I just spent a year of trying various eco-friendly dish soaps to wondering if eco-friendly soaps were any better for the environment than conventional soaps.  After all this research and number crunching, I still haven’t figured out a way to please my pocketbook and the planet.  With even the SDA claiming that there is no environmental advantage to using “eco-friendly” soaps, perhaps the best solution is to stick with a concentrated conventional liquid that will keep some plastic bottles out of the recycling bin.

But what if you want to use something more natural, less toxic, unscented, or just . . . less mainstream?  Here are a few more alternatives to liquid dish soap:

Use bar soap.  Life Less Plastic has a post about using Dr. Bronner’s bar soap instead of dish soap, thus avoiding plastic packaging.

What about Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap?  I didn’t try it because it seemed to cost more than any other “eco-friendly” soap out there, even in large quantities.  A gallon of it costs $39.99 on Amazon.com.  That’s $.31 an ounce!  So 25 ounces of it would cost $7.81-almost twice as much as other eco-friendly soaps.  If it’s truly super-concentrated, perhaps it ends up being cheaper than other soaps on the market, but I have my doubts.  After all, every brand I tried claimed to be super-concentrated.

Use baking soda and vinegar.  My husband was aghast at my admission that I washed an entire sink full of dishes with baking soda.  He said it just can’t be done.  (Note: my husband is not a scientist, but he did take organic chemistry once.)  Based on my reading, when baking soda mingles with grease, it has a saponifying effect–that is, it turns to soap and dissolves the grease.   

It seemed to work.  I put some baking soda in a bowl, added a bit of water to form a paste, and scrubbed my dishes with the paste.  Then I rinsed all the dishes and put them in the rack to dry.  They dried with a powdery glaze on them, so I then tossed them all in another basin of water with a little bit of soap. 

  • Pros: The dishes came out cleaner and shinier than ever, so the baking soda/tiny bit of dish soap combo worked even better than plain dish soap. 
  • Cons: I used about twice as much water and spent about twice as much time washing my dishes.  I may continue experimenting with this method.  Supposedly if I combine the baking soda scrub with a vinegar rinse, my dishes will come out nice and clean.

Make your own dish soap.  In the comments section of our Eileen’s Pet Peeves post, Eileen posted a recipe for dish soap she found from the book Homemade, published by Reader’s Digest.

Homemade Dish Soap Recipe           

1/4 cup soap flakes
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/4 cup glycerin
1/2 teaspoon lemon oil

Make the soap flakes by grating a bar of ivory with a cheese grater. Pour soap flakes into hot water. Stir until dissolved. let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in glycerin and lemon oil. A loose gel will form as it cools. Use a fork to break up any congealed parts and put it in a squirt bottle.

Eileen goes on to explain that you used to be able to find soap flakes in the store, but now they’re hard to find, so you have to make your own with a natural bar of soap.

And here’s a whole slew of green cleaner recipes, including dish soap, on Oregonmetro.gov.

Have you found a way to avoid dish soap entirely, allowing you to stop contributing to the production and disposal of all those plastic bottles?  Let us know!

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