Sparser Living Through Chemistry
April 3, 2011 6:36 PM   Subscribe

What can I use as a safe substitute for dishwashing liquid?

I wash my dishes by hand and recently ran out of dishwashing liquid. I'm preparing for a move, so I'm trying to "use up" as much stuff as possible and not buy anything new.

Can I use something else? I've got basically all your other common household stuff -- shampoo, bar soap, hand soap, various household cleaners, detergent, baking soda, white vinegar, etc. But I don't want to accidentally poison myself because I didn't want to buy a stupid bottle of dishwashing liquid.

I looked around online but everything seemed to involve buying something I didn't have, like washing soda or Borax.
posted by unannihilated to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hot water and elbow grease? If you don't have vinegar or baking soda, vigorous scrubbing will help all but the worst stuck-on gross stuff.
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 6:40 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

In Morocco they use a small amount of Tide laundry powder diluted with water. They mix it in a small shallow dish and dip their rag into it as they wash. Tough on hands but the dishes are squeaky clean.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:43 PM on April 3, 2011

I would use anything you listed, and rinse well. (Well, I wouldn't use toilet cleaner.)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:57 PM on April 3, 2011

Any of those. Hand soap is fine. Shampoo is fine. Laundry detergent is fine. Hot water and diluted vinegar is annoying but fine.

Personally I would just rub some standard bar soap on the sponge and get on with it. I've done this more than once.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:58 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bar soap is Recipe 3 here. Caution: These types of DIY "modern homesteader" questions will take you down a rabbit hole faster than you can say "Madge, you're soaking in it."
posted by webhund at 6:59 PM on April 3, 2011

If you have liquid Bronner's soap, it's good for almost anything and everything; fantastic stuff.
posted by alexandermatheson at 6:59 PM on April 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you use clothes detergent, wear rubber gloves.
posted by amtho at 7:06 PM on April 3, 2011

Soap is soap, more or less. It consists of two parts, one which is hydrophobic and one that is hydrophilic. That means, in essence, that it will bind to oils and act as an emulsifier and bind to water so it will rinse off fairly easily. Use any soap and rinse it off well.

Disclaimer: going from chemistry classes from 30 years ago.
posted by plinth at 7:09 PM on April 3, 2011

I tend to use the pump of hand soap on my kitchen sink for both my hands and dishes. It's easier than picking up the squeeze bottle of dishwashing liquid. My dishes are always squeaky-clean (I do rinse thoroughly), and I've never had any issues with doing so.
posted by xingcat at 7:21 PM on April 3, 2011

Pretty much any soap would be OK if you rinse well. If the shampoo or handsoap have a lot of moisturizers they might be hard to rinse off, but other than that you should be ok. (I use baking soda a lot to scrub dishes with baked-on stuff, too. It works well.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:27 PM on April 3, 2011

Hand soap or body wash will do fine.
posted by theora55 at 7:31 PM on April 3, 2011

If you use shampoo, make sure you rinse really well to avoid Suave-scented dishes.
posted by corey flood at 7:49 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

The big problem with things like shampoo and hand soap is that they contain scents which are intended to stay around afterwards. On your hair and hands that may be fine, but on your dishes it makes your food taste funny.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:54 PM on April 3, 2011

Baking Soda is used since my grandmother's era. As long as you rinse it properly, you won't be poisoned.
posted by Johnkx at 7:54 PM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

You want something that will get food deposits off your dishes. Any unscented or mildly scented soap or detergent would do. There is nothing magical about dish soap that would provide extra cleaning / disinfecting power, so if your dishes look and feel as clean after using unscented hand soap or baking powder, then they are clean enough.

You can get Dr. Bronner's in an unscented "baby mild" 2 ounce size for about 3 bucks. It can be a handy back-up soap for almost anything around the house, too. Dilute! Dilute!, and rinse afterwards with vinegar and water to get the soap deposit off. Don't mix vinegar with Bronner's or any soap because you will get a curdled mess.
posted by maudlin at 8:36 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Clean with hot water and elbow grease. For the nasty pot stains you could throw baking soda on the tough spots, and pour vinegar on the baking soda. I go this route for cleaning my bathtub, so it will definitely clean your plates.
posted by JesseBikman at 8:41 PM on April 3, 2011

You could just buy a small bottle of dishwashing soap, one dollar at the dollar store, and leave it behind for the next tenant.
posted by mareli at 3:30 AM on April 4, 2011

mareli beat me to it. I have done this - there are always a few things that you can't deal with packing or don't want but the next tenant could use.
posted by radioamy at 7:58 AM on April 4, 2011

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