Ask a Question forum: Soapy water solution

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Jan 8, 2017 11:52 PM CST
I know soap is not good for some plants so after you spray and kill the bugs with the soapy water mix should it be washed off the plants to prevent any damage done to the plants or is joy dishsoap lemon scent safe for all plants and it won't cause damage. I don't want to kill them and I don't want to use any chemical pesticides either. I just want to kill the bugs of course.
Name: Sally
central Maryland
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Jan 9, 2017 6:34 AM CST
you only need a little soap in the water. The soap lets the water coat and suffocate the bugs. No need to rinse.
Joy is good. It is what I have seen recommended. I think it is a true soap, so does not have salts. (my understanding is)
edit- See below
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
[Last edited by sallyg - Jan 9, 2017 11:44 AM (+)]
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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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Jan 9, 2017 7:49 AM CST
Joy, like most dishwashing liquids, is a detergent, not a soap. The ingredients (from Proctor and Gamble's website) are:

Sodium lauryl sulfate
Sodium laureth sulfate
Lauramine oxide
Sodium chloride
PEG-8 Propylheptyl Ether
Colorants vary by product, Blue 1, Red 33, Yellow 5


Welcome! Nicole. People do use liquid dish detergents, usually lemon, for bug sprays but if you prefer to use something "soapy" that is acceptably organic, Safer's Insecticidal Soap is formulated for plants. What specific bugs do you want to kill?

Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Jan 9, 2017 9:27 AM CST
Welcome! Nicole!

The ingredient which has the potential to cause the most damage is the sodium in the soap. The primary ingredients are sodium salts in most detergents. The way to avoid problems is to use the soap in a very diluted form. You can also buy a soap water product called Safer which is marketed for bug control on plants which does not have sodium at dangerous levels.

I use soapy water (the Safer product) to control mealy bugs and aphids on my succulents and have never made any effort to wash it off afterwards. We go for several months without rain every summer, so nature doesn't wash it off either for a while. Presumably some plants are sensitive to soap, but not the ones that I grow (almost all succulents and bromeliads).
Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
Jan 9, 2017 10:07 AM CST
I use either ivory clear or dawn.
1 Tbl. To gallon i never wash it off on my vegatable plants.
Dawn is what they use to clean the oil off of sea creatures and birds.
Anything i say, could be misrepresented, or wrong.
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Mid-Atlantic Composter Region: Maryland Birds
Cat Lover Dog Lover Region: United States of America
Jan 9, 2017 11:49 AM CST
Sooby, thanks for correcting me,

Philip, sorry to tell you, Dawn has many same as Joy

Murphy's Oil Soap is another I've seen recommended- Just a few drops
But I see sodium in the list ehre
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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Jan 9, 2017 1:00 PM CST
I used to have a big box of Castile soap flakes; I would use a small spoonful to mix up a solution and add various other ingredients. Used it to make shampoo and other things, also. But now it's easier to buy a bottle of Dr. Bronner's and start with that.
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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Jan 9, 2017 2:13 PM CST
Rinse well.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Name: Rick R.
Minneapolis, MN, USA zone 4
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Jan 9, 2017 4:10 PM CST

How soaps and detergents kill insects is still poorly understood. In most cases, control results from disruption of the cell membranes of the insect. Soaps and detergents may also remove the protective waxes that cover the insect, causing death through excess loss of water.
Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
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Jan 9, 2017 6:18 PM CST
Since soap is a contact insecticide - it has to hit the bugs to kill them - it may be a good idea and does no harm to rinse it off after a short time. A very dilute amount kills a lot of bugs very effectively - the guideline is 1/2tsp. to a quart of water. Stronger is not better. I've even downed a whole nest of paper wasps with that dilute solution.

As Baja says, some plants don't mind it at all, but some plants become sensitized to the sun if you leave the soap on the leaves. My brugmansias are a good example. It's the surfactant factor that "holds" the layer of soap/water on the leaves if you spray at a very sunny time of day and it's especially evident in humid weather when the water doesn't evaporate quickly. So if you're not sure about the plants you're spraying, I'd rinse.

Another tip on using soap as an insecticide, you also need to repeat the application every few days in case there were unhatched eggs of the bugs around. The repeat application gets the ensuing generations so they don't re-infest and make you think "well that didn't work".

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." โ€“Winston Churchill

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