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Dr. Bronner's Products

Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile vs. Sugar Soaps

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

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.

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Guillyan says:

Hi Lisa I was wondering how do you guys use organic white grape juice on the body wash and it doesn’t expire? Can you explain please.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Guillyan- We use tocopherols (Vitamin E), derived from non-GMO sunflower oils, as a preservative in our soap. These are antioxidants and bind up those free oxygen molecules that cause rancidity. In general, we recommend using our body care products within three years of the manufacture date. The soaps are good for 24 months after opening the product, within that 3-year window.

Tracy says:

Hi, I have been thinking about using the lavender sugar hand soap. My concern is one of the ingredients is grape juice. My little boy dog, my Yorkie Vincent loves to give me kisses and licks. Is the sugar soap safe for me to use on myself or unsafe because my dog kisses and licks? Thanx, Tracy

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Tracy- The soap is rinsed off, and as such there is no concern for any residual grape juice on the skin to bother Vincent.

Suz says:

Thank you so very much for writing this, Lisa! Extremely enlightening.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Suz- I’m glad you found this helpful!

Aubrey says:

Hello – I know the Castile soap is popular for backpacking because it’s biodegradable and not harmful to the environment but I’m wondering if the sugar soaps (or any other products) are equally safe and useful in that setting.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Aubrey- Like our Castile Soap, the Organic Sugar Soap is also readily biodegradable, which means that a substance is quickly digested by microorganisms, as measured in a biodegradability test. Even though our products biodegrade quickly it is important to always follow Leave No Trace (LNT) principles in order to minimize an potential disruption to natural ecosystems. LNT principles require that you use soap at least 200 feet away from any lake or river. Our soaps are probably the safest, simplest soap you can use out in the wilderness. That said, you should always avoid rinsing off in lakes or rivers. Even a small amount of soap can change the pH of the water and disrupt the habitat of the zillions of creatures that call those waterways home.

Jackie says:

Hi , are any of your soap products ok for color treated hair ?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jackie- Unfortunately, we don’t recommend our soaps for colored hair. The alkalinity of the soap opens up the hair follicles, where the color resides. The color will drain out and fade quickly. Colored hair needs acidic products only. (Soap, by nature, cannot be acidic. Only detergents (shampoo) can be.) The Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) is a great resource for finding better products.

Leslie Outhier says:

Does the sugar soap have an expiration date? Mine started to smell differently as I used it over the years. It was a big bottle and it’s very concentrated so yes I’ve had it for many years.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Leslie- Soaps are self-preserving and contain tocopherols as an antioxidant, but because our products are biodegradable, it’s best not to leave them on the shelf for too long. The soaps are good for 24 months after opening the product. We also recommend using Dr. Bronner’s body care products within three years of the manufacture date, which is noted in the lot code as a Julian date. The first two digits refer to the year (i.e., “19” is 2019, “20” is 2020, etc.), while the next three digits refer to the day of the year out of 365 total days. So, if the first five digits of a lot code are “20165,” the product was manufactured in 2020 on the 165th day of that year (June 13). Julian date calendars are pretty easy to find and reference online.

Madison says:

Should I use the liquid or bar to wash my baby’s body on days we don’t just use water and washcloth??

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Madison – This is a matter of personal choice. I went back and forth with my babies. The bar is nice because you can just dab a tiny bit on the washcloth and you don’t risk it running anywhere. The liquid, though, has more essential oils, which is nice.

Natalie Roberts says:

Been a loyal user of Dr Bronner’s magic soaps for about eight years. They are fantastic! Can do anything with them – get a foam pump, mix with water and make eco friendly hand soaps that last yonks – squirt a tiny bit in your hand and lather up for shower gel – use to hand wash knickers while you’re on holiday – can even use as facewash as its very gentle. Love the peppermint smell, very fresh. The big bottles last about 6 months with 2-3 people using as handsoap and shower gel!

Lisa Bronner says:

Excellent! Glad to hear our soaps are working for you, Natalie!

Kristen says:

I just started using the sugar soap to wash my hair and I’m wondering how often can I use it? Is every other day ok? And same question for the apple cider vinegar rinse; I’ve read using it more than one a month can damage your hair… is that true?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kristen- I use it every other day and am happy with it. The apple cider vinegar rinse is needed every time you use the soap to balance the pH. I have not found it to damage my hair, but there is such wide variety in hair types. I would recommend giving it a two week trial and see what you think. For more ideas on hair washing, check out my colleague’s post “The Definitive Guide to Hair Washing” over on the All-One Blog.

Lynne Harrison says:

I’m using both because I’m unsure if both formulas (tea tree) are equally as effective in my shoulder acne
and keeping my feet soft. I.e. are both formulas equally effective in eliminating bacteria? This article was very informative.

Lynne H says:

Never mind! I found a similar question below and see that both are equally effective.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lynne- Glad to hear you found the information in the comments! Both Castile and Organic Sugar Soap are equally effective. The main difference is Organic Sugar Soap has natural humectants to draw moisture into the skin, making it a good choice for dry skin.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Suzanne- No, no need to dilute Organic Sugar Soap. Use just as much as you need.

Esmeralda says:

Hello Lisa,
My husband and I are gradually switching to more natural body and cleaning products for our home. I was so excited when I found you through a homesteader’s YouTube channel! I went and ordered a gallon of your tea tree Castile soap, gallon of sal suds and big bottle of unscented sugar soap. Sadly, after my order I realized that Dr. Bronner products don’t work well with hard water : ( We’re on well water so I’m going to do my best to try and use the products I already bought and if I make it work, I will keep purchasing.
I believe others have commented on not being able to use Castile soap in the shower for hair or body because it will leave a residue on the floor (what a bummer). Do you know or anyone else if it will be possible to use the sugar soap as a body wash instead without it leaving a film on my tile shower floor like the Castile soap does?
I already read other people’s comments about their experience with the sugar soap leaving their hair greasy and matted which I’m assuming is due to hard water so I will be trying the soap bar instead.
Thank you Lisa and everyone for all the helpful comments and tips!!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Esmeralda- Welcome to Dr. Bronner’s! The Organic Sugar Soap, like the Castile Soap, is a true soap and also reacts with the minerals in hard water. The build up is soap scum – a misnomer actually since it’s a build up of salt rather than soap. Soap scum is easily removed with baking soda or diluted vinegar. I cover this in my blog post, Scum, Scum, Go Away (https://www.lisabronner.com/scum-scum-go-away/ Making the transition from conventional shampoo to soap does require some time and tinkering to find what works for you. When washing hair with soap, be sure to follow-up with an acidic rinse. A dilution of half water, half apple cider vinegar is a good place to start. My colleague at Dr. Bronner’s wrote a very helpful troubleshooting guide on this topic: https://www.drbronner.com/all-one-blog/2017/03/definitive-guide-washing-hair-dr-bronners/

Khaled says:

Hello,
I’m wondering if I can follow up any of these two soaps with a conditioner from another brand, since your acidic conditioning rinse is out of stock! The conditioner I use has a pH of about 5.5, which is pretty acidic. Please let me know. Cheers.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Khaled- The pH of the Citrus Hair Rinse is 1.5-2.5. A great alternative, and one I use often, is apple cider vinegar cut in half with water. Lemon juice would also work well. The 5.5 pH would not have the same results. At the moment, we have put our hair care line on hold in order to focus on hand sanitizer production. Hopefully by mid-autumn, we will be able to resume. Thank you for your patience!

Katrina says:

My dermatologist recommended Dr. Bronners products to me. However, I was looking at the ingredients and noticed that you have Organic Hemp Oil in your soap. Is it possible to have this product made to order minus the hemp? Otherwise, I do not believe federal employees, such as myself, can consume these products.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Sue- Thanks for writing. pH is an important factor in formulating skin care products. I took a super deep dive into the topic in this article, “Skin Health, pH, and Dr. Bronner’s Soap.” [https://www.lisabronner.com/skin-health-ph-and-dr-bronners-soap/] The gist is that a lot of research, which I link to in the article, has shown that the pH of our skin is not impacted by cleansers that are mild alkaline to mild acid. So long as cleansers are in the pH range between 4-10, the skin is perfectly fine with them. The skin’s pH will not change. Soap, which is the only natural option, is always alkaline – a good soap is mildly alkaline. Acidic cleansers are only possible with synthetic detergents. The article you site has some excellent points regarding ingredients of concern to avoid, such as DEA, MEA and triclosan, though the issue with them is not so much their pH, but other toxic factors. The Environmental Working Group [ewg.org] has a lot more info on those chemicals if you’d like to know more. This is a super huge topic. The article I wrote took me a couple months of research. Please let me know if I can help you navigate it further.

Rachel S says:

Are the pumps that come with the soaps recyclable? If not, do you offer any kind of recycling program or take them back?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Rachel- The pumps on the Sugar Soaps are made of polypropylene (PP), or #5 plastic, and can be recycled.

Liz says:

Hi, I am all into natural products and would like to ask something in regard to the sugar formula, since I do not like the regular formula. For washing hair or feminine areas, wouldn’t the sugar cause more issues since bacteria and fungus/yeast (which can cause yeast infections and scalp issues like dandruff) thrive off of it? Interested in trying, but I can be very sensitive. Or would you recommend the bar instead?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Liz- The Organic Sugar Soap would be fine for hair and sensitive areas and has not caused issues with fungus, yeast, or dandruff. As with all soaps, rinse thoroughly.

Martie says:

I have your 4-IN-1 Peppermint organic sugar soap. It says you can use it to wash hair. I’m 66 and my hair has thinned a lot. Will this make it more moisturized and make it look thicker? I saw that it needed a rinse too. It said apple cider vinegar. How would you dilute it or use it as a rinse?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Martie- The Organic Sugar Soap is more moisturizing than our Castile Soap, to nourish dry hair and scalp. The acidic rinse tamps down hair follicles, leaving hair smooth and soft. A dilution of half water and half vinegar is a good place to start. Mix in a plastic cup, pour onto hair, and rinse. “A Definitive Guide to Washing Hair with Dr. Bronner’s” (https://www.drbronner.com/all-one-blog/2017/03/definitive-guide-washing-hair-dr-bronners/)” on the Dr. Bronner’s blog is a great resource when making the change from conventional shampoo to soap.

A says:

Hi, is The Organic Sugar Soap just as effective at killing germs, bacteria, viruses lile covid19 as other non sugar based soaps? How? Thank you!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi A- Yes, the cleaning ability of the Organic Sugar Soap is just as effective as the Pure-Castile Soap. Both work by latching on to all manner of germs, dirt and grime, and washing them away. The recommendation for washing hands is the same: Wash for 20 seconds, rinse well, and dry.

Renee says:

Hi Lisa,
I know you don’t recommend your sugar wash for newborns since the castile soap is simpler. What about for a 18-month-old girl? Is it ok to use that sugar wash to bathe her? I prefer the sugar wash since I don’t have to dilute it and it comes with a pump for easier application. I found the liquid castile soaps lather more, so I like to use the pure castile soap to wash her hair. I saw you were always saying lather the soap up with a wet cloth and then applied to wet hair. Is it on to get couple drops directly on her wet hair since there is already water on her hair? Is that too strong for her? I did this and it seems she takes it ok.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Renee- All that you’ve described is completely fine. My recommendations are only starting points. The direction you’re going sounds great. The Organic Sugar Soap is fine for your little one, and lathering the soap directly on the hair is fine as well. In my recommendations, I lean towards the extra-cautious about anything that might get soap in the eyes, but if you’ve got a handle on that, go with what works best for you.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Aimee- Our Unscented Castile Soap. They are gentle and mild on baby’s skin. When my kids were babies, I used a couple drops on a washcloth because I felt I could control where the soap went more easily. You can read more of my thoughts in my post here: https://www.lisabronner.com/using-castile-baby-mild-soap-on-babies/. Keep in mind, no true soaps are tear-free, so keep soap out of the eyes.

Mary says:

For baby, I recommend the sugar soap gentle and does not strip protective oils from baby’s skin. No matter how much you dilute it, castile soap is harsh and drying. This is my experience with my four grandchildren. And, an FYI, the castile soap is excellent for washing masks. Rinses easily so it leaves no irritating residue.

Syljoe says:

Wow! I recently installed locs and because of the state of emergency due to the pandemic I can’t get my normal hair shampoos. I’m at the grocery and remembered a few years back hearing of how amazing Dr. Bronner’s is with cleansing locs. I was so confused when I saw these two options: soap and castille. You eloquently differentiated between the two. Thank you!

Lisa Bronner says:

Excellent! I’m glad you found this post helpful!

Chris says:

Can the sugar soap be diluted for a foaming hand soap. We’ve been using regular Bronner’s soap is way, but it’s too drying in the winter. Or maybe we can add some oil to our regular soap

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Chris- The Sugar Soap can be diluted in a foaming pump dispenser, but we don’t recommend it. To make the Organic Sugar Soap into the nourishing soap that it is, we add organic white grape juice, organic sugar and organic Shikakai powder to our Castile Soap. These natural humectants draw moisture into the skin, but also tend to clog the foaming pump apparatus. This soap is already formulated to work beautifully in its own pump undiluted! If you do decide to dilute to put it in a foaming pump, use 1 part soap to 1.5 parts water.

Andrew says:

We really love your products. We use your Shaving Soap, your Castile soap, your hair rinse, your sugar soap. It’s great!

Lately, our local ant population has decided that the sugar soap is very tasty. They’ve discovered our kitchen and every single bathroom in our house. They have taken to climbing up the sugar soap bottles and eating the sugar soap that collects at the end of the spout.

I haven’t seen anyone else report this on this forum, but a few other amazon commenters seem to have the same issue.

What do you recommend?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Andrew- Unfortunately, ants are no different than us in this regard. They too are attracted to sugar! I recommend not using the Sugar Soaps in ant-prone areas. Instead, try using our Castile liquid soap in a foaming pump dispenser, diluted at 1 part water to 3 parts soap.

Sandy Sobol says:

Hi Lisa,
I would like to know if the sugar soaps actually put any sugar, or sugar residues on the skin. I would like to try them, but not if the sugar is still available after the soap making.
Thank you, Sandy

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Sandy- Organic sugar is present in our sugar soaps, but it’s rinsed away along with the soap.

Randy says:

Is there any suggested formula for adding fragrance to the unscented sugar soap with essential oil?

For example, if I wanted to add lemon or peppermint or lavender essential oil to a 12oz hand soap pump dispenser, how many drops is a good start?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Randy- About ten drops total of essential oils, but adjust to your preference. For stronger oils/scents, you can go with less.

Sam says:

Thanks for the quick response. What do you personally think will be the best ingriendents to use for a facial exfoliating scrub?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Sam- For a facial scrub, I recommend one of our more mild-scented Castile Soaps, which are Almond, Unscented and Rose.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Sam- It sure is. Because the skin on our face is more sensitive than the rest of our body, you don’t want to be too rough. Instead of using regular sugar, make the scrub with ultra fine sugar (sometimes called baker’s sugar). This is available at many markets, or you can make your own by running regular sugar through a food processor.

Esther says:

Hi I recently bought the peppermint pure Castille gallon size. I had been unable to get the gallon size of the sugar soap bc of the pandemic and mistakenly bought this. I tried diluting it and it was still too strong. Is there anything I can do?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Esther – Check out the Castile Dilution Cheat Sheet for lots of ways to dilute the Castile. It does need to be diluted a lot more than the Sugar Soap. We don’t have a gallon size of the Sugar Soap, but the half gallon sizes will be coming back as we are increasing our production capacity.

glenn says:

I love all your information and soaps! My question: can the sugar soap be used in a foaming soap dispenser? If so, what is a good ratio? I’ve used the Castile soaps in a foaming dispenser but add a little fractionated coconut oil as a moisturizer – maybe another oil is better tho. Any comments? Thank you so much.

Diane says:

I have used the sugar soap in my foaming dispenser, just diluted it the same as the plain Castile soap and it was fine.

Lolla says:

Hi there,

Any chance that the sugar hand soap may come in Rose scent anytime soon or at all? I absolutely love love love the sugar hand soap unscented but love the Rose scent in the regular Castile soap. The other scents are just way too strong and harsh for me personally, wish you had the rose being that it’s a softer and also moisturizing sent

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lolla- There are no new scents in the works for the Sugar Soap, but everything begins with an idea. I’ll pass yours on to product team. In the meantime, to create a scent similar to the Rose Castile soap, you can add a few drops of pure Rose or Geranium essential oil to the Unscented Sugar Soap.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Elizabeth- For some, oily skin is caused by naturally dry skin that is trying to compensate by overproducing oils, in which case the Sugar Soap my help. But generally, people with oily skin prefer the Castile soap.

Brent says:

Hi Lisa. I have another question. Does the company have plans at any point to expand the Sugar Soap line to mirror the Castile Soaps? I ask because the Citrus Castile Soap is by far my favorite scent, and I know the Lemongrass Lime Sugar version is similar, but it’s just not the same. I would love it if I could get it in the Sugar Soap.

And I know from speaking to various friends and family that they would love other Castile Soap versions available in the Sugar Soap as well—like Almond and Eucalyptus.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Brent- That’s a great idea! There are no new scents in the works, but everything begins with an idea. I’ll pass yours on to product team.

Alan Garner says:

Suggestion — Would certainly help if it was printed — large enough to read — at the top of the label. Also, the direction to turn.

Alan R Garner says:

Just got the sugar soap with a pump. How do I make the pump work? Make the pump pump?

Brent says:

Does the unscented sugar soap also have double the amount of olive oil like the unscented Castile soap?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Brent- It’s funny you should ask. All our Sugar Soaps are formulated with the Baby Unscented Castile soap as a base and thus, contain double the olive oil.

Brent says:

Oh wow! That’s really good to know! Thank you Lisa.

Catherine McCoy says:

Can I just say , Thank You!!!. I’ve grown up with your Castile soap and I love it, I Just discovered your sugar soap and I really Really love this tooo!!! Aww I just love you guys so much ??????Thank you for all that you do, and for keeping true and not changing even though it may be hard sometimes. Thank you.

Ph, Soap and your Skin says:

[…] mild.  Additionally, Dr. Bronner’s soaps are “superfatted.”  This means, in the liquid Castile, Sugar, and Shave Soaps, that after the main soapmaking reaction has finished, a measured amount of citric acid is added to […]

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Lisa Bronner

Green means life. “Going Green” is living in such a way to promote vitality and vibrancy in every sphere of life. Grab an idea to make your days healthier, simpler, and more beautiful at their core.