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Why You Need To Make the Switch to Zero Waste Dish Soap

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Switching to a zero waste dish soap is a safer alternative than detergent dish soap bottled in plastic. It’s better for the planet and gets your dishes clean without any harsh chemicals or extra waste. 

Other household chores you can put off or do once a week and still maintain some semblance of organization and cleanliness, but not dishes.

Not only do we have to do them daily, but multiple times a day! And as soon as you catch up on them, another meal, another dish.

If there was a secret hack to doing dishes faster and better, you better believe we’d be sharing. But for now just know that you’re not alone. We’re thankful to partner with amazing companies like No Tox Life and Circular Bodies to provide you with gentle, yet effective zero wash dish soap bars. 

vegan dish block box, next to pot scrubber, above dish brush sitting on a mesh produce bag

While washing dishes is generally not anyone’s idea of a fun time, couples that split the responsibilities of dishes have better relationships. Other studies have shown that performing mindless tasks such as washing dishes, can inspire creativity1

And in another study people were asked to be mindful about washing dishes — focusing on your breathing, the feel of the soap, warm water, etc. — dishwashing can actually be a stress reliever!

While we may never learn to love washing the dishes, switching to a zero waste dish soap is a super easy way to make your household more eco-friendly. So you can feel good about helping the planet while you explore your creativity while doing dishes! 

Why Should I Switch to a Zero Waste Dish Soap?

Our biggest concerns are always our health and our planet. Store-bought dish soaps come in plastic bottles. Depending on how big your family is or how often you use dish soap, that one bottle could last you a month or 6 months. 

But it’s not just you and the amount of plastic bottles you use. It’s everyone. Millions of people are using and tossing dish soap bottles and it’s totally preventable. 

Switching to a zero waste dish soap doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice the quality of your soap but rather cut back on the amount of plastic you use.

A pile of white rectangle soap blocks

What Is Dish Soap?

The purpose of dish soap is to remove extra food and grease off your dishes but washing your dishes also results in bacteria and viruses being removed from your dishes. 

Dish soap is not killing the bacteria but rather the soap is creating a reaction that lifts the bacteria and germs off and allows them to wash away with the water. 

The act of making soap goes back thousands of years and for the most part remains pretty much the same. So what we’re looking for in an eco-friendly dish soap is something that can lift the food residue off the dishes. 

Antibacterial Soap VS Regular Soap

While antibacterial soap does exist, the FDA has said there is ultimately no difference between washing with antibacterial soap or a regular soap. It’s the action of scrubbing and washing that removes any harmful substances. 

When your dishes are in the dishwasher they’re not being scrubbed, but what’s killing the bacteria is the hot temperature. Temperatures of roughly 130 degrees fahrenheit can kill viruses.

Dish soap is a little different from hand soap in the sense that dish soap tends to contain detergents which can be harsh on skin. Hand soaps generally contain more nourishing ingredients for your skin.

A hand holding a white cube of dish soap

Why Dish Soap Contains Detergent — And Why That’s Not Good

The main ingredient in commercial liquid dish soaps is water and the main active ingredient is detergent. Detergents are added to dish soaps because they do not react with the minerals in the water to form any residue or soap scrum. Detergents also act as a surfactant which helps pull grease and stuck on foods off the item you’re washing. 

In addition to detergents being harmful for aquatic life, they also contain other chemicals such as phosphates which can deplete the oxygen supply in the water; fragrances which are not regulated by the FDA and often contain chemicals that can cause allergic reactions and skin conditions; and other chemicals which can be difficult to clean out of the water supply at treatment facilities. 

How Does a Zero Waste Dish Soap Bar Work

While it sounds like detergent has some good qualities like being able to draw grease and grime away from dishes, that can easily be found in natural, eco-friendly replacements like this zero waste dish soap bar without the negative effects.

As we learned above, the dish soap itself is not what’s cleaning the dishes, it’s soap + scrubbing + hot water = clean dishes.

While it looks like a dangerous chemical, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate comes from coconuts and is a popular cleaning agent in soaps and skincare products; it’s also safe and gentle to use. It’s the main ingredient in one of our favorite dish soap bars from No Tox Life and is a natural surfactant that can help draw grease, grime, and food from dishes.  

A white cube of dish soap being rubbed by a pot scrubber making bubbles

Photo by No Tox Life

Coconut derivatives are excellent in dish soap bars because when coconut oil is turned into soap (saponified), it creates a hard texture that works well for the form and shape, and produces a lot of bubbles. 

Other bars, such as this one from our partner Butter Me Up Organics, contains saponified coconut oil as its first ingredient and castor oil as its second. The castor oil also creates a nice lather but helps draw moisture into the skin so your hands won’t dry out while washing dishes! 

Zero Waste Liquid Dish Soap

Dish soap bars aren’t the only way we can help reduce our impact on the environment while making sure to take care of our health and keep our environment clean! 

If you prefer a liquid dish soap, there are options for you! 

Our partners, Home Farm, have a concentrated dish soap that’s safe for you and safe for the planet. Packaged in a 16oz glass jar that can be recycled or upcycled, this bottle will go a long way as you should only need about 1 pump for your dishes. 

A glass bottle containing orange liquid from Home Farm Dish Soap

If you want to take it a step further, our partners from Fillaree offer a refill subscription for their dish soap! The starter pack comes with a 16 oz liquid dish soap + a 32 oz refill jug. When the refill bottle is empty, wash it out and send it back using a prepaid envelope and they’ll put it back into rotation. 

Zero Waste Dish Soap Accessories

Every dish washing session is only as good as the accessories you have to do it with! Ever gotten a new dish brush that just doesn't work like you want it to? Well never fear, here are some excellent dish washing tools that of course are plastic free and eco-friendly. 

3 ceramic dish soap holders - mustard, lavender, and dark turquoise with small handles on each side

This Agave Soap Saver Bag is perfect to hang your soap in if you hate soap dishes or don’t have any room on your countertop. Made from natural agave fiber it can be composted at the end of its life. 

In terms of keeping your soap safely stored, there are so many soap dish options such as this bamboo soap shelf or this incredibly chic ceramic soap dish! Wherever you do decide to store your soap make sure it has room to dry as that will help your soap last longer. 

When you need some extra scrubbing power, it’s an excellent idea to have some biodegradable coconut kitchen scourers on hand. Made from waste coconut shells you can compost it or simply bury it in the backyard. 

Besides trying to be more mindful (which will be easier said than done) and using dishwashing as an opportunity to slow down for a few minutes, try dividing dishwashing into stages. Help manage the stress of the dishes by delegating some of the stages to others or schedule time for yourself to do them. Breaking down the larger tasks into smaller, more manageable ones can help you not feel so overwhelmed. 

And in the end, go easy on yourself; you’re doing a great job! 

Go forth and use less plastic. 

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