Insecticidal Soap vs Neem Oil Spray

Last Updated on January 17, 2022 by Grow with Bovees

As a person with a love for plants and gardening, we are sure that you have most likely heard of neem oil for plants and insecticidal soap.

Both are commonly used to fight off damaging pests and disease that have taken a liking to your plants. They are a great substitute for synthetic pesticides.

But what are the differences? Is one better than the other? And what pests are these solutions used for?

These are some of the more frequently asked questions when it comes to neem oil vs insecticidal soap.

In the article below, we will provide you with more information on the above asked questions and more.

What Is Neem Oil?

Neem oil is a powerful organic solution that is squeezed from the neem tree seeds and leaves of the so-called Azadirachta indica tree — also known as the neem tree. This tree is native to South Asia and parts of India where it is also considered to be a sacred tree.

The sacred belief of the A. indica tree derives from the fact that the oil is  a key ingredient used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine.

In the world of cultivation and gardening, neem oil is a commonly used foliar spray to fight off and control plant diseases and pests such as aphids, powdery mildew or spider mites. It is also great for disease prevention.

The reaction of neem oil differs from pest to pest. Some harmful insects will stop eating as neem oil causes them to simply lose their instinct to eat, so they eventually die.

Other pests are affected in such a way that they stop reproducing and laying eggs.

Fun Fact

Neem oil is also present in other commonly used household products, personal care products and toiletries. These include — but are not limited to — dog shampoo, soaps, toothpaste and range from cosmetics to insect repellents.

Making Spray Neem Oil For Plants at Home

Another frequently asked question is whether you can make neem oil based products in the comfort of your own home. The answer is, yes, you definitely can, and the good news is, you do not need much, and it is as easy as one, two, three.

If you wish to produce your own homemade neem oil spray, be sure to have three simple ingredients. These are neem oil, water and some sort of emulsifier or liquid soap — which is added in order to aid in the mixing of the oil and the water.

When buying good quality neem oil, make sure that it is crude/raw cold pressed neem oil which is 100% pure. Heat-derived oils, means that the concentration of azadirachtin is less, because high temperatures damage this active compound.

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Guide to Making Neem Oil Sprays

Continue on for a step-by-step guide on how to make a basic one liter 0.5% neem oil spray.

You Will Need

  • 1-2 ml — or a third of a teaspoon — of a mild detergent or mild liquid soap
  • 5 ml — or one teaspoon — of pure organic neem oil
  • 1 liter of luke warm water

Step 1

Add water and soap to a container or spray bottle and mix the two until the soap is properly dissolved into the water.

Step 2

Next, simply add the neem oil and shake the mixture again, until all three components are properly mixed together.

A neem oil spray concentration of 0.5-1% is the most common one used in gardening. If the strength of your neem oil mix is not effective, and you feel that your garden may need something stronger, try experimenting with the solution by increasing the concentration to 2%.

Do not forget to add some water when you increase the strength of your neem oil spray.

Do not apply neem oil in direct sunlight and be aware that too much neem oil can also kill a plant.

Advantages of Making Neem Oil Sprays at Home

There are, in fact, a couple of advantages when it comes to making your own neem oil spray.

Firstly, it will ten to one be a more potent solution than commercial neem oil products that are bought in the store and this is mainly because you decide and choose the type of good quality and pure neem oil you would like to use, as well as, choosing the quantity of neem oil you would like to mix into your spray.

High amounts of azadirachtin — the compound that kills pests — means more effective pest control.

Secondly, refraining from buying a commercial neem oil spray and rather opting for a pure organic one, also means that you will have less contamination in your solution.

Pollution with solvents and other chemicals often occurs during the process of neem oil production and this contamination may be harmful to your plant.

What Pests in Your Garden Are Affected by Neem Oil Sprays?

The application of the natural insecticide neem oil spray is very popular amongst organic growers. It is an excellent fungicide and bactericide. It also eradicates piercing insects, soft bodied insects, leaf-eating insects and parasitic nematodes found on plants with little to no impact on the beneficial insects that are found in gardens, and it is therefore much better to use than any commercial chemical pesticide.


Neem oil spray for plants is great to use on soft-bodied insect infestations or other small bugs on plants. Some examples are:

  • White flies,
  • Mealybugs,
  • Aphids
  • Thrips,
  • Spider mites,
  • Cabbage worms

Fungal Diseases

Neem oil spray for plants is also quite effective on fungal growth found in plants or other diseases on plants. Fungal diseases that can be treated using neem oil include:

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Which Plants Should You Not Use Neem Oil On?

Using neem oil spray to treat plants has been shown to have an effect on most species that suffer from pest infestations or diseases. This insecticide can be used on — among others — ornamental houseplants, vegetables, herbs, fruit trees and nuts.

Neem oil spray will, however, be less effective on shrubs that do not have smooth plant surfaces. This includes plants that have plant foliage with fuzzy surfaces, fur or needles where plant pests and other plant-feeding insects can crawl underneath and escape the insecticide. Plants that carry fuzzy leaves include most calathea plants.

When repotting or transplanting your greens, spraying neem oil should also be avoided. The insecticide could cause the foliage of a stressed plant to burn and become damaged.

What Is an Insecticidal Soap?

In today’s world, where less chemically-invasive organic gardening is growing in popularity, insecticidal soaps are the go-to product.

Soap sprays are, in fact, among the oldest insecticides used by gardeners back in the day.

They are produced with potassium salts that come from fatty acids and are used to control insect infestations and pest problems in plants.

Soap sprays are not damaging to the plant itself, but are good for controlling insects like aphids and mealy bugs.

There are several ways in which an insecticidal soap works when coming into contact with insects.

It can be effective by suffocating certain insects, but it can also break through the outer body of the pest or insect, causing them to leak bodily fluid which eventually results in them drying out.

How To Make Insecticidal Soap

Insecticidal soap spray can easily be made in the comfort of your own home. In fact, there are a few ways to make home-made solutions.

All you need to do is purchase the ingredients you want and need, mix them all together and voilà, your insecticidal spray is ready to be used on pest-infested plants.

What You Need

  • 240ml — or one cup — of oil. This can be any oil that you have on hand. You could, for example, use vegetable oil, corn oil or soybean or peanut oil.
  • 15ml — or one tablespoon — of any soap that is pure. Make sure that they do not contain compounds such as bleach or degreaser.
  • Luke warm clean water.

Now Let’s Mix to Make the Natural Insecticide

Making an insecticidal soap spray is similar to the method used when making neem oil spray.

Step One

Add to a spray bottle or container 240ml of the oil of your choice and then mix that with 15ml of soap that you choose to use. Thoroughly mix until both liquids are well combined.

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Step Two

Depending on the volume of soapy liquid you want, combine 10 ml (two teaspoons) of the prepared liquid solution with 240ml of lukewarm water. Mix well and use it directly on your plants that have the pest infestation.

Is Insecticidal Soap the Same As Liquid Dish Soap?

 To answer the question in the above title, no, dishwashing soap and insecticidal soap are not the same thing.

Like established above, insecticidal soap is organically produced using non-cytotoxic ingredients in order to safely be used on plants that need treating.

Liquid dish soap is often toxic to plants and was not developed for the purpose of using it on plants. They are able to damage plant bodies by dissolving and melting away the  natural plant oils and waxes that are formed for leaf protection. This in turn causes terrible leaf burn.

If you choose to use dishwashing liquid in the treatment of plant ailments, dilute the product and first test a few oil doses on a small part of the plant leaves before using it on your entire garden — this is to avoid a bunch of dead plants. Leave it on for 24 hours and see how the plant reacts to it.

Is Neem Oil More Effective Than an Insecticidal Soap?

I would not say that one product is more effective than the other. They are both organic products that are good at what they have to do. Therefore, I do not think that there is a preferred product.

Neem-based products might be considered the better product due to its function and that it is an all-in-one solution to get rid of common pests and plant problems.

Insecticidal soap, on the other hand, is also very effective in getting rid of common garden pests. It is also considered safer to use and lighter for the pocket. It is a great, non-toxic, useful product.

In the end, whether you want to use insecticidal soap vs neem oil is your decision to make. You need to figure out which one you prefer and which one works better for the plants that you are growing in your home.

If you are indecisive about which foliar spray to put your trust in, mix neem oil with soap. Mixing the two has been shown to improve the strength of the neem oils pest-killing power, making it an overall stronger solution.

In the end, it is a trial and error situation. Do not be afraid to experiment. Both are great to use if you want an organic garden.

Happy spraying!