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Green Your Life: Doin’ the Dishes

2/16/2009 3:33:57 PM

Tags: green your life, dani hurst, dishwasher, washing dishes, dish soap, natural cleaners, green cleaners, green dishwashing

Save water and money when doing dishes by investing in a sink stopper. Photo By steev-o/Courtesy Flickr. 

I recently went to the store to buy a sink stopper so I could stop running the water when I wash my dishes by hand. “How very green of me,” I thought as I paid my $5, excited to try out my newest green product. When I got home, I put the stopper in the sink, turned on the water and watched as…it let all the water run down the drain. Apparently, my sink drain is not what the stopper package would consider “of average size,” and I was left with a device that only delivered on half of its promises; its food-catching skills were exemplary, but I knew I needed to find other ways to green my dishwashing routine.

I don’t particularly love washing dishes, but it a necessary evil. It’s also another area of my life that could use some revision. I have made a few small steps toward a greener dishwashing routine, but on the whole, it still leaves much to be desired. So, here are some tips that I’ve collected (and some that I practice myself) that will make washing dishes less of a drain on the planet.

If washing by hand:

• Don’t leave the water running as you’re washing and rinsing. The best way to accomplish this is by placing a tub of hot water in each side of the sink: one for washing, one for rinsing. The washing tub should have very hot, soapy water in it to ensure that you’re getting your dishes as clean as possible, and that no germs are left behind. As far as I know, the rinsing tub can contain water at any temperature; this tub is just to prevent water waste.

• If, like me, you don’t have two sides to your sink, simply stopper your drain (like I tried to do), fill the sink no more than halfway with hot, soapy water, and dig in. You’ll just have to rinse them after you’re all done.

• After washing and rinsing your dishes, place them on a drying rack instead of using cloth or paper towels. This cuts down on both spreading germs (cloth towels) and waste (paper towels).

If washing via dishwasher:

• Only run full loads of dishes.

• Skip the dry cycle option and let your dishes air-dry.

• Don’t wash your dishes off before you put them in the dishwasher. This is double-duty for you, and it’s double the energy waste.

• If possible, invest in an energy-efficient dishwasher. Energy Star dishwashers are very popular. 

Personally, I’m interested in starting to make some of my own household cleaners, and in that vein, here are a few recipes from The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier.

Dishwashing Blues Blend

Liquid castile soap

10 drops lemon essential oil

6 drops bergamot essential oil

4 drops lavender essential oil

2 drops orange essential oil

Fill a clean 22-ounce plastic squirt bottle with castile soap (diluted according to directions if using concentrate). Add the essential oils. Shake the bottle before each use. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the liquid to dishwater and wash as usual.

Lavender Lift Automatic Dishwasher Powder

2 cups washing soda

2 cups borax

20 drops lavender essential oil

Combine all ingredients, taking care to blend in the essential oil well. Store in a plastic container. Use 2 tablespoons per load of dishes.

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