Zero Waste Dishwashing: All the Plastic-Free Dishwasher and Hand-Washing Options

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Removing plastic from your dishwashing routine is relatively easy. We share a number of options for zero waste soap and powder and scrubbers and cloths.

Removing plastic from your dishwashing routine is relatively easy. There are a number of options for zero waste soap and powder and scrubbers and cloths. We share some great options below.

Plastic-free dishwashing tablet/powder options

Plastic-free dishwashing tablet/powder options include:

Although, I have heard from some people that homemade dishwashing tablets/powder that they work and from others that they don’t work. This is because DIYing dish detergent can be tricky and it can be difficult to find a recipe that works, as it depends on how hard/soft your water is and the temperature you wash dishes at. I am yet to try any recipes myself and will let you know if I do!

It took us a while to find a plastic-free/low-waste brand of dishwashing detergent that we thought worked as well as our old brand. We weren’t impressed by a few brands we refilled our own containers with at local bulk food stores, so we now use ecostore dishwasher tablets, which come in a cardboard box only.

Plastic-free dish soap options for hand-washing

Plastic-free dish soap options include:

  • soap bars like Urthly Organics dishwash soap (AU), No Tox Life dish washing block (US/CAN), and plain olive oil soap (worldwide),

  • refilling your dishwashing liquid bottle at a bulk store that has cleaning products in bulk, and

  • use liquid castile soap like Dr Bronner’s (which can be bought in AU here and in the US/CAN here) bought in bulk to make your own dishwashing liquid, by diluting it with water using a ratio of 1:10  (pre-dilute it) and then squirting on a dishcloth to scrub your dishes.

Don’t overuse the liquid soap to make it last longer and store dish soap somewhere dry to make it last longer. You can place the soap on the dishcloth instead of in the water for more direct application to your dirty dishes.

Some soaps may leave a residue on certain cups and glasses if you don’t rinse them.

Plastic-free scrubbing brush options

Plastic-free scrubbing brush options include:

All of these options can be composted at the end of their life, except for the copper scrubbing pads, which are 100% recyclable.

Plastic-free dishcloth options

Plastic-free dishcloth options include:

  • crocheted dishcloths, which you can buy (worldwide) or crochet yourself, and

  • dishcloths made from old towels or clothing or other fabric items.

Cotton crochet dishcloths can be composted at the end of their life and making your own is a great way to reuse material that would otherwise have been wasted.

Washing by hand versus using a dishwasher

Which is more eco-friendly? Washing your dishes in the sink or washing them in a dishwasher?

Energy efficient dishwashers can use less than half as much energy as washing dishes by hand and can save nearly 18 000 litres of water a year! Dishwashers can use three or four times less water than washing the same amount by hand.

To make your dishwasher as eco-friendly as possible:

  • buy an energy efficient dishwasher when buying,

  • use the eco-mode on your dishwasher or a lower temperature setting,

  • use solar power to run your dishwasher and use it during the day,

  • fill up the dishwasher before running it, and

  • don’t rinse your plates first, but scrape off excess food.

To make washing by hand more water efficient don’t wash your dishes while the tap is running and don’t rinse them with the tap running either.

Are there any zero waste dishwashing options you swear by?

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