Friday, June 1, 2012

Homemade Earth-Friendly Insecticidal Soap (Repels Deer and Bunnies too)

This is my favorite time of the year to cook:  our garden is growing and often I find myself walking outside to grab something for dinner from our garden.  Trouble is, some critters, bugs and worms are having their dinner from our garden too!

If you're growing your garden organically, one of the most effective way to control pests is to use insecticidal soap.  You can purchase insecticidal soap at the store, but it is super easy to make at home and will save you from having to run an extra errand.

For the most simple insecticidal soap, you can dilute 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap to 1 quart of water.  My version incorporates garlic and red pepper flakes to also deter bunnies and deer.

All you need:

Homemade Insecticidal Soap

Make the base:
1 head of garlic
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 cup water

Make a batch of insecticidal soap:
2 tablespoons base mixture (above recipe)
1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap
2 cups water

Make the base:

Remove the garlic cloves (you don't need to peel them though) from the head of garlic.

Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and 1 cup water to a blender and process until it forms a runny paste.

Pour the mixture through a fine sieve to remove any small chunks of garlic or pepper flakes.  The remaining water is your "base."

Yields about 1 cup of base.

Make a batch of insecticidal soap:

Mix 2 tablespoons of the base mixture, with 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap and 2 cups water.  Combine in a squirt bottle and spray away!

A couple important notes:

*Insecticidal soap works best when done on a day without rain.  Rain will wash it away, and you want to keep the mixture on the leaves as long as possible to deter pests.

*Be sure to spray the backs and fronts of the leaves of the plants.  Many pests hide on the underside of the leaves.

*You may respray daily, as needed.

*This insecticidal soap can be used even if you are about to harvest your vegetables.

Our poor collards were attacked over the weekend.  Insecticidal soap to the rescue!

Happy gardening!


Anonymous said...

What is the purpose of adding the dish soap? Perhaps it helps the solution to cling to the leaves? Just wondering if I could leave the dish soap out of the recipe? I guess I am maybe being too worrisome, as it is such a tiny amount of soap and it does get diluted further!

Sweet Pea Chef said...

If you are concerned, use Castille Soap, as it is all natural.

The soap kills some bugs. Some bugs won't be deterred otherwise, and if you read about using soap in a small dilution on plants, it is generally very safe.

Ultimately, the best way to remove bugs would be by hand, but I just don't have the time/energy/patience for that daily exercise! :)

Nettyt said...

I'm concerned my leafy veggies will taste like garlic and be spicy?

Sweet Pea Chef said...

Nettyt, the rain (or a good spray from a sprinkler of hose) the day before harvest will remove the smells/tastes. :)

Cat said...

Thank you very much for this idea! I used it today (and then a thunderstorm came out of nowhere. Sigh.) and I am blogging about it (with a link back to you!). Very glad I came across this post. Hopefully when I respray my garden the rain will stay away longer next time. ;)

Jennie Moo said...

The soap acts as an emulsifier and allows water to bond with oils and not seprate. Its perfectly harmless.

Anonymous said...

The soap blocks the breathing gills on small insects such as spider mites and suffocates them. It also helps it bond to the leaves. Without the soap, it's just spicy water. If you eat in restaurants they wash your dishes with it, and I assume you would wash your produce before consumption. It is extremely safe.

karoline said...

Great idea! Could this be used on herbs? With the soap and all?

Sweet Pea Chef said...

Karoline, absolutely, I use it on my herbs all the time!!

karoline said...

Sweet, I'll make a batch today! Thanks:)

Anonymous said...

Since I only need to use 2TBSP of the base mixture, is it possible for me to store the rest, or do I just need to throw it away?

Sweet Pea Chef said...

You can keep extra in the fridge for about two weeks. I store mine in an old glass jar with a screw-on lid, so the strong smell doesn't stink up my fridge! :)

Anonymous said...

Does this repel snakes, too? :-)

Anonymous said...

The soap is used to break the oils in the plant. It allows the other ingredients to penetrate the plant and do its job.

Gina Demaree McKee said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Does this repel snakes, too? :-)

Anonymous, it probably won't deter snakes. However, the snakes will help deter mice, some insects, and voles,and will not harm your plants. ;)

altiora said...

Wonder if it will deter all kinds of roos (kangaroos)and birds here in Australia.

Anonymous said...

Soap allows the spray to spray over leaves and stick better. Helps with bugs too.

Anonymous said...

spread not spray

Soap allows the spray to spread over leaves and stick better. Helps with bugs too.

Anonymous said...

The soap breaks down the exoskeleton of insects and kills them by making them susceptible to parasites and disease. This is the typical commercial use of soaps in insecticides. You can spray any plant, tree or shrub for effective pest control, simply with liquid soap. Ivory is what professionals typically use.

Anonymous said...

Will this keep snails away? I get heaps of snails eating my garden away

oldladybee said...

I add a teaspoon of vegetable oil to the mix. It lasts a bit longer unless there is a very long, hard, rain.


RKD said...

Is this safe for honey bees?

Sweet Pea Chef said...

Not sure about snails…and as this mixture merely deters creatures, can't imagine it would hurt bees??

Anonymous said...

To deter snails and slugs you can run a length of copper wire or tape around your bed. This mix shouldn't do anything to bees but if you are worried avoid spraying blooms where they collect pollen.

Anonymous said...

how long is the shelf life for this?

Anonymous said...

Will making the dry mixture mixed in the soil and watering with the wet; kill grub worms and get rid of the armadillo that visits to eat the grubs?

Anonymous said...

Will a dry mixture mixed in the soil kill grub worms?

Anonymous said...

Will this deter ground squirrels??? They're eating all of my tomatoes before I can pick em

Anonymous said...

Will this deter ants both on the plants and in the soil? Also using a touch of oil will that conflict with using fertilizer?

Unknown said...

Does it work on Roses as well?

Sweet Pea Chef said...

To answer some recent questions:

--you can keep this up to two weeks in the fridge.

--not sure about grub worms, but if you try it, let me know how it works!

--I am thinking it would deter squirrels, we don't have any eating our veggies (and we have tons in our yard)…so maybe that's what's keeping them away!

--I don't think it deters ants.

--not sure how it interacts with fertilizer. Is it organic fertilizer or conventional?

--yes, you can use it on roses!

Unknown said...

Could you use on tomatoes!!!!

Anonymous said...

FOR THOSE AFRAID OF SPIDERS! like me :) the day before harvest i add mint to the base, spiders hate it. and best part is it washes away so easy the spiders come back quickly so they can continue to eat the bad bugs :) enjoy

Faith said...

Does this work with all kinds of bugs and chickens? in my garden I have flies ,ants and a bunch of catipillars plus worms I got a infestation does this work for all that?

Brandy said...

In regards to the question about repelling ants, I do know that powdered garlic works well in the kitchen for repelling ants, so I would think the garlic in this insecticide would work at repelling them in the garden.

Anonymous said...

I recently gound on you tube that using vinager and water in a spray bottle will keep ant away. If you hate the smell they suggest adding a couple drops of your fav. Scented oils they sell. It worked for me. Im not sure of the mixture amounts but check you tube the answer is there.

Unknown said...

If you use vinegar in your solution don't get it on the plants. Vinegar is used as a natural herbicide and will kill plants.

Anonymous said...

Hi guys; i use cigrette tabaco, vianger, small amount of dish soap and water.
it is very effective.

Anonymous said...

You can buy Soapnut online to make your organic natural liquid soap (Google it to order in Bulk.. has listed several other use or soapnut

Boil (low heat) 5 soapnut with 1 cup of water for 15 mins and allow it to cool. Since ti is natural you cannot store it to cool.

Disclaimer: I do not have any biz ties to

Anonymous said...

Are u talking dish detergent or soap?

Summaiya said...

Will give this a try...hopefully should work as I deciphered after reading all the comments. Thanks so much. Is there something I can do to deter cats from pooping in my lawn?

Joon Cleaver said...

The vinegar smell will dissipate once dried to your nose.

Joon Cleaver said...

Remember that mint, if grown in the ground and not in a container, may get away from you and grow places you dont want it. You can plant it in a container and place next to your plant.

Anonymous said...

don't use any tobacco products on tomato--potato families. It can cause blight, and if you're a smoker, wash hands well before handling them.

KC said...

I am going to try this on my cherry trees and raspberry bushes.

Unknown said...

does it repel iguanas and little lizards?

Merley said...

Cayenne pepper is great for keeping cats out of your gardens and it doesn't harm any plants!

Unknown said...

Hello from Colombia.
Thanks and congratulations. It is very usefull.

Rosely Araújo said...


Misty said...

Cinnamon gets rid of ants!

Anonymous said...

Please note that 2 cups equal a pint, not a quart (that would be 4 cups).

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

I have never thought of coming up with a homemade insecticidal soap for repelling deer and bunnies. Thanks for the great suggestions. Also, see some amazing homemade pepper spray tips here:

Texasgirl said...

Will it help with Grubs in my veggie beds?

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