Month Less Plastic: DIY Dish “Soap”

DIY Dish Soap & Friends

This is even easier to mix up than the DIY Dishwasher Detergent

It’s not really soap, and it’s not necessarily entirely plastic-free, but this will clean almost every dish in your kitchen sink.

And here is all you need…

Plastic-Free Dish “Soap”:

  • Baking soda
  • Essential oils. I like 10 drops each of Tea Tree and Lavender in enough baking soda to fill a 24-oz re-used marinara sauce jar

What, that’s it? Yes, that’s it. It seems diabolically simple, but really it’s heavenly. It works! It smells wonderful since you use oils you like! And it won’t dry your hands out! At least, it hasn’t dried mine out yet, and I’ve been washing dishes with this in my slacker way for the past 3 weeks.

hammer some holes in that lid

Now for the fun part. Make yourself a soap dispenser. This is a gratifying project – It’s fast and it involves hammering a nail through a lid, which is always fun. It’s like making a bug jar, but this one is for your kitchen counter.

Find a jar that fits well in your hands. Make sure there is a matching lid for your jar, a lid that fits on tightly.

Using a large nail and a hammer, poke holes all over the jar’s lid . You can get fancy and make a pattern or just go for random full distribution of holes. Hammer from the top of the lid down, so that the metal forms burrs on the side facing into the jar, not the side that will be close to your skin.

Fill the jar with baking soda, add your drops of essential oil, cover the lid with one hand and shake it well to mix.

scrubbing a dirty bowl in a dirty sink

Now, go wash some dishes. It’s best to use a few good shakes of baking soda on damp dishes. Too much water, and you’ll dilute the cleaning power of the baking soda. I set my dishes in the sink, spritz them with water, sprinkle on the soda, scrub them up, then turn the water on and give everything a good rinse.

Marvel at the way the baking soda cuts through pretty much everything. To enjoy your “soap” fully, use your hand to push some of the baking soda around a dirty pot – You’ll get to feel the schmutz give way with just a bit of pressure. Bubbles from plastic-bottled soap are pretty and all, but this cleanser has safe power that’s fun to wield; it feels good when the gunk dissolves  under your fingertips. And after you clean your dishes, you can use this same powder to clean your sink. Handy!

What about bacteria? If you have dishes involving raw chicken or some other potential bacterial hazard and you’re worried this won’t kill the nasties off, scrub the surface clean with this “soap” first, then pour equal amounts of white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide onto your dish/pot/cutting board to evenly coat the surface. Let it sit for a few minutes if you’re so inclined, then rinse it off with water. The combination of regular white vinegar and standard 3% hydrogen peroxide, when they’re stored in separate containers, kills more things, more effectively than chlorine bleach. True.

Where’s the plastic? The caps of my essential oil jars are plastic. If I can find a local store to refill them for me, that will mean no new plastic. I’m just about finished with the 2-fluid ounce bottles of each that I bought over a year ago. A little goes a long way when it comes to essential oils, but there is new plastic involved if I buy through my regular source, a local buying club. If you know how to buy essential oils plastic-free, please share! Maybe we’ll have to start making our own…That sounds complicated.

The least expensive baking soda I know of is from Costco, but it comes in plastic bags that I can’t recycle locally. Fortunately, it’s not all that expensive to buy it in the largest paper box at standard grocery stores, or from the same store’s bulk department, where I can scoop it into my own large container.

You can skip the essential oils, of course, but I love the fragrance they add. Tea Tree has a host of purported benefits (antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, antiseptic). I just found this interesting study, and now I”m wondering if I’m adding to the habituation of bacteria to sub-lethal concentrations of Tea Tree by using so little of it. Perhaps I’ll switch to some other fragrances; I’d hate for my “soap” to be wreaking the same sort of havoc as the standard antibacterial soaps with Triclosan.

Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are my favorite disinfectant, but I can only find hydrogen peroxide in plastic bottles. If anyone has a plastic-free source, please share!

Here’s to clean dishes, with less plastic!

this cast iron skillet was dirty; now it’s clean

23 comments on “Month Less Plastic: DIY Dish “Soap”

  1. […] here: Month Less Plastic: DIY Dish “Soap” « Rock Farmer Posted in Dish Soap Tags: almost-every, detergent, diy, even-easier, kitchen, not-entirely, […]

  2. awesome ideas! you really pay attention to the detail of the plastic. i’ve been thinking about making my own oils but haven’t gotten around to it. thanks for sharing!

  3. […] the kitchen sink: baking soda instead of plastic-bottled dish soap (it really works), DIY dishwasher detergent, choice scraps of food for our […]

  4. […] the kitchen sink: baking soda instead of plastic-bottled dish soap (it really works), DIY dishwasher detergent, choice scraps of food for our […]

  5. Found that using a small spice jar with a shaker lid was effective. Less baking soda, less oil. Still has a plastic top but works pretty well for me.

    • Spice jars are great for this! And regarding the plastic in your spice jar, it’s a whole lot better to keep it in use than to send it to the landfill (those lids aren’t typically recyclable). I’d say that’s a win-win, great reuse for a spice jar.
      It really only takes a dusting of soda to work, doesn’t it? My friend Liesl uses a container about that size, too, and loves it. I started out like that, but found that I had to refill it too often for my liking – I cook all our meals from scratch on account of some food issues, so I do a lot of dishes (or, depending on the day, I let a lot of dishes pile up). With my large jar, I only have to refill every 4-6 weeks, which appeals to my lazy side.

      • Hello Rebecca,
        Thanks for your tips. Since a couple of weeks now, I accidentally discovered that baking soda cleans dishes perfectly, except I filled the sink with hot water first, and used a lot of baking soda.

        I think your idea makes sense perfectly! Do you think baking soda might loose its cleaning power if it’s not kept in a air-tight container?

      • Thanks, Francois – I store my baking soda in a jar on the edge of my kitchen sink, and it seems to keep its cleaning power quite well, even though the jar’s lid is poked full of holes and plenty of air and moisture get in there! The baking soda at the bottom of the jar is usually stuck to the glass by the time it gets that low, so I just add a bit of hot tap water, shake it all up, and use that slurry to wash dishes. Then I dry the jar out, refill it, and I’m good to go for a few more weeks of shaking it onto dishes. Good luck with your own cleaning – If you give this a try, please let me know how it works out for you! Best, Rebecca

  6. Just thought I’d chime in as well. Lots of plastic lids aren’t recyclable (at least not where I live). So, a good one for parmesan cheese shakers is to recycle the base and re-use the shaker top. They fit on lots of other glass jars!

  7. […] found old-fashioned answers to my question: baking soda for our kitchen sink dishes, and a bar of soap for our hands and other skin. That was easy […]

  8. […] found old-fashioned answers to my question: baking soda for our kitchen sink dishes, and a bar of soap for our hands and other skin. That was easy […]

  9. […] foil can always substitute the copper scrubber for a great abrasive against baked-on food. And the baking soda is our most reliable hard-working abrasive scrubber for pots and pans. It starts its magic on your cookware as soon as its sprinkled on. […]

  10. […] wash sheets clean in cool tap water, using a mild soap (or a sprinkle of baking soda) and a soft scrubbing cloth or brush for heavily soiled […]

  11. […] wash sheets clean in cool tap water, using a mild soap (or a sprinkle of baking soda) and a soft scrubbing cloth or brush for heavily soiled […]

  12. […] By Rebecca Rockefeller (This post originally appeared at Rock Farmer) […]

  13. I loved the simplicity of this dish soap recipe and I was surprised out how great it worked! I made my own with an old sunflower butter jar and featured your idea on my blog here http://craftblossom.blogspot.com/2013/05/2-ingredient-natural-homemade-dish-soap.html

    Thanks for the share 🙂

  14. I love this! I have a spice jar filled with baking soda and dried, grated orange peel that I use when something needs a little extra for cleaning. I just moved it to the counter for daily use. It smells like orange without the essential oil.

  15. Do you find the baking soda absorbs the smell of essential oils? I’ve never added essential oils to my homemade baking soda products, because I was afraid to waste them! (so precious and expensive) Thanks for this great idea, I’m off to find a jar…

  16. Love this site. Here is a tip for getting rid of greasy baked on messes on pots and pans. In pot needing cleaning, add water and heat to a rapid boiling point. Turn off. Then sprinkle baking soda until it starts to foam. Let stand until it cools. Then empty, and lightly scrub. If you still have dirt repeat. Usually this cleans a pan after cooking a chicken or turkey in one go.
    If it is a glass pan, just boil water in the kettle, add it to glass pan, add the baking soda and let cool. This may need to be repeated.

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