Murphy’s Oil Soap Users Anonymous

Murphy OilI admit it, I used to be a regular Murphy’s Oil Soap user.

Those commercials with the older ladies polishing the wooden pews and floors of that big ol’ church packed a powerful, underlying one-two message. Your mothers and grandmothers use Murphy’s Oil Soap religiously, and so should you! Or, how about this one: If it’s good enough for God’s house, it’s good enough for yours!

So I smiled when I came across a blog post written by a young professional woman who was in a cleaning frenzy for her parents’ impending arrival. The thought of her mom (the Queen of Clean) inspecting her new digs, had this woman reaching deep into her artillery of cleaning supplies to zap that dust, destroy those germs, and leave that tell-tale spit-and-polish look.

Murphy’s Oil Soap was one of her big guns.

In fact, don’t your mothers and many of your friends (and possibly you) all use Murphy’s Oil? It’s as ubiquitous as Windex. The problem, as I’ve learned since having my floors refinished, is that Murphy’s Oil leaves a residue buildup that eventually dulls the wood floor finish (as does Mop-n-Glow). Just the opposite of what its advertising would have us believe.

Here’s what the professional wood refinisher told me: To maintain finished wood floors use a neutral pH cleaner, like Bona, made specifically for this. (I’ve also checked out floor maintenance web sites for corroboration, and they all agree.) The general consensus of the pros is: If you don’t want to track down where to buy Bona, just use a glass-cleaning formula without Ammonia. Or a splash of white vinegar and a squirt of mild dish washing liquid in a bucket of water will do the trick if you make sure to dry the floor well after mopping.

Armed with this new information, I’ve kicked the Murphy’s Oil Soap habit. I invite you to join.

70 thoughts on “Murphy’s Oil Soap Users Anonymous”

  1. Oh man, I am so bummed, a couple of years ago my wife (and I occasionally) started to use Murphy’s oil to upkeep our teak table and chairs. I did NOT use it on my teak end tables/footrest and big relaxing chairs.
    As Teak needs oiling every couple of years, if not yearly, I thought this was a simple way to postpone that dreaded task. NEVER again, as I went to pressure wash the furniture, the untreated pieces cleaned up incredibly easy, re-oiled 2 coats and turned out beautiful (wish I could share a photo). Treated ones are a nightmare, my big table would not pressure clean, I had to sand off the finish, spent all day on just the table, now I have 4 intricate chairs to deal with. I am looking for a way to “strip” ii, any suggestions, – FYI, I tried paint thinner, lacquer thinner, soap, acetone – nothing is touching it. Honestly I am ready to just go buy new chairs rather than spend all week sanding chairs!

  2. I’ve tried numerous things to clean the walls of the dust but it seems like it’s ground in from the oil soap. Every advice would be wonderful.Jim

    I painted my bedroom closet if you years ago and sanded it first. After it sat for a little bit I noticed dust from the sanding all over my bedroom walls. I wash them with Murphy’s oil soap and that was two years ago. It seems the Murphy’s oil soap need It worse, I’ve tried numerous things to clean the walls of the dust but it seems like it’s ground in from the oil soap. Every advice would be wonderful.


    1. Well, that was not the best idea. Oil soap is for wood only. You can also use it on leather, as I t has oils in it. You definitely never want to use it on your walls. Try washing the walls down with a bucket of dish soap water. (dawn preferably)

  3. It seems that you forgot a step. Any type of “soap” has to be completely mopped off too, you can’t just let soapy water dry on anything without leaving haze behind.

  4. Many products have an seemingly high pH as sold in their concentrated form. What is important to the user is the pH of the finished cleaning solution. At the dilution rates I’ve seen mentioned in this thread, MOS should have little effect on the pH of the prepared cleaning solution.

    What’s probably more important to note is that municipal tap water is typically adjusted to a pH of 8.5 to 9.0 in order to decrease leaching of heavy metals as it moves through the distribution system.

  5. Please help!! Used Murphy’s oil soap to clean old frames, afterwards after washing my hands I have this STICKY feeling that won’t go away?!?! Is this normal? An how do I get it to GO AWAY???

  6. I use Murphys for everything!! It takes stains out of carpets & rugs. I have used it to remove grease & oil stains from my mechanic husband’s recliner, I even use it as a laundry booster when I wash his work clothes. I just put Murphys in a spray bottle with some water and spray, nothing has beaten us yet. It safe for painted or wallpapered walls. Team it up with a Mr Clean magic eraser and the results are endless.

  7. I used Murphys oil soap to clean my dining room table and it removed the finish. I don’t know what to do. I can see the difference of the finish when I use the leaf which is still shiny. Do I have to have my table top refinished?

  8. Hello, I have sworn by MOS for years and will probably keep using it for certain things. Thanks everybody for the various wisdom and information. This thread is quite educational!

    I am putting in my 2c here just on the topic of calling it “oil soap” — Google the word “saponification,” which is the name of a chemical process or reaction, and that is where the word soap comes from. [Don’t quote me on this please, google it yourself — Chemistry is not my strong suit!]

    The friend who taught me about this explained that soap made from coarser oils will clean, say, grease, and the finer “oil” soaps will clean off those coarser “cleaners.” That is why we use GOOP to get grease off, but have to wash with dish detergent after to get that off, and sometimes then hand soap. Technically, I guess it is the fat component of the oil that “saponifies” when combined with lye or whatever more modern materials are now used for the same process of soap-making.

    The same friend also explained: that principle is also the reason when our skin has been in contact with bleach, it feels slippery for a while and won’t “wash off” : The bleach has successfully saponified the natural oils on our skin, and turned it to a very fine soap.

    Again I am not a chemist, hopefully most of this is mostly accurate. :)

  9. My daughter was told to use it on her riding breeches that have leather patches. The company said just put it in the laundry machine. Kind of scary,
    I have always used it on wooden furniture and love it.

  10. I have never used MOS for floors, I have used it for clothing. My mother and my grand mother before all used it to take out any stain. And it really does work. I don’t think that I will be using it for my hard wood floors any time soon.

  11. I discovered MOS in college when cleaning my student housing apartment that had gray layers of grease and dust from many years-on cabinets, wooden furniture, and metal blinds. It cut the grime and made everything sparkle. Fast forward many years. I had been using a spray and mop wood floor cleaner that smelled ‘good’ like orange and was quick and easy. My cat kept getting sick and vomiting within the week, after I cleaned and mopped. It took a few times to put the two together and as I have gone back to MOS for mopping and then rinsing afterwards, she has not gotten sick from the chemicals since. Thanks for all the informative posts here at this site.

  12. The palm of my hand has been swollen and sore for weeks. The doctor suggested it was from an imbedded foreign body. My sister said I should soak my hand in warm water with MOS. My pharmacist had no comment. Has anyone ever heard of this? My only option is surgery & I would love to avoid that!

  13. For those of you using Murphy oil soap on your floors that are now “dull ” how long did it take, do you oil /mosturize your floor at all, and are you mixing the Murphy and water to mop? I haven’t had a hardwood floor before and am now renting a house that has it. I use Dr. Bronner castile soap for general cleannig and want to know what to use for the wood floor.

  14. Adding vinegar to Muphy’s should have the exact same effect as adding it to dish soap. Mixing an acid and a base will result in a neutral product One site suggest doing two washes. First alkaline, second acid. Alkalike to remove gunk, acid to rinse it away.

      1. Craig, not sure where you’re getting your info on this, but vinegar is between 2.5-3.0 on the pH scale, putting it squarely in the acidic range. Raw ACV is the only vinegar that is alkaline-forming to the body when ingested, but it is still an acid.

    1. Mixing vinegar with a castile soap like Bronners or Murphys reduces the soap to oil. This will only result in making your dirty oily and spreading it around. It does not have the same effect on detergents. Detergents, like dish soaps, are synthetic compounds that contain no oils.

  15. I definitely agree with you Honey. I’ve been using Murphys oil soap too..But I really don’t like the smell of it very disgusting.

  16. As a professional house cleaner for 24 years, I used Murphys oil soap on everything.
    When using it to mop the wood floors, I always buffed it afterwards and they glowed.
    It leaves a residue similar to putting on a thin coat of wax and polishes out the same way. I used a thick rag and just scooted all around the floor until it was a deep shine.
    When I read about people being told it built up a residue I knew why. It needs to be buffed. Try it and you will love what it does.

  17. Used Murphy oil soap for years. In the last few years have gotten some wood items including furniture. About 3 years ago noticed that the finish on several wood items were fading. None of these items were in sunlight so uv wasn’t the cause. I talked to a woodworking friend of mine about it. When he found out I used it, I thought he was going to hit the roof. He said of all people I should know better. The funny thing is in college we had all these wood cabinets in the lab and we never allowed to use Murphy’s oil soap to clean them. We always Scott’s liquid gold, now I understand why. Murphy has many good uses but I would never use it on wood or vinyl. So I no longer use it at all. I use more natural cleaners but for my wood I use what I learned in college, Scott’s liquid gold.

  18. Just repurchased Murphy Oil Soap and can’t wait to try some of the other uses as suggested in this thread like cleaning my ring! Thanks for all the neat ideas.

  19. I have used MOS on my wood kitchen floor since it was installed in 2001. Floor still looks good.
    I think this is a battle for the profits. MOS says it works and does not leave a residue. Bona says it doesn’t and does leave a residue. Who to believe? Try both and see which you prefer.

      1. Karen I use it on vegetable tanned leather both as a casing solution for tooling, (10% Murphy’s to 90% water), and as a cleaner at 50/50, after the tooling is done. This is done before I dye or paint the leather. I then let the leather dry before I dye it. I have never had any residue show up on the leather where as isopropyl alcohol mixed into a dye tohelp the dye go deeper always leaves a residue so I know what to look for in that regard. I also use it to help with burnishing the edges of my projects.

  20. I originally bought it to wipe down an old china closet I wanted to get rid of, so I diluted it in a plastic bowl filled with water. I went to wipe it down and it appeared to look even worse then when I started, after a couple times it’s shiny enough that I won’t be embarrassed to sell it. Needless to say I’ve been on cleaning overdrive! I wanted to see what it would do to the wall going upstairs, lets just say OMG if it wasn’t almost midnight, i’d be cleaning the whole stairwell. I love this stuff

  21. I grew up washing everything with MOS–wood, leather, tile, dogs, cars, babies, hair (followed by a white vinegar rinse). It’s important to dilute and rinse away residue no matter what you are cleaning. As for weird alternate uses: lots of artists use MOS as a release agent when making molds, free-style skiers use MOS to lubricate the ramp for off-season practice, and best of all–ask your local zoo what they use to clean the elephants! I love MOS–smells like home to me.

      1. Hi I personally have used it to treat head lice on my niece. Only had to wash her hair 1 time and not only were the adults killed but all the eggs were gone and did not return all on the first go. I washed my own hair with it at the same time as a preventative and luckily it worked.

  22. I use MOS to clean the interior of my car. I read it in a magazine a few years ago and tried it because armor all just doesn’t remove dirt stain and spilled soda and juice stains from my toddler. It worked so well that I’ve never touched a bottle of Armor All ever again! My car is a few years old now and each time I clean it, it looks like new. I’ve used it to clean the outside as well and it’s great for that too!

  23. For Maria w/ the Boston Terrier: I have a Boston and Frenchie. I would check your dog’s diet. Wheat, corn, soy and chicken/meat by-products do not agree with their sensitive stomachs. And are majority ingredients that dogs develop food allergies to. My dogs do great with BEFORE GRAINS brand food. The sweet potato and fish is what the eat. Read the labels and avoid brands with those ingredients. EDA Pil supplement and Bendadryl will help too. Good luck.

  24. I have a Boston Terrier with skin problems (rash) I was told to use MOS on her not sure if I will or not would have to make her condition worse . Would like to hear more from people who use it on thier dogs any adverse reactions.

  25. The old bottles of Murphy Oil Soap stated it could be used to clean leather as well as vinyl. The new bottles only list vinyl. Why not for leather any more?

  26. I’ve used Murphy’s Oil Soap on my 13 year old Chihuahua’s for over 11 years. They have the most beautiful coats and smell wonderful. I bathe them about 2 times a month. Even my Vet. remarks how great they look and smell. They have no fleas. Also, it does not lather so is easy to rinse and does not burn their eyes. I swear by it and will use nothing else on them…I started using it when one of the Chihuahua’s starting have skin problems…That’s all I use on them.

  27. Bob, According to Poison Control, the PH of MOS is 10. It is important to well dilute MOS before using it on an animal, but more importantly is thoroughly rinsing.

    I usually rinse the dogs two days in a row, especially if they seem itchy.

    Regarding wood, MOS is designed to remove waxy buildups. If wood appears “dull” after use of MOS, then I simply apply wax and buff. Contrary to myth, the finish is not “dull” because of build up from use.

  28. There are a ton of people who recommend using Murphy’s Oil Soap on dogs (or cats) as shampoos, there’s even one Humane society that suggests on their website.


    Dog and cat skin is near the middle (pH 7) on the scale of acidity-alkalinity. Murphy’s Oil Soap is, according to that product’s website, 11.0 on the pH scale which is very much toward the more extreme alkaline direction (most extreme alkaline= 14, most extreme acid = 1).

    Since the pH scale is logarithmic, a pH of 8.0 is ten times that of ph 7, a pH of 9.0 is 100 times more alkaline (toward the direction of lye) than 7.0, a pH of 10 is 1,000 times more alkaline than a pH of 7, etc.

    For shampooing animals and assuring safety to their skins, use a shampoo with a pH especially formulated for them.

  29. Jackie, your my hero! MOS is COMPLETELY non-toxic, safe, and one of the few true soaps on the market. The fact is that it starts out as a vegetable oil and is converted to a soap in much the same way as all TRUE soaps are. Vegetable oils are fat molecules (yes plants create fat molecules too, take a look at the nutritional label on a can of corn or any other labeled grain, nut, seed, legume, etc). When the fat molecule is treated with potassium hydroxide (lye, caustic agent, Low pH = all the same thing) it is hydrolyzed and yields alkali salts of fatty acids (crude soap) and glycerol. All of the potassium hydroxide is used in reaction with the fat source. To make sure of this, the solution is supperfatted, meaning that more fat is added to the solution than can be reacted with the amount of potassium hydroxide. This leaves the solution at the same pH as the fat or oil that was started with (neutral pH of 7)

    The net effect is that when this soap is mixed with water it acts as an anionic surfactant. Soaps are useful for cleaning because soap molecules have both a hydrophilic end, which dissolves in water, as well as a hydrophobic end, which is able to dissolve nonpolar grease molecules. Although grease will normally adhere to skin or clothing, the soap molecules can form micelles which surround the grease particles and allow them to be dissolved in water. Applied to a soiled surface, soapy water effectively holds particles in colloidal suspension so it can be rinsed off with clean water. The hydrophobic portion (made up of a long hydrocarbon chain) dissolves dirt and oils, while the ionic end dissolves in water. Therefore, it allows water to remove normally-insoluble matter by emulsification. In other words, while normally oil and water do not mix, the addition of soap allows oils to dissolve in water, allowing them to be rinsed away.

    Soap has been made this way for litterally thousands of years with both animal fats (rendered lamb, goat, beef, pork, etc.) and vegetable fats (olive oil, coconut, palm, cocoa, hemp, flax, shea, etc.). The old source of potassium hydroxide as a source of lye was called potash which refers to the ashes left after burning wood. This is where the chemical name potassium comes from. This process was probably the first true intentional chemical reaction performed by “chemists”. Ever wonder why the english still say they are going to the chemist when they mean they are going to a pharmacy? The “chemist” was the only place to get soap and other health and beauty products in the middle ages. Also why pharmacies still carry all that stuff in addition to pharmaceuticals.

    Now, I know this was a long comment, but here is the point. Murphy’s Oil Soap is as gentle and as natural a product as you are ever going to use as a cleaner for anything. It has a neutral pH, is about 98% organic, 100% non-toxic (although your stomach will refuse to accept it and cause you to vomit), and the human population has been exposed to this, and other natural formulations of soap, for thousands of years. I have gone through this effort to explain the nature of MOS because there are so many uninformed people on the internet.

    Here one item of clarification that always drives me crazy. Murphys Oil Soap is completely safe to bathe your dog with, and is recommended by many vets. It is safe to the pet yet a natural flee killer because of its surfactant properties. It suffocates the flees, ticks, mites, and any other insect that breathes with “book lungs”. It cleans away old oil from the skin that dries on the hair follicle without drying out the skin. Many dogs that have problems with itchy skin from pests or dry skin will scratch to the point of creating bare patches with no hair. This is a great product to solve many problems for most dog owners that isn’t some 30 dollar bottle of “special dog shampoo” sold to you by a crooked vet trying to take your money. This “special shampoo” is more often than not a natural soap, just like MOS. Natural soaps are safer and less likely to cause dry skin than modern shampoos and so called modern soaps which are nothing more than chemical detergents. If someone wanted to bath with MOS it would do your own skin a favor over the normal body washes and bar soaps commonly sold for human use. However, the smell is a little pungent. If you want to know how MOS is to your dogs skin try bathing with Castile soap or Marseille soap. These are a couple of the very few traditional soaps still hand made today. They are made the same way they have been made for more than a thousand years. They are expensive, but give them a try some time and you will FEEL the difference in your skin!

    1. TL,DR – There’s nothing special about pet hair, the same mild shampoos suitable for humans can be used. However, something with flea/tick remediation in mind can be good for pets that spend any time outdoors.

  30. try this for houseplants suffering from powdery mildew:

    750ml Water
    ~1 tsp Murphy’s Oil soap (a bit less than 1tsp)
    2.5 tsp Baking Soda

    combine in a spray bottle, shake, and give a light misting to foliage twice or three times a week. should clear up the powdery mildew in a few weeks. Hasn’t harmed my rosemary bonsai yet.

  31. Hey!
    Has anyone heard about using Murphy Oil Soap (original) to wash your dogs? A friend at work told me that the vet told him to wash his female pit bull with Murphy Oil Soap to alleviate her skin condition. I have never heard of this…and can this be safe?

  32. Jackie — LOL! Now that’s as talented a back-handed compliment as I’ve ever been given! There’s always room for disagreement here — as long as it’s done with a respectful tone. I’m happy for you that you’ve found a product you feel so passionate about.

  33. Thank – you, thank-you, thank-you “MOM WITH DOGS” for providing a vehicle for the continuation of the truth about Murphys! I am very appreciative of the intelligent people who have blogged on this site with actual true statements about Murphys…….not the propaganda/urban myth that you are passing along. Murphy’s always has been and always will be the best!!!! I especially respect the intelligent responses of #15 Martha; #13 Jim Alix; and #11 Tonya!!! Sharon, get a grip.

  34. Potassium hydroxide is used to adujust pH. The pH of MOS is probably neutral (about 7) The scarey qualities of straight Potassium hydroxide are related to the very very high pH. When in a neutral pH environment you have Potassium (found in bananas) and hydrogen hydroxide also know as water. Chemical souding names can be scarey if you don’t know what thay mean. Look up acetic acid that’s scary too. vinegar is a %6 solution of acetic acid.

  35. Check out this website for more information on Murphy’s Oil Soap. I’ve used MOS all my life, too, and so did my mom. But if you read my blog at, you’ll find that one of the ingredients in MOS, potassium hydroxide, is used to remove warts. It has some other pretty scary uses too.

    From now on, it’s vinegar and lemon juice for me!

    (BTW: Why do we all call it Murphy’s when Colgate calls it Murphy?)

  36. Message to Laura, please note. Murphy Oil Soap does not contain oil (I know, what’s in the name – right). During the blending/manufacturing process the natural vegetable oil (from the Flax plant) is converted into a simple soap. Thus, no oil is remaining in the product you buy.

    Here’s a simple test for you at home. Try mixing any oil with water. You will see they do not mix. Next, try mixing Murphy Oil soap with water (hot or cold). You will see that they mix perfectly well.

  37. My I suggest you visit the Murphy Oil Soap website. You will find a wealth of information regarding Murphy Oil Soap usage. In addtion, you will find independent testing documentation regarding the use of Murphy Oil Soap on wood flooring. Bottom line, Murphy Oil Soap is a gentle cleaner which is safe for cleaning sealed wood surfaces (such as wood flooring, cabinets, counters, walls etc.

  38. Hi,
    I read all the comments on here about Murphy’s Wood Oil Soap. I have been using it for the last 13 years on my hardwood foyer floor and my ceramic kitchen floor. My hardwood foyer shines and still looks as beautiful as it did when we built our house 13 years ago. I put a capful in a gallon of hot tap water to mop. I wring the mop out really well. I have no problems with it. Have a great day!

  39. Other uses? we go. I was cleaning my vinyl tile floor with Murphy’s Oil soap (which I also use on furniture, woodwork and laundry with NO problems). Forgot to put on gloves, but kept scrubbing anyhow. Only thing is, I had a small wart starting on my finger, and guess what? After more wart! I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve recommended it to others, and it’s worked for them to.

  40. Googling Murphy’s Oil Soap, I have come across diatribes against its use. I’m not sure all the accusations are well founded. Is this an urban myth? I started searching because the custodian where I work told me he used it to clean the glass surfaces in our office – I had asked how it got them to shine so beautifully. I tried it at home because Windex just doesn’t cut the dog slobber that accumulates on my windows. I tried MOS and they do sparkle! If this soap is so notorious for leaving an oily residue, how can it clean windows so brilliantly?
    Confused in Peoria.

  41. Speaking as one of the “Church Ladies”, everyone in my church thought the intricate woodwork in the Chapel of Our Lady was supposed to be black until two parishioners cleaned it with Murphy’s Oil Soap [and lots of toothbrushes and elbow grease]. Lo and behold, the “supposed to be black” was incense, grease, and big city dirt accumulated over the past eighty years. The wood underneath was rich, golden oak. To coin the phrase, the dirt was finished, but the finish was fine.

    A parishioner friend of mine was braced to paint his T.V. room, kitchen and living room walls until he washed them down with Murphy’s Oil Soap as part of the prep work and realized the walls looked newly painted. No grease, no cigarette smoke, no nothin’. Just walls that looked newly painted.

  42. Lynnette, just went for a little spin around Google and found an artist who mixes equal parts Murphy’s with water to soak brushes, before washing them out with Ivory soap.

    One guy uses it as a pipe lubricant.

    Lots of folks use it as a general purpose cleaner for washing countertops and walls.

    One lady uses it as a pre-spot remover for her wash.

    Now that’s some versatility.

    Anybody else have other uses?

  43. I once asked a jeweler for the best thing to clean the diamonds in my wedding ring. The first words out of his mouth were: Murphy’s Oil Soap!

    He said to combine a teaspoon or so of Murphy’s Oil Soap with a bit of very HOT water in a small glass and use a toothbrush to get into the tight spots.

    Afterwards, I always rinse the ring thoroughly with hot water.

    I’ve been doing this for years now… It always makes my ring look like new again!

    Anyone else use Murphy’s Oil Soap for anything other than floors???

      1. According to the MSDS of original Murphy’s Oil Soap Liquid, the active ingredient is sodium hydroxide, which is a base…odd, I wasn’t expecting it to be lye…which explains the dulling of the wood floors….

        1. There is also a potassium hydroxide formulation which is not the “original” which lists its pH as 11.0 ± 0.6 (1% Solution). Hope this helps!

      2. The pH of Murphy’s oil soap is 11-12. I know this because my new floors have a coating on them thanks to a misinformed cleaner hired by my contractor. The ONLY thing that will remove it is a 50/50 solution of water to vinegar & a LOT of scrubbing with a magic eraser. We found out the pH & solution to the issue by contacting Murphy’s directly!!!! How in the world can they continue to advertise as a wood floor cleaner is beyond me?!!!!

  44. I’ve learned to consider the furry paws on the floor as a way to add patina to the floor. My antique books tell me never to remove the patina of aging. Which is my excuse not to clean floors often and I’m sticking to it.

    I’ve always suspected that anything called “soap” was going to leave a soap scum. Thanks for confirming.

  45. How funny.. when we bought our house, the previous owner told us to clean the floor with Windex… I used Murphys.. and my floors ARE dull…

    I’ve since switched to the Hoover Floor Mate with the Old English stuff… but I think I’ll give them a once over with some ammonia..

    of course, they could be dull because of the three huge thunderous beasts that live in my house!

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