Fairy Liquid and other dish soaps have been commonly used to rid plants of bugs for many years, as it is a common household product so everyone has access to it, and it is inexpensive. However, does it get rid of harmful insects, and if it does, will it cause damage to the plants we spray it on?

You should not use Fairy Liquid on plants because it can damage them. The soap is effective at poisoning harmful garden insects, but can harm plants and beneficial insects as well. Abrasive chemicals in Fairy Liquid soap are toxic to leaves and will remove the protective layer from plant leaves.

While we should not use Fairy Liquid on plants, many continue with this harmful practice, unaware of the damage they are causing. The label on Fairy Liquid is misleading, which causes many gardeners to use this dish soap, unknowingly exposing their plants to toxic chemicals. To learn more about Fairy Liquid being used on plants, continue reading below.

Why Fairy Liquid is used on plants?

Fairy liquid is a remedy to rid plants of insects. It is inexpensive to purchase and fairly effective at its job. When Fairy Liquid comes into contact with a soft-bodied insect, the dish soap will get to work at killing the bug. The soap is especially successful if we apply directly it to the insect.

If you are looking to get rid of soft-bodied insects, then you may have considered using Fairy Liquid. Soft-bodied insects such as spider mites, aphids, and earwigs are susceptible to the damages caused by dish soap, more so than their hard-bodied counterparts. Dish soap is not strong enough to kill hard-bodied insects, so we cannot use Fairy Liquid for these kinds of bugs.

Ants farming aphids on my pepper plants
Ants farming aphids on my pepper plants

Although hard-bodied bugs are not as vulnerable to the effects of Fairy Liquid, they are not all immune. For instance, cockroaches and grasshoppers both have hard bodies and are not free of the dangers of dish soap.

Using any kind of liquid soap can help in getting rid of aphids. However, it can also damage the plant and is not recommended in a kitchen garden. The chemical in liquid soap can be dangerous when used on fruits and vegetables. Instead, it’s better to use natural pest repellents like neem oil, castor oil or chilli and garlic spray. – Karan Mahajan, Co-Founder, All That Grows

There are two different theories of how dish soap kills bugs. The first one is that Fairy Liquid inflicts death on insects by breaking down their skin.

This is a common theory and is most likely true. However, there is a second idea where the chemicals in the soap poison the nervous system, just as other insecticides do. Both these theories are likely true and interact with one another to kill the insect.

Such an insecticide is common and is used frequently by gardeners. After all, people have been using dish soap as their primary form of pest control for years.

Video provided by Eli from the YouTube channel “The Kitchen Garden with Eli and Kate

Does Fairy Liquid harm plants?

Fairy Liquid does harm plants. Because of the chemicals Fairy Liquid contains, it is toxic and damaging to plants. Fairy Liquid is considered to be a detergent, and the ingredients within detergents are nothing but harmful for leaves.

On the outside of a leaf is a waxy covering, known as hydroxy fatty acid. This layer, commonly called the cuticle, helps with water retention. So, as can be expected, the Fairy Liquid will slowly work at the cuticle until it is fully broken down. Once the cuticle is damaged enough, the plant will suffer and dehydrate from its lack of water.

A popular myth is that dish soap is okay to use on plants, but it is quite damaging. It removes the natural oils and waxes that all plants have on their leaves – these oils and waxes protect the leaves against disease. When the protective coating is removed, your plants are more susceptible to pests and pathogens. – Gena Lorainne, Gardening Expert, Fantastic Services

According to The Ecologist, the listed ingredients in Fairy Liquid are 15-30% Anionic surfactants, 5-15% Nonionic surfactants, Perfume, Geraniol, and Limonene. However, later on, it states that there are far more ingredients than what is listed on the bottle.

This is alarming to many, as they would have never expected that a label could be so misleading. Unfortunately, some of the non-mentioned ingredients are harmful to plants.

How to use Fairy Liquid on plants

While you should not use Fairy Liquid on plants because of the damage that it can inflict on plants, many people still wish to. This is because of its inexpensive price and effectiveness in killing soft-bodied insects. Because of the persistence of using Fairy liquid, you will want to know how to use it in the safest way possible.

The first way that you can safely use Fairy Liquid is by diluting it. Use soft water to reduce how strong the dish soap is, so that way the leaves will not be impacted as much.

The second method of safely using Fairy Liquid is by wiping off the dish soap immediately. After it has covered the bugs, you will want to remove the residue left behind from the soap. This way, the Fairy Liquid does not have as much time to work on the cuticle of the leaves.

What are some substitutes for Fairy Liquid?

The first substitute for Fairy Liquid is BioAdvanced Insecticide. You do not have to worry about the plants being harmed by this insecticide, as this product also acts as a fertilizer and improves the health of plants.

The second substitute for Fairy Liquid is PureCrop1 Organic Agriculture Concentrate. It is multi purpose and will satisfy all of your needs.

It will get rid of harmful insects but will not cause damage to beneficial garden insects. No toxic ingredients are in this product, as it is made with soybean oil, corn oil, filtered water, guar gum, glycerin, citric acid, soap, and vanillin.

The third substitute for Fairy Liquid is Garden Safe Multi-Purpose Garden Insect Killer. For being so inexpensive, this product sure is effective.

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