DIY Repurposing

Here’s Why I Just Poured Dish Soap Into My Toilet (Hint: It Has Nothing to Do With Cleaning)

It cleans and degreases, repels pests, and can even save you the cost of a plumber's visit: These surprising uses for dish soap will convince you to keep a few extra bottles in the bathroom, garage, garden—and your first aid kit.
Blue dish soap in a white toilet with the seat up.

Top view of toilet bowl, blue detergent flushing in it Photo:

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Dishwashing liquid is a surprisingly versatile product, and its effectiveness lies in a potent formula that incorporates cleaning agents like sodium lauryl sulfate and alkyldimethylamine oxide. It turns out that the same ingredients that tackle tough food and grime on dishware have numerous uses in the garden, garage, craft room and, yes, the bathroom. As an impromptu lubricant, for example, dish soap can loosen frozen zippers and clogs in plumbing. Ahead, we’ve gathered some of our favorite expert-recommended uses for dish soap. Though it should go without saying, note that while dish soap is generally safe for cleaning it is not safe for humans and pets if it’s ingested, so use it with caution.

1. Kill Weeds

Spraying Herbicide on Dandelion

Mix up a nontoxic weed killer by combining dish soap, salt, and vinegar. Add 1 tablespoon of dish soap and 1 cup of salt to a gallon of vinegar. Pour it all into a spray bottle, and use liberally on problem areas. “It creates a potent solution that can kill weeds in driveways or walkways,” says Bryan Clayton, CEO of Nashville-based lawn and landscaping referral company GreenPal. Clayton adds that this solution is nonselective, so “it should be used cautiously, as it can also harm desirable plants.”

RELATED: 13 Natural and Effective Ways to Kill Weeds

2. DIY an Ice Pack

Woman Using Ice Gel Pack On Injured Arm

Fill a Ziploc bag with dish soap to create an effective and easy DIY ice pack. The soap won’t solidify but will instead form a cold gel that will soothe aches and pains.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Dish Soap Dispensers

3. Locate Leaks in Inflatables

Blue and white round inflatable pool on yellow grass.

Concerned that you might have a puncture in your tire, kickball, or air mattress? Mix up a solution of dish soap and water, and then spray it over the area of concern. If there’s a leak, the spot will start to bubble up, showing you just where a patch should go.

RELATED: How to Find a Hole in an Air Mattress

4. Trap Flies

A glass jar of vinegar on a kitchen counter to attract gnats and flies

If fruit flies are taking over your home, you can lay a simple trap for them by mixing vinegar, dish soap, and water. Fill a small tumbler a little more than halfway with white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Add 6 to 8 drops of dish soap, and fill the rest of the glass with warm water to make it bubble. This trap is gruesomely effective!

RELATED: 15 DIY Solutions for a Pest-Free Home

5. Keep Eyeglasses From Fogging

Cropped shot of an unrecognizable woman standing alone and using a cloth to clean her glasses

Prevent your glasses or goggles from fogging up with this dish soap hack. Apply a few drops to a clean cloth, and then rub it on the lenses, both inside and out. Once the soap has dried, buff the lenses with a clean cloth, and you’ll be seeing clearly again.

RELATED: How to DIY Your Own Dish Soap

6. Silence Squeaks

Metal chrome hinged hinges on a white interior door.

If you’re suffering from the shrill sound of a squeaky door but don’t have any commercial lubricants on hand, reach for a bottle of dish soap for temporary relief. Add a few drops of soap to the troublesome hinge, and then enjoy some peace and quiet.

RELATED: 10 Fast Fixes for Annoying House Noises

7. Protect Plants

Asian Woman hand spray on leave plants in the morning at home using a spray bottle watering houseplants Plant care concept

A combination of dish soap and water makes a surprisingly effective nontoxic insecticide. Just mix a couple of teaspoons of plain liquid soap (avoid those with degreasers, bleach, or antibacterial ingredients) into a cup of warm water, pour the solution in a spray bottle, and mist your plants. Most soft-bodied plant pests, such as aphids, whiteflies, and mites, are susceptible and will be eradicated from your leafy greens.

RELATED: 15 Natural Pest-Control Strategies for Your Home Landscape

8. Combat Clogs

Toilet, Cleaning, Toilet Bowl, Liquid, Bleach, Pouring

A little dish soap and hot water can be a surprisingly effective solution for unclogging a stubborn toilet. “It’s a handy and quick fix that can save you from reaching for the plunger,” says Karina Toner, operations manager at Spekless, a D.C.-based cleaning and maid service company.

First, pour about 1/2 cup of dish soap into the toilet and let it sit for about 10 minutes. If the soap alone doesn’t loosen the clog, follow it up by pouring a gallon of hot water into the bowl to get things running again.

RELATED: 7 Clever Ways to Unclog a Toilet Without a Plunger

9. Fight Grease

Woman is cleaning oven.

The grease-cutting power of dish soap can extend beyond cups and plates. In fact, it’s effective on a variety of items, including clothing, carpets, tile, and more. The next time you’re confronted with a tricky grease stain, try treating it with a little dish soap and some warm water. “The soap works to break down the oils and substances causing the stain, while the warm water aids in the overall lifting and cleaning process,” Toner says.

RELATED: How to Remove Grease From Kitchen Cabinets

10. Blow Bubbles

Child (7-8) Blowing Bubbles in Playground.

When you’re done using it for household chores, put dish soap to use keeping your kids entertained. To make a DIY bubble mix, mix 2/3 cup of dish soap and 2 or 3 tablespoons of corn syrup or glycerin into a gallon of water, then let the kids (or kids at heart) make merry.

RELATED: 14 Handy Products That Help You Get by Without a Dishwasher

11. Remove Oily Stains From Clothing

A woman washes clothes with her hands in soapy water. Hand wash clothes. High quality photo

If you’ve spilled coffee on your favorite piece of clothing, apply a mild dish soap directly to the stain and rub it in with your fingers. Throw the garment into the washing machine as usual, taking note of the care label. As Toner of Spekless Cleaning explains, “The dish soap’s emulsifying properties target coffee oils, making it easier to lift the stain during the wash.”

RELATED: How to Get Oil Out of Clothes

12. Wash Pool Toys and Floats

A boy and a girl are playing in swimming pool, excited because summer is here.

Over time, pool toys and floats can become covered with dirt, mold, and other unpleasant substances. To get the gunk off, mix some dishwashing liquid with warm water, and then use a clean sponge to thoroughly scrub your pool accessories. Allow them to dry before using them again.

RELATED: The 18 Best Gifts for Pool Owners

13. Clean Paint Brushes 

washing makeup brush with soap and foam in the sink

For water-based paints, rinse paint brushes in lukewarm water in a bowl or under the tap, and then apply dish soap directly to the bristles, rubbing with your fingers to remove residue. Dish soap is also great for cleaning oil paint from artist brushes: Pour a small amount of dish soap in your palm and gently rub the dirty paint brush into the soap in a circular motion. Rinse and repeat until the brush is clean, and then let the brush air-dry.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Paint Brushes We Tested This Year

14. Mop the Floor

Cleaning, product and basket with mop, bottle and spray for cleaning services, wellness or chemical disinfection. Closeup of spring cleaning supplies, container and tools to dust house, floor or home

Can you mop with dish soap? You bet! For regular mopping of vinyl, linoleum, or ceramic tile floors, mix a small amount of dish soap in a bucket of warm water. Apply with a mop or, for smaller stains, a clean cloth. Let the floors air-dry before stepping onto the clean area. Consult care instructions before using dish soap to mop floors made of wood or laminate.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Spin Mops We Tested This Year

15. Wash the Car, in a Pinch

Car cleaning

If you’re out of car wash soap, it’s OK to use dish soap from time to time. In a bucket, squeeze enough dish soap into with warm water until the water turns sudsy. Hose off the car to rinse away dirt and grime before washing it with a soft sponge dipped into the soapy water. To avoid water spots, dry the car promptly with a microfiber cloth. While this solution is fine in a pinch, note, however, that dish soap, which is formulated to cut through tough grease, can over time remove protective finishes on cars and should not be used as a regular substitute for car washing soap.

RELATED: 10 Car Maintenance Tasks to Do Every Spring

16. Remove Oil Stains From the Driveway

Vehicle motor oil stains on a concrete driveway with angled view. Concept image with copy space.

Dish soap can effortlessly remove oil stains on your driveway due to its powerful degreasing agents. Mix a bit of dish soap (enough to make some suds!) and warm water and using a scrub brush, scrub the stain thoroughly. Rinse with warm water and repeat until the stain is gone.

RELATED: How to Remove Concrete Stains

17. Make a DIY Slip-N-Slide

Laughing Black girl and friends playing together on a water slide in their yard in the sun

Forget the store-bought slides—create your own water-filled wonderland in your backyard with a bit of dish soap. Lay a plastic tarp or sheet down where you want your slide and secure it with a few garden staples at the corners. Squirt liquid dish soap on the tarp (a little goes a long way here), and hose it down using a garden hose.

RELATED: The 15 Best Backyard Games for Summer

18. Unstick a Zipper

Close up zip

Got a stubborn zipper that won’t budge? We’ve been there. Dish soap  is a terrific lubricant that works wonders for loosening a stuck zipper. Cover both sides of the stuck zipper teeth with dish soap. Work the zipper up and down until it yields.

RELATED: How to Fix a Stuck Zipper

19. Prevent Cats From Digging in Plants

Tabby cat with white spots in garden

If you’re tired of your feline turning your garden into a playground, combine a cup of water, ¼ cup of white vinegar, ¼ cup of lemon juice, ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar, 10 to 15 drops of your favorite essential oil, and 1 teaspoon of dish soap in a clean spray bottle. Test the mixture on a plant first to make sure it won’t damage your plantings; do this by spraying a bit of the solution on a leaf and waiting a day to ensure your plant can handle the solution. Then spray the soil and leaf surfaces to repel cats.

RELATED: How to Keep Cats Out of Your Yard

20. Promote Seed Germination 

Large white beans soaking in water on a dark wooden cutting board.

Dish soap can promote seed germination and encourage plant growth! Create a simple solution by mixing a few drops of dish soap with warm water and soak the seeds for 6 to 24 hours. Mist the seeds again with the soapy water solution when you plant them. The dish soap helps break down the waxy seed coat to allow moisture to penetrate more effectively.