J. L. Capinera, firstname.lastname@example.org, Department of Entomology and Nematology
O. N. Nesheim (retired)- Pesticide Coordinator
There have been several questions concerning the recommendation of soaps, detergents, and vegetable oils for pest control. Some persons are concerned about their liability in making such recommendations. Federal and state pesticide laws do not permit persons who have a financial interest in such materials to make pesticidal claims in connection with their sale or distribution unless the material is registered as a pesticide. Examples of persons having a financial interest are employees of the manufacturer of such products, employees of wholesale or retail establishments where such materials are sold, and pesticide applicators who make pest control claims for trade name materials in connection with pest control services they are selling to a customer. Persons making pest control claims for a material in connection with its sale can be charged with the sale and distribution of an unregistered pesticide.
Persons who use products not registered with EPA for any use not specifically recommended on the product label would be responsible for any phytotoxicity or chemical residues that may result.
A person at his/her own discretion can use soaps, detergents, and vegetable oils for pest control purposes. It is not illegal to recommend (or suggest) the use of these materials. These materials have been used for many years by gardeners and others for pest control. Popular literature contains many references to their use and effectiveness. Evaluations of these materials for pest control has been published, also.
The effectiveness of soaps, detergents, and oils is less consistent than with chemical pesticides. Our research base also is considerably weaker than with many chemicals. Therefore, we are more comfortable with "discussing" soaps, etc. as options, than with actually "recommending" these materials. Although some growers have been quite pleased with the results of soap and oil use, some have been disappointed. Also, plant varieties differ in their susceptibility to burning induced by soaps and oils, and environmental conditions, as well as micronutrients, fertilizers, and other additives may affect tendency to burn. At higher rates of application, (2%) burning and stunting are more likely.
When discussing soaps, detergents, and vegetable oils for pest control purposes, avoid recommending by brand name. Point out that there are registered products available that contain these materials, such as the Safer and Mycogen Soap products.