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Can you wash dishes without soap?

 
gardener
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As with so many things, there isn't one right answer.
1. In areas with very high environmental costs to heating water, cold water solutions are necessary. (And hopefully, people will plant coppicing  trees/shrubs and build a rocket stove to heat a pot of water on, for the future.)
2. In areas where drought is a severe issue, people may have no choice but to use a low water, higher soap approach to the problem of getting things clean. (and hopefully plant tree/shrubs to help reverse desertification.)
3. In places where people cannot use greywater systems and know that their water is going straight into streams and rivers, avoiding soaps/detergents that contribute to algae formation is *really* important for the environment as a whole, but many people are not so good at looking past their own front door without nudges from people higher up Paul's eco scale. In those situations, high water/low detergent/soap are likely the best compromise.
4. Within all of these options, "reduce" is step one. For example, we use colour-coded cups for family members and mostly drink straight water. I'll easily use the same cup repeatedly for 1-3 days before I consider it dirty enough to be washed. If I have just a sandwich for lunch, I'll often use the same plate for dinner by just wiping the crumbs into the compost with my hand. I *hang* my bath-towel after use - after all it got used on a "clean me", but I know people who wash their towels after every use - letting something air-dry kills the vast majority of micros without any soap or water getting involved, leave a towel in a damp heap and laundering becomes necessary.

It all comes down to the basic principles of Permaculture: observe, adapt to your situation, identify a problem and work towards solutions!
 
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When it comes to dish without soap I spontanouesly come to think of an Autoklav like they use in hospitals to clean instruments.
 
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
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Soap can be made in a low tech, traditional, eco friendly way. They make olive oil soap in the middle of North African desert countries. Soap should not be our enemy, I think..

Making soap requires energy, but burning a bit of kindling for a batch of soap that will last you a year isn't that bad, I think.

Dish washing without soap really needs old fashioned scalding hot water and scrubbing. Boil water pour over greasy dishes in a tub, let sit a bit, and scrub away.

Here's how artisans make olive oil soap in North Africa. You CAN use this stuff to wash dishes, hands, everything. My wife refuses to wash lingerie or socks with anything other than either French Savon de Marseilles, or a traditional Olive Oil soap like this...  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KZn31wB1FY

 
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I didn't read the whole thread yet; sorry if this was already posted.

The Viking system might be good for you. I learned it when I stayed at the Viking Village at  Lejre Land of Legends:

We passed the dishes through 3 basins of water in order: (1) a warm water basin with a scrubber, to remove the food stuck on; (2) a cold water basin where you rinse off the rest; (3)  a hot water basin to disinfect it. Then we let them drip-dry on a rack.
The dishes and spoones were all wooden, so maybe this method only works for wooden items.
The stew was cooked in a big metal cauldron hung below a tripod over a fire, and I didn't see how they cleaned that.

For dessert we ate raspberries with cream (which had been hand-churned). The dish washing system cleaned the grease off perfectly.

Oh, and before going into the first basin, I would try to scrub off stuck food particles with a handful of plants (such as a comfrey leaf).  
 
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i notice some mentioning the use of hot/boiling water in lieu of soap — while this may be effective, is it really anymore eco-friendly?

the amount of energy used to heat that much water seems more eco-destructive than a very mild castile soap
 
pollinator
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I  notice some mentioning the use of hot/boiling water in lieu of soap — while this may be effective, is it really anymore eco-friendly?

the amount of energy used to heat that much water seems more eco-destructive than a very mild castile soap



Horses for courses as they say in the UK.  It depends on your situation.  For instance, in rural France at the turn of the nineteen hundreds and well into the sixties, my grandma used to pour boiling water over the dishes inside a large recipient and when cooled enough to touch, she would then wipe the dishes and put them away.  That water was used to feed the pigs by adding old potatoes, wheat germ, beets or whatever was around at the time.  Of course the only source of heat they had was a big fire place with a cauldron always simmering near by.  I understand that living in the city is a different story and that boiling an electric kettle is energy hungry and not a very eco friendly way to wash dishes.

My situation is similar to my grandma's -  by choice. I have a wood burning range that is more or less in use all the time (it has a winter/summer setting) and a kettle is simmering constantly on the side, push it to the other side and water boils in 5 seconds flat.  Mind you, that's only good for tea, because that range also does my hot water and sometimes it comes out of the tap literally scalding. Unfortunately, that is not an option for my children who live in London.

In Burma (Myanmar) they used to use some earth to clean pots and pans, same as very poor, rural India, and I quite often do that also. it cleanses remarkably well, especially burnt pots!  But then again, my kitchen door opens up unto a garden not a city street.

At the end of the day, one can only adapt the method that is best suited to one's environment/situation and do the best that is possible.

By the way, I apologise, I did not read all the posts, so maybe I am repeating what somebody might have already said.
 
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I no longer have dogs to clean my greasy pots, but I do have chickens.  They don't lick pans clean, but they do clean my pans.  I use oatmeal.  
A bit of uncooked oatmeal stirred into the grease and left a bit to absorb the oils is an awesome treat, according to my chickens.
 
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One day when I was out camping and forgot to bring soap, I discovered a highly scientific and neurologically advanced method for cleaning my dishes.

The first step is to grab a nice handful of clean dirt (dirty dirt wont work!). I prefer dry dirt for this initial dish wipe but if only wet dirt is available, skip to step five.
Step two. Place the clean dirt on dirty dish and rub it around.
Step three. Brush the soiled dirt off.
Step four. Rinse with water.
Step five. Grab more clean dirt. Throw it on your dish. Wet your dirt to taste. Rub the dirt slurry around. Rinse with clean water.
Step six. Repeat step five as necessary untill dish appears clean.


There's all kinds of other things that work when clean dirt is not available: sand, hummus\wood duff, dry leaves, moss, ashes+charcoal, coffee grounds, cat litter, rice crispies ... Be creative!

This method works great to clean all kinds of things! It's my go to hand washing method when I'm outdoors, particularly when my hands are covered in nasty crud from working on my truck or chainsaw.

Seriously! Don't knock it till you tried it!

Lets talk dirty. How does this seemingly counterintuitive process work you ask? It's not magic, it's science (unless you don't believe in science, then it's magic). This process acts on Muffery's 3rd law. In case you don't know, Muffery is Murphy's lesser known but equally brilliant cousin. The law states: In order for one thing to become clean, something else must first become dirty. Once you understand Muffery's simple logic, you're well on your way to cleaning all kinds of stuff. Warning: Keep this law in mind as your dishes are becoming gloriously spotless ... remember that you're rinsing these soiled materials into your delicate home plumbing systems! Without a proper strainer, the larger and heavier abrasive materials (though 100% natural, sustainable, vegan and biodegradable) may settle out in the trap under your sink and cause some problems. With that in mind, strain your tailings before they go down the drain.

There you have it folks! A modern miracle.
 
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Keep in mind that commercial dish "soaps" are really chemical detergents.
I don't see how natural soaps could hurt anything, but detergents sure do.
 
pollinator
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Just want to add that sponges and dish clothes are the dirtiest things in a house. Seriously look it up.

To reduce this boil them often and replace regularly.
 
gardener
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My hot water is from a solar water heater on the roof. My greywater goes right to a little canal to trees. I like to rinse the dish first with a sponge and hot water, then use as little detergent as is needed.
 
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