Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent and the Emporers New Clothes

I’ve discovered an inexpensive, effective, homemade recipe for dishwashing detergent. When we got rid of the toxic chemicals in our house, dishwashing soap was one that still hung around. I didn’t know how to do away with it, unless I did away with the dishwasher and I’m just not ready for that. I love my dishwasher. It was the first dishwasher I ever bought and when the salesman told me it would be “quieter than bacon sizzling”, I bought it that day. I remember trying to yell above the racket of the dishwasher in our old house, so the noise level was my priority. I think it’s a little bit noisier than bacon, but still it’s one of my favorite appliances. The jury in my mind is out on whether it’s better for the environment to use the dishwasher or wash everything by hand. I’m guessing the amount of hot water utilized in either option is pretty much the same with the number of dishes we create (especially when you have children washing dishes). Anyway, back to the dishwashing detergent.

Dishwashing detergent as a genre is pretty tough. When you really need a powerful cleaner for a stain, you turn to the power detergent because it’s super strong stuff. It’ll burn your hands if you’re not careful. It’s great for soaking plastic toys or metal parts. I think it pretty much just eats the stain and grime away. Basically it’s dangerous stuff. Which is why I’m thrilled to tell you about the homemade version. Here’s the recipe:

Equal parts Borax and Baking Soda.

That’s it. I just got home from the store where I bought two big boxes of baking soda and a box of Borax for less that $6. This will probably last me six months. So it’s cheap, but does it work? We’ve been using my trial size batch for about a week. Just last night my occasionally skeptic hubby said, "I’m going to leave these plates really gross and see if the wonder detergent can handle it." The results? This morning everything was clean as can be.

The first go round with the homemade detergent got the dishes clean, but the glasses didn’t look sparkly. We decided to try the other cheapo all-purpose cleaner and added vinegar to the rinse aid dispenser. Wallah! Beautiful glassware! You can now stop paying through the nose for a teeny tiny bottle of rinse aid that’s filled with toxic chemicals and perfumes. Vinegar works just fine.

I’m guessing that way back when the first dishwasher was invented, the detergent used was Borax or another similarly simple soap. We uber-consumers are always looking for next best thing and if it has a catchy jingle all the better. In the end, though, we end up back where we started. I don’t necessarily want to do away with the entire dishwashing detergent industry, but it does seem a little like an emperor without clothes.


  1. Can't wait to try this one! Thanks, Cara!

  2. Not a comment on the dishwashing detergent - althought I just made up a batch and it's running for the first time right now, as well as a load of laundry with the home made detergent - I'll let you know how it goes.

    My comment is in regards to the photo with the board fence for weaving tomatoe plants through that "Nick picked up" while traveling in Asia. It's a great idea, however, something that is much easier and we've used for a couple of years now are cattle panels. They are wire fence panels (ours are the 16' long panels) that you can pick up at TSC / Quality Farm & Fleet or similar stores. We use 3 T posts per panel and weave the tomato plants through as they grow. Works awesome, we re-use them every year, easy to put up and take down.

    I usually plant the tomatoes on both side in an alternating pattern. They work great at keeping the pets from damaging your plants also. We have dogs, a litter of puppies on occasion, etc. They used to run through the garden areas and play under the plants and usually ended up knocking them down or breaking them off. The fence panels keep them from that. They still run up and down the rows, but they don't bother the plants at the base. It keeps deer from trampeling plants also. It also supports HUGE tomato plants with a problem. Our grew up and over the top and made it all the way back to the ground without taxing the fence support. Those wimpy tomato cages never worked.

    It's the same concept Nick picked up in Asia, but so much easier, IMHO, than building a wooden fence rail system. VERY easy to put up and take down. Holds up HUGE plants.

    BTW Cara, I just recently found your site, but have read through a LOT of it . . . in my "free time." :) It's almost impossible to find people, resources or websites that teach or support organic lifestyles that aren't more fanatical and less practical. Thanks for all the great, and practical, ideas.