DIY Dish “Soap”

By Rebecca Rockefeller (This post originally appeared at Rock Farmer)

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

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Categories: DIY, Plastic-Free Living, Reduce Your Use, Trash Pile - All Our Stuff


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10 Comments on “DIY Dish “Soap””

  1. February 15, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    I switched to baking soda for my dishes a couple of months ago and love it. I will have to try the essential oils soon as I buy some 🙂

  2. Lynda
    May 1, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    I wonder if corks would work to replace plastic tops for essential oils? Can probably find corks at a crafts store.

    • May 1, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

      Corks definitely work! I have some home-made oils from a friend that came with corks – But I haven’t found any for sale that way, so the plastic lids come with the glass bottles of oils that I buy; I keep the caps in service since I figure that’s better than sending them to the landfill, but I’d love to be able to buy them with corks instead of plastic caps, right from the start!

  3. B.
    May 23, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    I am not sure about cleaning a seasoned cast iron pan with oils impregnated baking soda. It might remove the seasoning. I just heat the pan and scrub with plain water, then rinse.

    • May 23, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

      I was skeptical, too, but it’s been working on my cast iron skillets for a couple of years now, without removing the seasoning. I do use my cast iron for all of my stove pan cooking, though, so they’re pretty well seasoned and get more built up all the time! Most of the time, I do what you do and clean the warm pan with plain water and some elbow grease, but there are certain things that I like to remove with baking soda – For instance, it’s great at taking off stuck-on bits of crispy garlic and onion so that I can cook pancakes in the same pan the next morning, with no loss of pan seasoning and no flavor residue from dinner on our breakfast.


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