When you switch to a zero waste lifestyle, you quickly realize that the sea of plastic bottles above and below your kitchen sink will need to go. Like any change, this can feel intimidating! Fortunately, there are so many plastic-free and zero waste dish soap options out there. You’ll easily find a new zero waste dishwashing routine that works for you!
This post is all about plastic-free and zero waste dish soaps you use to wash dishes by hand.
Looking for something else? Click here for more information about zero waste dishwasher detergent.
Why should I switch to a plastic-free dish soap?
Conventional dish soaps have a few issues that make them not quite as sustainable as we’d like.
- Plastic packaging
- Heavy shipping weight from water increases fuel use
- Fragrance & other irritants
From an environmental standpoint, regular liquid dish soaps contribute to plastic pollution. Since they are mostly made of water and water is heavy, that extra weight increases the fuel required to ship it across the country (or world).
If you’re trying to live a non-toxic lifestyle, many conventional dish soaps have fragrance and dyes that can cause irritation to our bodies and potentially harm the environment.
Are you new to zero waste living? Learn the best sustainable living tips for beginners from over 20 experts!
Three types of zero waste dishwashing soaps
1. Liquid dish soap
This is the easiest switch for most beginners to a zero waste lifestyle because it’s the closest to the regular liquid dish soap you’ve likely used your whole life!
I know what you’re thinking though…how on earth can you get liquid dish soap without the plastic?
refill liquid dish soap at the bulk store
Check your local bulk refill store for liquid dish soap. This is an easy way to keep using liquid dish soap while reducing your plastic waste and supporting a local business.
Liquid castile soap as dish soap
If your bulk store doesn’t offer liquid dish soap, look for castile soap! To make dish soap from Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, you need one part of castile soap to ten parts of water.
Don’t have a bulk store in your area? You can order Dr. Bronner’s castile soap in bulk. This isn’t a plastic-free option, but a one-quart bottle of castile soap can make 320 ounces of liquid dish soap.
A 28 oz bottle of Dawn dish soap costs about $4.49 at Fred Meyer. You can refill that same bottle over 11 times using one-quart bottle of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap! Since a quart usually costs $12-15, you’ll pay at most $1.32 for each refill.
There’s actually a way to make dish soap from Dr. Bronner’s castile soap bars! Keep scrolling or click to jump ahead.
Sal suds dish soap
I’m a huge fan of Sal Suds around the home! If you’re not familiar, Sal Suds is Dr. Bronner’s cleaning concentrate. It is even more condensed than their castile soap and is an excellent natural cleaner. Read our Sal Suds review here!
Simply squirt 1/2 – 1 1/2 tsp of Sal Suds in your sink of water. You can also add about half a cup of Sal Suds to a quart of water to make your own dishwashing liquid.
liquid dish soap in recyclable metal packaging
The folks at Grove Co always seem to have products that help beginners transition to a more sustainable lifestyle with achievable baby steps. For example, they sell liquid dish soap in recyclable metal packaging!
This means that you can keep using liquid dish soap like before, but ditch the plastic. No dilution ratios, recipes, or plastic pollution. Easy.
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What about dish soap refills?
A lot of companies like Puracy and Method sell dish soap refills in plastic pouches to cut down on the amount of plastic waste. Although I understand and appreciate the idea, this isn’t actually any better.
Many of the plastic pouches are made from plastic #7, which is a bioplastic that is supposedly biodegradable and recyclable. In reality, most facilities are not suited to process that type of packaging and they do not break down well in landfills.
If you had to buy dish soap in plastic, it would make more sense to buy a liquid soap refill in plastic #1 (PET) or #2 (HDPE), which have higher recycling rates.
Before we switched to dish soap blocks, we bought bulk dish soap refills at Costco (since discontinued) or even large containers of Seventh Generation at our local Grocery Outlet.
For us, that was an affordable baby step to reduce our plastic usage before we were ready for something else!
2. Dish soap blocks
This is perhaps the trendiest zero waste dish soap option. I know…dish soap is trendy? Yep! Lots of people are trying to live more sustainably and dish soap blocks are so unusual, that they draw a lot of attention!
Since dish soap bars require no plastic packaging at all and they ship without water weight, they may be the best zero waste dish soap out there!
They’re also way easier to use than you’d expect.
What is a dish soap block?
A dish soap block is basically a hard bar of soap made specifically for dishwashing. They’re completely plastic-free and there are many vegan and palm oil-free options out there, too.
Can I use my regular bar soap for dishwashing?
Unlike regular bar soap which is meant to hydrate and nourish your skin with oils, dish soap bars are specifically trying to remove oils and grime. They are not a good replacement for regular soap bars and vice versa! Using regular bar soap may leave residue on your dishes.
There are some multi-purpose bar soaps that can be used for both bathing and cleaning, including Dr. Bronner’s bar soaps and Pre de Provence Artisanal French soaps.
How should I store my dish soap block?
Store your dish soap block on a soap dish to preserve them. If they sit in water, they will dissolve! A soap dish also makes them easier to move around.
How to use a dish soap block
There are two common approaches to washing dishes with dish soap blocks.
Rub and scrub
Rub your scrub brush or dishcloth directly on the soap bar and then on your dish. Easy! This is great for cleaning up an item or two and not for washing a sink full of dishes.
Run water over your bar
If you need a sink full of water, hold the soap bar directly under the water as it runs to suds up your sink. Wash and rinse your dishes like normal.
Where can I buy dish soap bars?
No Tox Life
- Available in 2 sizes: 5.9 oz for about $15 or 21.5 oz for $30.51
- Non-toxic, vegan, and fragrance-free
- Each dish block should last 2-6 months!
- Available at Zero Waste Outlet
Meliora dish soap block
- 7 ounces for $9.99
- Available in lemon or unscented
- Order a 3-pack for an additional discount
- Available on EarthHero
EarthHero also includes this dish soap block in their zero waste dishwashing starter kit! This is a great way to stock up on your zero waste dishwashing essentials really quickly.
Silver Falls Sustainability Company
- As low as $5.17 for 3.65 ounces
- Soon to be organic certified
- Made from three ingredients: coconut oil, castor oil, and lye
- Family-run company that sells organic and fragrance-free skincare products including shampoo and conditioner bars, deodorant, and more
- Order here and save $10 on a purchase of $25 or more
- $12 for an 8 oz bar
- Small Canadian company that sells zero waste products like dish brushes, soap bars, and more!
- Made from coconut oil, olive oil, water, and lye
- Order here and enter code MILKGLASSHOME15 to save 15%
This is where we ordered the soap dish and dish brushes from our pictures. We like that we can replace the head of the long dish brush when it wears down!
Use Dr. Bronner’s castile Soap bar for dishwashing
Did you know Dr. Bronner’s sell a bar version of their famous castile soap? Just like their liquid castile soap, you can use their bar soap for dishwashing, too!
- Use like a regular dish soap block (rub and scrub)
- Convert to liquid dish soap (Takes 2 tbs of bar soap to 1 1/2 gallons of water!)
- Incredibly affordable ($3-4 per bar) & easy to find
- Replaces the need for a hand soap bar, too!
Make your own dish soap bar!
We love DIYs, especially when they can save you money. We’re still beginning our soap-making journey and will hopefully have our own dish soap bar recipe to share in the future.
Kris at Attainable Sustainable has an eco-friendly dish soap recipe using beef tallow and coconut oil, although you can adapt the recipe to be vegan using only coconut oil, too!
3. Powdered dish soap
This is not a common item to find in grocery stores or bulk stores, and I only know of one company selling powdered dish soap – Blueland!
Don’t be confused with powdered dish detergent – that’s meant for your dishwasher. Powdered dish soap is meant for handwashing dishes in the kitchen sink.
How does powdered dish soap work?
Simply pour the powder into the water to create a sudsy cleaning solution!
Blueland offers a starter kit that includes a container for easy pouring and a refill pack of the dish soap powder packaged in compostable paper. When you need more soap refills, you’ll get another paper package that is lightweight and easy to compost.
where to buy powdered dish soap
What is the best plastic-free dish soap?
There is no clear-cut answer that works for everyone!
From an environmental standpoint, I think the best zero waste dish soap is a dish soap block that comes free of plastic and fragrance. They require less fuel to ship as they aren’t weighed down with water. Since they are so condensed, one bar can last a long time!
If you’re on a tight budget, you might not feel like the prices of bar soaps are affordable and maybe you don’t have the time or resources to make your own.
In that situation, I would recommend to start by diluting liquid castile soap (remember, that’s about $1.30 to refill 28 oz dish soap bottle). A quart-sized bottle of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap usually costs about $12-15 and will last a long time!
Although Dr. Bronner’s still requires a plastic bottle, that one bottle should last a long time, can be refilled at a bulk store, and is made from 100% post-consumer recycled PET plastic.
What zero waste dishwashing soap do I use?
We have been finishing up some liquid dish soap from Seventh Generation in an old Puracy bottle. We’ll save the bottle when we’re done for some experiments!
We have also incorporated a dish soap block into our routine so I could speak about them knowledgeably in this post. We are starting with the bar from Silver Falls Sustainability Company and then trying Plantish.
Personally, we are excited about switching to dish soap blocks and want to start making our own. However, I’m so fascinated about the process of working with a Dr Bronner castile soap bar and might need to try that out, too!
We also keep a small jar of our vanilla sugar scrub next to the sink to moisturize after a big cleaning session!
What’s your favorite zero waste dishwashing soap?
Do you prefer liquid, block, or powder? Tell us in the comments!