In this post today I am going to tempt you with some easy ways to make your own biodegradable dish soap without using harsh chemicals. I bet you’ll also save some money too!
Every week, we use around 500 million pounds of soap products. This creates tons of waste and affects our environment by polluting water sources or leaving behind toxic chemicals.
With the recent boom in sustainability, it’s time to start using biodegradable dish soap. It’s easy to make yourself with a few common ingredients you might already have at home.
Soap may be a necessary evil needed for our daily dishes but it is also an enemy of the environment. It is harmful to our planet and wastes resources. Disposable products are polluting our environment by being thrown away and ending up in landfills.
I sometimes use affiliate links. When you click these links and make a purchase, I may get a small commission. It won’t cost you anything but it helps me to run this site.
How conventional dish soap damages the environment
Dish soap isn’t just tough on grease, but also on the environment. Typical dish soap is petrochemical-based and laden with animal and plant oils and solvents that are environmentally harmful.
Conventional dish soap contains toxic chemicals, including petroleum distillates, fragrances, sulfates and long-chain alcohols. Most of these chemicals do not readily dissolve in water so they end up clinging to your dishes as you rinse them off. When the toxins reach the sewers they can cause pollution by contaminating our water.
Why make your own dish soap?
With so many commercially available environmentally-friendly dish soaps on the market, you might think that perhaps it isn’t worth the trouble making your own. However, even supposed eco-friendly dish soaps come with drawbacks.
Commercial brands tend to contain a lot of chemicals and perfumes that can irritate sensitive skin and pollute waterways. And let’s not forget the plastic bottle that your dish soap comes in. Most commercial dish soaps are packaged in plastic bottles. Plastics are not biodegradable and only add to landfills every day.
By making your own biodegradable dish soap, you can control what goes into it so that it is free of nasty chemicals and safer for you and the environment.
Is it better to hand wash dishes or use a dishwasher?
The question of how to clean your dishes is a tricky one. Dishwashers are convenient, but then again, so is hand-washing.
According to Which.co.uk, washing dishes in a dishwasher as opposed to washing by hand was found to be four times more efficient.
Dishwashers are capable of washing effectively with much less water than you would use when washing by hand.
As well as being more efficient, dishwashers obviously save you time too.
However, the biggest benefit of washing dishes by hand is that you don’t need to use chemicals and you can do away with the plastic containers too.
Why you should reduce plastic waste
One of the biggest problems facing humanity is the increasing amount of plastic waste. Plastic is a versatile material that we use to make everything from utensils and food containers to packaging, computer parts, and even building materials.
The problem with most plastic is that it takes thousands of years for it to decompose completely. We are therefore only using up what little earth’s natural resources we have left and creating more waste in the process. With more than 8 million tons of plastic ending up in our oceans every year, it’s clear we need to take action now!
According to the beach cleaner and author of the book “Ocean Plastic”, Richard Thompson; if we don’t start reducing our plastic use now, “by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish”.
While it may seem like an overwhelming problem to tackle, making simple changes could make a huge difference.
Of course as well as plastics, many dishwashing soaps contain palm oil which is also ravaging our planet.
Why reduce palm oil usage?
Palm oil is found in many dish soaps. It may be listed on the ingredients as ‘sodium palmate’, ‘palm kernelate’ or ‘sodium palm kernelate’. It’s a cheap and effective way of thickening the product, but it’s unnecessary.
When you’re washing dishes with conventional soap, the palm oil isn’t completely rinsed off – it stays on your skin and is absorbed into your body.
Palm oil is currently one of the most common ingredients in products, from biscuits to processed foods and cosmetics. Overuse has led to deforestation which leads to air pollution.
Organisations such as Greenpeace are campaigning to phase out palm oil from cosmetics since it’s destroying rainforests and polluting our oceans.
What ingredients do you need for making your own homemade biodegradable dish soap?
Making your own dish soap isn’t difficult. Several of the typical ingredients you might well have in your kitchen cupboard.
- Washing soda crystals
- Castile soap (solid or liquid)
- Sal’s Suds
- Baking soda
- Essential oils
- Distilled vinegar
Homemade dish soap will not cut grease as well as conventional methods
Before we go on I would like to make it clear that homemade dish soap will not give you the grease busting qualities that chemical-based shop-bought kinds will give you.
But is that important?
If you use hot water combined with a good dishcloth such as these microfibre ones (which are great at soaking up grease on their own), there is really no need for more powerful chemicals.
Burnt-on food can be soaked for a few minutes to make cleaning easier. You would probably need to do that anyway with conventional soap, so there is no difference there.
How to make biodegradable dish soap at home
As with most things, there are several ways to make your own solid or liquid dish soap. The grease busting qualities will also vary depending on how you make it.
Let’s take a look at the options.
Method 1 – Dish soap made from a solid soap bar
If you have a solid bar of soap handy this is a good option for you. If you can find a soap bar free of palm oil, then all the better.
- 1 x 25-30g palm oil free castile bar soap
- 2 x tsp baking soda
- 600ml water
- Optional – a few drops of essential oil
- Grate the soap
- Bring the water to a boil and add the grated soap
- Stir until the soap is dissolved
- When cooled slightly add the baking soda
- When completely cooled decant to a pump jar or an old squeezy bottle
Method 2 – Using Sal Suds (for better grease busting qualities)
This recipe uses an ingredient called Sal Suds which is a powerful biodegradable all-purpose detergent that is also gentle on the skin. It has multiple uses for cleaning around the home.
You can use Sal Suds for laundry, floors, kitchen worktops, and also dishes.
Go for this option if you need more grease busting cleaning, and you want something super easy. There is no need to heat anything. All you do is combine everything.
If you can’t store the full recipe in your liquid dispenser reduce the amounts to suit.
- 150ml Sal Suds
- 150ml distilled water
- 150ml distilled vinegar
- optional – a few drops of essential oil
- In a bowl combine the water and vinegar
- Add the Sal Suds and stir
- Add a few drops of essential oil if you are using it
- Pour the mixture into your dispenser
Method 3 – Soap nuts
Soap nuts are natural and chemical-free. They contain saponin, a natural surfactant and make a great homemade laundry detergent and an effective dish soap.
Here are directions for creating soap nut liquid which you can add to your washing up water.
- 15 soap nut shells
- 1-1.5 litres of water
- Add the soap nuts shells and water to a pot
- Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes
- Leave to cool overnight
- Drain the liquid
- Transfer to your soap dispenser
Method 4 – Make your own solid dishwashing soap
Now, this method is quite involved and uses lye which can be a bit scary to use but is very worth it in the end because you can choose your own ingredients for the soap.
Here I’m going to link to an excellent article.
If you are looking for something easier that doesn’t use lye, here is a melt-and-pour method for making eco-friendly soap which would work just as well for dishwashing too.
Method 5 – Ditch the soap and use a microfibre cloth and water!
If you only have a couple of things to wash then a microfibre cloth and hot water will do the job just fine. Microfibre cloths are very good at absorbing and holding the grease in their tiny fibres which makes them great for washing dishes and cleaning up.
Wring your cloth out and you can use it for drying too.
Frequently asked questions
What should I do if my homemade liquid dish soap turns into jelly?
Stir or put it in a blender to break it up.