Dr. Bronner's

What Can You Mix with Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds?

What to mix with Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds

Someday I’m going to make myself a set of t-shirts that say, “Chemistry happens!” I say it a lot and think it even more. Chemistry is all around us, and I’m not talking about the romantic kind. Cooking is chemistry, housecleaning is chemistry, body care is chemistry. The trick is to make sure the chemistry is happening in your favor.  

There is a category of customer questions I receive that I call “the mixers.” The question starts, “Is it ok to mix Sal Suds with…” I have learned a lot myself over the years doing the research in answering these questions and have engaged chemists to help me understand what is going on at the molecular level. I send a huge thanks to my colleagues Laura Aung and Ivan Villalobos in Dr. Bronner’s Research and Development team for their patience in answering all my many mixer questions.  

My post on Castile mix-ins that I wrote in 2018 is still one of my most visited and most commented on. I am finally able to provide a comparable chart for Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner, or “Sal Suds” for short.

What is Sal Suds

Sal Suds, our biodegradable household cleaner developed by my dad Jim, is my go-to product for cleaning my house. I clean everything with it. Dishes, laundry, floors, bathrooms, pre-stain laundry treatment. I always travel with a 2 oz. bottle of it, and I always need it for something. For its multitude of uses, see the Sal Suds Dilution Cheat Sheet.

In almost every situation, Sal Suds works great all by itself. However, it is not uncommon for people to want to add things to it. Are they being creative? Do they think they’re improving it? Are they just having fun? Maybe some of each!

Sometimes it is ok to mix things into Sal Suds, and sometimes it is not. Please refer to this chart of various substances I’ve been asked about over the years by readers:  

Baking soda
To create a scrub-
bing cleanser
YesBaking soda adds a soft abrasion to the cleaning power of Sal Suds. This makes a good scrubber for grimy sinks and fabrics. In laundry, it is a whitener and deodorizer.
Chlorine bleach (aka sodium hypochlorite) To remove stains & whiten fabricsNoBleach reacts with Sal Suds and forms a white precipitate (solid). Bleach in general is highly reactive. Unless you are very well-versed in chemistry, never mix bleach with anything except pure water. Because sodium hypochlorite poses such a great risk to people, pets, and planet, I have always found another option.
Borax To boost surface & laundry cleaning Yes, but try baking soda first Borax does not react with Sal Suds and can be an effective laundry addition. However, I always recommend using the least intensive means possible when cleaning, and with its slightly higher pH and skin irritating potential, borax is more intense than baking soda. Try baking soda first as a laundry booster.
Dr. Bronner’s Castile SoapTo create a custom scent Not problematic but not productiveCombining the Pure-Castile Soap with Sal Suds is not reactive, but I don’t see the point. If it’s the scent of the Pure-Castile Soap that’s desired plus the stain-fighting power of the Sal Suds, I recommend using essential oils with the Sal Suds.
Essential oilsTo create a custom scentYesThis can make green cleaning even more fun! Start with just a few drops of essential oils and increase as preferred. Look for organic pure essential oils.
Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2)To remove stains, whiten fabrics, disinfect Not problematic but not effective Hydrogen peroxide is listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safer Chemicals Ingredient List as a safer antimicrobial and an oxidant. When mixed with Sal Suds, hydrogen peroxide quickly dissipates into oxygen and water. Hydrogen Peroxide is a useful part of the green cleaning arsenal, but use it separately from Sal Suds.
Lemon juiceTo boost cleaningNoLemon juice is an excellent addition to your green cleaning toolbox but, like vinegar, not a good partner for Sal Suds. Also, lemon juice is not shelf stable. Left at room temperature it will ferment and outgas. In a closed bottle, it will explode. Ask me how I know.
Lemon oil (and other citrus oils)To customize scentYesI am specifically calling out lemon essential oil, in addition to my general statement about essential oils, because of the confusion I’ve heard from readers over why lemon oil is OK to mix in but lemon juice is not. Lemon juice is an acidic, water-based liquid extracted from the pulp of the fruit. Lemon oil is extracted from the rind of fruit. Oils do not have a pH, which is a measurement only of water-based solutions. Therefore, the acid/base reaction is not possible.
Oxygen Bleach
To fight stains Not reactive but ineffective Oxygen bleach is most effective against stains when dissolved alone in water as a presoak. Mixing it with soap or detergent accelerates the destabilizing of the hydrogen peroxide, leaving mere washing soda behind. For best results, presoak laundry with oxygen bleach and water, then launder with Sal Suds.
Ethanol or isopropyl alcohol (including any drinking alcohol)To add disinfect-ing capa-bility No Alcohol is an antiseptic and disinfectant listed on the EPA’s short list of safer antimicrobial cleaners. Alcohol reduces the foaming of Surfactants (Sal Suds) and, at higher concentrations, impedes its cleaning ability. Rather than combining the alcohol with Sal Suds, the WHO and the CDC recommend a two-step method: wash surfaces first (such as with the GIY All-Purpose Cleaning Spray) and then treat with the alcohol. Make sure you read instructions about the amount of time alcohol needs to contact surfaces. If you wipe it off too quickly, it will be ineffective. The time varies based on the percentage of alcohol. Remember alcohol is highly flammable.
SaltScrubbing agent Not reactive but thickens Salt can be useful in scrubbing cast iron skillets, but take care not to use it on surfaces it can scratch. It is fine to add to diluted Sal Suds, but it will thicken undiluted Sal Suds significantly.
VinegarTo boost cleaning NoVinegar reduces Sal Suds’ cleaning ability.
Washing soda
To boost laundry cleaningNo reaction, but use assiduously Washing soda (sodium carbonate) is an effective laundry booster at fighting stains and softening water. It can make Sal Suds more effective in extremely hard water. However, it does have a higher, more alkaline pH and could degrade fabrics more quickly. Try baking soda first, and do not use it on silks or wools.

So as I said, chemistry happens. If you have another substance you’d like to know if you can mix into Sal Suds, please ask me in the comments. I hope chemistry always happens in your favor.

Further reading

Sal Suds or Castile Soap – Which To Use?

What Can You Mix with Castile Soap?

Sal Suds Dilution Cheat Sheet

How Soap Works

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Teresa says:

My sister got me started with your products and I love them. Sal Suds is a favorite of mine Recently I had vinyl plank floors installed, the mfg says to use “ph neutral” cleaners. Are any of your products ph neutral?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Teresa – The Sal Suds is a great option for the vinyl plank floors. It would be considered in the range of pH neutral.

Rita says:

Great article tysm 🙂 This stuff is the holy grail in my house for laundry and cleaning. And castile for hands and body. What more do you need? Nothing Lol (ok maybe vinegar, baking soda and alcohol)

mari says:

Thank you for this! Have purchased Sal Suds for years. We have naturally hard water and it is the only thing that will clean dishes effectively. (I dilute with water in old wine bottle with pump). It is also my go to for general all purpose cleaning diluted in spray bottle.

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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Sal Suds Cheat Sheet

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