Healthy, Sustainable Tools to Wash Dishes – Transition Cost: $38.

It can take a lot of time to hone in on alternative products or methods to get critical domestic jobs done, and done well.  Getting rid of toxic dish soap has been on my mind for a long time, so 1 year ago, I started experimenting.  It really took me an entire year to hone all aspects of the dish washing station at my house!  I hope that your journey toward a healthy, non-toxic, more sustainable and ecologically friendly dish washing station is made easier by the information I’ve learned.

To replace the sponges and SOS pads which shed micro plastic fibers down the drain, and to replace plastic dish brushes and toxic dish soap, it will only cost you $56 (wood scraper, bottle brush, hard bristle dish brush, and a French soap block).  The other brushes/scrapers in the list are good too, but not absolutely essential.  The French soap block costs $18 of that $56, and it will last a really long time!   As I I believe that the French soap block is either on par with or cheaper than liquid dish soap, I’m not factoring the $18 in the true total to make the transition.

 

Scraper – made of wood by an Etsy seller/woodworker named SummerBeeWoodworks.  This is hands down my favorite dish washing tool.  In that past I used scrapers made of plastic, but the ‘sharp edge’ of the plastic scraper wore down quickly from use or from contact with a hot pan, making the scraper ineffective.  Then I had to toss it.  Not only is this wood version compostable, but it actually works way better than the plastic ones.  This Etsy seller has truly honed this product to be effective.  Mine sometimes curls (warps) a bit, but actually, this sometimes makes it even more effective.  As it dries, it often flattens out more.  It really has held its edge well thus far, and because it is wood, the edge doesn’t melt when scraping hot or warm pots or pans, as the plastic ones do.  Finally, the woodworker creates 4 different rounded edges — there is no pot or pan or bowl that one of these edges won’t address.  I suggest ordering several a time, and giving them to everyone as gifts! $3

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Scraper – made of metal: Dexter-Russel Mini Turner (2″ x 2.5″). Sometimes you just need a harder edge, and this is the perfect scraping tool for those times, as it has rounded edges.  $14.50

Bottle Brush – made of wood and plant Tampico fibers: Iris Hantverk Tampico Dishbrush, item#: 1102-03.  This is WAY better than the Klean Kanteen bottle brush, or the Redecker/Burstenhaus bottle brush.  It actually fits into jars and actually wipes food off the sides of jars.  Hang it to dry!  The bristles are held on with thin wire.  When you need to retire this brush, snip the wire off as best you can, and compost the rest.  I’ve never done this, so I can’t say how easy or difficult it might be to separate the wire from the rest of the brush. $22

Dish Brush – very hard bristles – made of wood and plant Union fibers: Redecker/Burstenhaus 2.25″ diameter brush.  Unfortunately, they don’t oil or thermotreat the wood, so it will split at some point…I think it is because the bristles are spaced a bit too close together, making it difficult for the brush to dry out between uses.  You can prolong the splitting if you soak it in oil for a day and let it dry before using.  If you want a cheaper version you could try the French Saucepan & dish brush by Andree Jardin, but it isn’t as versatile, and the bristles are not straight or cut flat.  You could also try the Irish Hantverk Pan & Vegetable Brush, Item# 1140-02 – it comes oiled and it looks nice, but because the bristles are so angled I find it isn’t nearly as versatile as the Redecker brush.  $13 for one, or $15 for two.

Dish Brush – softer bristles – made of wood and plant Tampico fibers.  This is the only thing I haven’t tried on this list, but I might try it in the future: Iris Hantverk Pan Brush, Tampico, Item #: IR1171-01 $38, or perhaps the Redecker dish brush replacement head of tampico fiber for $10.

Pot Scrubber for tough spots – this one made of broomcorn by Little John of Plant-Based services gets tough spots out — once the end is wet, dip it into your bowl of baking soda/washing soda, and scrub away! $5.50.  Another option might be the Iris Hantverk Washing-Up Whisk, 2 Bindings, Item #: IR1121-00 $14.  I don’t consider the pot scrubber an absolutely essential tool, but it’s nice to have sometimes.

Baking soda – used for washing any stubborn bits of food on dishes, stovetop, table, floor, or anywhere!  Plus, doubles as a baking powder substitute, when mixed with cream of tartar and corn starch or arrowroot powder to prevent caking.  Keep a bowl of this next to your sink – 50% baking soda, and 50% washing soda.  A big box only costs a couple dollars and will last a while.  As an alternative, one could use any abrasive, such as ground mustard seeds.  I’ve gathered garlic mustard seeds from the park in the past – you can harvest a LOT of seeds in very little time, for free 🙂

Washing Soda – see above.  What is washing soda?  How is washing soda made?  Read a full explanation and report from Meliora here.  Again, this only costs a couple dollars.  As an alternative, one could use any abrasive, such as ground mustard seeds.   I’ve gathered garlic mustard seeds from the park in the past – you can harvest a LOT of seeds in very little time, and this would be free.  Buy for for cheap as ‘soda ash‘ (sodium carbonate).

Vodka – for use in spray bottle for disinfecting. or vinegar.  Add tea tree essential oil for anti-fungal and add lemon essential oil for anti-bacterial.

Spray Bottle (for disinfecting counters, with lemon infused vodka, or vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or whatever you use).  Some people don’t even use a spray bottle, they just pour a bit of what they need onto a washcloth.

Soap – Big Block French Kitchen Soap, made by Bee Alchemy of Milwaukee, WI, 3″ x 3″ – for when you need to wash dishes or surfaces after raw meat and want to lift germs off, and then disinfect after.  Put the block on a flat dish or tile so it won’t slide around, and brush your hand or dish brush across it to get a bit. Read about how people are switching from dish soap to bar soap (about halfway down): https://mamaeatsplants.com/2018/03/09/zero-waste-kitchen/. $18  If this isn’t available, you can search for Fer à Cheval – you might find a vendor who is sourcing their soap blocks from France.

Dish for tools above – you could try finding a bath or vanity tray or a platter or flat plate.   Here’s an example.  I recommend finding small stones and using those on half of the plate, and on these stones put the brushes and wood scraper between uses.  The stones prevent them from sitting in pools of water.

Dish Rack Drip Tray – i hate plastic, so i bought a stand-alone steel rack from Home Depot, and paired it with this Food Focus stainless steel tray, 13″ x 18″ – $33

Dishcloths.  Use cotton or natural fiber cloths only.  We have enough micro plastic pollution in all of our water (we are literally eating and drinking our fleece jackets and all other synthetic textiles).  You many not notice, but when you use cloths or sponges of any material, synthetic of natural, tiny fibers come off and go down the drain, so use natural fibers only if you don’t want micro plastic fibers in our lakes, rivers, soil, and you insides!  Use a fresh cloth every day, putting the used one to dry until laundry day.  Why a new cloth every day?  — Drying out a dish cloth overnight helps kill many–but not all–pathogens.  It could take three days of drying a typical cotton cloth to kill all microbes, so if you continue to re-use your dishcloth every day, you will be re-populating the surfaces of your kitchen with various bacteria with every wipe.  I prefer my textiles to be undyed and drab color, so as to hide dirt and stains and still look alright.  In my experience, bast fiber towels dry much faster than cotton towels.  I recommend naturally brown dish cloths and dish drying towels from www.GoodLinens.com.  Their smallest size is a bit larger than what I would prefer for a dish cloth (10″x10″ – I would prefer 8″x8″), but it works, and they could shrink in the wash or dryer, however, this  100% hemp fabric – 10oz from http://www.OrganicCottonPlus.com works well for making dish cloths.  Get a sample swatch first to make sure it’s what you want!  It is just thick enough in my opinion, and the weave is not too tight nor too loose, and the fibers are rough enough to make scrubbing stubborn food off of dishes easier, without the need for a green scrub pad.  Green SOS scrub pads shed micro plastic fibers as well and pollute our water.  If you can’t make the switch yet, make sure you are boiling your sponge to get rid of bacteria and stink instead of bleach!

If you want to make your own dish soap you might keep it in a mason jar with a pump top like this one, but i find pump bottles finicky, easy to topple, and some even rust.  You could try keeping it in one of the following dispensers, but i wonder how sanitary these really are.  are they any less sanitary than plastic bottles which our dish soap come in?  perhaps these can breed bacteria over time as they might be wall-mounted and therefore not easy to wash out?  Having something with a wide top so you can get into it is important, as you may need to add water and mix it in the case the consistency of homemade dish soap becomes too thick.

Here’s a sink dispenser option, but you wouldn’t be able to fit an immersion blender through the top of the bottle to mix it: https://amzn.to/2Ias81v, so this is for when you get your recipe dialed in and no mixin

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