Make Your Own: Dishwasher Detergent

All you dishwasher-having SQ readers, this post is for you! While having a dishwasher is a total privilege, if you’re able to have one (ideally an efficient, Energy Star model), they generally use less water and energy than hand washing (not to mention they’re a time saver as well!).

We cook almost all of our meals at home, and, as a result, we create a ton of dirty dishes. Plus, we have streamlined our dish and pot collection, so we have to keep up with the dishes or we won’t have anything to use for cooking or eating. We still do a fair amount of hand washing, since we cook multiple times a day and only run the dishwasher when it’s full...so, we find ourselves using the Spaghetti Scrubbers we wrote about last month for our hand washing needs.

We haven’t yet found a suitable DIY dish detergent for hand washing (not for Kristl’s lack of trying), but we do have one we love for the dishwasher!

Our household is nearly completely fragrance-free, which often makes finding soaps and detergents difficult. When we moved into our new place in December, we went to the nearby Whole Foods and grabbed some “natural” dishwasher pods. We got them home and were aghast to find that the pods in the cardboard box were individually wrapped in plastic. This completely went against our desire to use less plastic (though, honestly, we should have done a bit of research before purchasing - nobody’s perfect!).  

Well, that was the first and final straw. (You know we don’t use plastic straws, either.) If you look in the archives, you’ll see we make our own laundry detergent (link to post). It was time to find a good dishwasher detergent recipe.

I did some research and found this fun play-by-play post by Houselogic, in which they tested six different detergent recipes against oatmeal stuck on a glass lid. I kind of wish they had also tested something greasy, but the oatmeal test was interesting to learn from.

We took the most effective recipe from Houselogic and have tweaked it a little bit.

Here’s what we do:

  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup borax
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 2 packets lemon aid Kool-Aid mix or 2 tsp citric acid

Before you ask any questions, here’s a couple things you should know. Washing soda is baking soda that has been heated up to change its chemical structure a little bit. It’s great at all sorts of cleaning, including removing greasy build-up and it’s just as safe and sustainable as baking soda. You can find it in most super markets in with the laundry/cleaning supplies.

Borax is sodium borate and it’s known for its ability to get stuff really fricken’ clean. Crunchy Betty did an in-depth post on borax, which we found helpful in deciding if we were comfortable using borax in our DIY detergents (clearly, we decided we’re fine with it, but you may want to check out that article for more information).

The Kool-Aid/citric acid helps with shining up those glasses and making everything smell nice and fresh. We cut back on the mix, because six packets seemed excessive. We don’t really want our stuff to smell like lemon or Kool-Aid.

To make this dishwasher detergent, mix the ingredients together thoroughly and store it in a jar with a tight lid. We use 1-2 Tbsp per wash. One other thing we do, especially if there is a lot of grease on our dishes or if we have a lot of glasses in the load, is we add vinegar to the rinse aid section of the dishwasher. Your mileage may vary with the vinegar, depending on how hard your water is, but it’s worth trying.

Sometimes the detergent does clump, but it’s nothing a few scrapes with a fork can’t fix!

Oh, and making your own detergent is totally worth the money. The pods we bought at Whole Foods were at least $0.20 a wash, now we’re paying a cent or two at most. If you make a lot of dishes and you have 10 minutes to measure out ingredients once a month, it’s totally worth it.

Have you ever made your own detergent? What’s your go-to recipe? Let us know in the comments!

We love the Spaghetti Scrub!

We cook a lot here in the SQ household, which means we do a lot of dishes. Thankfully, we do have a dishwasher in our current apartment, but many of our items get used (and therefore washed) multiple times before our dishwasher is full enough to run. We’re always looking for ways to reduce waste and we realized that our kitchen sponge game needed an overhaul.

In doing some research for this post, it seems sponges should be replaced anywhere from every 2-3 uses to every month, depending on how often you sanitize them. Our previous apartment didn’t have a microwave and, honestly, we weren’t great about boiling our sponges on the stove to disinfect them. We also didn’t have a dishwasher, so we went through sponges like woah - usually because they were smelly, but sometimes because they lost their scrubbing ability.

Over the years, we have used several different types of “natural” sponges or kitchen scrubbers made from natural fibers and synthetic fibers. We’ve tried using dishcloths in the past, but found that we almost always require something with more scrubbing power for our cooking habits. So, for the past while we’ve been buying four packs of Scotch-Brite Greener Clean sponges, with a undyed rough surface on one side and a beige sponge on the other. They were easy to find in our local grocery store or Target and did the job well. However, they come wrapped in thin plastic and are not that great for the environment.

Gentle scrub made from peach pits on the left, coarse scrub made form corn cobs on the right.

Gentle scrub made from peach pits on the left, coarse scrub made form corn cobs on the right.

Last fall, we started looking for alternatives that packed that scrubbing punch we needed, but were also environmentally friendly and didn’t come wrapped in plastic. That’s when we discovered the Spaghetti Scrub from Goodbye Detergent. When we purchased the Scrub, it came in a pack of two - one made with peach pits for more gentle scrubbing and one made with corn cobs for tougher jobs - and a stainless steel rack to keep them in. The Scrubs are made of cotton and polyester and look like sandpaper noodles. The description indicates that they will last for months; we’ve had them for over four months so far and they don’t seem to be showing signs of wear.

Since we started using these last November, Goodbye Detergent has changed the product a bit. Instead of having a gentle scrub and a coarse scrub, they now offer one that falls between the two - more of an “all purpose” option. It’s made of 100% cotton, rather than cotton and polyester, which means it should be biodegradable as well.

 

Our Scrubs as of today, April 15. Super curly, still very scrubby!

Our Scrubs as of today, April 15. Super curly, still very scrubby!

 

To use the Scrubs, wet them with water and scrub away - that's it! With use, they curl up, making them look a bit more like fusilli than spaghetti. After washing your dishes, squeeze the scrub out, then place in the stainless steel holder to dry. If needed, they can be sanitized in the microwave or dishwasher, but we haven't found that to be necessary. 

We've thrown all sorts of dirty dishes at our Spaghetti Scrubs and they've been up to the challenge each and every time. We use a fraction of the dish detergent we used to use, which means we're using less plastic, since we're not buying detergent nearly as often (our adventures in homemade dish detergent were disappointing, sadly). Overall, trying the Spaghetti Scrubs was a successful kitchen experiment!

From where we stand, some major benefits of the Spaghetti Scrubs are:

  1. They require little to no detergent for use. The corn and peach cobs are abrasive so you don’t need a lot of soap to remove crusty bits from dishes or pots.
  2. They dry out very easily.
  3. They last forever compared to sponges.
  4. The packaging is 100% recyclable and included no plastic. 

If you can’t tell, we’re head over heels for our Spaghetti Scrubs. When our current ones wear out, we’ll definitely be purchasing the new all purpose option - and of course we’ll update y’all on how that one fares when the time comes.

For those of you who want a close up of the instructions and materials, click here.

What do you use to wash your dishes? Traditional kitchen sponges? Dishcloths? How often do you replace them? Would you try the Spaghetti Scrub? Let us know in the comments!

How We Do (Sustainable Living)

Friends, we just jumped right in last night with that Food Swap post and didn't really give you a chance to get to know us. Or what we do. And we do a lot of things everyday that get us called dirty hippies or granola (lovingly, of course), but it's ok. It's ok to call us hippies, but it's also ok to learn from us and maybe implement some of our practices. We are admittedly some of the busiest people we know. We usually have at least one "after work" event a day and sometimes there will be 3 or 4 things to go to on a weekend day. Amidst all this business, we are desperately trying to keep the house at a controlled level of chaos and feed ourselves and our pets. With all this going on, there is some serious thought and intention put into what we are consuming, food and otherwise.

We want to be sustainable. We want to take small, significant steps to make our living intentional and reduce our impact on the environment. As you can see below, we do a lot already, but we are always looking to do more. I will probably post later on about how being sustainable is an act of queerness and how being queer fits into sustainable living. For now, consider this post less a manifesto and more of an act of full disclosure.

As a caveat, we do recognize that our lifestyle and our interests come from a place of privilege. We are both employed and we make enough money to afford the set up costs of some of the projects we take on. Some things, like making your own yogurt, require little investment, just a candy thermometer, but worm composting or buying a home carbonation device both have a sizable "set-up" cost. We would probably be able to achieve a certain level of sustainability even if we weren't so financially blessed, but there are definitely some things that would go by the wayside or would be much harder.

Finally, bear in mind that we plan to write in-depth posts about our planning and process for some of the projects listen below. This is just an overview. We just want everyone to know exactly how nerdy we are. If you feel you need to know anything immediately, please feel free to say so in the comments, and we will focus on those topics sooner rather than later.

Projects related to housekeeping:

  • Making orange infused vinegar for cleaning
  • Woodworking with reclaimed wood
  • Buying recycled paper products and aluminum foil
  • Giving away two items for every one item we bring into the house
  • Trying to buy things with as little packaging as possible
  • Switched to wind powered electricity (it's cheaper too!)
  • Using homemade washable swiffer pads
  • Using rags instead of paper towels
  • Recycling basically everything we can

Projects related to self care:

  • Using baking soda as shampoo
  • Making homemade deodorant
  • Making homemade lotion/balm
  • Making homemade facial oil blend
  • Using Chinese medicine/natural healing home remedies instead of Western medicine cures
  • Receiving acupuncture/chiropractic/massage regularly for health and balance
  • Meditation practice

Projects related to food:

  • Making stock with veggie scraps and chicken bones
  • Making staples for the week (baked-boiled eggs, congee, etc)
  • Making homemade drink syrups (to flavor carbonated water)
  • Infusing liquors (vanilla vodka and ginger vodka so far)
  • Drinking vinegars, a.k.a. shrubs
  • Making ricotta, yogurt, mustard, cheezeits, etc from scratch
  • Canning, fermenting, and dehydrating food for long term preservation
  • Bringing lunch to work
  • Trying to eat locally sourced, humane and organic food as much as possible
  • Signing up for CSA and egg share
  • Using all of an item if we buy it, e.g. whole chicken, eating beet greens and broccoli stems
  • Choosing to eat at restaurants that serve sustainably sourced food
  • Participating in community food events, like the Chicago Food Swap

Miscellaneous Projects:

  • Not buying cable
  • Homemade gifts
  • Feeding our cat and dog grain free/raw pet food
  • Using community garden plot
  • Reusing jars and bottles for all forms of storage
  • Worm composting
  • Tithing/giving to projects and people who are trying to make the world a better place in a sustainable way

We know that these projects and goals aren't static and that they will change over time, but for now this is how we do sustainable living in Chicago. We'll check back in and let you know how things are progressing. Please let us know if you have any questions.