31 Days to Green Clean: A Common Green Cleaning Mistake

31 Days to Green Clean

This is Day 17 of the 31 Days to Green Clean series.

It wasn’t until a reader alerted me in the comments on my popular Homemade Disinfecting Wipes post, and I did a little researching of my own, that I realized I’ve been making a pretty big green cleaning mistake.

I have seen many green cleaning recipes on blogs that are making this same mistake. I’m actually kind of surprised that I didn’t know about the before, especially with how often this combination is suggested for green and homemade cleaning.

vinegar and castile soap don't mix

But, here’s the problem, because vinegar and castile soap are both super multi-functional and great all around cleaners for your home, you would think that they would be even better together. Right?!

Wrong!

The issue is that castile soap is a base and vinegar is an acid, and when you mix them together they basically cancel each other out, and the vinegar causes the soap to “unsaponify”, and it gets all curdled and clumpy – definitely not something you want to be cleaning with. (This is not true for all acids and bases, such as baking soda and vinegar, or dish soap and vinegar, but has to do with the properties of the soap.)

vinegar and castile soap don't mix2

Oops!

Well, I feel a little bit silly, except for the fact that I’m not the only one who has been recommending this combination. And honestly, because I was usually mixing the vinegar and castile soap with something else too, I didn’t get this exact reaction right away, so I didn’t realize it was doing this.

So, still use your vinegar and castile soap for cleaning, just don’t use them together! Lesson learned.

So, I’ll be updating my disinfecting wipes post next week, and I’ll also make changes to any other recipes I’ve posted that included this combination. Sorry for the confusion, and misinformation!

Here’s the post where I found about this, and she also shared the great idea of cleaning with the castile soap and then rinsing with vinegar water, and also answers tons of great questions in the comments.

Go here to read all the posts in the 31 Days to Green Clean series.

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Comments

  1. Kate E. says

    I had no idea! Thanks for the tip! I’ve mixed them a few times, although I never noticed this, but I think I was mixing them with a couple other things too. Guess I should’ve paid better attention in chemistry class…..

    • Emily @ Live Renewed says

      Right?! :) Me too! But it doesn’t apply to all bases and acids – it just has to do with the properties of the soap that makes it react with vinegar.

  2. says

    Wow! Live and learn! I don’t know that I’ve ever tried combining castile soap with vinegar, but it combines with baking soda to make a versatile cleaner for exfoliating your skin, scrubbing the bathtub, getting tea stains out of mugs, cleaning stained mittens….

  3. says

    Thanks for clearing that up. Basic chemistry will tell you that neutral cleaners are the best way to go for general cleaning and disinfecting.

  4. Sarah M says

    I’m so glad I saw this! I just started making my own cleaners and the last batch I made called for vinegar, water and Castile soap. Then after I shook the bottle, I saw the clumping! I had no idea what happened, but I do know I am going to remix a batch and then re clean the house! Thanks!

  5. says

    Now- I heard this true EXCEPT that Dr Bronners “SALS SUDS Castile Soap” was actually formulated to be mixed with vinegar! I don’t know how true this is BUT when I mix the two- they mix well…

    • Emily @ Live Renewed says

      Yes, you are right. Sal Suds is a detergent, rather than traditional castile soap, so it doesn’t have the same reaction with vinegar. I’ve just started doing some cleaning with Sal Suds and so far really like it.

  6. says

    As a sidenote: This issue does not apply to combining Sal Suds with vinegar. Sal Suds, as a synthetic detergent, has a completely different chemical makeup and does not react with the vinegar in the same way. Vinegar would even add more degreasing power to the mixture.

  7. says

    Thanks for vocalizing this! I have wondered about it and witnessed the clumping in my own “experimenting”. This combination is often referred to in recipes, and yet I felt the cleaning products I made using castile soap and vinegar did not seem to be very effective. Glad to know my suspicious were right and I was not the only one who ran into this challenge.

  8. Anita says

    mixing baking soda and vinegar it is actually the strong reaction that improves the cleaning, once the reaction is over, however, it will no longer clean. that is why usually baking soda is applied first (sometimes as a paste with water, or in case of a drain just put in first) then the vinegar is added. so the reaction does not occur until the 2 mix. with the castile soap you might try making the paste with the baking soda and soap cleaning and then rinsing with vinegar.

  9. ty says

    For laundry I usually use a homemade powder; but sometimes I add an ounce or two of liquid Dr. Bronner Tea Tree soap and use a Downey softener ball with a little white vinegar.

    Laundry comes out clean with no soap residue …I use Cold water washes/rinses.

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