Handwashing Delicates with Dr. Bronner’s

Handwashing Delicates

Yes! Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap or Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner works great for handwashing delicates, even washable silks and wool.

That’s an FAQ right there. Now you know!

A capful of Castile Liquid soap or a half a capful of Sal Suds in a bowl of cold water cleans delicate fabrics beautifully. You can even put it directly on stains. So long as the garment can get wet (i.e. it doesn’t say “dry clean only”), then Dr. Bronner’s has you covered. Because machine-washing and drying our clothes is often the harshest thing we do to them, handwashing is worthwhile for delicates and those much-loved items.

Yes, I’m talking about the soap you already have on hand. The Castile soap that is sitting conveniently by your sink and in your shower. I keep a small bottle of Sal Suds in my bathroom cabinet just for this purpose. I am all for any little bit of time-saving, so if I don’t have to head off to another room to find the specialty laundry detergent, that’s a few moments of my life saved right there. And those moments add up!

Next time you’re about to shower, take that blouse, sweater, or scarf you’ve been neglecting and fill your sink with cold water. Add that small squirt of Castile or the Sal Suds, dunk the garment in and swish a bit. By the time your shower is done, the garment is ready to be rinsed. It couldn’t be easier.

Or how about during bath time for your little ones? Here’s a Mom Confession: when my kids were littles, I used to get so very, very bored when they were in the tub. They loved their bath time so much, and it certainly kept them occupied and out of other mischief. But since I couldn’t leave the room lest they stand up and slip and crack their heads (Castile & Sal Suds also cleans up blood, BTW), I felt like a prisoner in there, or like an ogre if I did a quick bath and pulled them out.

I’m not implying that handwashing laundry is a scintillating activity, but it is productive and keeps you occupied while they’re splish-splashing beside you. With the very same Castile soap, wash the kid and wash the clothes. Why stop there? Wash the tub, wash the dog, wash the sink, wash the rug… Maybe I’m getting a little carried away here. But then again, why not? This soap works on all that and more.

The Method – As shown in the video

Add 1 capful (about 1 Tbsp. or 15 mL) Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap OR ½ capful (1/2 Tbsp. or 7.5 mL) Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds to about 1 gallon (4 L) cold water. Swish gently. Let soak 10 minutes. Swish again to release loosened grime. Rinse with clean water. To condition natural fibers like silk and wool, add 1 cup (240 mL) white vinegar to cold water. Swish garment and rinse once more. In a towel, gently press excess water out of fabric. Lay stretchy or heavy fabrics flat, or hang lightweight fabrics to dry. Check out the video for a few more handwash tips.

Further reading

Sal Suds cleaner shows >60% biodegradation after 28 days per ISO 14593.

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.  

Download Now!

Castile Soap Cheat Sheet

Dilute! Dilute! OK! But how much? Print this guide!


Download Now!

Sal Suds Cheat Sheet

Sal Suds, Sal Suds, How do I love thee?


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Laura says:

Thank you for this guide Lisa! After years of getting frustrated because my silk items would lose their sheen after the 1st wash I’d given up buying them. After watching your video I found some Dr. Bronners here in the UK and I followed your instructions. I’m pleased to say that my new silk top looks just as good as it did before washing. Still shiny & beautiful and I am very happy. Thanks again!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Laura – Lovely, lovely! I’m so glad to hear that. Lately I have been handwashing more and more of my clothes – even ones that aren’t particularly delicate. It is so much gentler on the clothes than machine washing, and for a favorite tshirt or pair of jeans, I want them to stick around as long as possible! And I’m so glad to hear of your experience with your silks. I, too, had stopped wearing silky tops because they were a hassle to keep clean, but now with a quick handwash, I wear them regularly.

Kari says:

For silk does it have to be the unscented Dr. Bronner’s soap or can I use the scented varieties? I feel like lavender would be wonderful for silk pillowcases but I’m scared to try it on them.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kari – The Lavender would work just as well. Enjoy!

How to Get Rid of Thrift Store Smell (Naturally) - The Homestead Challenge says:

[…] Bronner’s Castile Soap: This is a handwash only method from “Going Green with Lisa Bronner,” “Add 1 capful (about 1 Tbsp. or 15 mL) Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap OR ½ […]

Trish says:

Hello, Lisa. I hand washed a new expensive black cotton dress and black silk blouse with Castile soap and cold water. I air dried them and when they were all dried, there were white streaks and what appears to be grease stains on them. What do you recommend that I do to remove these stains? Thank you!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Trish – My guess is that there’s some hardness in your water which when mixed with soap caused some deposits on the fabrics. Fill a sink with water and add 1 cup of vinegar. Dunk the fabrics and let them sit for a few minutes. Rinse out and hang dry. In the future, consider using the Sal Suds, which, as a detergent, does not have the same interaction with hard water.

Niamiah says:

Can I use Dr.Bonners to wash a down jacket (on gentle cycle in front end loader?)

Lori says:

I am a knitter and need a product to rinse the items I knit to block them.

I have used Eucalan woolwash but interested in other products, especially Dr Bronner.

Can the Dr Bronner lavender soap be used in this manner?

Thank you!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lori- Yes, the Castile Soup would work well for this.

CArolyn says:

I’ve been washing wool socks with the plain old peppermint Castile soap and just rinsing with plain water. Am I doing them harm?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Carolyn- If the label says the item can be washed, then Castile Soap is a gentle cleaner for woolens. If Castile has been working for you up until this point, then stick with it. I recommend cool water and laying flat to dry.

Anne-Marie McMurray says:

Can I use Dr. Bronner’s on delicate lingerie like bras that have elastic or should I use a specific lingerie detergent, such as ‘Forever New’ or ‘Ivory Snow’? I use Dr. Bronner’s for practically everything and love it.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Anne-Marie- I use both Castile Soap and Sal Suds – whichever one’s within reach – on lingerie, swimsuits, workout wear, and so on, all without issue.

Tom says:

This doesn’t address rinsing clothes and getting the soap out. If you don’t believe me: wash a batch and repeatedly rinse them in hot water in a sink. After each hot water rinse you will be able to feel soap residue on the edge of the sink. Remove this residue and then rinse again. It will be there for many rinses. Rinsing in cold water leaves all of the soap in the clothes. We need a safe chemical to add to the rinse water to aid in detaching the soap from the clothes during rinsing.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Tom- Does your water happen to be artificially softened? I have noticed when I have visited houses with water softeners that I have difficulty rinsing soap out, even off of myself. This is a case where hard water might be better. Another option is to add a spoonful of baking soda to the water for buffering. It might bind with the minerals in the water instead of the minerals binding with the soap. Let me know if either of these ideas are on track.

Karen Nesbitt says:

I would use less than a TBSP per gallon. I squirt my diluted Dr. Bronner’s onto the garment or stain, then a few squirts into the sink. Let it soak, then rinse in lukewarm water.

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[…] for handwashing as well as machine washing. Handwashing extends the lifespan of the mask. Machine washing extends […]

Rae Sippel says:

Thank you for the video, definitely need different music next time…something calmer. Haha.

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[…] Handwashing Delicates with Dr. Bronner’s […]

Jenylyn Smyth says:

I really needed this as I just recently purchased underwear that are made with 100% pure organic cotton from Cottonique and I was thinking of using Dr. Bronners to wash them. The fabric is very delicate and made with natural fibers that is why I wanted to do some research before proceeding. This was a very helpful post! Thank you!

Dawn says:

Won’t clothes get a white film residue from the combination of castille soap and vinegar?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Dawn- Because the soap is rinsed out before the vinegar rinse, there will be no interaction.

Joyce Kellett says:

I have been a Bronner Gal for many years and Always felt safe using ALL the products. A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE BRONNER FAMILIES.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Joyce- That’s awesome to hear! And thank YOU!

Abigail says:

Hi Lisa,

I’ve recently been researching ways to eliminate chemicals in my home and found Dr. Bronner’s etc.
In specifically looking at laundry detergent, I found lots of conflicting research – some people are saying that using Castile soap as a laundry soap is not good for the fabric? They say that the way soap molecules react with the fabric and actually make them weaker, and that soap doesn’t clean fabric properly. I.e it does not rinse out, and leaves behind an undetectable grime in the fabric which only comes out by chelating? Also that as soap isn’t a detergent, it is better to use something that is a detergent (Which would be Sals Suds in this case I’m guessing).
I guess what I’m trying to find out is, is this true? Or is Castile soap really okay for your clothes?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Abigail- Castile soap does work in the laundry, but there are some pros and cons. In hard water, it reacts with the minerals in the water which then cling to fabrics, reducing the absorbency of towels and such. But this is easily counteracted by adding vinegar to the rinse cycle (via the fabric softener compartment). Castile soap is also not quite as effective in cold water. I’ve not heard, nor experienced, that it weakens fabrics. Sal Suds is my go-to for laundry. It doesn’t have the same interaction with hard water, rinses exceedingly clean, and is equally effective in cold or hot water. My most recent blog post covers the topic of laundry more in-depth:

Barbara D Ledig says:

Love, love, love this soap. Are use it for everything and also wash my delicates with it. It doesn’t dry out my hands and lives close and body nice and fresh. Thank you for a great product.

Lisa Bronner says:

Thanks for the love, Barbara! And you are very welcome!

Grace says:

Is Sal Suds tougher on fabrics versus the regular castile blends? I have stopped using detergent and only use Sal Suds in the wash machine. But I am curious if I should use the castile on delicates?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Grace- Both are equally gentle on fabrics, but if you have hard water you may prefer Sal Suds over the Castile soap.

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Ginger ACC says:

I live at a house where there is a water softening system and it makes Castile soap clean like a magic genie. We have a pool and it makes life easier by lathering up with some dr. B’s while I have my swim suit still on. I take it off while it’s still a little soapy and put it in a bucket. I give it a quick rinse after I am done showering and carry it out to drip dry and it comes out clean every time.

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!

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Print Now!

Castile Soap Cheat Sheet

Dilute! Dilute! OK! But how much? Print this guide!


Print Now!

Sal Suds Cheat Sheet

Sal Suds, Sal Suds, How do I love thee?