tips to make your dishwashing plastic free whether you wash up by hand or use a dishwasher.
I must admit I have found the elimination of plastic from the dishwashing routine one of the easiest tasks so far. Whether you wash up by hand or use a dishwasher there is a lot you can do to eliminate or at least drastically reduce your use of plastic in the process.
First I want to outline all the ways in which plastic is present in the typical washing up routine.
If you wash up by hand, the first thing you might do is don a pair of gloves. Whilst many are made from natural rubber they are not as biodegradable as manufacturers would have us believe and they almost certainly arrived in your kitchen contained in a plastic wrapper! Next you’ll go for a squirt of liquid from a plastic bottle and then start wiping and washing with your dishcloth (which I can almost guarantee will contain polyester even if the packet said ‘cotton dishloth’) and for the extra tough bits you’ll grab your little plastic green scrubby pad either on it’s own or attached to a polyester sponge. If you’re lazy or just know that it’s healthier to let the dishes air dry then you’re done. If however you like to finish the job and get everything dried up and put away as soon as possible you will at this point be reaching for the tea towel. Now depending on what sort of tea towel you go for you may already be the proud owner of fully plastic free tea towels. If however you like the towelling sort there is highly likely some polyester content and if you’ve fallen for the microfibre tea towels that seem so abundant in the likes of B&M and Poundstretcher then you need to un-fall for them fast!
If you use a dishwasher which we do for about 90% of our washing up then it will go something like this: Remove plastic wrapper from tablet and pop in compartment, top up with rinse aid from a plastic bottle and maybe special dishwasher salt from a plastic bag when needed. On top of that you may periodically use one of those stinky dishwasher cleaning bottles that you run through on an empty cycle. I avoid them like the plague as they make my eyes stream and the back of my throat feel sore even while the dishwasher is closed and doing it’s thing!
As you can see there is potential for both washing up methods to use quite a bit of plastic. Luckily there are lots of ways we can change that:
- Ditch the gloves! Seriously unless you have dermatitis you really shouldn’t need them, especially if you’re using a gentler more environmentally responsible washing up liquid. If your hands are prone to drying out then get into the habit of applying hand cream afterwards. Preferably a homemade plastic free hand cream! If you must use gloves and there are times when we all need them (blocked drains Yuk!) then at least seek out some made from fairly traded sustainable rubber and supplied in plastic free packaging. The company If You Care do some rather fetching green ones!
- Start buying washing up liquid in bulk. It will still be in a plastic container but the amount of energy and resources needed will be a lot less than say 5 smaller one litre bottles. Our last lot came in a 5 litre container that we decant into an old Ecover bottle. I see this as a compromise until I start making my own liquid soap from Soapnuts again once I’ve stocked up, something I haven’t done for ten years! Once we’re back on the Soapnuts our washing up liquid will be truly plastic free.
- Ditch the plastic scrubbers and sponges! There are alternatives made from natural materials out there but I’ve knitted some pot scrubbers from jute twine. They’re not quite as abrasive as shop bought scourers but a bit of extra elbow grease never hurt anyone. There are all manner of bottle and dish brushes made from wood and natural bristle too. I found my wooden dish brush in Tk Maxx but Google the company Redecker if you can’t find anything locally as they make some beautiful household brushes.
- Buy only 100% cotton dishcloths. For years I thought that was exactly what I was doing and then realised that every packet I picked up in the supermarket contained polyester too! Look for cloths without plastic wrapping and if you can knit or crochet even just a basic stitch then you can make your own from cotton yarn.
- Buy only 100% cotton or linen tea towels and ditch the microfibre and polyester blends. Every time you launder a cloth or item of clothing that is made of synthetic fibres you are washing plastic microfibres down the drain and ultimately into our oceans. Water treatment plants cannot filter these out as they are too tiny!
- Opt for dishwasher powder in a cardboard box. So far the only place I have been able to source such a thing is in Sainsbury’s but there are lots of recipes popping up online for homemade powder and tablets so do some research and see what you can come up with. We’re happily using Sainsbury’s powder for now.
- Again, dishwasher salt in a cardboard box from Sainsbury’s. Do not use table or cooking salt in your dishwasher as it contains anti caking agents that can really mess up your machine!
- Use white vinegar instead of rinse aid. I’ve been doing this successfully for a little while now but I’m finding it’s getting harder to find the vinegar in glass bottles. They also have plastic lids which isn’t ideal but right now there doesn’t seem to be an alternative and it’s certainly less plastic than a bottle of rinse aid.
- Instead of using bottles of ‘dishwasher cleaner’ sit a cup of vinegar in your washer and run it empty on it’s hottest cycle once a month to keep it fresh.
Below are some of the plastic free washing up items we’ve switched to. Remember you don’t have to go out and make all these switches in one go. I’ve generally replaced things with plastic free alternatives as I’ve run out rather than rush out and replace everything in one go.
Above: cotton tea towels, bulk washing up liquid, wood and natural bristle brushes, homemade cotton dishcloths and hand knitted pot scrubber made from jute twine.
Below: white vinegar in a glass bottle, dishwasher powder in cardboard box, dishwasher salt in cardboard box.
So far so good and if I can figure out a way to make my own plastic free washing up liquid then that would be great! I made some from Soapnuts about ten years ago but it would be great to experiment this time. If anyone has any recipes for washing up liquid or dishwasher detergent or knitting or crochet patterns for cloths then please feel free to share in the comments below!
the hunt for affordable plastic free toilet roll.
One of the first things to receive our attention on the plastic free journey was the humble toilet roll. I have to say that initially we thought we’d cracked it and it was a case of swap done but unfortunately we have hit a stumbling block and it’s a stumbling block that I think many people will fall at through no fault of their own. Cost!
It doesn’t matter how many sums you do, how many trials you do to see how long a roll actually lasts, the reality is that plastic free toilet roll can cost more than four times as much per roll than a cheap value brand! To families on a low income that is just too much of a difference to even begin to consider. But you don’t need to give up on the idea of a plastic free or even just a switch to a recycled loo roll (if you don’t already buy recycled) as there are some affordable options. You just need to know where to look.
I have compiled a list below of what’s on offer and have included links. For comparison I have included a budget brand from the supermarket
We rushed into the toilet roll switch and ordered a 48 roll box from Who Gives a Crap. I was seduced by pretty packaging and all that talk of double length rolls. Their cost per 100 sheets was also looking pretty at 18.8p. But (or should that be butt!), what they don’t tell you is that their sheets are smaller than normal! Yep you read that right. Their sheets are actually square instead of the usual rectangular shape and this is how they can keep the cost per 100 sheets down! Sneaky trick Who Gives A Crap! Unfortunately my gripe with WGAC doesn’t end there. Each roll comes individually wrapped in a funky paper wrapper. That’s great I hear you say, it’s recycled paper ain’t it! Well yes but it will take an awful lot more energy and resources to wrap individual rolls than it would to wrap say 9 or 12. Even better would be a bulk buy cardboard box option full of naked packaging free rolls! Come on someone, start up The Naked Loo Roll Company! You can have the name, just lob a lifetime’s supply of loo roll my way, cheers!
So yeah, I won’t be ordering from Who Gives A Crap again. I think it’s great that they donate 50% of their profits to providing toilets for people in need around the world but they are not a viable option for those of us looking to go plastic free on a budget! If you want to give it a go anyway and decide for yourself then you can get £5 OFF by following this link: https://www.talkable.com/x/meWV83
Our next batch of toilet roll is Ecoleaf but I have to admit I ordered before researching for this post and in hindsight I wish I’d ordered Greencane. I hadn’t realised the film part of their mostly paper packaging was a compostable bio film and in the name of penny pinching opted for a month’s worth of Ecoleaf. Nobody gets it right first time right?
I will no doubt be reporting back on the toilet roll situation in a month or so. Don’t forget you can follow The Plastic Switch on social media, just click the icons to the right. It’s always nice to meet new followers so do stop and say hello on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook!
*Please note that all links contained in this blog post are purely for reference and NOT affiliate links. I do not profit in any way. The Who Gives A Crap discount link is purely promotional on their part and I receive no commission through readers using the link.
It’s been two months since we began this journey and although there’s not much to show for it here, there has been steady progress on the switching. Some changes have simply involved a switch back to previously abandoned practices like using Soapnuts, while others like DIY oat milk, have involved the learning of new practices and a new routine. We are also discovering that just as organic food is priced for the more privileged members of society so too are many of the alternative purchases required to take plastic completely out of the loop. I feel that because of this there is a very real danger that ‘Plastic Free’ will be seen as a middle class fad and an impossible ideal and therefore be shunned by many. I will write more on this in a future post!
So what switches have we made so far? Well among the first things tried were bamboo toothbrushes and plastic free loo roll (more on loo roll in the next post). We have sourced milk in returnable glass bottles and we have pretty much eliminated plastic from our dishwashing routine, packed lunches and pet food. Our laundry is plastic free and about to become even more environmentally sound as I’ve decided to go back to soapnuts after a ten year break! As an almost all female household we’re working on the sanitary protection too. I can no longer use my Mooncup (for reasons you really don’t want me to go into!) so it’s become even more important for me to source effective, plastic free cloth pads. There will be a post (possibly several} on this too at some point as it’s not proving as easy as I thought.
We’re well on with the switch over to plastic free cleaning alternatives and have reduced the amount of plastic for some things by making our own or bulk buying. Our shopping habits still need to change dramatically but we’re hoping that things will fall into place when we move to a more urban setting at the end of the year and everything is within walking distance, including a Weigh n Save store! Normally at this time of year I would be busy with the vegetable plot, ensuring a supply of plastic free salad and veg but as we are (hopefully) moving before the year is out I need to concentrate on other things. I have some herbs in pots and have sown a few things in moveable containers but it will be slim pickings from the garden this year.
Oh and I almost forgot! I made my first beeswax wrap yesterday! There are a couple of different methods floating around the web and I think I picked the messiest and most awkward one. I opted for iron and two sheets of greaseproof and oh did I make a mess! It’s a good job I stumbled across two spare irons in the loft last week! My wrap also ended up unevenly coated and very stiff so if anyone has any useful advice I would be eternally grateful! It certainly hasn’t put me off trying again so watch this space.
Well that’s it for now. Off to the farm shop with the empties for more plastic free milk. Back soon with a post all about loo roll!
Hello and welcome to our blog. We are an ordinary family (I use the word ordinary loosely!) stepping out on a journey to reduce the amount of plastic in the world. We realise the world is a vast place and that we are just one little tiny part of it but if we can inspire even just a handful of people to start making positive changes then we will have achieved our goal!
If like us you are concerned about the impact of plastic on the environment but aren’t sure how you can help then join us and we’ll walk the journey together.