Health and Beauty

Tested: Does Dr. Bronner’s soap really have 18 uses?

Dr. Bronner: Budget hero or guy who tricked you into putting soap in your mouth?
Dr. Bronner: Budget hero or guy who tricked you into putting soap in your mouth?

According to the wacky, cultish 3,000-word rant on the label, when combined with adequate sleep, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap has the power to “clean body-mind-soul-spirit instantly uniting one! All-One!” I’m not sure exactly what that means, but the soap boasts more than 18 uses: a toothpaste and a household cleaner; a pet wash and a cure for lice. With eight varieties (one of which is only $8.99 at Trader Joe’s), this “magical multi-tasker” could be the solution to many of our financial freak-outs at the pharmacy register. So with a bottle each of peppermint and rose soap in hand, I set out to find out which of “Doctor” Emanuel Bronner’s loftiest claims to embrace, and which to avoid.

Each use is graded “Crazy” or “Sane” and ranked on a five-star scale: 5 is highly recommended; zero is like the guy on the street holding a cardboard sign and babbling.

The soap is made from organic saponified oils and is extremely high-foaming. Used straight on skin, it can be drying, but diluted half and half with water, it forms a gentle lather and effectively cleaned the skin on my face and body without leaving it tight and dry. Diluting the soap also increases its value for money, and people with sensitive skin can tailor the concentration to their individual needs.
Verdict: Sane: 4/5

As a shampoo in diluted form, the soap cleansed my hair thoroughly and the rose scent left a lovely lingering perfume for a few hours afterwards. I found it allowed me to go longer between washes because my scalp wasn’t over producing oil to make up for being over-cleansed, as happens with regular shampoo. A conditioner is essential to prevent tangles after washing, as the soap does not contain any silicones for easy detangling.
Verdict: Sane: 4/5

The Shepherd Astronomer probably smells like peppermint

A squirt of soap in a basin of warm water as a fruit and vegetable wash took dirt and grime from bunches of kale and apples from the market. If you don’t think you need to clean your produce thoroughly, try it once and see what color the washing water turns. Remember to rinse the soap off the produce before eating so the soap taste doesn’t linger.
Verdict: Sane! 5/5

As a toothpaste, the foaminess of the soap cleaned my teeth thoroughly, but the taste was absolutely awful. It stayed in my mouth even after a coffee and three sticks of gum. I don’t know what possessed me to attempt it again, but I tried several times after that, preventing the soap from touching my tongue as much as possible, but it made my gums sting and my tongue swell up. Treat yourself and try Tom’s of Maine toothpaste instead.
Verdict: Terrible and crazy. 1/5

Shaving with Dr Bronner’s rose soap was a delight. Applied straight to damp legs or underarms, the creamy lather enabled a close, comfortable shave, with no stinging or excessive dryness afterwards. My male friend tried it on his face with a shaving brush and said that just three drops were enough to do the job properly, though he would have preferred “a more masculine scent than rose next time.”
Verdict: Sane! 5/5

I used the peppermint soap straight as a deodorant with strange results. By the end of the day I still smelled strongly of an after-dinner mint, but the peppermint oil stung my armpits and wouldn’t dry down. It stayed sticky and wet and didn’t prevent sweating at all.
Verdict: Slightly crazy: 2/5

On clothes, the soap doesn’t fare well as a spot remover, as the oil can sometimes linger as a light stain even after washing. It works great when highly diluted (about 2 tablespoons in a basin of water) to wash delicates and individual items.
Verdict: Somewhat sane. 3/5

Here’s where it gets a bit too strange. Older labels of Dr. Bronner’s included a suggested combination of acidic products inserted into the lady parts to reduce the interior pH and act as a contraceptive spermicide. These included, but were not limited to: vaseline and lemon juice/pulp. He also suggested using a hollowed-out half lemon as a cervical cap. The soap came into play as a post-coital douche to flush out the citrusy remnants and restore the body’s natural pH. Suffice it to say, there was no way in hell I was attempting to review this method. In fact, doctors no longer recommend douching at all, as it can cause infections and other health problems. The use is no longer on the bottle or the website.
Verdict: VERY CRAZY. 0/5

Would this guy lead you wrong?
Would this guy lead you wrong?

Several gardening forums suggest spraying diluted peppermint Dr. Bronner’s to deter aphids and other garden pests, and some parenting forums say the tea tree variety kills lice and their eggs when used as a shampoo. It’s too cold for gardening and I thankfully haven’t had head lice recently so I didn’t try those uses out yet. Dr. Bronner also claimed the soap was useful as a pest spray, diaper soap  or pet wash, but the company has mostly backed off recommending those elements since his death in 1997.

The soap is useful for eliminating lingering smells too: some food service places use Bronner’s to scrub the coffee smell out of those big coffee urns.

Overall, the soaps aren’t the all-in-one magical multi-taskers I had hoped for, but they do a variety of jobs very well. I have been using them constantly for more than a month now, and have barely made a dent in either bottle. Properly diluted, a quart could last you six months. Plus, you’ll never be bored in the shower with the endless reading material the label provides.


  1. Alison Pels

    Yes Kat you’re right about deodorant/anti perspirant, it was just such an old sticky mess in there, much moreso than if I didn’t use a deo at all.
    Sarah, what uses are you going to try (contraveptive douche, am I right?)

    • Barold

      Tom’s of Maine has a deodorant that works pretty great for me. I don’t really really ever smell much though and I actually sweat less from the pits without antiperspirant oddly enough, and I’ve tried them all. This is pretty much just a nice insurance policy in case I suddenly have to run a mile.

      • vknqueen

        I like crystal salt stick for deodorant…lasts forever…antiperspirants have been blamed for breast cancer in men and women (they prohibit sweating and toxins stay in the tissue).

  2. Addie

    I love using Bonner’s peppermint soap in the summer, its perfect to help cool of a hot summer day.

    I have used it diluted for mouthwash after eating strong smelling foods, works perfectly.

    Deodorants do not prevent sweating, they only prevent odor, or mask odor.

  3. Alison Pels

    Yes many people I spoke to about this story used the words “tingle” “cooling” and “junk” in a sentence, so I think that’s a common use, Addie.
    But yes, even as a strictly anti-odor product, the stickiness of the soap fails at its job.

  4. I’m so glad that I’m not the only one insane enough to try it it as toothpaste. I was once determined to test out every recommended use for the soap, minus the douche since I hadn’t heard of it being used for that until now!

    Any thoughts on diluting the soap and using it to clean counters/floors in your apartment? For me, it worked well for lightly cleaning the apartment but not for deep cleaning.

  5. Alison Pels

    i didnt actually try household cleaning with it (although my housemates probably wish I did) but it gets rave reviews on the rest of the internetz

  6. Ellen

    I use it to wash the dog. The peppermint smells really nice, the dog doesn’t seem to mind it (although she does mind having a bath), and I don’t have to worry if it gets in her eyes.

    • Jessie

      Do not get this in your pets eyes!!! It stings so bad. I use it on my face in the shower and getting it in your eye is so much worse than normal shampoo.

      • laura

        i flush my eyes with it almost every day, watered down it makes your eyes very icy cool and STOP the Itching from my Allergies ! organic braggs apple vinager spray back of mouth to stop itching from allergy and braggs for stuffy nose and works great ! With these produces i have become free of Allergy meds.

  7. JulieT

    In addition to using Dr. Bronner’s as a hand/body/scalp cleanser, I use it for household chores and LOVE it! About a teaspoon mixed into a solution of 2 cups water & 2 cups white vinegar makes a great disinfecting/glass cleaner/shower cleaner spray. I use it to wash dishes, and by adding in baking soda, it scrubs out my toilet, sinks and tub beautifully. A healthy squirt added to a bucket of water and a cup of white vinegar washes my floors to sparkling clean. I use the eucalyptus or tea tree for household cleaning because of the additional germicidal effects, and the unscented baby hemp variety (diluted and with a little jojoba oil added) for my sensitive skin. It saves me money and lots of space (no need for 10 kinds of expensive, specialized cleansers), my apt. smells fantastic and fresh rather than chemically, and I’m doing my small share to reduce environmental pollutants. I heart this stuff!

      • I learned the hard way on that one today. Squirted a dab of Dr. Bronner’s soap in a tub to hand wash some delicates and decided it might be even better to add a little vinegar. OMG, had to dump the whole thing out (*whimper* at wasting my Dr. Bronner’s). The water didn’t suds and my hands felt icky sticky, kept washing my hands trying to get it off. Agree, never add Vinegar to it.

  8. I’ve been using Dr. Bonner’s for years, and love the peppermint kind. It’s great as a body soap and helps wake me up. I also use it when I wash out my cat’s litter box! Leaves it nice and clean and no need for harsh detergents.

  9. I used to wash my dog with Bronners and it really did work great. It didn’t cause any skin irritations, washed her clean and because of the natural properties of Bronner’s, it retained many of the natural oils of her coat. I WOULD worry about getting it in her eyes, because that stuff stings.

    I also wash my truck in it and it does a great job, keeps her nice and shiny.

  10. Drawingdami

    I second household cleaning too. The Peppermint and Lavender especially–both of those mixed with lots of water, and and extra drops (5) of the essential oil if you choose, will help keep pests at bay. An old apartment building I lived in was notorious for ants, roaches and mice. I mopped my floors and washed counter tops with this mixture and I never had one single pest. EVER.

    • TigerKim

      Thanks for the tip; I just got over a mice infestation in house and garage and now have to clean up and I want to steam clean my rugs also. I ordered 2 gallons of the peppermint and I am going to spray the vent/ducts with the soap and put filters in the vents sprayed with the soap The house will smell like a Peppermint Patty but it’s better than mice poop smell..

  11. I use it after bathing to clean the bathtub. It eliminates all soap scum and is all natural unlike some of the chemical cleaners. I also squirt some in the toilet along with some bleach to clean and frashen the pot. I had a dog with severe allergies to inhalation chemical cleaners and this worked perfectly.

  12. I have been using Bronner’s peppermint oil soap for yikes–40 years nearly everyday.  I once had (and probably have somewhere) a flyer with a story about two women meeting a divorce attorney-one very sad and other less so. The happier one suggested Dr Bronner’s peppermint soap because it tickles down below.   Does make one feel spanking clean and helped with feminine itch.

    • Dawniellewesterman

      i have made and use this recipe for toothpaste..while i need to add a bit more stevia I love it! now i will say…one time in the shower, i forgot to load up my brush first with my toothpaste…so i thought hey why not I will just us the dr bronners i cut with water and brush with that! BLECH! and it was almond scented  LOL!! the toothpaste recipe was great though!

  13. My husband and I handwash our dishes with it because it rinses clean and a little goes a long way. Our friends thought it was weird because they shower with it, but it does a great job in the shower, bath, and kitchen sink!

  14. Baltimorejones

    Thanks! I have tried it for many uses as well and died laughing when I read what happened to you during tooth brushing. My husband and I forgot our toothpaste on a recent trip and decided to wing it and use Dr. Bronner’s peppermint on our teeth. It actually tasted fine a the time because it was minty. Dear god the after taste though…just would not die. I shudder to recall a miserable two days with that barfy feeling defeating even my strongest coffee and gum. Also, I’ve tried it on my hair and it just makes a matted mess that even my conditioner can’t help me recover from. However, hand washing, body washing, face washing and shaving have all been magnificent. Thanks for testing the rest of these out so I don’t have to.

  15. Chekeshia Metoyer

    I just started using the soap and I love it. I passed it along to my 18 year old daughter and she says she feel refreshed after using the mint soap. We will probably only use this soap from now on.

  16. Vanessa

    I just started using Dr. Bronners and I love it. I used it to brush my teeth and surprisingly it wasn’t bad. It tasted like regular toothpaste without the sweetness. No after taste at all. My kids didn’t seem to mind it either.

  17. I first saw Dr. Bronner’s at Sprout and I thought it was crazy with all the writings that di dnot make sense to me so I put it back. A week later I went to amazon to find an organic soap and this product popped-up and read reviews for the next 5 days but I got it in Sprout for the reason I did not want to get stuck with a product I do not like. I have been using it as shampoo (very oily scalp/hair here) and I have to do it three times followed by conditioner for curly hair otherwise my hair would feel and looks like a mop. I notice though that my hair curls rather nicely now and I tried it for the dishes as well but did not like it that much so I am back to my dawn but will probably give it a try again. I just in fact finished shampooing our carpet and I put 2 caps of Dr. Bronners in the water tank. Did this twice nd rinse for 3 more times. Carpet feels very clean and my vacuum as well :D I will get the lavander, citrus for my hair and tea tree for my carpet but this time it will be from amazon.

  18. Jason

    This has become my go to for boating and camping. On the boat it works wonders for the fishy smell on my hands. Camping it does everything, washes my dishes, handsoap, deodorant, quick lake bath, and even teeth (ONE drop is plenty). And for the trips that I’m hiking in, having so many different uses means less weight in my pack.

  19. laura

    I must say I have never in my whole 42 years of life commented on a site before now…but I am STILL laughing so hard at some of your comments! LOVED this post!! Thank you so much for the wonderful information and true enjoyment of my belly laugh!! ;))

  20. Teasha

    So funny. When I read contraceptive douche, I thought oh NO she didn’t, I was happy to read that you didn’t, but it got me wondering…how many women did try it? I’m cringing. And what were the results? I just wanted to add that I seriously love this product, but I also do not have 18 uses for it. I’m cool with the few I have; body wash, face wash (tea tree), shaving, scrubbing floors, and I wash my dogs with it. I must warn others to dilute it before washing a pet, because you will be rinsing forever if you don’t. I have to try it as a shampoo!

  21. I’ve been using Dr Bonner’s Pepermint soap for about 20 years. I believe it has anti-bacterial properties, because whenever I have a cut or scrape and wash it promptly with DBPS it heals quickly with no infection. I also use it to make a soap spray for my plants. Works well against aphids and other soft body insects. Well worth the cost.

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