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Use castile soap

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Castile soap: the protean vegetable oil-based wonder cleaner that will find a happy home in your shower, kitchen, laundry room, or in the great outdoors. Just think: with one bottle, you can wash your hair, clean the floors, or bathe in that creek running through your back property, if so inclined.

Find it! Castile soap

Before you buy

For the uninitiated: Castile soap is not a brand (although some brands heavily promote their castile-ness) but a type of cleanser made originally from 100 percent olive oil and lye, which produced a slick, creamy lather. Modern castile soap, both liquid and bar, is still made predominantly from olive oil, but can contain coconut, palm, soybean, hemp, and jojoba oils, among others, for improved lather. And yes, the rumors are true: it can be used on the body as well as around the house and is an effective agent of clean in virtually every cleaning scenario from the dog baths to reusable diaper touch-ups. When choosing a castile soap for bathing, be sure to select the highest percentage of food-grade olive oil content, which prevents drying of hair and skin.

Using castile soap helps you go green because...

  • It is biodegradable and breaks down more easily than other detergents into its base components in the environment.
  • It contains ingredients that are more earth-friendly than conventional soaps.
  • Many brands are made using simple ingredients and earth-friendly processes by socially conscious companies.
  • Its multi-use abilities limit the need to buy more cleaning products, which eliminates packaging waste.
  • No petrochemicals are used in its production.

Most soap, including cleaning detergents, contains phosphates. Phosphates are nutrients to all living organisms, especially algae. When phosphates in products enter waterways, they cause the algae population to grow, turning the water green, denying it oxygen, and causing the death of other aquatic plants and fish. And while there are biodegradable soaps, they only break down into their separate ingredients, which is not sufficient when those ingredients are composed of toxic or harmful chemicals and compounds.

Castile soap is one of the oldest forms of soap in the world. During World War I, a shortage of natural oils resulted in the development of synthetic detergents as a substitute for soap-making. The popularity of these "soap-less soaps" is now being questioned due to the lasting chemical compounds from their production and use, and their unexpected repercussions in the environment.


In a 2008 study that shook the natural products industry, 100 “natural” and “organic” soaps, shampoos, dish liquids, lotions, body washes, and deodorants were tested and nearly half contained 1,4-Dioxane, a carcinogenic chemical. This toxin has been found in conventional personal care products, but this study, commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), was the first to test green products.

In scientific studies, 1,4-Dioxane has caused cancer in animals; scientists have not yet confirmed the long-term effects on humans. The FDA says current levels do not pose a hazard to consumers, but have advised manufacturers to lower amounts in cosmetics as much as possible. None of the products tested that were Certified Organic by the USDA contained 1,4-Dioxane. In response to this study, some of the affected companies have said they will work toward removing 1,4-Dioxane from their products.


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