This is Day 22 of the 31 Days to Green Clean series.
Dirty dishes are my nemesis. I don’t know if any of you can relate, but I hate everything about doing dishes. I despise how quickly they pile up in my sink and on my counter. I get annoyed when I don’t have room to cook or bake because my counters are covered in the remains from previous cooking and baking endevors. My kids go through so many dishes each day it’s really unbelievable. And I really do not like having to wash dishes by hand.
I love using my dishwasher, just because I hate doing dishes so much. But, there are things about using a dishwasher that are not so great either. Our dishwasher is who-knows-how-old, and really doesn’t work all that well. So, we’ve always had to pre-rinse our dishes pretty well before loading them in the dishwasher, especially if we were using homemade or a green brand of dishwasher detergent.
Then I stumbled upon a decidedly not green dishwasher detergent that cleaned my dishes completely without the need for pre-rinsing. I was sold! But, I was also very torn.
Which was the more green choice – using a natural green dishwasher detergent that required me to use a lot of water for pre-rinsing and sometimes re-washing after the dishes came out of the dishwasher still dirty, or using a dishwasher detergent filled with all kinds of nasty chemicals, but which left my dishes completely clean without the need for extra pre-rinse or post-wash water? I’d love to hear your thoughts on which is the better choice of the two!
But, then the miracle detergent stopped working so well, and we started having to pre-rinse again. Well, if I’m going to have to pre-rinse anyway, I may as well use a natural dishwasher detergent, right?
I had recently found a homemade dishwasher detergent recipe that doesn’t include Borax and figured this was as good a time as any to give it a try. And, I have been pretty pleased with the results!
Homemade Dishwasher Detergent
- 3/4 cup of Washing Soda
- 3/4 cup of Lemi Shine (I bought mine at Meijer, you can also find it at Walmart or online.)
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 1/4 cup kosher or sea salt
Mix all of the ingredients together. I put mine in a mason jar and shook it up to combine everything.
Use 2 Tbsp per load, and also don’t forget to add vinegar to your rinse aid compartment.
Okay, so here’s the thing about homemade and natural dishwasher detergents, I feel like they work well for a while, and then for some reason they stop working so well. I really liked using Biokleen Dishwasher Detergent for a while, it worked great and didn’t require a lot of pre-rinsing, and then all of the sudden it didn’t work so well any more and I couldn’t really justify the expense.
I have used a different recipe of dishwasher detergent in the past, and again, it worked okay for a while, and then it totally stopped working and we had to hand wash so many dishes coming out of the dishwasher that it was a total waste.
Even the conventional brand detergents work pretty well for a while and then stop working for some reason. I don’t know if it is our water, our dishwasher, or what. But it can definitely be frustrating. The only thing that makes me feel a little bit better is knowing I’m not alone in this. My friend Katie at Kitchen Stewardship is having many of the same issues with finding a natural dishwasher detergent.
So, if you want to use a natural dishwasher detergent, either homemade or a natural brand, you’re going to have to do some experimenting for yourself, finding what works best for your dishwasher and your water quality (hard or soft). I don’t think you can expect that something that works well for someone else will automatically work well for you. I wish I had a better answer for you, but I think that’s the reality of homemade and green dishwasher detergents.
For our family, we’re probably going to end up switching back and forth between homemade detergent and conventional detergent, when one stops working we’ll switch to the other, and then when that one stops working we’ll switch back. You do what you have to do to get clean dishes, right?!
Hand Washing Dishes
I guess the other option is just to hand wash all of your dishes, which is probably the most green way to clean your dishes. It uses almost no energy (except yours) and much less water, depending on how old your dishwasher is.
One of my friends stopped using her dishwasher altogether and washes all her dishes by hand. And while it’s not something I really ever want to do (again because I hate doing dishes, so if I had to wash them all by hand they would never get done!), it could be a good option for those of you that don’t mind the hand washing, or have older children that could be good helpers for you!
If you do hand wash your dishes, it’s important to use a natural dish washing soap. We use Seventh Generation and really like it, and it’s available at the places we usually shop, like Meijer and Target. I’ve also tried Mrs. Meyer’s and it is great, but harder for me to find and a little more pricey.
One way you can save money and stretch your dish washing soap is to mix it half and half with water in a spray bottle or squirt bottle, and use that to wash your dishes. You can spray down your dishes directly, or squirt the soap and water mixture onto your dish washing cloth. You’ll still get clean dishes, and you’ll use half the amount of soap. Vinegar and baking soda are also great to use when washing dishes to cut through grease and burnt on food.
How do you wash your dishes? Do you hand wash? Do you have to pre-rinse before loading your dishwasher? Have you found a homemade or green dishwasher detergent that works for you? Please share your experience with us in the comments!
Go here to read all the posts in the 31 Days to Green Clean series.
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