Homemade Dish Soap Bar
Reviving the lost art of self-reliance, one small step at a time
Liquid dish soap does a fine job of cleaning dishes, but I cringe every time I have to buy a plastic bottle full of soap. I had an epiphany about homemade dish soap several months ago, and I’ve been experimenting. If — like me — you’re trying to cut back on single-use plastic, this might be just the solution you’ve been looking for.
My dishwashing method has changed over time. I grew up in a house without a dishwasher. For our dish washing duties, we filled the kitchen sink with hot water and bubbles and then stacked dishes in the sink. As we washed each plate or cup, the water in the sink got colder, less bubbly, and dirtier. If you wash dishes like this, you know what I’m talking about.
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When we moved to Hawaii, I began seeing a method of washing dishes that I’d never seen before. Imagine — such a simple chore, but done completely differently in another part of the world! I’ve completely converted to this method for hand washing dishes.
Instead of filling a big sink, I now fill a medium-size bowl with hot water. None of the dirty dishes go into the water, so the water always stays clean. To wash each dish, I dip a dish rag or sponge into the hot water and then squeeze on a bit of dish soap. The suds transfer to each dirty dish as I clean it, getting sudsy and clean. I repeat this with all of my dirty dishes, wetting the sponge and recharging it with dish soap as necessary.
This method works beautifully, but there’s still the question of the plastic bottle. Not to mention that store bough dish soap uses some harsh ingredients.
Then I remembered my mom telling me that my Grandma used to make tallow bars to wash laundry. Instead of the powder or liquid that we use today, she’d cut off a piece of the soap bar and toss it into the washing machine with the dirty clothes. This made me wonder about using a solid homemade dish soap bar. Why not?
Before I made up a solid homemade dish soap specific for that purpose, I wanted to try the idea. I set a bar of homemade soap in a shallow bowl and began using it instead of liquid soap. It worked perfectly well! The dishes came out clean and my sponge was suitably sudsy. The only trouble with this method was that the soap did get quite soft in the bowl. This told me that I needed a harder bar.
I started poking around the internet for a recipe without much luck — have I invented something totally new?? Further searching left me looking for a laundry soap bar and I landed on my friend Jan’s recipe. (By the way, I credit Jan for giving me the confidence to start making my own soap. Check out her Soapmaking ebook collection here.)
Jan’s recipe is made with pure coconut oil. I didn’t have enough coconut oil on hand, so I used a soap calculator to figure out how to use half coconut oil and half tallow. And instead of forming this recipe into bars, I poured the batter into shallow bowls that I picked up at the thrift store.
I keep the bowl of hard soap right next to my sink. If I’m washing a lot of dishes, I’ll fill up a container with hot water and dip my sponge in that as I wash. If I just need to clean a few dishes, there’s not even any need to fill a bowl — I just wet the sponge with hot water, then rub it on the hard soap until it begins to foam.
When you’re done washing dishes, be sure to drain off any water that may have puddled in the dish. This will extend the life of the soap.
Making soap is not difficult, but you really do need to follow some basic safety precautions.
If you’re ready to dive into soapmaking, check out Jan’s Soapmaking Success e-course! It includes six lessons that will have you making soap like a pro in no time. It includes:
You should also give Jan’s basic soap bar a try.
★ Did you make this homemade dish soap? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below! ★
Changing up the way you wash dishes by using a solid dish soap bar can substantially reduce the number of plastic bottles you use.
Measure the water into a non-reactive heatproof container.
Carefully pour the lye into the water. (Never pour water into lye.) Stir carefully. Combining the water and lye will create a chemical reaction and the water will become VERY hot.
Set the lye mixture aside. While the lye cools, heat coconut oil and tallow to about 90 to 100°F. The tallow will take longer to melt than the coconut oil. If you achieve the desired temperature before it’s completely melted, just turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for a few minutes. The residual heat will melt the tallow all the way.
Pour the lye solution into the warm coconut oil and stir by hand briefly. (Note: The lye and oils should both be about 100ºF at this point.)
Use an immersion blender to bring the soap to trace.
Incorporate essential oils.
Pour soap into shallow bowls and allow to cure for 2 weeks before using.
Wet sponge and rub onto soap until suds form.
Use sudsy sponge so thoroughly wash dirty dishes.
Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for those striving toward a simpler, more self-reliant lifestyle. She is continually learning, often thanks to this virtual community.
This page is probably not for you, then!
Thanks for the inspiration… will make a batch and give it a go!
I hope it works well for you!
Thank so much for sharing this. I can’t wait to try it.
I’m confused by step 3. It says to set the lye mixture aside to cool. I didn’t see where it said to heat the mixture in the previous steps. Do I heat the water and then add the lye? Do I heat them together? Am I bringing to a boil or just heating to a certain temp? Other people may know this already and wonder why I would ask, but this will be my first attempt at soap making. I just love this idea!
Excellent question! I’ll clarify this in the instructions. In short, though: When the lye and water are combined, there’s a chemical reaction and the mixture becomes very hot. You’re right in that there’s no cooking required!
Thank you. Now it all makes sense. I’m looking forward to trying this.
Would you happen to know the amount of another oil to substitute for the tallow (not palm oil)?
You should be able to use all coconut oil, but to be safe, always run changes through a soap calculator: https://www.brambleberry.com/calculator?calcType=lye
I just did, and the water and lye weights change slightly.
Lye (Sodium Hydroxide) 4.98 oz
Ounces of liquid 11.15 oz
Coconut Oil 28.00 oz
Hi, this looks like an excellent idea. For the vegetarians among us, can we replace the beef tallow with the same amount of coconut oil? I think that’s what you were saying in the post.
See Ann’s comment (and my response) above.
Thanks I’m going to try this. Do you have a recipe for laundry soap?
There’s a recipe for laundry soap in my forthcoming book!
That is a very cool looking sponge, did you make it or buy it? I think a bowl of soap and sponge prepped in a pretty ribbon will make great gifts!
Love that gift idea! I got those sponges from an Etsy seller: http://tidd.ly/8b525112
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Aloha! I’m Kris Bordessa, writer and hobby farmer, gardener and canner, chicken wrangler and eternal experimenter. Here at Attainable Sustainable, I aim to encourage readers — that’s you! — to embrace a more self-reliant lifestyle, one small step at a time. My latest book, ATTAINABLE SUSTAINABLE: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living, will be published in 2020 by National Geographic Books. Read More…
Homemade Dish Soap Bar
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