Bar Soap Dishwashing

by Ivory Soap

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When I tried to clean out my dishwasher filter, I mistook the float for the drain.  When I yanked, it broke.  So, in the end I had a fabulously clean dishwasher that didn’t work; I was right in the middle freezer cooking.  That explains the above pile of grossness.

On top of all of that inconvenience, I don’t keep liquid soap around.  Just bar soap.

How to Hand Wash Dishes (with bar soap)

Supplies needed:  ramekin or other shallow dish, half bar of soap, palm sized scrub brush.


1. Put half bar of soap in tall glass and run screaming hot water in the glass to fill the plugged sink. Leave other side of sink empty.

2.  Dump in first load of funky dishes.

IMG_02503.  Put half bar of soap in ramekin so you can easily get at it with the scrub brush.  Load brush with suds and go to work.


4.  Chuck scrubbed dishes in empty side of sink as you finish dislodging their funkiness.

5.  Once you have emptied the dirty side of the sink.  Hose the scrubbed dishes with screaming hot water and load into your broken dishwasher to dry.


6. If you are like me, you will then empty the yucky sink water and repeat the process with a new batch of dirty dishes.

If you wanna be fancy and frugal about your LIQUID soap, you can try what I did after hubby got tired of watching this sad scene and bought me some Dawn:


I find that I want LATHER on my brush at all times and went through tons of liquid soap until I did the above trick.  Put liquid dish soap in a cup with water.  Plunge brush to get fast lather without squeezing out full strength soap every few minutes.

Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Cindee January 8, 2013 at 10:12 am

Oh my goodness is your dishwasher still broken. I cleaned mine it worked great but I was a wreck doing it . Lol good luck! I don’t have a new blog up for our new dyi lifestyle. I just want to thank you guys for opening my eyes. I love it, I making everything and sell it a little to. Not sure if I can mention face book page so I am having hard time letting my other one go, but thanks again your tips are amazing!

Stacey January 8, 2013 at 10:24 am

No dishwasher in my home, and I don’t use my homemade soap for doing the dishes because I can’t seem to get enough lather. Thanks so much for the tips, I will give them a try. One thing I am considering doing is felting my soap. Then use the wool covered soap directly on the dishes.

Mary Beth January 8, 2013 at 11:27 am

Ha ha! I was right there with you last week! I tried washing my dishes using ivory bar soap a couple of times, but it just didn’t seem to “cut the grease” so I had to breakdown and go back to Dawn! Good luck getting your dishwasher fixed!

Elizabeth January 9, 2013 at 6:28 am

My dishwasher has been broken for months. 🙁 It’s under a recall but I’ve been too lazy to arrange for them to come out and fix it. I hated it when it “worked” and I’m trying to convince my hubby to replace the dishwasher with more cabinets. Not working so far. 😉

Love the bar-soap dishwashing tips, though … that could come in handy!

Louise January 9, 2013 at 7:30 am

Thanks so much — it’s great to have a backup for those times when I run out of dish soap.

Philip January 9, 2013 at 8:25 am

OK ladies, here’s how to wash dishes in a sink. Shake about 1/4 cut of Cascade dishwasher powder into the pan (my sink is a one holer, so I use a dish pan). Squeeze a good dab of Dawn dish soap (Dawn was the agent used to disperse the oil spill/leak that happened in the Gulf of Mexico a year or two ago.) Swish your fingers around to dissolve the powder with hot water and your ready to go.
I use all glass for drinking, no ceramic (glass is far more sanitary with less taste than ceramic). and it’s sparkles. No spots, very easy to do along with plates etc. This mixture literally melts burned on food in pans, pots, and really easy to clean the coffee pot.
You may now poke fun at this man. As the song says “Hit me with your best shot”.

Daisy January 9, 2013 at 9:11 am

Philip–Any gentleman willing to wash dishes (and take pride in a sparkling result) will get no complaint from me! Wash on!

Doe January 9, 2013 at 11:51 am

Please be careful about posting pictures of your little ones. I’m sure you know why.

Dorothy January 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm

I don’t have a dishwasher, and I have been using cakes of soap to wash my dishes for years. I have a dish-wand that i put the soap in and just run it through the water as I fill the sink. The dish-wand is plastic with holes in in the part where the soap goes and is on a long handle.

Jane January 9, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I have a love/hate relationship with my dishwasher. I love clean dishes but hate my dishwasher. It’s ruined all my glasses – they look awful and half the time my dishes come out with a horrible white streaks all over them. I changed from Cascade to Finish and that solved most of the problem (who knew?). I always have blue Dawn around. It’s the best at cutting grease and you can use it for so many things. I never, ever, put my knives or pots and pans in the dishwasher – especially things like aluminum baking sheets because they end up looking awful. I’m a nut and will scrub the outside of pots and pans to get the gunk off – I like my stainless to be spotless. The knives will get ruined from the detergent in the dishwasher so if you have good knives, don’t put them in there – they will get dull and pitted and won’t perform as well as they should.

KimH January 9, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Next time… try using shampoo.. It works great! I dont have a dishwasher in this house so I have to use liquid dish soap.. but I’ve run out a time or two.. Nothing a little bit of shampoo wont fix.. or liquid body soap would work too.
If you’re worried about any scent lingering on your dishes, put a little vinegar in a dishpan with your rinse water.. that’ll cut anything that lingers.

mdoe37 January 12, 2013 at 5:17 am

My dishwasher is over 15 years old. It was a cheapie then and I had to nearly wash the dishes before I put them in. I quit using commercial powder and went to a squirt of Dawn (small) and a 1/2 teaspoon Oxiclean. Worked liked a charm where the others left all that icky residue. Loved it my washer for nice clean hot jars for canning.

I’m watching for a deal on a dishwasher. Do you know how many people simply upgrade their appliances. I can’t tell you how many 2-3 year old items being replaced because they decided they wanted stainless.

I tried using bar soap dish washing concoctions (as well as the popular dishwasher recipes), but my water just doesn’t work well with them.

Rickey January 12, 2013 at 5:48 am

I will have to try these ideas. I am in charge of washing dishes at our house and never thought to use her old bar soaps that she can no longer use on her body. Speaking of which, there is a sink full of dishes. Might as well try this out!

Norine January 12, 2013 at 6:52 am

No dishwasher here. I also make my own liquid dish soap. The thing you have to remember is that all those lovely lather bubbles you like, are from additives in the soaps, and they don’t clean anything, the soap does. If you ever get spots on your dishes, it’s because of the lather additives. The soap I make doesn’t lather much, if at all, but it sure cleans the nastiness away, with no spots, and awesome sparkly, squeaky clean results.

Julie January 12, 2013 at 7:24 am

I just love this site…i read often and never post but this one i just had too! When we built our first house Hubby insisted i have a dishwasher…I didn’t use it for 2 yrs! For this Cape Codder who loved the simple life…it was kind of intimidating…to be honest! After a Christmas party…i broke down,and NEVER looked back-We sold that little house for more land,chickens & gardens-no more dishwasher….and i really missed it-6 yrs later and still no dishwasher! I do make handmade soap and make a nice dish soap…i do add vinegar(i love this stuff!) and it does break up grease…and leaves me glasses sparkeling!

judith January 12, 2013 at 9:03 am

Good idea! I like the soap in the glass method. I just went 9 mos. without a dish washer, I feel your pain. Mine was unable to drain properly, so it had 2-3 inches of mucky water in the bottom of it, no way I could have drained the dishes in it. I would wash enough to fill the dish drainer that was in the extra sink, go knit a few rows while waiting for them to dry, and come back to put those away and wash more dishes. Thank goodness it’s only hubby and I and not back when the house was full of kids. But then I would have had a bunch of dish dryers… now I just let Air do one of the jobs it was created for.

Carmen January 12, 2013 at 9:30 am

I do have a dishwasher which I use only when canning, to avoid washing 24 (or more) jars at a time. For dishes I only use original Dawn, if it’s good enough for saving birds and other animals affected by the various oil spill, it’s good enough for me. I do use sponges which I cut into smaller pieces so I don’t waste too much money when I throw them out on a regular basis. I have a garden window and I found that if I dry them there, in the sunlight, in a small metal holder that attaches to the glass they don’t get smelly. I keep the detergent in a glass container meant for oil/vinegar. It not only looks pretty when the sun shines through, I can just pour a tiny bit on the sponge and do a lot of dishes with just that amount. I have a double sink and the microwave for sanitizing the sponge. FYI I love this site and the book that brought me here to begin with.

Vanessa January 12, 2013 at 9:57 am

Just thought I’d add what I’ve done for years… liquid or home made powdered dish soap in an large cleaner sprayer. I purchased a few at Sam’s, but you can probably get them at a $ store… I only put maybe 2-3 ounces in the bottom of the spray bottle, and it holds probably 30 or so ounces. 5 or 10 sprays into the water as the sink is filling up does just about right. If a particular dish is resistant it gets and individual spurt. The soap lasts a long time, is handy not only to spray individual dishes lightly for a quick clean up, but also for spots on the table or stove, and keeps the rest of the family from using way too much soap, as they are want to do… 🙂 I also keep a spray bottle of the harsh white vinegar infused with orange and/or lemon peels (for the cleansing oils…just drop the peels in there and keep adding vinegar as needed…) It cuts thru all sorts of stuff and keeps down the sometimes not great kitchen smells, especially when cleaning the sink. I also spray down all my cutting boards with my citrus vinegar after they have been washed ~kills smells and any odd unfriendly that may still be hanging around…

Vanessa January 12, 2013 at 9:58 am

Norine… could you share your soap recipe?? Thanks~

pzbeliever January 12, 2013 at 11:42 am

Besides the dishwasher, air drying is the best thing for dishes, when you can do it. When they are wiped with a towel, it can put germs & lint on the dishes.

Marilyn January 12, 2013 at 2:58 pm

The bar soap has to be at 1% superfat . . . You can’t use moisturizing bar soap for the body to wash dishes with. (These are 5-8% superfat – loose moisturizing fats left in the soap for the skin). In the not-so-distant past, they shaved off a piece of cleaning soap and put it in their hot water and washed dishes – and it didn’t bubble – foam or do anything that we’re used to with commercial dish detergents made from petroleum products. Did they get clean dishes? Oh yes, and a great benefit of using these soaps instead of detergents? When you soak your dishes, the yuck really comes off EASY! Let’s not lose the lost arts that are still wonderful!!! Hope that helps all of you out there –

Linda J January 12, 2013 at 9:08 pm

When my daughter had a small apartment for 2 years in college her 80? yr-old landlady with many properties insisted all tenants use Dawn liquid to prevent grease build-up & plumbing problems – including a ‘monthly’ dose followed by 1 cup of HOT water, sit & then rinse with more hot water. I dilute the Dawn with water by 1/2 to 2/3 & have plenty of suds. My countertop by the sink has a vignette of pretty glass ‘pouring’ containers, some acquired from a ‘house clean-out’ with an older relative. They sit in a glass top to an old glass refrigerator dish. I keep a small one filled with bleach for countertop clean up & an old shaker bottle with baking soda or commercial cleaner for pot bottoms which we seldom put in the dishwasher – to preserve their special inside finish. Also use on some ‘older special dishes’ that I like to use regularly for salads & soups but cannot put in the dishwasher. Using a larger container for the diluted soap would save refill time, but I like the pretty look & reuse of objects for new purposes. Attended one of your workshops & used the furniture polish when we had to move all the furniture downstairs for new carpet. The person helping me pack couldn’t believe how it worked on the wood furniture. My other favorite is using hot water & Ivory soap for cleaning white tile grout – even works on the floor [my husband works with machines & oils in a machine shop]!

Paz January 12, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Does anyone else pre-wash their dishes even when they have a dishwasher? The rule here is to wash away most with water but if you use soap dont bother to put it in the dishwasher.

Bobtom Reed January 14, 2013 at 7:52 am

I use Dr. Bronner’s soap in my liquid soap dispenser (where some have a rinse hose). Ordinarily it’s for hand washing (diluted about 10 to 1), but I wash some of my dishes with it when I just have one or two things to wash. It works great and smells wonderful.

Linda J January 14, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Where do you find Dr. Bonners soap?

jeansing January 25, 2013 at 4:02 pm

this looks so gross to me !! dirty, cloudy water to clean your dishes??? If my dishwasher breaks, I will use liquid dishwashing liquid… thanks but no thanks!!

Sarah January 28, 2013 at 2:14 pm

And if you want to be SUPER frugal and green, fill the empty side with water and use that for your rinsing. My husband and I learned that trick when we spent about 5 months in South Africa. Before we had our dishwasher, this is how we did our dishes. Except for the baby bottles and sippy cups. Those always got rinsed with running water.

Desert Fox October 26, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Dishwasher?…what a luxury! Just a little history lesson…when there was no running water, you just boiled a potfull of water, mixed a little in a bowl of cold water and added soap (any kind) to make the “wash” water; in another bowl or sink you added clean cold water, adding more boiling water to use as rinse (the hotter the better sanitary rinse). You would wash your dishes and dip-rinse in the hot clean water and voila’ you piled them to dry on the counter.

A tip: If you want to use bars of soap …keep adding leftover pieces of soap in a small container with water and they will “melt” in time, leaving a gelatinous mix in the container. Just add more water to make it runnier to use as liquid soap for your dishes, or hand-washing. (Mix it gently to keep suds at a minimum).

D February 2, 2014 at 6:04 pm

jeansing, soap will make the water cloudy, but it isn’t dirty. And a dishwasher just uses a small amount of water and does the same thing…”dirty” water and soap or detergent splashed over all the dishes, then rinsed. It’s amusing how perceptions affect what we will try, even if they are not accurate.

Jeanne November 12, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Why not just crochet a sponge and soap saver and use that to hand wash the dishes. (I just got a pattern off this website.) That’s what I’m gonna try.

verna April 26, 2017 at 7:17 am

i get fantastic results using bar soap for washing dishes,i rub the bar soap on a sponge and gets tons of bubbles,i give them an extra rince and my dishes comes out sparkling clean,and so much cheaper than dish liquid,and i use natural bar soap to wash my dishes,there is to much wastage using liquid dish liquid,because i use to buy all natural at it became very expensive,i use to go through a lot

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