Dishes, dishes, dishes. Washing dishes is one of those chores that is difficult to draw satisfaction from. It seems as soon as the sink is finally emptied, a missed spoon or cup shows up from somewhere and the pile begins to grow again. It can be especially defeating when you spend lots of time scrubbing a pot or pan to perfection, only to turn around and muck it up again with the next meal. There are great dish soap products on the market, made by giant consumer products companies. These soaps cut through the grease, and seem to lather forever. But a green girl starts to wonder what kind of chemicals are in them, soaking into her hands day after day. Could all-natural dish soap clean the plates just as well, without the synthetic chemicals?
- Better for You – natural and mild surfactants are safe and non-toxic for you and your family
- Better for the Earth – no synthetic chemicals going down the drain and into the waste stream
- Ingredient list available – natural soaps tend to list their simple ingredients, non-natural soaps don’t (and one tends to wonder why not…)
- Saves Money – natural soap costs less oz per oz vs the big name soap
- Must use more – need many repeat applications of soap to sponge to continue cleaning
- Does not suds well – no big foamy bubbles to spread around
- Does not rinse cleanly – prepare for water spots galore (if that matters to you)
- Takes more time – greasy dishes have to be re-washed as they still have a slick residue after their first scrub
I’ve always used a big name dish soap from a big name company. You know the one with the commercials all over daytime television with a nifty foamer pump. It’s more expensive than the other brands, but it works great! One little 10 oz package has 190 pumps in it. I can do a whole sink full of dishes, including pots and pans, with one or two pumps. We get away with doing dishes only twice a day at our house. This means one little bottle of big name dish soap lasts more than 6 weeks!
One day at my favorite “farmer’s market” grocery store, an all natural dish soap caught my eye. I thought it would be a great add to my Green Spring Cleaning product cache. The natural ingredients were listed on the back: water, coconut derived surfactants (that’s the soapy part), and grapefruit oil (for fragrance). The price was comparable bottle for bottle, but the natural soap had 20 oz: twice as much as I get with my regular brand. It also said it was ultra concentrated so I could use less. Jackpot! This bottle should be able to last at least 3 months! Unfortunately, here’s where the happy review stops…
The first time I used the soap for dishes I was very disappointed. I put a small squirt of the “ultra concentrated” soap on my wet scrubby sponge. I gave the sponge a couple of squeezes but it did not lather! I then put a very generous squirt of the soap on my sponge, and was able to work it into a weak lather – enough to get started anyway. As I washed the dishes I noticed several things (all of which made me feel grumpy). The lather was weak, and dissipated quickly. I had to use gobs of soap – reapplying to my sponge every 4th or 5th dish to get the cleaning power I’m used to. Even then, many of the greasier dishes had to have two washings, each with their own squirt of soap, to get truly clean. Finally, the rinse water beads up on the dishes, instead of sheeting off like I’m used to. This isn’t a big deal, but mildly annoying as we air dry our dishes, and those beads turn into little water spots everywhere.
Overall, the all natural dish soap did work. My dishes were clean. But it took more work, and more time and way more soap to get the job done. After watching how much soap I used over just a few days, I figure that the whole big bottle would be used up in about 3 weeks for our family (vs 6 weeks for the much smaller bottle of big name soap). What to do… I suppose there is a cost/benefit analysis here. The price is actually more for the green product when you think about usage rate. The green product also puts more, bigger packages into the waste stream (please recycle!!). But the product is all natural and gets the job done eventually. The big name product has unspecified chemicals in it. But they are mostly rinsed off in the end. And I’m sure they have been tested for toxicity as they are used on things that go in our mouths. And the big name soap works great!
In the end, I decided to switch back to the big name soap for washing dishes. Frankly it’s just superior in every way for greasy jobs. I don’t like something as simple in life as soap giving me trouble and making me feel grumpy. It’s just not worth it to me. The natural soap, I will keep around for home cleaning jobs like boosting the power of natural scouring powder, or other times when a mild surfactant is all that’s necessary. I also used it successfully on some breast pump parts that I had to use while on an overnight business trip (my toddler still likes her bedtime and wake-up nursings). So if there comes a time when I am blessed with another little one, I would feel good about using the natural soap for all those bottles and pump parts that fill a working mama’s evenings.
Have you tried natural dish soap? Was your experience similar to mine? I’d love to hear any advice you have to improve my experience!