4 February 2017

How we clean the kitchen dishes

How we clean the kitchen dishes

When I first went plastic free in 2013, I had to learn of a new way to live. To be more precise, it was never a brand new way of living, rather adopting tried and tested behaviours that worked well for many centuries. These age old methods have been pushed aside for assumed convenience, that has led to devastating amounts of rubbish and waste. From the outside these new habits looked brand new, simply because it was different from the modern normal that everyone around me was living.
To achieve this new way of living without plastic, my success boiled down to questioning everything that I had been told is necessary. The necessary being the plastic packaged goods on supermarket shelves.

Questioning everything I had been told is necessary, pointed out rather quickly how much stuff I did not need. And my use of soap is probably a good example of how far in my journey I have come over the years.

Once upon a time both, myself and my husband used so many different types of soap. Shampoo, face cleansers, body wash, hand wash, foot scrub, surface cleaners, floor cleaner, bathroom cleaner…the list went on. Each one packaged in plastic, competing against each other, but all the same.

As we began shopping at a bulk store, we continued to buy into the need of having separate cleaners for everything. We purchased body wash, floor cleaner, surface cleaner, liquid soap etc in our own containers. The liquid soap was used to clean dishes by hand, went into dispensers in our bathroom too.

We then swapped to soap bars to clean our bodies, face and hair. Now I use a bar of soap for everything. Except shampoo, I can wash my hair just fine with water only.

Shortly after, we began using the same brand of bar soap to wash our dishes. I had been using liquid soap my whole life to clean dishes, that entertaining an idea of using only a bar of soap to clean my pots and pans felt very odd at first.

It has worked perfectly well, lasts far longer than the liquid soap and comes with less ingredients too. Liquid soap requires more ingredients to keep the soap as a liquid, with much of it being water. Storing blocks of soap is far easier, going into old socks, tucked away into our clothes draws.

A simple bar of soap. It’s nothing fancy, made using olive oil with a humble cost of $2.50 a bar. It’s vegan and locally made, with ingredients sourced from Victorian farmers.

We scrub the dishes clean with cotton cloth, cut from an old pair of cotton pants and use this agave scrub from Biome also. The agave scrub works well to get rid of baked on bits. But if i'm struggling, then bicarb or salt works perfectly in those situations. I'm trying to find a similar scrub made here in Australia, any tips?

How we clean the kitchen dishes
I don’t have bottle brushes, as we don’t use bottles for anything but water or tea. Our liquids are stored in jars, and we can reach our hands in there to clean them with our cleaning cloths. If the jar is too slim for the Builder, I can get in there to clean it with my tiny hands.

Each week the kitchen dish cloth and agave scrub cloth are tossed into the washing machine with everything else. After six months, the cloth goes into our compost while the agave scrub cloth will end up as a scouring rag, to help clean shower glass in the bathroom. Synthetic sponges and other weird liquid soap dispensing cleaning apparatus release synthetic micro fibres into our oceans and won’t break down in my compost the way cleaning cloths made of 100% natural fibres will. I love that each of my cleaning cloths will break down within three months and not sit around for thousands of years.

I have turned bar soap into liquid. It's easy, but we prefer the bar of soap. If you want to try making your own liquid soap from bar soap, here is the recipe I used:

HOMEMADE LIQUID SOAP RECIPE / Combine one and half litres of water with one bar of grated soap into a pot, and heat on the stove top. Stir the water and grated soap, until the soap has dissolved. Transfer the liquid to an old bottle and let sit over night. Pour into your chosen dispenser. Handy tip > If you are making this for the first time, before pouring into the bottle to set, pour into a bowl and make a judgement the next day if its too thick or not to your liking. It will be easier to get it out of bowl compared to bottle if its too thick. You want it to be a runny liquid.

How we clean the kitchen dishes








We continue to buy eco dishwashing powder for our dishwasher at the bulk store though. Over the years we have had conversations about the dishwasher – is it truly environmentally friendly? Do we need it? Is it cheaper? It's not used too often but enough for us to query its existence. After three years we pared back our cleaning to a simple bar of soap; perhaps selling the dishwasher will happen one day. Or maybe not with a child on the way. Only time will tell.

I’ll share the details later, on how we clean the house with a bar of soap. Right now, the sun is shinning, and I’m going to enjoy it.

How do you feel about dishwashers? Or do you do it all by hand? Are you like me and do half by hand, half for the dishwasher? I'd love to know if you wash your dishes with a soap bar too.
  1. We have a dishwasher and use it a lot, since we cook daily and bake every few days... we are lazy and couldn't live without it :P Although we also wash certain items like cooking knives or delicate pieces by hand.
    As I'm making all of our hair and body soap myself, I've been wanting to try and make a solid dishwashing soap for quite a while. Everytime I clean my soapmaking utensils (using only water, as they're already soapy) I'm amazed how well everything cleans up!
    How exactly do you use the bar of soap for washing your dishes? Simply grab a wet sponge towel and rub a few times across the bar to get soap on it?
    I think that some sort of soap pouch with grated soap in it could work great as well!

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    1. I am so daunted by the idea of making my own soap, that i can't help but congratulate anyone who does make it!! Good on you. I simply take the soap, rub it onto the cloth and swirl it around the water or put the bar in the water and rub it a few times.

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  2. Oh and regarding your agave scrub: I've read about people growing their own loofah!
    Im sure it would work well for doing the dishes too :)

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    1. My great grandmother used to grow and sell loofah's way back in the day. Hopefully it's in my genes ;)

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    2. Anonymous2/16/2017

      Hi Erin, I also came across some copper scrubbers for dish washing. I believe Biome sells them in packs of 2.

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    3. I'll check them out thanks

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  3. Bar soap for doing the dishes! Great idea. I'd been wondering what to do when the last of my liquid dishsoap runs out... now I know.

    Thanks for everything you do. I don't always comment, but I'm always interested in your experiments and progress.

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    1. Thanks Rebekah :) I'd love to know how you go when your liquid dish soap runs out.

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  4. Hi Erin, thanks for this post, again it is full of great info. I have recently converted to a cotton cloth for hand washing up, but I still use our dishwasher for the majority of it. I kind of love my dishwasher as I seem to be a messy cook and use too many bowls, spoons, pots and pans. Could you tell me the brand of soap bar you use for the dishes, I guess any brand of "kind" soap would do though? Have a lovely Sunday.
    Fi

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    1. Hi Fiona, the dishwasher is a handy contraption to have. Like you, I'm also a messy cook!! The brand of soap is by Rambilldeene Farm. It's a simple olive oil soap. Nothing fancy at all.

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  5. I have been using Savon de Marseille soap for a few years now to wash the dishes, clean counters, sinks, and bathtubs, as well as to hand wash clothes. I grate the soap and add borax and baking soda to make laundry soap. One bar of soap replaces so many cleaners. I make a solution of water and vinegar as well to keep the bathroom tiles clean after every shower. I buy 1kg bars of Savon de Marseille.

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    1. I have not heard of Savon de Marseille soap, I will go check it out. Thanks for sharing how you clean. It sounds very simple and effective.

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    2. CLEESE,
      Could you please share your recipe for making the laundry soap?
      Is it suitable for both top loaders and front loaders?
      Many thanks,
      C

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  6. I have greatly reduced packaging in our home using bar soap and borax or bicarb and reusable cloth towels. We hardly ever used our dishwasher until we had our daughter. I had my daughter 2 years ago and have found the dishwasher very helpful- especially in those moments when she catches a stomach virus (!) or cold. I toss cups/toys/and anything washable in the dishwasher and set it on sanitize. Yes, I could boil a giant pot on the stove to sanitize but when we are running through sheets and clothes and running on very little sleep, I find that being able to "set it and forget it" in the dishwasher is helpful!

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    1. That is a really good tip Nadya :) Sick kids and tired parents; something i'll be experiencing very soon. Thank you so much for that advice, it was very helpful.

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  7. Where on earth do you get olive oil soap for only $2.50 a bar?

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    1. At a local bulk food store here in Melbourne.

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  8. We also have a dishwasher and I make the dishwasherproduct myself (works ok, not perfect), but mostly I prefer doing the dishes by hand, also with just a bar of soap and a cloth

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    1. Yay, it's nice to hear that other people use a bar of soap and cloth. I'm not at the stage of making my own dishwasher powder yet though. What do you use to make it?

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  9. I made liquid dish soap for the first time last week and find it works great! I also do half hand washing and half dishwasher although I recently read Bea Johnson's book Zero Waste Home and she makes a case that the dishwasher actually uses less water than hand washing if you wait until it's completely full to run it. Great post!

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    1. Thanks Allison, I have read this somewhere too. I don't know if I will ever give up my dishwasher yet, as I have found that living zero waste equates to more dishes.

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  10. Hi Erin, can you tell me what the ingredients are in the soap you use (for everything at home including the dishes - I am presuming it is the same one as what you use for your body etc.?)
    I am trying to find a good soap in australia to try out this method you have going on as I hate using so many different products at home. Thanks!

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    1. It's a vegetable oil soap by Rambilldeene Farm Soaps, palm oil free and organic. From memory it's made up of sunflower oil, coconut oil, pure rain water and glycerine. It's fragrance free.

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