Commercial hand-washing dish detergent such as one might buy in a grocery store is a very useful product. It removes vast quantities of grease, it rinses clean, and it’s super-concentrated. When you have chemical allergies, and start to realize what’s in the things you use, your perspective changes. Most commercial dish detergents contain isothiazolinones. The ones that don’t usually contain fragrance. Those are two big no-nos on my list.
If you have allergies to fragrances and isothiazolinones, you might think you can avoid these chemicals in dish soap by not doing dishes. I started off with that, because the list of products for which I had to find alternatives was staggering, and I just didn’t know when I’d find the time to get to it. What that conclusion failed to address is that residual chemicals stay on glasses, dishes, and silverware, as well as counters and towels. This means continued exposure whether you do dishes or not.
I went through a lot of “homemade dish soap” recipes online. I knew that I would have to have a base of castille or some other liquid soap, and that using soap would mean I couldn’t use an acid, because acids react with soap to break down the molecules back into fats. I tried one that said to add salt, because salt would help with cleaning power and thicken the liquid, but salt actually reacted to solidify some of the dissolved soap. This meant that as the bottle was slowly used, its efficacy decreased. I tried a recipe that used solid soap as well, and though my husband liked it, it took FOREVER to dissolve the solid, grated soap, no matter how small the quantity, and it ended up coming at least partially out of solution towards the end. Plus the solidifying soap clogged the pump and reduced the effectiveness of the remaining soap.
Using dish soap instead of dish detergent is a different experience in and of itself. Dish soap leaves residue, involving careful rinsing. You can’t add it to the sink and then add water and let it bubble up – you need to put some on your dish cloth and then use the cloth on the dish. It’s very concentrated, so you need to use only a small amount of soap and add a lot of water to your cloth. My husband was fed up with the change as it was, without me experimenting every time a new bottle was needed.
Finally I gave up, threw in the towel, and decided that I wasn’t going to be able to make a perfect dish soap, at least not right now. I used the same recipe I had been using, but threw out the grated solid castille soap, allowing me to make the recipe in about 5 minutes, instead of 20 minutes. Is it perfect? Heck no! But it does clean the dishes. I am sure I will keep experimenting with this one to make it better, but for those of you who want a quick fix, this works.
Here’s what I do:
- Fill the kettle with water and set to boil.
- Add one teaspoon (1 tsp) of baking soda to the bottle or jar in which you will store your dish soap. If the bottle is plastic, use a different container and transfer to your dish soap container when it cools, otherwise you will melt the container into some funky Picasso-esque shape.
- Use a measuring cup to measure out 1/2 cup of liquid castille soap and pour it on top of the baking soda. This is important. If the baking soda is not covered by the soap or is added after the hot water, it will foam up A LOT.
- Add 1 1/2 cups of the boiled water to the container and stir, or replace lid and shake gently. The mixture will be cloudy.
As mentioned above, apply a small amount of this to your wet washcloth, get your dishes very wet, and wash. Rinse well to avoid leaving excess soap residue. It was suggested that one could try a rinse sink containing water and 1/2 cup of vinegar, but we haven’t tried that. I worry that vinegar in the rinse water would still react with residual soap on the dishes and cause oils to be released into the dish water. Nobody wants to wash dishes twice.
Another solution if you’re really stuck is to wet your cloth and rub it on a bar of pure soap, like pure olive oil or coconut oil soaps. Use the same way as above. It won’t work quite as well, but it will do the job until you can find the materials to make or buy better.
Have you found a good allergen-free commercial dish soap or homemade soap? Comment below.