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 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.


    • 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. :)


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