Practically Green: Dishwasher soap substitutes not worth bad results

by Ivory Soap on 06/14/2011

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I can tolerate some inconveniences and discomfort from living green, but living with filmy dishes isn’t among them.

I’ve tried 10 or more homemade recipes for dishwasher detergent, but the dishes all come out icky. Especially the plastics. I’ve tried washing soda, baking soda, citric acid, vinegar, Borax, laundry soap, dish soap, salt, essential oil, Castile soap and I can’t remember what else. For every recipe, there’s someone out there who swears their dishes come out sparkling. Not me.

What is that white sticky dust on all the Tupperware? And what exactly happens to my plastic bowls in there to make all those white-coated nicks? What’s the “green lady” doing with all those plastics in the house, anyway? (Answer: Four kids and clumsy parents. I got tired of cleaning up the broken glass.)

Read the full article HERE.



{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

KallyLyn June 14, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Have you tried using Charlie Soap? We use this for our laundry and dishes- or did, until we got rid of the dishwasher. 🙂 It is a vegetable-based soap, and does a really good job.

Have you tried adding a bit of lemon juice to your dishwasher when you load it up? This is supposed to help with calcium deposits and such- it’s basically just citric acid, but depending on your water, it can really help.

We’ve not had tons of help from those homemade dish soaps either, so we pretty much just use Charlie Soap or Bon Ami cleaning products.

Jeanette June 14, 2011 at 3:56 pm

I agree, the homemade concoctions do not work. We use Palmolive ECO.

Adica June 14, 2011 at 5:12 pm

I’ve never tried the homemade stuff. I use the Trader Joe’s brand, though, and it works nicely, even in my portable dishwasher.

Erin June 14, 2011 at 6:07 pm

I’ve tried a bunch of homemade concoctions for dishes and had the same problems. I’m disappointed that it is the ONLY thing I’ve not been able to make myself. So, now I use Seventh Generation’s Free & Clear powder and it does pretty well.

Carrie June 14, 2011 at 6:59 pm

We use Ecos and it works great.

Cathy June 14, 2011 at 7:32 pm

The only “green” brand I’ve tried that actually works well is Ecover. Seventh Generation and the Palmolive kind and homemade were all flops here.

Denise June 14, 2011 at 8:12 pm

We also have used Ecover and really liked it, but our favourite is Natureclean (I think they might be only in Canada though?) I also think you still have to use a rinse aid (Natureclean makes one) if you want everything squeaky and clear.

I prefer tabs to powder (call me lazy and messy – I spill too much all over and I can’t close the little soap door!) so I always went with a brand that made tabs.

I hear you on the residue though which is why I don’t just make my own homemade. I found it works in a pinch (if I run out) but not for the long term.

Betty June 15, 2011 at 9:29 am

Excellent article and ditto on the residue left by the homemade dishwasher soap. I got tired of rewashing everything. And yes, the ONLY thing that got the dishes clean was Cascade. I’m pretty sure it’s the hard water here. My solution will probably not be embraced by too many people, but it works for us. We got rid of the dishwasher. We wash everything by hand now, and believe it or not, it doesn’t take any more time or water than it did to “rinse” the dishes before putting them into the dishwasher and then again after taking them out of the dishwasher. Like I said, my solution will not be a popular one, but it works for us.

Brittany June 15, 2011 at 12:13 pm

While I agree that finding an effective homemade recipe is tough, I think there are many other effective options that don’t include dish washing plastics and using Cascade to do it. If you are worried about Borax, well, you will definitely be calling poison control should somebody happen to ingest Cascade (even with the recent removal of phosphates from the solution due to environmental pollution). I think that hand washing plastics instead of exposing them to the heat of the dishwasher could help with that element of your problem and will definitely help your plastics to remain in better shape and to be more healthy for your family. I have found several “green” brands such as Mrs. Meyers Clean Day, Seventh Generation and Method to work well and white vinegar in the rinse solution well seems to help too. I hope that you find a better solution for your dish washing dilemma! Best of luck and I love the blog.

Stefanie June 15, 2011 at 4:02 pm

I agree, I have yet to find a homemade dishwasher soap that works. Bums me out too. Maybe it’s my really hard water? But I feel slightly better knowing that I tried A LOT of recipes before giving up.

Kathy June 16, 2011 at 9:47 am

I have tried a lot of home made recipes too. No luck. I do have success with home made laundry soap, hand soap, and bar soap.

Kimberly June 16, 2011 at 11:57 am

I use half and half- a mix of baking soda, washing soda, borax, and salt in the pre-rinse cup and a little Cascade in the main cup. Its not 100% green, but I feel less guilty and my Cascade lasts for ages. Never thought of cutting it with baking soda. I guess I know what I’ll be doing before washing dishes tonight. 🙂

CBP June 17, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I’ve tried the homemade kind as well and it worked okay, but not well enough to continue unless I’m in a pinch. I suspect it has to do with your water source. I cannot use certain laundry detergents as they turn my whites to yellow. I also gave up on some homemade cleaners — they just wouldn’t do the job.

Lilah @ Envious Homes July 1, 2011 at 4:48 am

I can’t begin to tell you what a relief it is to see that others have encountered the same thing with the dishwasher detergent substitutes. I finally figure out how to air dry my laundry without it turning out completely stiff as a board, and then I gave a few of the above a try and got that film residue also. Being green has to be taken in baby steps for me, but I am determined that I will get there eventually.

Terrence August 1, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Based on Consumer Reports’ most recent tests, the myriad formulation Cascade detergents run the gamut from very good (Cascade-Dawn Action Pacs) to lousy (Cascade-Dawn gel). Also, Finish tablets cleaned much better, and are usually cheaper (15-20 cents per tablet). For “green” cleaning, you’re stuck with expensive tablets from Method and Ecover… and ditto what Brittany said: ingested Cascade is just as dangerous as borax. Besides, the residue is probably just a byproduct of the hard water in your area. You’ll need vinegar in the rinse aid dispenser to help get that off. You might not need it, if baking soda in the “overflow” dispenser solves the problem.

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