Homemade Dishwashing Soap: It’s Probably Right In Front Of You

by emily on September 22, 2013

The perfect homemade dishwashing liquid has eluded me. Disgusted that even the priciest “natural” and “eco-friendly” dish soaps contain sodium lauryl sulfate (and the ones that don’t contain SLS are even pricier!), I recently went on a quest to find a recipe for a homemade hand dishwashing soap of some kind. After all, I don’t use commercial cleaners for anything else anymore, not even laundry! Why was I sticking to a seven dollar bottle of dishwashing liquid?

My first attempt was to just use the chemical-free bar soap I discovered a few months ago at Whole Foods. It’s a great degreaser, but leaves residue on the bottom of my stainless steel sink. I also found that soap residue was building up in drinking glasses.


So I turned to the Internet. I found several mommy bloggers who had posted homemade dishwashing liquid recipes, but several contained Borax. That wouldn’t be such a big deal, except that on our rural homestead I will be using dishwater to water plants. The chemical makeup of Borax is such that it can compromise a plant’s health if it is continually subjected to that cleanser.

I continued searching, and finally found a Borax-free alternative that looked promising. It contained either liquid castile soap or grated bar soap, washing soda, vinegar, and water.

I used bar soap instead of liquid castile, and so again I ended up with residue both in my plastic basin and in my sink. Actually, the residue in my sink was mostly grease build-up, which I wasn’t used to as even the natural dishwashing liquids are strong enough to cut grease.

More discouraging, whenever I had a dish that had a lot of animal fat on it (from chicken, beef, or butter) I had to use extra washing soda, baking soda or Citra-Solv® to get the grease out.

This supposedly economical soap was starting to add to my household budget more than I wanted.

I almost gave up. I almost put “dishwashing liquid” on my next Whole Foods grocery list. But then I looked at the bar soap sitting near the faucet. And I thought, “Why not?”

I gave it another go. This time, I used less soap for the not-very-greasy items. Guess what? It works great, without any residue build-up! I still have to scrub my sink out with baking soda about once a week to get the grease out, but even doing that the cost of dishwashing soap has gone down considerably in our house.

How do I manage to not put too much soap on the dishes? Simple. I don’t fill up a sink or basin full of water and put the soap in. I get the dish just wet enough, then rub my hand in the soap, then rub my hand over the dish.

Yup. I know. I’m weird. No sponge, no dishrag. But that saves me another expense, and the frustration of watching sponges get full of mildew. This method also saves a lot of water!

I now use the plastic basin as my antibacterial water. If I wash something and think it needs a little extra cleaning, I swish it around the basin, which I fill every day about a quarter full with water and add a drop or two of either lemon or tea tree essential oil. (Those two oils, especially used together, will kill as many germs as any conventional dishwashing liquid with none of the toxins. They will also keep germ build-up on the bar soap.)

So there you have it: my new dishwashing routine! I can guarantee you that it uses only a fraction of the water as a dishwasher, and gets dishes just as clean.
Stay healthy, happy, and clean,

Previous post: