Washing the dishes - the continuing story

18 November 2010
What is it they say about hindsight? I thought we'd be perfectly happy with our sink when we had it redone a couple of years ago. We had a flood in the kitchen, when the dishwasher sprung a leak, and the insurance company paid for the replacement of the floor and the cupboard bottoms. Taking the cupboards out meant they had to remove the bench tops and therefore we had new bench tops fitted as well. We took advantage of this and replaced the old sink. Unfortunately we replaced the sink and drain with just two sinks, and no drainage area. When we got rid of the dishwasher, we had nowhere on which to drain the dishes. I've tried the dish rack sitting on a draining board but it leaks everywhere. Now I have the rack sitting in a tray on top of a tea towel that I keep replacing. The situation need to change. We need a sink with a drainage area.

Who would think the simple act of washing dishes would be so complicated. First there was the hand versus machine washing that was resolved quickly. Once I started to think about it I realised I couldn't continue to pour all that caustic detergent out into the drains and waterways. Then the problem of what washing aid to replace it with. Instead of using a detergent I wanted to use soap, and I wanted it to be castile soap. I chose to go against detergents because they're made using a variety of chemicals like Sodium Laurel Sulphate and Sodium Laureth Sulphate. Even the Australian Earth detergent contains this chemical which is why I don't use it now. I find when I use anything that contains SLS, my skin is red and itchy.

This is what is working for me. I have worked my way through a few "biodegradable", "eco", "safe" detergents. I've discarded Earth because of the SLS and I'm now working my way through Eco Store's Dishwash Liquid and Ecologic's Lemon and Lime Dishwashing Liquid. I am happy with both of them but especially like and admire Ecologic's openess in revealing their ingredient list - it's mostly organic botanicals and organic olive oil and it's made in Australia. Eco Store's Dishwash Liquid lists what it does NOT have in it but apart from listing "plant based non-ionic and anionic surfactants, mineral hydroxide and natural citrus oil" I don't know what IS in it. And it's a New Zealand product which I think is fine for New Zealanders but is not for me. BTW, for anyone looking for an biodegradable and relatively safe dishwashing liquid for a machine, Ecologic's Lemon and Lime can be safely used in a dishwasher - one teaspoon per wash.

I no longer use this dish rank on a daily basis. A couple of readers have pointed out that it should be turned towards the sink for the water to drain off. I did try that but the water always dripped under the drainer and pooled. I turned it this way after all the water had drained away, then put the towel there. Now I use a larger rack that sits on a tray but it's not much better.

So I've decided to continue on with my homemade liquid soap and will have to make another batch soon before these two bottles run out. I will make a thicker version of the liquid soap and use it with a foam dispenser that I found in my cupboard. Originally it held organic hair mousse and what looks like clear liquid in the bottle, comes out as a foam. It's working really well, so thanks to those readers who suggested I try the foam dispenser. Here is my post, and a recipe, on liquid soap.

Liquid soap in the making - this is at the paste stage.

My other requirements for safe and hygienic washing up are hot water - as hot as I can stand it, a little dish mop so I can use the hottest water (I make sure I sanitise this every week and fluff it up after every use so it dries out), rinse water, cotton dishcloths, scrubbing brushes, and a stainless steel scrubber. Pre-soaking, even for a few minutes, makes washing the dishes much easier and rinsing milk glasses as soon as they're used is a great help. I've found that egg and milk are the hardest to remove if they're allow to sit and dry on a plate or cup. Rinsing or soaking helps with those problems.

I don't have neighbours who live as we do so I can't sit down with a cuppa and discuss this mundane but relevant subject with anyone but you. So what are you doing, what have you tried and what is working for you?