The majority of our dish soap comes in plastic bottles, which inevitably contributes to our plastic waste problem. Below we look at 10 of the best zero-waste dish soap alternatives, exploring if we can indeed wash up without plastic waste. And even better, do so with natural and organic ingredients great for clean plates, the planet, and our health.
Later on, we’ll ask what sort of issues traditional soaps may cause us, from what’s inside to their plastic housing.
When it comes to washing dishes, we have a choice between products in single-use plastic packaging and those without.
First up, with people and the environment in mind, our recommendations for eco-friendly dish soap bars cover a range of healthy, attractive, organic, and above all, zero-waste options. And they all work fantastically to get your dishes sparkling clean.
Before we get into a discussion of the negatives of the traditional liquid soap most of us have sitting beside our kitchen sinks, let’s explore the alternatives. We've picked out 10 zero-waste dishwashing options that really clean up for us.
Quick links to the best eco-friendly dish soaps we've featured:
It takes 4-6 weeks to create a bar of RFRESHSOAP, enough time for the ingredients of each 4 to the 4.5-ounce bar to cure.
Because of the extensive curing process, each dish soap bar is milder, harder, and longer-lasting than traditional bar soap.
RFRESHSOAP makes its dish soap bar from olive and coconut oils, castor oil, sodium lactate, and essential oils. This formula specifically cuts through smears and stubborn grime on greasy dishes while still being gentle on the user’s skin.
Each soap contains no preservatives, no commercial detergents, no artificial fragrances, and no synthetic colorings.
Each order ships from Alamo, California and arrives in. We additionally love that you can order your zero-waste dish soap in a kit complete with your choice of bamboo scrub brushes, or mix and match with soap flakes or imperfect bars. Stocking up helps reduce shipping costs and emissions.
Ingredients include sodium cocoyl isethionate, glycerin, decyl glucoside, sodium carbonate, organic quillaja Saponaria, and organic aloe vera leaf juice.
They’ve intentionally made each block to last out of all biodegradable ingredients. As such, this zero-waste dish soap is vegan, septic tank-safe, cruelty-free, phosphate-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free, fragrance-free, dye-free, gluten-free, and palm oil-free.
No Tox Life has designed everything about these zero-waste soap bars as sustainable, right down to the completely compostable cardboard box it comes in.
While you can use the soap in cold or warm water, warm water is preferable. Use a scouring pad for washing pots and pans and hard-to-shift stains. You can also use this soap for household cleaning of laundry, carpets, and countertops.
This zero-waste dish soap bar has a lovely lemon aroma. Its ingredients include sodium cocoate, sodium sunflowerate, glycerin, water, organic coconut oil, organic sunflower seed oil, organic citrus medica, and lemon peel oil - making it a perfect natural grease cutter.
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.
Delivered in a compostable cardboard box.
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.
The word “Meliora” literally means better. Meliora has obtained B corporation certification, dedicating themselves to, in this order: people, planet, and then profit.
Further proving their environmental nous, Meliora has received a coveted A rating from the environmental working group. This soap puck makes for a brilliant plastic-free, zero-waste alternative to typical liquid soaps so you can ditch those plastic bottles.
100% vegetable-rendered product made of organic oatmeal, wheat bran, apricot seed, coffee bean, coconut, shea butter, olive oil, and buttermilk.
Paper wrapped free from plastic
You’ll find this concentrated dish soap lasts 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 fresheners, 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.
With a purchase of this plastic-free dish soap, you’ll readily be able to wash away strong food odors such as garlic and onion and note the pleasant smell. The bar’s density makes it last for an extended time, making it more economical than inexpensive liquid alternatives.
Plantish plastic-free dish soaps come in a solid block made of a few ingredients besides coconut oil, olive oil, and bamboo. Equally important is what they omit from the product: it is vegan, cruelty-free, plastic-free, palm oil-free, and 100% compostable.
100% biodegradable packaging.
Everything about this marvelous dish soap, from its packaging to its ingredients, speaks of thoughtful minimalism.
This zero-waste dish soap product comes in several sizes, with the larger "bricks" that weigh in at 13oz and lasting as long as 5 bottles of liquid dishwashing detergent.
Plantish Future also offers several other accessories that you can purchase together with your dish soap in a package. Check out their sisal pot scrubber or bamboo dishcloths too.
When using this zero-waste dish soap, you should rub a wet cloth, a sponge, or a zero-waste dish brush directly atop the soap bar. 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.
The sparse but unusual makeup of this zero-waste dish soap bar by sea witch botanicals includes kaolin clay, orange essential oil, and Fair Trade coconut oil.
This product is toxic-free, cruelty-free, detergent-free, synthetic fragrance-free, petroleum products-free, SLS-free, and certified vegan. It also intentionally omits a number of unwelcome ingredients.
For additional zero waste creds when you buy this natural dish soap, even the biodegradable 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 will last up to two months with daily use.
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.
This product ships from Bellingham, Washington, and usually arrives in about a week.
The base 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.
These zero-waste dish soap blocks are also shaped like hockey pucks and weigh four ounces.
To get the best use of the bar, place it in a dry dish on the countertop. Wet a zero-waste dish brush or dish rag to build suds. One zero-waste dish soap should suffice for use on your dirty dishes 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.
The soap comprises a simple group of ingredients: coconut oil, water, sodium hydroxide, essential oils—such as lavender, lemon, or litsea cubeba—and natural fragrance. Each bar comes 100% free of toxic chemicals.
Recyclable paper packaging
Next up in our recommendations of the best zero-waste dish soaps is this handmade cube from Blue Poppy. The dish soap itself is a two-by-two-by-two cube. Blue Poppy’s soap block is environmentally friendly and plastic-free for spotless dishes along your zero-waste journey.
Unlike some other merchants, Blue Poppy also offers a complete set of zero-waste essentials needed to wash the dishes: a cedar soap dish and a brush.
They create the blocks in the time-tested traditional manner of cold process soaping. This soap-making process allows the manufacturers to produce a wonderful soap without SCI, detergents, foaming agents, dye, or sulfates.
Ingredients 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 water. There are no harsh chemicals of any kind.
Plant-based, it is free of artificial dyes and fragrances. It is non-toxic and free of plastic and palm oil.
Plastic-free packaging in the form of a biodegradable paper box.
This popular zero-waste dish soap is 100% biodegradable. The soap is highly effective at removing grease from dishes without stripping all the natural oils from your hands as you wash.
The bar itself measures three inches high by three inches wide by three inches deep. and rE: have a range of packs including other essentials such as a natural loofahs and sponges,
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.
WE sheep makes its zero-waste soap bars from a selection of natural ingredients, including pure coconut oil, lemon essential oil, and castor oil. They make these zero-waste dish soaps without any artificial chemicals or fragrances.
Eco-friendly cardboard outer
Our final recommendation is for WESheep Zero Waste Dish Soap Bars; they have created their bars through the traditional, natural cold process of creating soap. You can order the bars in round cakes of two ounces or square blocks of three ounces.
WE Sheep 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.
With so many great dish soap options out there that ditch the plastic packaging, you want to make sure your soap bar is as eco-friendly as possible. Like any bar soap, the trick here is to let it dry out between uses as much as possible. When bar soap sits in water, it softens, and you end up using more than you need.
To solve this problem and to complement your low-waste dishwashing bar, check out our articles on:
Some brands are starting to introduce refills in eco-friendly packaging, which means you don’t need to replace the bottle or container every time. Some commercial refills still come in plastic bags or sleeves, which are an improvement as they use less plastic, but far from actually making for truly zero-waste detergent.
However, have a browse of some of the zero waste stores online, and you’re also bound to find refills to suit your cleaning needs should one of the zero waste dish soaps above not quite fit.
Cleancult dish soap in cartons is one worth checking out on their website for excellent choices of zero-waste dishwashing products. You can grab refills shipped carbon neutral.
A great option for the refillable container is a mason jar with a stainless steel pump lid. This way, dish cleaning comes without the waste and recurring cost of single-use containers.
Of course, zero-waste dish soap is only part of the answer to ensuring you wash up with all care for the environment in pursuit of sustainable living.
Many of the zero-waste stores above will also help point you in the direction of reusable and eco-friendly dishcloths to use with your bar soap. You can also pick up an all-natural loofah made from plants to replace those plastic dish scrubs.
Another option in pursuit of zero-waste living, should you have the time, is to make your own. Grab some castile soap in bulk, which is the mainstay base for DIY zero-waste cleaning products, and with the addition of a bit of vinegar and washing soda, or baking soda, and voila, you’ll have made your own dish soap without the waste.
Have a search online for recipes or review our complete guide to zero waste cleaning for more info.
Once you’ve found the zero-waste dish soap to suit your preference, buying in bulk means you also help reduce shipping costs and the resulting carbon footprint. Grab bulk bar soap from any of the zero-waste shop options above, and you’ll have all you need to scrub dishes clean for the long haul.
You can also buy bulk powder dish soap for dishwashers, avoiding plastic bottles and capsules. Ecoleaf offers zero-waste dishwasher detergent tabs in a cardboard box and innovator, Dropps, zero-waste dishwasher detergent pods for your machine.
Further, look out for dish soap concentrate, which will last longer and reduce the need for unnecessary shipping when buying online.
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.
However, it's easy to forget how many other single-use plastic containers we have around the house, not the least of which is our dish soap bottle.
Each of these single-use bottles contributed to plastic waste that can easily become a threat to marine life simply by the invasive manner in which it has taken over so much of what was formerly pristine habitat.
However, beyond the mere bulky presence of these items, they continuously leach the chemical compounds from which manufacturers created each bottle. The micro granules 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. Most zero-waste dish soaps come in biodegradable or compostable packaging for more sustainable dish soap purchases.
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.
They have announced a new initiative to combat the growing mass of unrecycled single-use plastics, many of which come from plastic bottles for dish soap.
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, 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 dish 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 most conventional 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 by-product pulsing through our waterways with unknown outcomes.
Sulfates aren’t the only questionable components of many dish soaps 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. All of this just adds up to more reasons for zero-waste dishwashing.
What makes dish soap smell like soap? Artificial synthetic 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 substances, as in when they are used to wash dishes, actually helps create “superbug” bacteria resistant to most antibiotics.
All of our choices of soap bars are super simple to use. Rather than a squirt of liquid into your wash, you wet these bars under the tap or in the washing-up water and lather them up with your hands or a wet sponge. You then simply transfer the rich suds to your washing-up water, and voila, plastic-free dish detergent.
To ensure they last, it's recommended by the majority of brands we've featured that you store your zero-waste dish soap in the dry and away from water between uses. This way, it'll drain and dry, so you end up using less with each wash.
Just like normal washing up liquid, it is always a good idea to remove stuck-on food and excess food scraps before you wash.
The very definition of cleanliness is a 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 enjoy.
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, cruelty-free, chemical-free dish soap that smells pleasant, does an excellent job of cleaning, and won’t end up in the landfill.
Thankfully, these ten highly-regarded zero-waste dish soap brands also have the power to restore our faith in the cleanliness of our kitchens. And each time you choose low-waste dish soaps, you also select one less plastic bottle requiring manufacture.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.