Insecticidal soaps: An eco-friendly method of pest control


Insecticidal soaps: An eco-friendly method of pest control, Most gardeners are good stewards of the land and attempt to control pests using tactics with minimal environmental impact.  Soaps control many targeted pests with fewer potential adverse effects to the user, beneficial insects and the environment compared to more traditional pesticides.

 What is insecticidal soap?

Soaps are made when the fatty acid portion of either plant or animal oils are joined with a strong alkali. They are potassium salts of fatty acids. Commercial products contain a blend of selected fatty acid chain lengths.

How do insecticidal soaps work?

Insecticidal soaps: An eco-friendly method of pest control Insecticidal soaps kill by suffocation, they appear to disrupt the cellular membranes of the insect, and they remove protective waxes that cover the insect, resulting in dehydration. There is no residual insecticidal activity once the spray application has dried.  Insecticidal soaps rapidly degrade and wash off of leaf surfaces. Insecticidal soaps are also an effective leaf wash to remove honeydew, sooty mold and other debris from leaves.

Benefits of insecticidal soap

Insecticidal soaps: An eco-friendly method of pest control Some soaps are labeled for suppression of powdery mildew on certain plants. Soaps have low toxicity to mammals. However, they can be mildly irritating to the skin or eyes. Insecticidal soaps are biodegradable, do not persist in the environment, and they do not contain any organic solvents.  Many formulations of insecticidal soap can be used on various food crops up to the day of harvest.

How to apply

Insecticidal soaps should be applied when conditions favor slow drying to maximize effectiveness, e.g., in the early morning hours with dew coverage or in the early evening. Avoid treating with soaps on hot sunny afternoons, which promote rapid drying. Thorough coverage is vital for the soap to be effective: Spray thoroughly, but not beyond the point of runoff. Repeat applications may also be needed as determined by follow up scouting.


Insecticidal soaps: An eco-friendly method of pest control.In general, soaps are effective tools in an integrated approach toward pest management if they are used properly with an understanding of their limitations and benefits. Chemical control should be used only after all other integrated pest management methods have failed. As with all pesticides, however, there are limitations and hazards associated with their use. Understand these limitations, and carefully follow all label instructions.

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