A few months ago, I changed the way I wash dishes and started composting my dishwater. I’ve always done it with cooking water (from straining pasta, beans, grains, potatoes, hardboiled eggs, etc.) and my plants love me more for it, but just started with dishes and right away looked into making a soap that was compostable too. My new method is simple..I keep a large bowl in the sink to wash the dishes in and a 5 gallon bucket in the cabinet beneath the sink. I rinse the dishes immediately after using (and therefore don’t use soap 90% of the time, only when meats involved or, more frequently, when something is oily), then empty the bowl into the 5 gallon bucket and later empty that in the compost pile, or the front lawn, every other day or so. The compost pile is happier (well, lately it hasn’t noticed my assistance with all this rain) and overall I’ve used a lot less water to wash dishes now that I’m so conscious of it (and have to lug it outside). The waste from this homemade dish soap is so minimal and recyclable. The bar soap, wrapped only in paper, makes 6 bottles worth and the other two ingredients will last years (or hundreds of bottles).
The ingredients of this soap are: water, super washing soda, borax, castile soap (organic coconut, organic palm & olive oils, water, organic jojoba oil, sodium hydroxide, organic tea tree oil, citric acid, vitamin E) and, with it being as diluted as it is, are all things I’m very comfortable pouring into my compost pile. Super Washing Soda/sodium carbonate (similar to baking soda but much more alkaline, historically it was extracted from the ashes of plants growing in sodium rich soils and kelp) is commonly used as a laundry detergent, in swimming pools and as pest control in gardens. Castile soap is also used in gardens as an all-purpose fungicide and insecticide that isn’t damaging to the environment. Borax I’m not worried about coming into contact with my soil at all because I drink it regularly. It’s by far the most interesting of the ingredients because there’s been a lot of efforts to keep this labeled as poison and outlawed worldwide because it’s too useful and would cause a huge shift in the global economy. Boron deficiency is a leading cause of bone loss, tooth decay, osteoporosis and arthritis. We are becoming more and more deficient in it due to commercial agriculture’s dependency on fertilizers. When an Australian doctor, Dr. Newnham, started curing people’s arthritis by supplementing with borax in the 80’s, the Australian government health committees responded by declaring boron and its compounds to be poisonous and fined the doctor $1,000 for selling it. Why’d they do it? Because it’s too cheap and too successful for big pharma to make money off of. If word got out and people stopped being told it was poison, what would happen to the annual 19 billion dollar arthritis industry? Borax prevents and treats osteoporosis yet 55% of people over the age of 50 have it and the industry is expected to reach 16 billion dollars by 2025. Borax is more effective than most store bought household cleaners and can be used for pest control, laundry, dishes, all purpose sprays, odor control, washing windows, shampoo/body wash. What would happen to the 147 billion dollar household cleaning products industry if people knew they could do all that with one ~$4 box per year? Not to mention the antifungal drug market, the dental industry, hormone replacement therapy and even the cancer industry could all be massively affected by this one simple, inexpensive, naturally occurring mineral.
Anyways, now back to the soap! For more reading on the borax conspiracy, I highly recommend you go here. Fuck the FDA.
This dish soap is less than 50 cents a bottle and is great at getting dishes clean. The consistency is a little thicker than traditional dish soap, which I like as I feel like it stays on the washcloth better, but if you don’t just add a bit more water. It won’t suds up like the stuff you’re used to but that isn’t an indicator of anything. I’d definitely add some essential oils to it, like geranium or lemon, to make the not so fun experience of washing dishes a little more enjoyable. I use Dr. Bronner’s castile soap with tea tree oil because the ingredients are reaaaaal nice (other than the palm oil, but I was assured its very sustainably sourced).
Other suggestions I have regarding creating less waste while washing dishes is to use washcloths vs sponges. My mom always bemoaned sponges while growing up, so it’s not a product I ever think of or consider, but I see that most of my friends buy sponges and it’s just, I don’t know, weird to me and pretty obviously lacks common sense. You can buy a 5 pack of washcloths for ~$3 that will last you years and years or spend that same $3 on a sponge and need to replace it in, what, a week? a month? Not only are sponge made of plastic, and generally come wrapped in extraneous plastic, but they also contain Triclosan, registered as a pesticide, which is linked to liver and thyroid problems and is terrible for marine life as sewage/waste water treatment plants can’t remove it. Not only does a year’s worth of discarded sponges from one household take up landfill space for upwards of 52,000 years, Triclosan is now one of the most common man-made chemicals found in streams.
Other than a washcloth, I also have a nylon bottle brush and a nylon palm brush. I used to grab the bottle brush for whatever dish washing needed to be done whenever it was the closest thing, resulting in it getting covered with sticky dough that was impossible to remove then, soonafter, food particles and needed to be replaced frequently. Now I use it strictly for bottles/jars that have already been sufficiently rinsed, so it never comes into contact with solids, and I also make sure it’s hanging so that it dries out completely after every use. I’ve had the same one since the beginning of the year, it still looks brand new and I can’t imagine throwing it away, like, ever. The nylon palm brush I only use dry on cast iron skillets and, again, just do my best to make it last as long as possible. When you’re actively conscious of these things, it really is amazing how much progress you can make with such small, seemingly obvious changes. Everything helps.
If you don’t want to make your own dish soap but still want to produce less waste, I’d suggest buying something like Basic H2 (Amazon link) since the 16 ounce bottle of concentrate turns into ~48 gallons of cleaning product. It has less ideal ingredients than my homemade version, but it’s still pretty great as it saves tons of plastic and money.
(makes one 16 oz bottle)
2 cups water
3 tbsp grated castile bar soap
1 tbsp super washing soda
1 tbsp borax
also needed – one 16 oz squirt bottle
optional – essential oils of choice (10-15 drops)
In a pot over medium heat, dissolve the soap into the 2 cups water. Once completely melted, remove from heat and stir in the washing soda and borax. Let cool completely (I put mine in the fridge for ~1 hour) then stir in the essential oils if using. Decant into your bottle.