Soap For Garden Use: Using Bar Soap In The Garden And Beyond

Plant Vines Next To A Bar Of Soap In A Dish On A Towel
(Image credit: Wako Megumi)

Ever get tired of tossing out those small pieces of bar soap leftover from the bathroom shower or sink? Sure, they’re great for making hand soap, but did you know there are actually a number of uses for bar soap in the garden too – besides just washing off dirt and grime. It’s true.

As someone that feels the need to reuse or upcycle nearly anything I can, bars of soap are no exception. And as a gardener, there’s always a need to use soap in one form or another.

Soap for Garden Pests

Okay, if you garden, you’re no stranger to bug bites. I know I’m not. Anytime I step outside the house, it’s a safe bet that mosquitoes and other pesky blood-sucking bugs will be feasting on me. And this is where that leftover bar soap comes in handy. Simply dampen the soap sliver and rub it across the itchy bug bite for instant relief. And, of course, it also keeps the area clean.

Got a deer problem? What about mice? Gather up those strong-smelling soap shards and place them in a mesh bag or old pantyhose that you can easily hang from trees in the garden, or around its perimeter. Deer tend to avoid areas with fragrant soap. Likewise, you can keep mice away by placing pieces of soap in areas of the garden you want them to steer clear of. Sprinkling soap shavings in garden spaces is also said to help keep a number of insect pests from feeding on your plants.

Making your own insecticidal soap from those old discarded soap slivers is easy too, and saves money. You can simply cut the soap slivers up, or grate a bar of unscented soap, into a saucepan with about 1 quart (1 L.) of water, bringing it to a boil. Stir continuously until the soap is dissolved and pour into a gallon (4 L.) jug, topping off with water. When you’re ready to use it in the garden for aphids, mealybugs, and the like, just mix a tablespoon (15 mL.) of the soap mix in a 1-quart (1 L.) spray bottle and have at it.

Other Garden Uses for Bar Soap

Many gardeners know all about the use of soap for preventing dirty fingernails – just rub the soap under your nails to keep out the dirt and grime. Easy enough. And, of course, at the end of a long gardening day, nothing beats a hot, soapy bath. But bar soap comes in handy for spot cleaning those tough gardening stains too. So I always keep some spare soap slivers in the laundry room for this reason.

Just scrub the soap on the mud or grass stain (and sometimes blood) prior to washing and it should disappear with ease. It can help with stubborn stains on sneakers too. Additionally, if you place a wrapped bar of soap or soap shards in a pair of stinky garden boots or shoes overnight, then you’ll have fresh-smelling footwear the next day.

Bars of soap can prove useful for tools in the garden as well. For instance, you can swipe a bar of soap over the blade of your pruners for easier cutting. Rubbing soap in door or window tracks and wiping clean will help them open and close with ease. This works especially well in the greenhouse where you definitely don’t want your doors or windows sticking.

Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.