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?
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.
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.