Thursday, June 4, 2009

Green Dishwasher Detergent

I've been reading Green For Life and was inspired to try out the green dishwasher detergent recipe she's written about. In fact, there's so much information in this book, that I've decided I want to own my own copy (right now, I have the library copy). Luckily there's one available on bookmooch right now, so hopefully I'll have my own copy soon.

The Recipe
Mix equal amounts of Borax and baking soda. Use 2 tablespoons per dishwasher load in place of commercial detergent.

She also suggests using distilled white vinegar in place of a rinse agent (like JetDry), but since I still have rinse agent in my dishwasher, I didn't try that out this time. Maybe next time.

The detergent was easy to make, and I happened to have Borax and baking soda at home, so I didn't need to purchase anything! But...the real test....are the dishes clean?

Now, I know what some of you are thinking; "the dishes can't be clean if you're not using a lot of harsh chemicals and getting a lemon-fresh scent" Wrong! The Borax and Baking Soda combination is commonly considered to be an excellent substitute for toxic cleaning chemicals. Don't believe me? Search on Google, you'll find tons of articles including this one which says the same recipe can be used for laundry detergent. I'll have to do some more research to make sure it'll work in a high efficiency washing machine before I try that out though.

Ok, so now you're convinced the soap substitute is ok, but is it environmental to wash dishes using the dishwasher compared to washing by hand? And can't you get the dishes cleaner by hand? Absolutely it's environmental, and no, you can't get them cleaner by hand. This excellent summary shows why dishwashers are the right choice environmentally speaking: "Scientists at the University of Bonn in Germany who studied the issue found that the dishwasher uses only half the energy, one-sixth of the water, and less soap than hand-washing an identical set of dirty dishes. Even the most sparing and careful washers could not beat the modern dishwasher. The study also found that dishwashers excelled in cleanliness over hand washing." Keep in mind that the dishwasher can use much hotter water than your hands can stand, and that hot water is great for killing bacteria. The key for environmental use of the dishwasher is that you must only run full loads, let the dishes air dry, and you shouldn't pre-rinse all the dishes (really, that's why you HAVE a dishwasher, so you don't have to wash the dishes!). Scraping food off before loading the dishwasher is recommended, but rinsing wastes water. You don't have a family of six that makes enough dishes each meal to run a full dishwasher? That's ok, neither do I! I speak from experience when I tell you that the dirty dishes aren't going anywhere, you can let them sit in the dishwasher for another meal or two until it's full enough to run. It doesn't take long. :)

So, environmentally speaking I should continue to use my dishwasher, and I should switch to a Borax/Baking Soda detergent mix (possibly with vinegar instead of rinse agent). Does it make sense financially? For my analysis, I used the prices available right now at my local No Frills grocery store. Yes, I could probably get detergent cheaper by buying on sale, but I can probably get baking soda cheaper by buying in bulk and on sale as well, so I figure it probably evens out. Since I couldn't get exactly the same sizes of everything, I'll break it down into a price per 100g to compare costs.

Traditional Detergent
1.8 kg of No Name lemon scent dishwasher detergent @ $3.29
Cost: $0.18 per 100 g

Earth-Friendly Detergent
2.13 kg of Seventh Generation Eco-Friendly dishwasher detergent @ $7.99
Cost: $0.38 per 100 g

Borax & Baking Soda mix
2 kg of Borax @ $5.27 or $0.26/100 g
500g of No Name baking soda @ $0.99 or $0.20/100g
Cost: $0.23 per 100 g (50 g Borax, 50 g baking soda)

So the Borax and Baking Soda mix isn't quite as economical as No Name dishwasher detergent, but significantly less expensive than some of the earth-friendly alternatives. I suspect I could probably bring the price down a little by looking for Borax and baking soda at a warehouse club like Costco to see what bulk pricing can do. Even if I can't, the price difference isn't that big (and I'm not using No Name detergent right now). I'm going to call this eco-experiment a success, and homemade dishwasher detergent will have a place in my house! (and hopefully this means I'll never run out of detergent annoying when that happens....)

1 comment:

  1. Awesome - thanks for including me! You're the best. Hope you are doing well.

    Commercial Dishwasher