Switching to bar dish soap is one of the easiest zero-waste changes I’ve made. Read about our three-part dish and our family’s experience with solid dish soap
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Bar Dish Soap was one zero waste swap I knew about for a long time before I finally switched over to using it. When trying to make a zero-waste change in my life I start looking for plastic. I’ve slowly, over years, been cutting plastic out from my life. I’ve made all the free zero-waste swaps I can think of, and now need to commit real money into purchasing alternatives to disposable items our family uses.
Last week I told you about the challenge I gave myself: make one sustainable, zero-waste swap per quarter. My change this quarter is replacing my beloved blue Dawn dish soap with bar dish soap. A few years ago I traded out my standard plastic sponge for a bamboo and boar bristle one. The next logical step was bar dish soap. In my head this was a change I wasn’t willing to make. Bar dish soap wasn’t nearly as powerful as liquid soap, I couldn’t find it locally, and where would it even go?
Debunking Myths about Bar Dish Soap
Before I could embrace bar dish soap I had to debunk all the negativity in my head. Let’s look at what I was telling myself and see if it was true (hint: it wasn’t!):
Bar Dish Soap isn’t as powerful as liquid soap
I scoured the internet for a research study to tell me what is more powerful: bar or liquid? After coming up with nothing I will give you my one-person anecdotal opinion. My dishes are just as clean after using bar dish soap for a month as they were when I used liquid dish soap.
Some internet resources claim that bar dish soap caused the user to wash the same dish up to three times. This just isn’t true for me. My bar dish soap soap lathers well, cleans dishes in the first wash, and leaves no soapy residue after rinsing and drying.
Bar dish Soap is too Expensive
While a single block of bar dish soap is more expensive than a bottle of liquid dish soap, that single block replaces around three bottles of liquid dish soap. According to online recipes a 4oz block of solid soap makes about a gallon of liquid soap. The Reduce Report took this information and calculated the cost of a variety of soaps, both liquid and solid. They found that bar soap was in fact less expensive ounce-over-ounce than liquid soap.
Bar Dish Soap Can’t be Sourced Locally
Obviously I can’t debunk this complaint for everyone. What I can say is that even in my tiny farm town I was able to find a quality bar of solid dish soap in a store. I encourage you to call around to locally-owned businesses in your area and ask if they sell it. If no one in your area sells it, suggest to the store owner that they begin to stock it.
Bar Dish Soap is too hard to keep dry
Unlike a bottle of liquid dish soap, bar dish soap does need something to go in. From a zero waste perspective this is a good thing because it means that the soap holder is reusable. If a bar of dish soap sits in any water it immediately begins absorbing the water and becomes mushy.
There are a variety of soap holders out there to keep a bar of soap dry. Some bar dish soaps are sold with a slice of luffa to sit on. I’ve have wooden soap holders in my bathrooms, but I love my concrete soap holder for the kitchen. It keeps the soap nice and dry and never has to be emptied.
Why I choose to use bar dish soap
When I’m looking for my next zero waste challenge I look for plastic in my home, especially plastic that is a one-use item. I was intimidated by bar dish soap for too long. After researching and debunking all the false information in my head, it was the next logical step for me.
Most solid soap bars are sold in minimal packaging, often made from recycled paper, where as my liquid soap comes in a bog plastic container. I was able to choose a soap that is organic, contains no palm oil or artificial scent. This soap cleans my dishes well and doesn’t cause me guilt like a giant plastic bottle does.
A Zero Waste Trio: Soap holder, bar dish soap, scrubbing brush
Using Bar dish soap is almost as simple as using a plastic bottle of liquid soap and sponge, but there’s a third and necessary component to successfully doing your dishes. Let’s look at the three components of a zero-waste dish washing system.
Starting At the Top: The Scrubbing Brush
I’ve been using a cleaning brush in place of a sponge for about two years now. I started off with a long-handled brush with a replaceable head, but found that my hands were too far away from the dishes for my liking. I prefer my fingers to be up close and personal with what they are cleaning.
I’ve moved to a palm sized scrubbing brush similar to this one. I’ve replaced it once in the past two years, but that was due to our dog biting the first one in half and not because it fell apart.
In the Middle: The Soap Itself
For this challenge I purchased the Solid Dish Bar from Zero Waste Mvmt at a local boutique. I am very happy with it’s cleaning power, long life, and light bergamot lime scent. Instead of recommending one specific brand, I encourage you to see what is available locally.
On the Bottom: What Holds the Soap?
In my kitchen a bar of dish soap sits on a concrete-molded soap holder. Concrete is not really recyclable. It can be crushed and reused, but never decomposes. I decided that I was okay with this. If one soap holder lasts the rest of my life, I won’t ever have to replace it with a new one.
Look for a soap holder with a drain spout at the bottom to let water out. It’s also important to have deep ridges to keep water as far away from the soap as possible. I prefer my soap holders to have a ridge around the outside so I don’t have to hold the soap while lathering up my brush.
My Review of Switching to Solid Dish Soap
We moved to Ohio during this challenge and started doing all our dishes by hand as there is no dishwasher in our new house. After a month of handwashing dishes for six I’m happy to report no problems. Our dishes are clean, and a bonus of solid dish soap is that the kids find it much easier to use than a large bottle of Dawn.
We did switch over to a different brand of soap. The Zero Waste MVMT bar I started the challenge with lasted us a little over three weeks. At $12 a bar, it was looking too expensive for long-term use. I purchased a NO TOX LIFE economy pack of their solid dish soap for around $8/bar. This soap definitely the better of the two. a single swipe across the top of the soap with my scrubbing brush produces enough lather for 4-5 dishes. It lasts longer and does a better job at removing oily residue from the dishes.
What does your dish routine look like?
Now that I’ve shared my new zero-waste dishes system, I would love to hear from you! What does your system for keeping dishes clean look like? Do you have a favorite bar dish soap or soap holder to recommend? Let me know down in the comments, and thanks for coming along on the journey!