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Can you wash dishes without soap?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 58
Location: Southern Ontario, Canada
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I don't use dish soap at all. I use hot water and if something is really oily (I'm a vegan and use only plant oils occasionally), I rub my dish cloth on my soap bar (plain castile soap that I make myself) and wash with that. My pipes don't get clogged and the grey water seems fine.
 
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I wash dishes without soap. I just use lightly used paper towels (my husband uses them), cut-up clothes, plastic bags, or crumpled magazines, etc. to wipe off the excess food into the trash and when those are thoroughly dirty, I throw them out. Then I clean the dishes thoroughly (with a sponge with scratch pad on one side) usually under a slow running faucet with dishes underneath (that need soaking) collecting the water and put in a dish rack to dry. I also sometimes use salt as an abrasive for scrubbing or soak something in salt water for sanitizing. I use cold water. It helps if you don't use plastic containers. I learned in childcare classes years ago that the action that does most all of the germ removal during the washing of hands is the friction action of scrubbing, also I allow dishes to dry thoroughly on the rack before putting them away. Germs can't grow where there's no water.
 
gardener
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I likewise don't use soap on dishes. Nor on my body or clothes.
 
pollinator
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For what it's worth....

We use dish detergent, not to disinfect, but to break up the grease.  As for the pH, most dish detergent are close to neutral, Dawn dish detergent for example has a pH of 7.4.  We do scrape off most of the food and grease before washing the dishes, but some still remains.  Without surfactants to break up the grease it will slowly coat the insides of your drain pipes and eventually create a clog.

We have a double sink in the kitchen, one side is filled with hot soapy water and the other side is hot rinse water.  The soapy side is plumbed into the septic system, the rinse side goes out as grey water.

This way very little grease/fat/food goes into the grey water system so we don't need any grease traps or filters.

The only waste going into our septic tank are the toilets, bathroom sinks and the kitchen wash sink.  The amount of water used in the bathroom sinks is negligible and with low flow toilets I was concerned that there might not be enough water flow to get all the solids into the septic tank, I figured dumping ~4 gallons of warm soapy water into the septic tank every day helps flush out the waste pipes.
 
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Just get a big bag of organic soap nuts for cheap online...They can be made into a liquid or powder, reused and composted...You can use them for cleaning most things.

.Washing dishes
.Shampoo and conditioner
.Face and body wash
.Cleaning your house
.Laundry
 
Posts: 9
Location: Vitória, Espírito Santo, Brasil
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I know it is soap still but.. Here in Brasil, we find a lot of soap made from reused kitchen oil. It is usually associated with social business, since the maker, usually in a community center, receive used oil from community members and in trade give them a discount in the soap, or in other product they might sell.
 
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Heal Know, I say! Of course we can wash dishes and better, ourselves, without soap. Aside from a lot of detergents being toxic (bad for environment and our bodies), how can som'n dirty purport to clean? Soaps also indiscriminately strip the beneficial bacteria off our skin needed to protect it. I cant remember the name of the little creature but I heard about a skin cream with this bacteria of a different name/kind than populates our gut, like say, acidophilus & bifidus. This antibiotic = anti-life wipes out swaths of our microbiome, so wiping out parts of ourselves, considering it's been found  there whole totality of multitudes of viruses, bacteria, yeasts -- all such microbes that inhabit us actually out-populate our own cells, previously and still prevalently considered to comprise each our physical makeup.

Warm water and elbow grease, as used to be said is plenty nuf.

Good Luck to Us All, OgreNick
 
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We do dishes by hand and have been using Sal Suds, obviously not ok for greywater. We are considering using Dr Bronner's castile liquid soap and/or a pure emulsified orange oil degreaser. Our overall purpose is water conservation. Has anyone used these products for greywater? is there any reason not to use them? I want to be able to water my fig, apple, pear and citrus trees, but I don't expect to water my annual veggies with the greywater.
 
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Hello not sure if this has been said but spent coffee grounds can be used to help with scrubbing and they are acidic.  Hope this helps.
Zeek
 
Posts: 13
Location: Zone 5b
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For what it's worth, here is how I clean vessels that I can't get my hands inside;

I have a few cupfuls of stainless steel screws/nuts/washers that I keep in my homebrew supply cabinet. I rinse everything that will come out with water pressure, and add the metal bits to the carboys. After the foreign objects are in, I add hot water and swish them all around. Everything is sparkling clean, even if I leave yeast to dry inside, this method has never let me down!

I also have a bag full of tiny crushed sharp rocks (granite?) that I use for washing the occasional stainless steel coffee mug that gets left somewhere and grows a mold culture.

Back in my aquarium days I would grab handfuls of coarse pool filter sand in a cloth and scrub the areas of the tanks that grew mold, or got hard water scale buildup.

In summary: abrasives work pretty well in lieu of soap!
 
Posts: 190
Location: South of Winona, Minnesota
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Zoe Mays wrote:We do dishes by hand and have been using Sal Suds, obviously not ok for greywater. We are considering using Dr Bronner's castile liquid soap and/or a pure emulsified orange oil degreaser. Our overall purpose is water conservation. Has anyone used these products for greywater? is there any reason not to use them? I want to be able to water my fig, apple, pear and citrus trees, but I don't expect to water my annual veggies with the greywater.


We use Sal Suds, very sparingly, on oily pans only. We have a household graywater system. We also use the Sal Suds for laundry - about 1 Tablespoon per load (our water source is rainwater).
 
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Angelika Maier wrote: We did not connect the kitchen waste water to the greywater system

----

In California, they define kitchen waste water as black water.  I find that very frustrating.  Do all states define it this way?

 
Posts: 36
Location: Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.
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If I'm outside I'll rip off a sprig of grass & use as my sponge.  If I need to scrub, I'll throw some dirt in.  Works great!  I'm a little more set up inside - hot water & loofa sponge.  But the loofa doesn't cut it for burnt stuff - gotta get the steel wool out for that one (plus soak overnight).
 
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I stopped using commercial dish soap about 7 months ago.  I don't have a greywater system, but I was just 'done' using toxic chemicals and wanted to find another way.  For greasy items, I sprinkle a bit of baking soda or washing soda and rub it with a plant-fiber brush, or even abrush made from broomcorn tied with twine.  If I have burnt spots that i can't get out, the broomcorn tied with hemp always gets them out with the abrasive (baking soda or washing soda).  i only use dish soap when i have an item which touched raw meat.  everything get clean enough.
 
Posts: 26
Location: Vancouver Canada zone 8b
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Just finished reading one of John Seymour’s early books on homesteading and he talks about using hot water and then taking that dishwater and feeding it to his pigs. No soap just hot water and they loved it apparently. He died in his nineties so it didn’t do him any harm.
 
Posts: 6
Location: Colorado, cold semi-arid climate, Zone 5b
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I used to bring a bottle of Seventh Generation dish soap with me when I went camping.  Now I use vinegar for pretty much all of my cleaning needs.
 
gardener
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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This likely would not work for most people unless you live on the coast but... when I spent some time in a very remote island village we washed all our dishes with saltwater only and just a very quick freshwater rinse. If I remember correctly the spent saltwater went into a sand pit that was near the water so the area was already high in salinity.

It seemed to work fine there - so if you are near a body of saltwater that might be an option.
 
Chrissy Star
Posts: 36
Location: Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.
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If you need to kill bacteria use coconut water from a fresh coconut.  This is how we protected ourselves from Hepatitis B when I lived on a boat (anchoring at a different island each night).
 
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Thanks for all the great tips.  I can't wait to try some of them out.

My fav degreaser is really easy to make and lasts forever.

Homemade Lemon Oil

Cut up a few lemons (especially the skins where the oils are) and put them into a mason jar or similar.  Cover with boiling water, seal and leave on a window sill for a couple of weeks.  If the jar is sealed you probably won't get mold on the top but if you do, just scrap it off. Alternatively you can weigh down the lemons under the water in the jar with a clean stone.  The lemons will turn brownish and the liquid in the jar gets "oily" and strong but fairly pleasant smelling.  You can discard the lemons and just keep the liquid or keep the lemon pieces in and just add more lemon pieces and water as you go.  I usually have couple of jars on the go at any time and one I am using is about two years old.  

You can use the lemon oil in warm water when you are washing dishes  - it is a GREAT degreaser and leaves glasses really clear. Of course, I wouldn't use this on cast iron but for plates, dishes, glasses and ceramic pans is works really well. I also use the lemon oil neat on a sponge to wipe down tiles and surfaces in the kitchen after cooking. You can also dilute it in a sprayer for surfaces.

And best of all, it leaves a great scent in the house.





 

  
 
Posts: 23
Location: Vermont, USA (zone 4)
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I use dish detergent at home, but when we used to go camping with our little travel trailer, I used boiling water to wash dishes.  I would remove all debris from plates or pans (either with a paper towel which was thrown into the campfire after, or by literally licking them clean) and then pour boiling water over them before setting them in the dish drainer.  When we returned home, I would bring the camping dishes into the house and wash them properly.

For those who want to avoid the use of detergent, vinegar would work well in its stead.  I use vinegar to wash fruits and vegetables.  It is a great cleansing agent and it has some bacteria retardant qualities as well.
 
Peter Chan
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Sarah Elizabeth wrote:

Homemade Lemon Oil

Cut up a few lemons (especially the skins where the oils are) and put them into a mason jar or similar.  Cover with boiling water, seal and leave on a window sill for a couple of weeks.  If the jar is sealed you probably won't get mold on the top but if you do, just scrap it off. Alternatively you can weigh down the lemons under the water in the jar with a clean stone.  The lemons will turn brownish and the liquid in the jar gets "oily" and strong but fairly pleasant smelling.  You can discard the lemons and just keep the liquid or keep the lemon pieces in and just add more lemon pieces and water as you go.  I usually have couple of jars on the go at any time and one I am using is about two years old.  

You can use the lemon oil in warm water when you are washing dishes  - it is a GREAT degreaser and leaves glasses really clear. Of course, I wouldn't use this on cast iron but for plates, dishes, glasses and ceramic pans is works really well. I also use the lemon oil neat on a sponge to wipe down tiles and surfaces in the kitchen after cooking. You can also dilute it in a sprayer for surfaces.

And best of all, it leaves a great scent in the house.

do you find this is more effective than lemons soaked/infused in alcohol?  does bacteria breed in the water where it ever gets an off smell?





 

  

 
Posts: 28
Location: Finland, Minnesota Zone 4a
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I have not read all the replies, but to he original post, and anyone else who cares, here is my method.  We use watered down castile soap for dishes and bathing (about 5 parts water to soap).  I have a personal plate and spoon that I very rarely wash, I just lick it clean every meal.  We also rarely wash spatulas, I lick em off and hang em up near the stove where they dry.  
 
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So as someone living off grid and making my own soaps, the detergents just kind of creep me out.

The most effective thing and pleasurable one for me is using used coffee grounds. They soak up grease, leave your hands dry, smells nice, gets ride of any odors and makes for a wicked compost. Nothing is wasted and it’s a pleasure to do. Ash is more work and needs water to rinse after, and me being ina dry climate, water. Ones at an expense.

Try it out and be amazed. Many cafes just throw out their coffee grounds, just ask and be surprised how happy they are for it not to go to waste
 
Peter Chan
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Teaoh Be wrote:So as someone living off grid and making my own soaps, the detergents just kind of creep me out.

The most effective thing and pleasurable one for me is using used coffee grounds. They soak up grease, leave your hands dry, smells nice, gets ride of any odors and makes for a wicked compost. Nothing is wasted and it’s a pleasure to do. Ash is more work and needs water to rinse after, and me being ina dry climate, water. Ones at an expense.

Try it out and be amazed. Many cafes just throw out their coffee grounds, just ask and be surprised how happy they are for it not to go to waste



could you describe a little more on how you're using the coffee grounds while you do the dishes?
 
Sarah Elizabeth
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Peter Chan wrote:

do you find this is more effective than lemons soaked/infused in alcohol?  does bacteria breed in the water where it ever gets an off smell?

  



Hi Peter,

I have never tried soaking the lemons in alcohol and I am sure it would work but the hot water method works fine for me and it's cheaper.  I just went and smelled my two year-old bottle of lemon oil - it does not smell like fresh lemons but more medicinal or like a kind of vinegar.  If it smelled "off" or just distasteful to me, I would not use it but this has never happened so far. I had one jar that someone did not seal properly and the lemon pieces that were sticking out of the water went moldy but if the bottle is kept sealed when not in use, it seems fine.  I also tend to keep topping up with lemon pieces and hot water so that there is not much air space in the jar. Alternatively, when some oil has been used, I sometimes just put the reminder into a smaller jar so there is less air-space in the container.   

Lemon is my favourite natural preservative anyway  - I always add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice to batches of plum jam because it "lifts" the flavour and also because it acts as a natural preservative so the jam does not go moldy after it is opened and part used.


Ps Apologies for my English spelling eg "favourite" and "flavour"  :) 



               
 
Peter Chan
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haha, i like the way you spelled those words. i like spelling the word humor with a U.  HUMOUR.  anyway, i really like your method.  like you said, it is cheaper.  i use my lemon "tincture" as a spray to clean counters, etc, and have never added it to my dish water.  i have to admit, it has always weirded me out to make an extract of any kind, whether it is a tincture, using alcohol, or vinegar, or oil.  it's not the making of it or even the result that freaks me out...it is when it is put in a SPRAY BOTTLE that is freaks me out. becuase, regardless of the fact that i made a lemon tincture prior to bottling it in a spray bottle, while the lemon tincture is in the spray bottle, the medium (vodka) is tincturing or extracting things from the plastic tube which draws the liquid from teh bottle and out thorugh the spray nozzle.  every time i spray it, i'm thinking "am i spraying endocrine disruptors into the air and on eveything?"  i've thought and thought about how to avoid this, but becuase the spray bottle is so convenient, i have kept doing it. i've though about instead drizzling counters with my lemon tincture form a vinegar cruet or an olive oil spout to eliminate the need for the plastic spray tube sitting in the tincture, but the whole point of the spray bottle is that you coat the surface, and if you leave it there for a minute, it acts as a disinfectant.  i know i'm now off topic, but i was wondering if you had any thoughts about what i've said.
 
Sarah Elizabeth
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Peter Chan wrote:

i have to admit, it has always weirded me out to make an extract of any kind, whether it is a tincture, using alcohol, or vinegar, or oil.  it's not the making of it or even the result that freaks me out...it is when it is put in a SPRAY BOTTLE that is freaks me out. becuase, regardless of the fact that i made a lemon tincture prior to bottling it in a spray bottle, while the lemon tincture is in the spray bottle, the medium (vodka) is tincturing or extracting things from the plastic tube which draws the liquid from teh bottle and out thorugh the spray nozzle.  every time i spray it, i'm thinking "am i spraying endocrine disruptors into the air and on eveything?"  i've thought and thought about how to avoid this, but becuase the spray bottle is so convenient, i have kept doing it. i've though about instead drizzling counters with my lemon tincture form a vinegar cruet or an olive oil spout to eliminate the need for the plastic spray tube sitting in the tincture, but the whole point of the spray bottle is that you coat the surface, and if you leave it there for a minute, it acts as a disinfectant. 



Peter, I know what you mean. Plastic spray bottles are so convenient but I don't tend to leave anything in them because of the leaching problem. If I use one,  I just put the stuff in it temporarily and funnel the remainder back into a glass jar or an old glass juice bottle or whatever for storage when I am finished.  For doing the dishes I just tip out a bit of my lemon oil from the glass jar into the bowl.

I am less concerned about the whole disinfectant issue.  My aim is always to keep the "good" and "bad" bacteria around me in balance so that there are always more "good" bacteria.  I see it the same as I see my gut - I don't want to get rid of all the bacteria but just make sure the balance is right as I rely on those "good" bacteria to keep me healthy.  That's why I use normal olive oil/castille soap for dishes too.  It doesn't disinfect but restores the bacteria balance.  My nose tells me soon enough it the "bad" bacteria have the upper hand and I re-wash or throw out whatever it it. I have never become sick from cleaning the dishes this way.      

Next I am going to try growing my own sponges/scouring pads ie the loofah plant  http://www.luffa.info/luffagrowing.htm ;

 
 
Peter Chan
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Sarah Elizabeth wrote:

Peter Chan wrote:

Peter, I know what you mean. Plastic spray bottles are so convenient but I don't tend to leave anything in them because of the leaching problem. If I use one,  I just put the stuff in it temporarily and funnel the remainder back into a glass jar or an old glass juice bottle or whatever for storage when I am finished.  For doing the dishes I just tip out a bit of my lemon oil from the glass jar into the bowl.


 



Thanks for your reply.  I should have clarified that I was talking about using glass spray bottles, but that the TUBE inside is still plastic and we are essentially using solvents (alcohol, vinegar, essential oils, etc) to tincture this little plastic tube!  what nasties are in these little tubes i don't know.

i like your method...it's simple.  I totally agree there is no need to disinfect everything, but I did feel good about doing it after processing raw meat.  i guess maybe i can just switch to soap and water with a dishcloth.  the spray bottle is real convenient though!

 
Sarah Elizabeth
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Peter Chan wrote:

I should have clarified that I was talking about using glass spray bottles, but that the TUBE inside is still plastic and we are essentially using solvents (alcohol, vinegar, essential oils, etc) to tincture this little plastic tube!  what nasties are in these little tubes i don't know.



Peter you are way ahead of me with the glass spray bottles - I haven't found any here yet.

One of the things I love about permaculture is the license to experiment with everything.  Happy dish washing:)    
 
Peter Chan
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Well, I think your way is much better, than you don't have to worry about spraying plastic tube (which is inside the glass spray bottle) tinctured solvent all over your kitchen.
 
pollinator
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I thought I was being naughty getting my dogs to pre wash plates and pans. I shall now continue with impunity. I love this site!
 
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Celia Revel wrote:I'm not sure how much ph is changed in the soil with the cleansers we use, but I do know which ones are on the more alkalai side.  Soap is the killer: ph at 10 or higher.  Baking soda ph 8.  I think borax is about the same or higher.  Mild detergent is around ph 7.  So, while the soap is going to kill more germs from its sheer high alkalai, detergent isn't going to do as much for anti bacterial, unless it has a chemical in it that is anti-bacterial.  Soap by its very nature is antibacterial, and doesn't need a chemical additive.  I don't like chemicals, so I buy pure, mild detergent.  As for sanitizing, you could do it the old fashioned way by boiling the silverware or plunging in boiling rinse water, or maybe add vinegar to the rinse water bath.



Sorry, Celia, to contradict you, but not all soap is created equal.  I love accuracy, and  believe it's important in  a discussion such as this.    I don't know any soap that has pH of 10, but that does not mean it does not exist, but soaps and detergents have a wide range possible of pH.  The soap I make has a pH near neutral.  The pigment "alkanet root" that I sometimes use is blue to black at alkaline pH, turns pink at acid pH.  When my soap is fully cured, the alkanet is a purplish color.

As to the rest of the discussion, when I am at my cabin, and haul all my water, and wash my dishes in a dishpan, I use baking soda or some "green" type dish detergent.  When I have re-used the dishwater as much as possible, I pour it out onto my compost pile.  The pile continues its activity, so its micro-organisms must be able to tolerate both the bkg soda and the (non antimicrobial) detergent.

The former rinse water becomes the wash water. 

In the summer, I don't heat the water, but when cold weather comes, the metal dishpan sits on the wood stove and the wash water is warmed.

If this sounds unsanitary, let me say that I am only this careful because I am running a herd share dairy, and need to be very careful.  The things for my own use, like the jar I drink my tea out of, I never wash at all.
 
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zeek mcgalla wrote:Hello not sure if this has been said but spent coffee grounds can be used to help with scrubbing and they are acidic.  Hope this helps.
Zeek


Hello Zeek and hello to everyone else

When I saw this in the daily is, my first thought was "dried spent coffee grinds". I was astonished that I had to get to the second page before seeing that response. Coffee grinds cut oil. That is why they work so well in repairing a slow cloggy drain. If dirty dishes are wiped first with coffee grinds,outside of water,  the grease and remaining food bits come off. It essentially performs the task that the dogs and cats accomplish, as mentioned in some earlier posts. But, with spent coffee grinds, you can just quickly rinse in a very small amount of water at any temperature afterwards, to get off any grinds that didn't get brushed into the compost bin.
 
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My tricks are:

Using very hot water.

Doing things in a certain order. Glasses get washed first, then cutlery, then plates/bowls, then everything else.

For baked-on stuff I will pour boiling or very hot water over the dish and leave it to soak until it's just cool enough to handle.
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In the Azores they use charcoal ash. Also it really helps having a vegetarian diet as there is almost never any grease.
 
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Just change your diet to low fat raw vegan, rinse off done! Just kidding...
 
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