Oh, Deer…(Deterrent)!

irish spring soap, deer deterrent, soap in garden, wildlife deterent via DustandDoghair.com

With a new hosta garden nearly completed (more on that later), we wanted to keep our latest plantings from becoming a wildlife salad bar.

I’ve found a lot of great tips on Pinterest and elsewhere about using Irish Spring soap as a deer deterrent. We’ve been using it the for past few years and I have to say, I believe!

Not that it lasts all summer, or that it will work for everyone, but each of the previous years when we’ve had hostas and didn’t use this approach, we went to bed with beautiful foliage, and woke up to lonely leaf stems. Once we added the soap, the leaves lasted the summer.

And maybe it’s not all Bambi’s fault…we think Thumper was in on it, too.

So…here’s our version of that solution:

We started buying our bars at the local dollar-type store, but found it a better value to buy the 12-packs from the local supermarket. (And you coupon divas can get them at an even better value, I’m sure.)

The soap is a little soft and over the past few summers I’ve used different methods: chunking it with knives, cutting thin slices, and grating it with a cheese slicer. Now, we just bring out the food processor with it’s shredder attachment and get ‘er done. I like to do at least two packages at a time, so I have a supply to last a while.

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One 12-pack loosely fills my processor bowl three times. How far it goes depends on the size of your garden… I used about four shredded bars to cover 30+ new hosta plants; sprinkling around and inside the plants. I’ll give it another sprinkling about two to three weeks later.

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I’m hoping over time, the soap leaches into the soil, is absorbed by the roots and the plant begins to taste soapy…though I have no idea about the discerning palate of animals or whether that would even matter. The green color isn’t very noticeable from a distance…and will fade fairly quickly.

I used to just put the soap at the base of the plants, but these new plantings have wide spreads and are pretty far away from the house, so I would just rather leave a sign that says in animal-speak that the bar is closed.

Using an entire bar of soap is an interesting thought, and may pack a powerful smell/punch to keep the animals at bay, but I have too much space to cover and I think the shreds give us a better value. When we have heavy rains I give the areas a light dusting just to revive the scent.

So far…works great in the garden…and don’t forget your pots and planters. Single-serve salads need protection, too!

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(Cleaning tip: adding vinegar to the dish detergent seems to break down the oily residue that you won’t want to taste when you’re using the processor later in the year to make cranberry orange relish. Or if you have the storage space and/or a garage sale find…maybe you can use a garden-dedicated processor for this and other non-food uses.)

Deer Repellent



I called a local cooperative extension to clarify.

The helpful person noted that she also uses soap to protect her own plants with success…but thought that “excessive” use over a period of 10 years might have some effect. She did not think it was harmful to the plants.

There is only one commercially available product they recommend for edible plants (which is, ironically, soap based) although I looked it up and found it had been discontinued.  FYI, they found in a study that products using a rotten-egg base lasted the longest and was the most effective.


Good info…but I think I’m sticking to the soap shreds for now. 🙂