Washing your dishes in the dishwasher is usually considered as green, if not greener, than washing them by hand -- good news for all us lazy people, right? This is particularly true when you run the dishwasher only when it's full, and use a cold-water setting if your dishwasher has one. Best of all, a dishwasher that carries the EnergyStar label should save both water and electricity.
But what about the dishwashing detergent? There are a greater number of eco-friendly or green dishwashing detergent options available with low- or no-phosphate ingredients. The product packaging, too, is more likely today to be recycled, or at least recyclable.
Some dishwashing experts (yes, they do exist) have found that most people use too much dishwashing detergent: not only is that bad for the environment, it also wreaks havoc on your dishwasher and wastes your money (especially if you have softened water).
For the ultimate in green dishwashing, however, try making your own homemade dish detergent. There are several recipes out there, but most have the following two ingredients as a base:
1. One part baking soda (or Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda)
2. One part borax (as in 20 Mule Team Borax)
Some recipes also call for citic acid powder, salt, essential lemon oil or other ingredients.
WARNING: I tried the homemade dish detergent recipe above and my dishes came out looking like crap. Glasses and even bowls and cups had a gritty film on them, and I had to scour each one by hand to remove the spots and grime. If you have a good recipe for homemade dish detergent, please let us know by clicking on the Readers Respond link below. Until I hear from you, I'll be using commercial dishwashing liquid.
As a natural rinsing agent, you can also use tried-and-true distilled white vinegar, which neutralizes the detergent and helps it rinse away clean. (White vinegar also works great in the rinse cycle of your clothes washing machine.)
A final word of caution: Even though homemade or "natural" dishwashing detergents don't contain industrial-strength chemicals, they are still potentially unsafe, so store them in childproof contains, keep them away from children and pets, and label the container carefully.