This site is an archive of For the latest information about Susy and her adventrures, visit the Cultivate Simple site.
Thank you for all your support over the years!

Non-Toxic Cleaning: Doing the Dishes

May 16th, 2012

Here at Chiot’s Run we typically wash dishes by hand. My dishwasher control panel went out about a year ago and we decided it was faster to wash everything the old fashioned way. I mix castile soap in a foaming soap dispenser (see instructions here) and use a Twist compostable sponge. I also keep a parmesan cheese shaker with baking soda at the sink for sprinkling in any pots and pans that need a good scrubbing.

Like most people, I have a collection of various bottle brushes and stainless steel scrubbers for kitchen and household cleaning. They certainly come in handy for washing water bottles and hummingbird feeders!

Scrubbing the dishes by hand really doesn’t take much longer that loading and unloading the dishwasher, at least for us here. We wash them as soon as we’re finished cooking/eating and then they’re done. No saving up a sink full of dishes here – one of my biggest annoyances is dirty dishes on the counter. I don’t want to see them. Having the dishes all washed and put away right away is also a great benefit to hand washing, no waiting for hours for the dishwasher to wash and no noise either.

What would the non-toxic cleaning series be without a proper automatic dishwashing detergent recommendation? So I ordered a new control panel and a new seal from Repair Clinic and the dishwasher was fixed for a fraction of what it would cost to replace it.

Up until a year ago when the dishwasher kicked the bucket, I used Ecover Automatic Dishwashing Detergent and was fairly happy. I purchased a container of Tropical Traditions Detergent Detergent with Enzymes, but the dishwasher died before I could use it.

It was used for the first load and I must say, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Tropical Traditions detergent*. The first time I used it I was amazed at how spotless the dishes came out. We have hard water and the dishes have never come out this clean, ever. I’ve washed a few more loads with it and it has performed just as well each time.

What goes in my rinse aid dispenser? White vinegar, citrus infused if I have it. Even with our very hard water, it seems to work just as well as the store-bought varieties at a fraction of the cost!

I do use the high heat wash setting on my dishwasher. Since our diet includes lots of butter, whole milk and other high fat foods, the high heat setting is needed to help dissolve all the residue on the plates. The low-temp simply doesn’t work.

If your dishwasher isn’t doing a great job cleaning the dishes, think about cleaning it. Once a year, we take apart our dishwasher and clean all the parts, this keeps it cleaning perfectly. I can always tell when it’s needing a good cleaning. This step is especially important if you don’t clean all the food off of your dishes before loading it. You’ll also extend the life of your dishwasher saving you money if you take the time to perform yearly maintenance.

Even though my dishwasher is now fixed, I’ll continue doing most of the dishes by hand. For me it’s a great way to get some down time, I really enjoy looking at the tulip hillside and the woods while I clean. There are claims that washing dishes by hand uses more energy/water, but I have not found this to be the case. My electric bit went down when we started doing dishes by hand.

Do you do dishes by hand or with an automatic dishwasher?

*Disclaimer – I do have an affiliate program with Tropical Traditions, if you click through my blog to make your first purchase they give me a gift certificate. Rest assured, I have been spending my hard earned cash and recommending Tropical Traditions long before they offered a program like this.

Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Learning to Love Castile Soap
Make Your Own: Foaming Soap
Make Your Own: Infused Vinegar
Make Your Own: Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Make Your Own: Color Safe Oxygen Bleach
Homemade Whitening Scouring Scrub
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
and more to come

17 Comments to “Non-Toxic Cleaning: Doing the Dishes”
  1. kristin @ going country on May 16, 2012 at 5:55 am

    By hand, and not by choice. We have four people (soon to be five) here, three of whom are home and eating all day, and we generate a LOT of dishes. And they don’t get done right away either, because I simply do not have that kind of flexibility in my schedule anymore (and I hate doing dishes with my toddler in attendance).

    If I’m lucky, I can do some in the middle of the day. If I’m not lucky, they all have to wait until night. There are always dirty dishes around. Drives me nuts. I would really love to have a dishwasher to just load things into immediately and get them off the counter and then flip the switch at night. But we have no space, water, or electrical capacity for that, and so by hand it is.

    I’ve been contemplating your dish soap recipe, but I couldn’t really imagine the residue you mentioned it leaves. It must be noticeable, and obviously you don’t find it objectionable, but it gives me pause, I must say.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

  2. Colleen Vanderlinden on May 16, 2012 at 6:12 am

    We do our dishes by hand as well. We have an older house with a very small kitchen, and cabinet space was more important to me than a dishwasher. You’re right — it really doesn’t take that much time (even for a family of six, like ours). Also, I am with you on the baking soda. Nothing works better for scrubbing pots and pans.

    Reply to Colleen Vanderlinden's comment

  3. Stone Soup on May 16, 2012 at 7:31 am

    I have to admit I am enjoying the twist sponges. You are right, there really is no sponge smell! Thank you for that! Twist sponges where have you been all my life? Sadly I am a dishwasher addict, as I HATE doing dishes but love to cook! I’ll have to look into some Tropical Traditions detergent. Will you only get credit if it’s my first order? I’ve ordered from them before?

    Reply to Stone Soup's comment

    • Susy on May 16, 2012 at 8:40 am

      Yes, only a referral for new customers. So glad to hear you’re loving the Twist Sponges!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Tracy on May 16, 2012 at 7:33 am

    I have a dishwasher that works perfectly well, and yet, we still do them by hand 99.9% of the time. First of all, I feel like they are cleaner, though I have no objections with the job the dishwasher does. Secondly, just like you, I actually find it to be cheaper. Third, with a large family, after a big meal, even if we start with the dishwasher empty, sometimes everything doesn’t fit, which means either waiting for the dishwasher to finish before we can complete the job, or we have to wash some things by hand anyway. Finally, it’s so… much faster!

    Reply to Tracy's comment

  5. Laura on May 16, 2012 at 7:36 am

    I wash mine by hand but I would rather use the dishwasher. I wash by hand because whenever I run the dishwasher they don’t come out clean. I’ve had the dishwasher checked twice and both times they said there was nothing wrong with it. (They even took it to their shop for a few days.)

    The hot water takes a while to heat up and so I was advised to run the hot water in the sink to let it get hot then turn on the dishwasher. I really think I waste more water washing by hand. I try to collect the water when preparing for the dishwasher and save for watering the plants later. I think I’ll try out the detergent you recommend and see if it makes a difference.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I just love your site. :-)


    Reply to Laura's comment

  6. daisy on May 16, 2012 at 8:20 am

    We use our dishwasher, but I enjoy washing by hand. We used to use the Ecover too, and then I started making it myself with so-so results.

    How in the world do you take your dishwasher apart? Tutorial, maybe?

    Reply to daisy's comment

  7. Allison on May 16, 2012 at 9:14 am

    I have been using the Method brand detergent and it works pretty good, but you have tempted me to try this one – especially now since our water is hard too!

    Reply to Allison's comment

  8. Gabe on May 16, 2012 at 9:30 am

    We do both – usually just the bigger things by hand. Like Kristin, we’re pretty crazy around here, so we usually don’t have time to wash during the day, because that means we take our eyes off of the boy, and he could be out the door and down the street in about three minutes…

    Reply to Gabe's comment

  9. Estelle on May 16, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Dishwasher all the way, I also use Ecover, I find it for cheap at Wegman’s at $3.49/box and it does a great job cleaning the dishes.

    Reply to Estelle's comment

  10. glenda on May 16, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Dishes done all by hand. No dishwasher in the house. I thought I was almost the last one doing this but see I’m not!

    Reply to glenda's comment

  11. tj on May 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    …We do both here. I would like to try the detergent you recommend and as soon as mine runs out I will possibly order some and give it a try. With Summer coming on my husband and I eat light so there really isn’t much in the way of dishes and we usually just hand wash them. It’s a cheap form of therapy is how I see it. ;o)

    …Even of a simple glass your photos are amazing! :o)

    …Enjoy your day you two!


    Reply to tj's comment

  12. AGinPA on May 16, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    I got distracted from the post by your beautiful blue glass bowls in the dishwasher. Where did you get them? They’re lovely.

    Reply to AGinPA's comment

    • Susy on May 16, 2012 at 8:45 pm

      I purchased them before Mr Chiots and I got married (so about 15 years ago). There was a set of three and they’re stamped “France” on the bottom. I believe they were one of the common glass company names. Perhaps some searching on E-bay or Etsy might find you a set. I really LOVE them, they’re the perfect sizes and depths.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  13. KimH on May 18, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    I wash each & every one by hand… sigh.. I dont love it, but Im forced since this house is very small & has no room for a dishwasher.

    Dirty dishes drive me insane too, so if I get irate about something in my house, this is the one place.

    The kitchen is spotless when I go to bed.. and when I wake up in the morning, often two glasses, and sometimes a bowl & plate have mysteriously been left in the sink by the Night Grimlins.. Grrrr.. ;-)

    Reply to KimH's comment

  14. rcakewalk on May 21, 2012 at 10:54 am

    I have no dishwasher and do all my dishes by hand. While I use diluted castile soap in a foaming dispenser as hand soap, I didn’t seem to have good luck when using castile soap for dishes… it seemed to leave a film on my dishes. Have you noticed that? Meanwhile, I use DishMate, which is pretty natural and I get the almond scent, which is my both my favorite flavor and smell ever, so it’s not all bad!

    Reply to rcakewalk's comment

    • Susy on May 21, 2012 at 11:18 am

      At first I thought there was a film, but then I realized it wasn’t. Now I like it because it doesn’t use harsh detergents to strip all the finish off of my dishes. The longer I use castile the easier my dishes become to clean.

      Reply to Susy's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

Read previous post:
Sprucing up the Fairy Garden

Remember when I put together a Fairy Gardening Kit with my nieces & nephew last fall? A few of the...