Thursday, March 20, 2014

DIY Dishwasher Soap

Some money-saving, environment-saving attempts have met better success in our home than others. Our foray into re-useable dinner napkins was successful for a period of time until that awkward night we accidentally divulged to dinner guests that our napkins were made out of a set of bedsheets that had snagged and ripped a hole. Those friends have returned to our house for dinner since then, but I think I perceived some restrained expressions of relief on their face when they saw paper napkins.

One successful change we've made is to start making our own dishwasher detergent. I must give all the credit to my husband for this venture. He has become an accomplished home-chemist, making all-natural hand-crafted bar soap and deodorant too. I researched making our own soap years ago, and shelved the project when I realized it involved danger and safety goggles. I had flashbacks of safety videos in high school chemistry class, and the horror of imagining that you might have to strip and use the emergency shower if you caught fire or had chemical burns, the threat of injury being far less dire than the prospect of public nudity in high school.  Perhaps it still is?

We have been using the homemade dishwasher detergent for at least six months now, and are happy with the results. It uses only four ingredients, is cost-effective, and is eco-friendly. Phosphates have been banned in Canada in dishwasher soap since 2010, but commercial dishwasher soaps may still contain fragrances, chlorine, and other nastiness that create fumes when they mix with steamy water. The key with this recipe is to use the vinegar in the rinse to remove any film from the dishes. I had never used a rinsing agent before switching to this homemade version from the commercially available soaps, probably because of the slew of chemical ingredients in store-bought versions, but it is definitely necessary in this case.

I usually use 2 cups each of washing soda and borax and 1 cup of coarse salt, but as long as you keep the proportions in balance, you can make as much or as little as you wish. Mix the first three ingredients together, using a sieve and wooden spoon to sift if any of them are clumpy. We keep ours in a decorative tin (but actually not really decorative - it's an old laundry soap container) on our counter. The vinegar just goes in the rinse compartment in your dishwasher. Top it up periodically to make sure your dishes come out sparkly! Keep in mind that while these ingredients are natural, they can be toxic in high doses, even salt, so keep this out of reach of children just as you would with other dishwasher soap.

Happy cleaning! (Or is that an oxymoron?)

Electric Dishwashing Machine, 1917. Wikipedia

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