermint are more drying so are great options for people with oily skins or who get sweaty. The Lavender, almond, citrus and others would be less drying.

Hi Amy – The pH of the pump soaps is around 9.0, which is a bit higher than the castile, which is 8.9.

All the best,

Amy says:

Hi Lisa! Can you tell me if the pH of the pump soap is lower than the pure castile soap?

Eugenia says:

Hi Lisa! I am completely new to using castile soaps and products and am excited to try, especially since I am trying to get away from harsh chemicals! If I use the pump soap as a shampoo, will I still need to use the hair rinse? Also from reading other people’s reviews, it seems like different scents are more drying (like the tea tree and peppermint) while others are less drying (like lavender). Has this been true in your experience?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jennie – We do not recommend putting the pure castile soap in a traditional pump, even if you dilute it with water. It will still eventually clog and squirt out sideways or up. The Shikakai soaps not only are designed to work in pumps, but they also are more moisturizing. That might be a better route for you.

All the best,

jennie says:

Hi I am a new user I just bought baby castile my son’s skin is severely dry and I wanted to mix it with water and but it in a pump for hand soap around the house but now I am thinking of buying the pump for him is that better for his dry skin?

David Cameron says:


Recently I was reading the reviews/comments on about the peppermint Pure Castile Soap. A number of people said it dried out their skin. Well that’s certainly true if you use if full strength. I did that, and it was quite and experience. Wow! Then I read the label where it mentions diluting it 18 to 1. Duh? I typically dilute it about 10 to 1 for bathing. It’s wonderful! I have naturally dry skin. Properly diluted, Pure Castile Soap is very gentle on my skin. I’m guessing that most of the comments on Amazon were from people like me who never read the directions?
I’m paying about $10 dollars for a 32 ounce bottle at Whole Foods. But I’m getting 320 ounces of bathing soap. What a great deal. And what a great soap!

Con says:

You can use the liquid castile soap in a pump! You just need to get a foaming pump head, add your diluted liquid castile soap and you’re good to go!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Nikki – What a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am glad Dr. Bronner’s products have been such a help to you. There definitely was something in the conventional products that was disagreeing with your skin. My first guess would be the sulfates which are often irritating to the skin.

All the best,

Nikki Beier says:

After suffering from moderate to severe hand eczema for 47 years along with an itchy scalp and ears, I went on pinterest and discovered recipes for no poo shampoos. And that’s when I learned about Dr. Bronner’s soaps. I began using Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile (baby mild) and the Shikakai soaps along with recipes I learned from pinterest. Within a few days all itching stopped (it’s now been 9 months of itch-free living), my skin cleared up and for the first time in all these years I can stretch my fingers out fully. Now I make all my own products for hair and skin care. Thank you, Dr. Bronner’s, for your fabulous products.

Heather May says:

Are you still itch free? Would love to know which product you used on your scalp!

Nikki Beier says:

Thanks for asking and YES I am still itch free! Once a week I use the lavender shikakai as a shampoo and either rinse my hair with water or use other homemade products such as a green tea rinse, coconut water with aloe juice, and other strange concoctions. My hair has never been healthier and I actually like it now. A lot of my ideas have come from pinterest.

Lisa Bronner says:

Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

Anne – You can definitely add your own essential oils to the soaps. On the tea tree, I don’t know anyone who uses it because they like the smell. Rather, the tea tree is used when people have specific problem areas, such as acne, rosacea, eczema on the face, or psoriasis or perhaps athletes foot or other fungal situations. It does a fabulous job clearing up these situations, even if it does smell a bit medicinal.

Jackie – I’ll pass that thought along!

All the best,

Mary says:

I love the smell of Tee Tree! I like to use it for cleaning because of the smell!

Jackie says:

I love the Baby Shakakai soap! I wish it did come in the Rose scent though.

Anne says:

I recently purchased 3 of the pump soaps, peppermint, lavender, and tea tree oil. While I love the peppermint and lavender ones, neither my husband nor I can stand the smell of the tea tree one. I’m thinking of adding eucalyptus essential oil to it in an attempt to mask the smell. Have you ever added EO to the soaps?

Thank you for all the useful tips and tricks, your blog is fantastic. It’s what got me started using Sal Suds. I absolutely love Sal Suds, I use it to clean everything in my house!

Patti says:

Dear Lisa,
Love all Dr. Bronners products. I clean homes for people with severe allergies, many with children and pets that have can’t be around chemicals of any kind. The castile soaps, especially peppermint, are wonderful!! I live in an area with horribly hard water and the peppermint mixed with baking soda does a great job at removing this. I place 1/2 c of baking soda with enough castile to make a paste and then scrub everything down with a wet sponge. I let it sit for 30 mins, come back and rinse and clean as can be. I use the peppermint castile to clean mirrors and windows. 28oz distilled water and 2 drops of the castile. I spray a cool mirror ( no lights on above) and use a cotton towel to wipe clean. You can lightly polish with another cloth if you have a slight residue. I wouldn’t be without this product and my clients wouldn’t let me clean if I didn’t have Dr. B’s with me. Your Grandfather was a genius!!!

I have horrible eczema and the shikakai is the only soap I can use without bleeding. The peppermint is wonderful and cooling. Can’t say enough great things about it.

Kristin Belle Knudsen says:

I only use Dr. Bronner’s for Babies sinkside and in shower. I am delighted to hear about the new formulations, and will purchase this week, if in stock at my health food store. Thank you!

About Lisa Bronner

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

Learn about my book, Soap & Soul!

Learn More