The Dishsoap Report

Sorry to keep you all waiting. I’ve had a few days of baby/morning troubles. Not exactly that the Babe is being fussy, just the timing isn’t working out right, leaving me no time to write.

Those other soapy posts were just a lead-up, and what I really wanted to tell you about was how the stuff works! Because it is a complete fascination to me. I can’t decide if it’s good or not.

Here’s the quick answer. It works. The dishes are cleaned. It even cleans a smoked salmon jar, and that’s about the best test you can get. But…..

The dishes get clean, but the sink gets a greasy dirt ring like you wouldn’t believe.

“A big, long pink cat ring! It looked like pink ink. And I said, will this ever come off? I don’t think!”

(Dr. Seuss, from the Cat in the Hat Comes Back)

Now, if only I had some “Voom.”

And my hands. They get gross and greasy too.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought it did sort of make sense. Soap takes grease off the dishes and into the dishwater. Then of course the grease floats on top, clinging to the edge of the dishpan. But how come this doesn’t happen with regular, commercial dishsoap? Where does all that grease go when you use Joy? Must just be held in suspension somehow. Unless a chemical reaction changes it to something else….

If anyone knows of a ‘basic science of soap for those who didn’t pay attention in chemistry’ type of book, or website, please let me know, because I am completely enthralled by the mystery of it. Which is a vote in it’s favor, since it takes dish washing from a mundane daily task to a fascinating exploration into science. And somewhat makes up for the fact that it makes my hands greasygross, and that at the end I have to wash that big long nasty cat ring off the washtub.

Rhonda at D2E claims to wash with handmade dishsoap and like it. But actually, in the before and after photo of her dishwater, I have to point out that it looks more or less unused. I use my dishwater till its last breath. Beyond perhaps the dictates of decorum. If I wash one sink full of dishes with one sink full of hot soapy water, and that is my ratio, 1:1, the homemade soap works fine. But, I always add another sink full of dishes to the same water, and often two. By the end of 2 loads, it’s spent, by the end of three the ring is Seuss-ish, and threatens to take 27 hat cats plus something called Voom to remove.

So I started using the good 1:1 ratio, or trying my best anyway. But then at some point I decided that, in the name of science, I needed a control. A lot of the baking soda this and vinegar that ‘green cleaning’ is, to my mind, unnecessary. Plain old hot water will do the trick just fine. I usually (pre-cat ring dishwater days) used my dishwater after I finished the dishes to wipe up the stovetop, counters, etc. Works fine, even when all the soap’s used up and the waters half cold.

Hence, I figured I’d better see how much of the dishes getting clean was owing to the soap, and how much to just the hot water.

I lived for years without soap or hot water. We washed our dishes after each meal in a bucket of cold rainwater, and instead of a sponge we used dirt. (Yes, dirt. It makes things cleaner. Really, truly, try it sometime. Of course you have to rinse the dirt off after you scrub it around.) But in those nostalgic days, my diet was mostly beans, rice and oatmeal. I assumed that the introduction of animal products at almost every meal would have made soap-less washing impossible.

It hasn’t.

That’s right. You read me right. Soap-less dishwashing works.

Not every dish is cleanable with just hot water, but most in my kitchen are. I started a routine of putting all the cleanest dishes in first, sans soap. Then when I get to the dishes that do need soap, I just rub my sponge around on a bar of (homemade) soap I keep by the sink. Then the soap is very concentrated, right where I need it.

The nifty white wire rack I took out of someone's trash can. Not sure what it's original use was. The jar in front has a diluted soap mixture, with a brush for quick scrubs. The nasty looking sponge on top is for my icky sponge, by the way. I have a nice clean one for dishes. The Joy is for Hubby, who is not expected to share my love of greasy cat ring science projects.

Dish washing with no soap? Then, not even liquid, just plain bar soap? How am I supposed to get my science project rocks off?

Of course, as you may have gathered from other posts, my housekeeping standards are not exactly…… high. But, other people have examined glasses washed with plain water and proclaimed them clean. So, I might not be completely off base. Worth a try, right? Tonight when you wash up from dinner, give it a go. No soap. Hot water. All the dinner dishes save maybe the macaroni and cheese pan, or the greasiest of greasies. Report back.

5 thoughts on “The Dishsoap Report

  1. i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again: i love you.

    there. feminism and dishwashing science provoke the most favourable response.

    i’ve got a few links i can send you that might be a start to explaining the ‘why are the hands and dishpan greasy?’ thing – i’ll do that tmw. and you’re right about the hot water, for most things. for grease on non-stick surfaces, oddly, i need the detergent. other than that, no. i have a theory about that too… will send it along with the links tmw.

    1. thanks! i’ll check that out. yup, soil, sand, any fine grained substrate. it’s the grit. nature’s perfect scrubbie.

  2. if that person-pronouncing-the-water-glass-clean’s name starts with d, well you need a 2nd opinion. she only washes with hot h2o so she’s not objective. :P

    this soap thing is making me think about all the advertising that’s marketed at “housewives” re: cleanliness. and how much has been debunked as absolutely unscientific (that is, not effective at sanitizing, for example–and now that i write that what is “sanitizing”? is it really a good thing to kill every little microbe–good with bad?).

    the ring around the dishpan thing, for example, really has me worried. what if joy/dawn/palmolive just suspends the grit on the dishes? gross! i’d rather have it deposited on the dishpan.

    anyhow, keep us posted with the science updates

    1. ha, ha. i don’t believe i’ve ever misled anyone as to my low cleanliness standards. plus, there were a couple other backups, whos names begin with a g and an s, respectively.

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