The majority of our dish soap comes in plastic bottles, which inevitably contribute to our plastic waste problem. Below we look at 10 of the best zero waste dish soap bars exploring if we can indeed wash up without plastic waste. And to boot, do so with natural and organic ingredients great for clean plates, the planet, and our health.
We’ve all seen the adorable image: a duckling or an innocent seabird or perhaps sea lion pups covered with crude oil from some terrible oil spill and then washed in a sudsy bath to come out sparkling clean with their lovely innocence restored. What beautiful and affirming images those are. Yet you may not immediately realize that many commercial dish soaps contain petroleum-based surfactants. Even the favorite for oil spill bird cleans (according to NPR).
There is no doubt in this oily world of ours that we need products that will cleanse fouled fowls and marine creatures, thus saving their lives. And with around 10% of our oil supply going to make plastic, cutting down is something we can all do to help the environment. The question that arises is, do we want our supper dishes drenched nightly in those same chemicals? The next question we ask is, if our liquid dish soap isn’t right for some reason, what’s our alternative?
In this article, we’ll take a close look at one of the most taken-for-granted products: dish soap. We’ll ask what sort of issues these soaps may cause us and see if we can’t suggest some potential alternatives that may be healthy, attractive, organic, and, above all, zero waste. For when it comes to washing dishes, we have a choice between plastic housed products and the variety below that are better for the planet and still deliver a perfect clean.
Before we get into a discussion of the negatives of the liquid dish soaps most of us have sitting beside our kitchen sinks, let’s explore the alternatives. We’ll look at the creative, innovative, colorful, attractive zero waste dish soap bars that really clean up for us.
It takes 4-6 weeks to create a bar of RFRESHSOAP. It takes that long for the ingredients of each 4 to 4.5-ounce bar to cure. RFRESHSOAP makes this bar soap from citrus herb, saponified coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil, sodium lactate, and essential oils. This formula specifically cuts through cooking grease while still gentle on the user’s skin. The bar is milder, harder, and longer-lasting because of the extensive curing process. Each bar is handmade 100% from scratch. This zero-waste soap contains no preservatives, no commercial detergents, no artificial fragrances, and no synthetic colorings.
RFRESHSOAP intends their dishwashing soap to enhance a non-toxic, zero-waste lifestyle. They’ve designed this plastic-free and non-toxic kitchen cleaner as a sustainable alternative to commercially produced liquids. They offer the soap with several different purchasing options, including a “scratch and dent sale” option. The merchant allows purchasers to buy imperfect bars that still clean perfectly. The merchants note that the soap tends to work better where the water is not extremely hard, as in, not full of too many naturally occurring minerals. Each order ships from Alamo, California and arrives about 10-14 days after you’ve placed completed checkout.
No Tox Life has designed everything about this zero-waste dish soap block as sustainable, right down to the compostable cardboard box it comes in. Ingredients in the bar include sodium cocoyl isethionate, glycerin, decyl glucoside, sodium carbonate, organic quillaja Saponaria, and organic aloe vera leaf juice. They’ve intentionally made each bar to last out of all biodegradable ingredients. The Dish Block is vegan, septic tank safe, cruelty-free, phosphate-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free, fragrance-free, dye-free, gluten-free, and palm oil-free.
Regarding the best way to use the Dish Block, dishes should be wiped and scraped of excess oil and grease. For dishes such as saucers, bowls, and plates, you can wipe a wet sponge across the soap to create suds. You should wash and rinse items well. While you can use the soap in cold or warm water, warm water is preferable. Use a scouring pad for washing pots and pans. You can also use the soap may for household cleaning of laundry, carpets, and countertops. This product ships without cost in the United States. It departs from Kyle, Texas, and you’ll receive it about 7-10 days after placing an order.
Meliora has the distinction of being an Amazon Choice product as an eco-friendly dish soap bar. Delivered in a compostable cardboard box, Meliora produces seven-ounce cylinder bars referred to as a puck. Its ingredients include sodium cocoate, sodium sunflowerate, glycerin, water, organic coconut oil, organic sunflower seed oil, organic citrus medica, and lemon peel oil. The bar has a lovely lemon aroma. The product is vegan, synthetic fragrance-free, brightener-free, dye-free, palm oil-free, and preservative-free. It’s also cruelty-free, safe around children, and septic tank safe.
To use the soap puck, wet a sponge or brush and rub it across the puck’s top. When it is necessary to soak pots and pans, hold the soap under the water as you fill the vessel. For dishes and pots that are especially dirty, additional soaking may be necessary. The word “Meliora” literally means better. Meliora has obtained B corporation certification, dedicating themselves to, in this order: people, planet, and then profit. This soap puck makes for a brilliant plastic-free, zero-waste alternative to typical liquid soaps. It allows users to ditch the single-use plastic bottle.
The Laundress brings us this 100% vegetable rendered product made of organic oatmeal, wheat bran, apricot seed, coffee bean, coconut, shea butter, olive oil, and buttermilk. It is an antifungal, odor removing, non-toxic, and allergen-free 4.4-ounce bar of zero waste kitchen cleaning excellence. Importantly, it is entirely biodegradable, family and food safe, and made with zero petroleum products.
You’ll find this soap bar highly concentrated so as to last for a long, useful, productive life beside your kitchen sink. While not an antibiotic, it does have antibacterial qualities. If you’re keen on other zero-waste products, you’ll note the Laundress dish soap bar is only one of a dozen products offered by The Laundress of New York and made in the USA. These products include air freshener, hand soap, vinegar, ironing water, and glass and mirror cleaner.
The product has been well-reviewed, having received more than 60 5-Star ratings from customers around the globe. Among the qualities most appreciated by customers is the soap’s ability to wash away strong food odors such as garlic and onion. The soap itself is known for its exceedingly pleasant smell. Others noted that the bar’s density makes it last for an extended period of time, making it more economical than inexpensive liquid alternatives.
Everything about this marvelous dish soap, from its packaging to its ingredients, speaks of thoughtful minimalism. The Plantish Future dish soap comes in a solid block made of few ingredients besides coconut oil, olive oil, and bamboo. Equally important is what is omitted from the product, as it is vegan, plastic-free, palm oil-free, and 100% compostable. The product comes in several sizes, including the petite 4.5-ounce that replaces two or more bottles of liquid soap, as well as the 13-ounce sold soap brick that replaces up to five bottles. Plantish Future also offers several other appointments related to the dish soap that can be purchased together in a package. Check out their sisal pot scrubber or bamboo dishcloths too.
When using this zero waste dish soap bar, you should rub a wet cloth, a sponge, or dish brush directly atop the soap bar. After washing, it’s important to remember that the dishes must be thoroughly rinsed and put away. You can also use the soap bar to remove stains. Rub soap onto the stained spot, then add water and rub the fabric just between your hands. Store the bar atop a dry soap dish to preserve its integrity over the long haul.
Exotic is the essence of this zero waste kitchen soap bar, from its name to its intriguing label. To the sparse but unusual makeup of its ingredients: kaolin clay, orange essential oil, and Fair Trade coconut oil. It also intentionally omits a number of unwelcome ingredients. This product is toxic-free, cruelty-free, detergent-free, synthetic fragrance-free, petroleum product free, sulfate-free, and certified vegan. It is also biodegradable. For zero waste creds, even the package can be composted or recycled.
In addition to cleaning the dishes, this soap bar has a multitude of cleaning uses around your home. When kept dry in a dedicated soap dish, one zero waste dish soap bar will last up to two months with daily use. For cleaning dishes, use a damp natural sponge to create a rich lather. You may want to cut off a piece of this particular soap if you have a particularly difficult to clean pot. For countertops and other flat surfaces, suds a washcloth or sponge. To clean glass water pipes, you can take a small piece of the soap and place it in the pipe. Let it stand in hot water for 10 minutes before draining. This product ships from Bellingham, Washington, and usually arrives in about a week.
These zero waste bar soaps are also shaped like hockey pucks and weigh four-ounces. The ingredients include coconut oil, castor oil, water, sodium hydroxide, and essential oils. Additional ingredients consist of saponified oils, glycerin, and natural colorants.
When you receive your order, you’ll see that even the packaging is zero waste and eco-friendly, as it is recyclable or reusable. To get the best use from the bar, place it in a dry dish on the countertop. Wet a brush or dish rag to build suds. One zero waste dish soap bar should suffice for use for an entire month or longer.
The merchant has several zero-waste homecare options to offer the customer and make great gifts. It’s worth noting that shipping is free for orders of $35 or more.
This handmade cube of soap is composed of a simple group of ingredients: coconut oil, water, sodium hydroxide, essential oils—such as lavender, lemon, or litsea cubeba—and natural fragrance. Unlike some of the other merchants, Blue Poppy also offers a full set of zero waste essentials needed to wash the dishes: a cedar soap dish and a brush. The merchant also has a series of collections intended for those who would like to offer them as seasonal gifts.
The soap bar itself is a two by two by two cube. It is a zero-waste dishwashing bar made into real soap. Blue Poppy’s soap block is environmentally friendly and plastic-free for spotless dishes the zero waste way. They create the blocks in the time-tested traditional manner of cold process soaping. The method of making the soap allows the manufacturers to produce a wonderful soap without SCI, detergents, foaming agents, dye, or sulfates. The soap is available with several different aromas: apple sage, citrus, lavender lemon, and fragrance-free. It ships from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, and arrives in 2-3 weeks.
This popular zero waste dish soap bar is 100% biodegradable. Plant-based, it is free of artificial dyes and fragrances. It is non-toxic and free of plastic and palm oil. The soap is highly effective at removing grease from dishes without stripping all the natural oils from your hands as you wash. Included with your purchase is a multi-purpose loofah. An eco-friendly alternative to plastic sponges, when the loofah wears out, you can compost it easily. Soap and loofah both come in plastic-free packaging. The bar itself measures three inches high by three inches wide by three inches deep. It’s manufactured by Save for Earth.
Ingredients in the soap bar include coconut oil, canola oil, castor oil, lemon extract, sodium hydroxide, purified water, sugar, soybean oil, lemon juice, and powdered orange peel. They derive all ingredients from plants except the water. There are no harsh chemicals of any kind. In addition to being a dish soap, the bar has multiple cleaning uses. You can feel completely comfortable about having this soap in your home as it has no toxic elements whatsoever and is safe for the entire family to use.
Our final recommendation is for WESheep Zero Waste Dish Soap Bars, made of pure coconut oil, lemon essential oil, and castor oil. They have created their bars through the traditional, natural cold process of creating soap. They make these zero waste dish soap bars without any artificial chemicals or fragrances. You can order the bars in round cakes of two-ounces or square blocks of three-ounces.
WESheep created these blocks of environmentally sound, chemically free, sustainable soaps out of a desire to help eliminate empty, single-use plastic containers like liquid soap bottles. Orders ship from West Edmeston, New York, and arrive in less than ten business days. WESheep has received 35 5-Star reviews of his dish soap bars and other zero-waste sustainable items he keeps on Etsy.
Before we talk about the problem with liquid dish soap, we should discuss the container it used to sneak into our kitchens. When we see an empty pint-sized plastic water bottle, we almost always cringe. After all, that was a single-use item that quickly became a piece of troublesome trash. We seldom realize how many other single-use plastic containers we have around the house, not the least of which is our dish soap bottle.
Surely, by now, you’ve heard repeatedly about the environmental disasters embodied in single-use plastic containers and personal items. Still, every once in a while, a fact comes along that drives home once again the point that we are burying ourselves and our planet in junk plastic. For instance, in a 2016 report, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation commented that by the year 2050, plastics’ total weight in our oceans would be greater than the weight of all the fish in our oceans.
This plastic waste is a threat to marine life simply by the invasive manner in which it has taken over so much of what was formerly pristine habitat. We are all familiar with images of sea creatures who have become irrevocably tangled in one form of plastic or another. Beyond the mere bulky presence of these items, however, they continuously leach the chemical compounds from which manufacturers created each bottle. The microgranules of such plastics also accumulate in aquatic animals—fish and mammals. Researchers know that these microscopic particles end up in virtually every human being as well.
One of the corporations that are proactively taking this to heart—since their products are contributors to this waste problem—is Proctor and Gamble, which makes half a dozen of the most commonly used liquid soaps in the United States and the United Kingdom. They have announced a new initiative to combat the growing mass of unrecycled single-use plastics.
P&G has committed to making a production run of 320,000 bottles of Fairy dish soap constructed entirely of recycled plastic waste. This largest-ever run of soap bottles will comprise 90% PCR plastic (post-consumer resin, that is, plastic rescued from the landfill) and 10% ocean plastic (plastics recovered from the sea). Additionally, they will recycle 40% of the plastic used for P&G’s other brands. This will amount to about 9000 tons of landfill plastic annually. If stacked atop one another, the pile of plastic waste would be 11 times higher than Mount Everest.
The liquid soap we use before we trash the waste bottle is equally problematic. What is it exactly that makes some liquid dish soaps so good at getting grease off our plates and pots? It’s called petroleum-based surfactants used to lower the water's surface tension. That’s right. They make dish soaps that are really good at cutting through the oil from oil. When they go down the drain, they don’t magically disappear from the environment either. They become another petroleum bi-product pulsing through our waterways with unknown outcomes.
Sulfates aren’t the only questionable components of the liquid soap we use for clean plates. Likely you’ve heard of the known carcinogen formaldehyde. It hides in our dish soap in trace amounts with names like methanol, methyl aldehyde, or methylene oxide. Then there is ammonia. You want those dishes squeaky clean and shiny, right? Breathing small amounts of ammonia can damage eyes, skin, and respiration.
What makes dish soap smell like soap? Artificial fragrances. Large manufacturers make many of the different scents meant to smell like nature from undetermined chemical compounds. We do know that liquid dish soap can contain DEA, MEA, and TEA. Researchers know these compounds for their ability to disrupt the intended purposes of hormones in our bodies. Liquid soaps can also contain chlorine. Remember, chlorine is so toxic we use it to purify swimming pools.
Our liquid dish soaps may also contain phosphates, often used to soften water. Once they leave the kitchen sink, they make it out to marine waterways where they deplete the oxygen content of water—and promote the growth of certain toxic algae. Finally, there is triclosan, a hormone disruptor and a harmful chemical to your thyroid gland. Triclosan is included in liquid soap in large measure as an antibiotic. The overuse of such antibiotic chemicals, as in when they are used to wash dishes, actually helps create “superbug” bacteria resistant to most of our antibiotics.
The very definition of cleanliness is the spotless waste-free kitchen. We revel in that spic and span place where we prepare food, where we lean against the pristine countertops as we pull forth cups and plates for the meals we are about to partake. This vision of the clean kitchen is so universal and ubiquitous that we find ourselves revolted by the notion that the very substance—liquid dish soap—we have counted on to keep our eating surfaces perfectly clean is, in fact, dousing our dishes in a multitude of harmful chemicals each day.
The remedy for this startling revulsion is a good, zero-waste, toxin-free, chemical-free dish soap that smells pleasant, does an excellent job of cleaning, and won’t end up in the landfill. These ten highly-regarded cleaning products also have the power to restore our faith in the cleanliness of our kitchens. And each time you choose one, you also choose one less plastic bottle requiring manufacture.