January Chemical Elimination: Dish Washing Soap

Update 2/2/12:  I am in the process of evaluating these recipes as they are no longer working for me.  Sometimes hard/soft water can play into the soaps not being as effective and the ratios need to be altered.  Feel free to continue trying some of these options and adjust as needed–if you have better luck than I am having, let me know!

As I move through our home with the goal of replacing all chemical substances with natural alternatives, the month of January brings us into the kitchen. You might not think a chemical that needs to be eliminated in your kitchen would be the soap with which you wash your dishes, but sadly, it is true. Many dishwasher detergents contain bleach, a toxic chemical, and most soaps contain fragrance ( a petroleum derivative) or parabens and dyes, just to name a few harmful ingredients.  Since we are using these soaps to wash the dishes off of which we eat, we run the risk of also ingesting whatever we are using to wash our dishes.

There are two alternatives to harmful dish detergents, and that is buying a natural product or making your own.  Obviously, making your own is more economical, but slightly more time consuming.  I have not found a dish detergent on the market that I am completely comfortable using or recommending–even the “natural” ones (like Seventh Generation and Melaleuca, unfortunately). So I make my own.  However, it takes very little time, and saves a ton of money in the end!

Here is the dishwashing soap that I make and use.

I am almost out of my old stuff and am eager to pour my new homemade soap into my old detergent container.

Dishwashing Liquid:

  • 2-3 c. diluted Castile soap
  • 10 drops tea tree oil
  • 10 drops lemon oil
  • 10 drops grapefruit seed extract (optional)

Combine liquid Castile soap with water in whatever ratio you prefer (60-75% soap works well, depending on the mineral content of the water). Add tea tree oil and lemon oil. If desired, add grapefruit seed extract for increased disinfecting properties.

This does not “suds” as much as you may be used to with commercial detergents, but do not let the lack of bubbles deceive you into thinking the soap does not work. It does! I have been very satisfied with the switch. I also love the smell since I used peppermint scented castile soap! I also do not find this recipe quite as economical as it could be, since castile soap is very pricey, but it is still an improvement on the store bought!

More recipes for homemade dish detergent here.

Here is the dishwashing powder I make and use:

Automatic Dishwashing Powder:

  • 1 c. washing soda
  • 1/2 c. borax
  • 1/2 c. baking soda

Combine ingredients and store in mason jar under the sink. Use 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons for each dishwasher load, depending on mineral content of water. Use 1/2 cup white vinegar as a rinsing agent.

This recipe literally costs pennies per load of dishes.  I have really liked this powder, apart from a few washes where something went wrong.  Occasionally my dishes come out with a film covering them.  When this happens, I do an empty rinse cycle with 1/2 cup vinegar in the bottom of my washer.  I also make sure I have vinegar in the rinse cup.  That usually clears up the problem.

You may have to adjust these recipes by adding more or less vinegar, depending on the mineral content and hardness/softness of your water.

For more information on Naturally Clean Kitchens, check out Toxic Talk Tuesday: Kitchens

To check out the schedule for 2012 Chemical Elimination, read here. February is Personal Care: Deodorant!


8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Karis Jorden on January 23, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Thanks for the recipe! I already use liquid castile soap diluted with water and tree oil for cleaning (I put it in a spray bottle), so I am excited to try using it for dishes as well.


  2. Posted by Sara on January 31, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    I have a couple of questions about your recipes. 1st I looked for grapefruit seed extract and only found grapefruit oil or grape seed extract. Second, as far as the dishwasher detergent goes you say you put vinegar in the rinse cup. Do you mean the rinse aid dispenser? Looking forward to trying these!


    • Posted by ashleynicolewillcox on February 1, 2012 at 9:07 pm

      Hi Sara! Sorry this took so long…I have to update my post because I have been having a hard time with the soaps, both dishwasher and dish washing…leaving residues etc. So right now I am honestly not even recommending the dish washing soap, and the dishwasher soap is hit or miss…the vinegar goes in the rinse aid dispenser.


  3. Posted by Anna on March 1, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Hey Ashley-Nicole! I have actually been using soap nut liquid with some lemon juice added to preserve it- make it about once a week and find it works very well. You just boil a handful of the soap nuts in water on the stove and let simmer for about 10 minutes, then I let it cool off and put in a normal dish soap dispenser bottle.


  4. Posted by Jeannine Gutrerrez on August 7, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    The great thing about grape seed extract is that it can also act as a natural anti-microbial. *’.’:

    Warm regards http://www.healthmedicinelab.com/inner-ear-infection-symptoms/


  5. Posted by Jennifer Berger on March 2, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    I made the automatic dishwasher detergent and I put the vinegar in the rinse aide. We live in a place where the water is very hard. The dishes came out with a film on them. The plates not so bad but the cups and silverware felt gritty. Is there anything else I should be trying. I typically use the compacted detergent bars with the red centers. Let me know please. I make my own laundry soap and I love it.


    • Posted by ashleynicolewillcox on March 4, 2013 at 2:46 am

      I have had similar problems and have not found a good solution that works with our water. Unfortunately it seems like dishwashing soap is very particular based on water composition, etc. I have tried things like adding vinegar as a rinse aid, or pouring a cup into the bottom of the dishwasher before starting. Hope you find something that works!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: