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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:  

IngredientIntentReactive with Sal Suds?Explanation
Baking soda
To create a scrub-
bing cleanser
NoBaking 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 fabricsYesBleach 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 No, 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 No, 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 scentNoThis 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 cleaningYesLemon 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 scentNoI 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 NoOxygen bleach is most effective against stains when used as a presoak. For stubborn stains, sprinkle on and spray with 1:1 Sal Suds/Water solution.
Ethanol or isopropyl alcohol (including any drinking alcohol)To disinfectNo When disinfecting is needed, the CDC recommends a two-step process of cleaning and then disinfecting, rather than trying to combine both activities into one step. As a mild detergent, Sal Suds effectively cleans surfaces by removing debris and contaminants, but disinfectants, a term regulated by the EPA, chemically destroy pathogens and microorganisms on hard surfaces. Use Sal Suds first, then only when merited, use an antimicrobial from the EPA’s Safer Choice list.
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 YesVinegar reduces Sal Suds’ cleaning ability.
Washing soda
To boost laundry cleaningNo reaction, but use only if less intense means fail 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 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 DrBronner.com or at your favorite bookseller, and as an eBook and audiobook (read by me!) from wherever you download or listen.  

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Anthony says:

What about adding glycerine to sal suds for laundry use? Thanks in advance.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Anthony- While there is no reaction between Sal Suds and glycerin, I am curious as to why you would use it in laundry? Usually glycerin is added (or in our case, kept) in soaps to work as a humectant, pulling moisture into the skin. However, I’m unfamiliar with its utility for laundry.

Amber says:

Hi! We typically use r/o water for laundry, but when not, our water is extremely, extremely hard. We live in oil / gas field country and I’m trying to make a very heavy-duty detergent for some the saturated work clothes. I tried Sals Suds on its own and with Baking Soda/Washing Soda/Borax.. they don’t work or I can’t find the magic combo. Pretreating them all would be a full-time job.. 🥴 What would you recommend?

Also, can I mix Epsom salt &/or Sodium Percarbonate to Sal Suds? If, yes, What concentration is recommended?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Amber- I think the direction you’re heading with the last question will also answer the first. Sodium percarbonate, which is oxygen bleach, works well in a regimen with Sal Suds. I don’t think the Epsom salts would do any good here. What do you think of this: If your machine has a “soak” option, load the clothes in there with the recommended amount of sodium percarbonate. Let that soak for 20 minutes or so. Then add the Sal Suds and set it to go for a full cycle. Sodium percarbonate disassociates to form hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate, which is washing soda.

Kate says:

Hi! I am buying sals suds for the first time, yay! Can I add citric acid to it for laundry or dishwashing or would that be ineffective? Thank you!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kate- You’re going to love Sal Suds! No, adding citric acid isn’t recommended. While there is no reaction between citric acid and Sal Suds the acidity still interferes with Sal Suds effectiveness. If you need a laundry booster for extra grubby or stinking fabrics, go for some baking soda. It’s cheap, available in larger bulk, and gentler on fabrics than other options. Sprinkle it right on fabrics in the washer – 1/4 c. in an HE (high efficiency) machine or double in a regular washer. Check out my Sal Suds Cheat Sheet for lots of other uses and dilutions! https://bit.ly/SalSudsDilutions

Michaela says:

I’m new to Sal Suds, but am super excited for the journey! Is there any way to make a dishwashing detergent (rather than dish soap) using Sal suds?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Michaela – While I have seen many DIY recipes online using Sal Suds, they have not proven effective for me in my dishwasher. It is something we are working on in R&D, but so far no official recommendation.

Marilyn J Goure says:

Thank you for all the ways you have tested Sal Suds! Im trying it for the first time. Tired of my hands getting red and cracked during the winter months. In my research, I found this site that adds Jojoba Oil to Sal Suds. Did you test that by chance? https://livesimply.me/dish-soap-homemade/

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Marilyn – I’m glad my info is helping! Sal Suds is excellent at binding to oils, which means if you add jojoba oil to the Sal Suds, the Sal Suds will just bind to it. The oil will not be available for moisturizing your hands. Better to apply a drop or two of jojoba oil to your hands afterwards. I checked out the recipe you linked, and it also calls for adding vinegar. We have tested this ourselves and found that vinegar reduces the cleaning efficacy of the Sal Suds. Sal Suds works superbly just as it is on dishes. You need just a drop or two per dish or dilute it in a bottle at about 1:4 and use a small squirt.

Steve says:

Is it possible to mix sal suds with electrolyzed water (hypochlorous acid and sodium hydroxide/force of nature cleaner) for the disinfectant property that sal suds alone doesn’t have?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Steve – I do not recommend combining the two. I am still working my way through all the literature about electrolyzed water, but it sounds like it is slightly unstable and mixing it would cause it to lose its efficacy. My recommendation if you need to disinfect a surface is to wash it first with a Sal Suds solution (All Purpose Spray is 1 Tbsp. Sal Suds in 1 qt. water) and the treat the surface with the elctrolyzed water as directed.

Amanda says:

I am a house cleaner and I love using Sal Suds it’s economic and most importantly allows me to offer my clients a “clean” cleaning product. I’m never worried about using it in the presence of pets and child.
I notice you mentioned using it in your bathroom and that had me curious. I know Sal Suds has antimicrobial and antifungal and I’ve read conflicting things about it being a disinfectant as a result of the pine tree oil.
Can you please clear this up for me? Can I use it in the bathroom and kitchen to kill E-coli, influenza, and salmonella?
I was considering adding isopropyl alcohol until I found this chart and learning that impedes cleaning ability, although I’m not really concerned about it diminishing the ability to make Suds.
Thank you for your time.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Amanda – I’m so glad to hear how you have incorporated Sal Suds into your professional cleaning services! I’m happy to clear up the confusion. Sal Suds is not a disinfectant. It is a surfactant. Surfactants work by removing debris and contaminants from surfaces, but they do not kill primarily. While Sal Suds likely does deactivate some microbes, this is not primarily how it works. However, if it removes the germs from the surfaces, then they are not there anymore to do harm. Most of the time, disinfecting surfaces is not necessary after a thorough cleaning with a surfactant. The CDC only recommends it in the case of known contagion or in very vulnerable settings like hospitals or among fragile populations. This is because the potential harm of disinfectants to both the user and in the creation of antimicrobial resistance far outweighs the potential benefit. However, if you need to disinfect, do so as a follow up step, rather than trying to combine a disinfectant into a surfactant. This is where all sorts of problematic chemistry can take place. If you want to use alcohol or anything else, do so as a second step. This is also per the CDC recommendations.

Alina says:

On the sal suds cheat sheet it says to add 1/2 cup of vinegar to rinse cycle? But on this article titled ‘what can you mix with dr bronners sal sudds?’ It says to not use vinegar because it reduces the cleaning ability. Can anyone clarify?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Alina- Good question! When added to the fabric softener compartment of the washing machine, the vinegar is dispensed during the rinse cycle, after the soap has been rinsed out of the fabrics. There’s no mixing of the two in this process.

Tropical Jewel says:

Can you mix Sal Suds with Wholefoods Organic laundry detergent? It is made with soapberrys etc. I would like to mix it because the reviews for the Wholefoods organic detergent were not good, people said it did not clean well, so I figured If i mix Sal suds in it, it would work????

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi there – The Sal Suds is a superb laundry detergent on its own. It would not work better if combined with another detergent. I use 2-3 Tbsp. of Sal Suds for each load by itself. Only for extra grungy loads will I add some baking soda and vinegar. REad more about it in my laundry post.

Caitlin says:

Hi! We absolutely love Sal Suds. Long time users in our household after receiving a Psoriasis diagnosis.

Do you happen to know if there is a reaction with Lauryl Trimethyl Ammonium Chloride? We have been using vinegar as a softener but made a decision to switch to a new softener. This new softener has Lauryl Trimethyl Ammonium Chloride and I was just curious about your thoughts if there would be a reaction or not.

Thank you! 🙂

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Caitlin – I had to do some research on this one as Lauryl Trimethyl Ammonium Chloride was a new ingredient for me! I brought in one of our chemists on staff to help me. He explained that Lauryl Trimethyl Ammonium Chloride is a cationic surfactant ,which would react with the anioninc surfactants in Sal Suds and produce an insoluble compound, meaning it doesn’t dissolve in water. I looked up fabric softeners with this ingredient and found Truly Free, which recommends adding it in the final rinse cycle once the main detergent has been rinsed out. While I haven’t tested it, you could add it via the fabric softener compartment as the product directions guide.

Just planting a seed here – I don’t use fabric softeners. I find that they cause more problems than they solve. You can read more of my thoughts on that in my article here.

Jeanne says:

Thank you for these explanations! I love the original scent of Sal Suds, but sometimes I like to add in tea tree oil for washing items that I want to disinfect or heavily soiled, but I only put in a little because I’m not sure how much to put in the washer. BTW, I also wash in hottest temperature for such items…I’m assuming this is ok to do with Sal Suds and not ruin the cleaning property of it?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jeanne – I’m so sorry to have missed your question last month. It is perfectly fine to use Sal Suds in hot water. It works superbly in both hot and cold.

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.

Shari says:

I am recently introduced to Sal Suds! Many DIY sal suds dish soap recipes around the web include vinegar. You note vinegar reduces Sal Suds’ cleaning ability.
Do the other ingredients (salt, essential oils) in the DIY recipes negate the diminutive effect you believe vinegar has on Sal Suds cleaning ability?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Shari – No, adding salt or essential oils to a Sal Suds/vinegar mixture would not improve the cleaning ability of the mixture or negate the impact of the vinegar on the Sal Suds. There are a couple things to consider when contemplating adding ingredients to pre-made products, whether it’s Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds or another product:
1. Manufacturers make their products to be the most effective they can be. If reducing the pH of the product by adding vinegar improved the product’s efficacy, then the manufacturers would have already done so. Sal Suds works superbly on dishes just as it is without any additions.
2. Unless a manufacturer releases a list of what is safe to mix with their product, do not mix anything with a store bought cleaner. Chemistry happens, and you do not know what kind of reaction will take place unless the manufacturer has provided that information or if the ingredients are fully disclosed and you have an excellent working knowledge of chemistry. I myself am constantly consulting with the chemists in our R&D team in order to understand what’s happening at the molecular level. They were kind enough to run all the tests on the above ingredients in the chart to explore the reactions. Some of them were quite messy!

I’m happy to send you the pictures of the vinegar & Sal Suds testing if you’d like to see the results.

Julie says:

I love Sal Suds! Use it as a surface cleaner in a spray bottle with water, a bit of washing soda, and essential oils in a tablespoon of alcohol. It cuts through almost everything!

Verna says:

Putting essential oils in with Sal Suds works well for about a week, then it slowly returns to the original Siberian Fir and Spruce (which I do not like at all). I used Sal Suds to make homemade dish soap, but it always returns to the fir smell before I got to the bottom of the dispenser I used, so I stopped making it.

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)

Jess says:

“assiduously” is another word for “persistently”. Perhaps you mean “sparingly”?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jess – Thanks so much! You are right. I was thinking of the “with care” side of it, but you’re right that it has that dogged determination connotation as well. I changed the statement to “if less intense means fail.”

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

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