It's been several months since my first cleaning post, here. I got carried away writing about clean air and realized how excited I get about cleaning. (I know this is not the case for everyone!) Since dishes are something else that we all have to deal with every day, and this is exactly the kind of post that I enjoy reading, I thought I would post about how we choose to wash the dishes in our house.
First, to recap my basic rules of cleaning:
- Clean does not have a scent.
- Cleaning does not need to involve separate, specific products purchased for every possible eventuality.
- Perfectly simple and effective ingredients that you probably already have on hand in your kitchen can clean your whole house effectively.
- Reusable is better than disposable.
- Soap and hot water will take care of pretty much everything.
First, the dishwasher - an area which I'll freely admit I would like to improve to a healthier alternative. When it comes to washing dishes, we have a lovely KitchenAid dishwasher (which was a floor model I bought at an amazing low price of $500) which does an excellent job washing the dishes. We wash all of our glasses, cutlery, plates, bowls, etc in the dishwasher, and run it every evening. (Adam and I switch off for kitchen clean-up / bathing the boys and getting them in bed. That way we have some time to watch a show, play a game, or just hang out together after the boys are asleep.) The items that we don't put in the dishwasher and wash by hand include our wooden cutting boards and spoons (never put wood in the dishwasher!), my good knives, cookie sheets, our cast iron pans, and our stainless steel pots. I have no problem with putting the stainless pots in the dishwasher, but since they're fairly large, there often isn't enough room after all of our other dishes are loaded.
I don't yet have any magical eco-solutions to detergent or rinse aid for the dishwasher. When we lived in town, I spent a small fortune trying every available more eco-friendly option for detergent, and none of them washed the dishes well at all. I also made several recipes which didn't work any better. Our water here is very different (we have a super filter system with UV lights and salt and fancy things that make noise in the middle of the night) so after we've used up the conventional tab thingies we have on hand I am planning to try Abby's recommendation of the Seventh Generation Free & Clear, which I have heard other people endorse.
For rinse aid, I find the price of traditional grocery store kinds ridiculous, and depending on your water situation, it may not even be needed. I've used straight vinegar a few times, but over time that can destroy the rubber / flexible components of the rinse aid compartment, so it's suggested that you put some in a small dish or cup, right-side up, in the top rack. Which seems like a bit of a pain to do with every load. There are some better options, though, which I haven't seen locally, but I may order online to try once our current supply runs out.
On to the cloths. I have a drawer full of dishcloths next to the sink, and I'm a bit fanatical about changing them out, which we do just about every day. We're at the sink washing our hands and dishes and wiping down the counters so often through the day (Adam works from home, so he's cooking and snacking here all day long) that the dishcloths don't have a chance to dry in between uses. And the idea of a damp dishcloth sitting on the sink for a few days and festering, then being used on dishes makes me wrinkle up my nose. Our washer is just next to the kitchen, so I just toss the cloths in the washer (with the boys, the washer is in use every day, too) usually at the end of the day. My preferred type of cloths are cotton. The knit or crocheted style you see on top (which I am sure you know someone who makes) are my favourite because they're nicely textured for scrubbing when needed. The ribbed type which match the towel on the bottom are also perfectly fine. But I find myself reaching for the basic cotton ones nine times out of ten.
My favourite dishtowels are some that I bought several years ago at the Superstore, like the red one above. They're ribbed cotton, and absorb a crazy amount of water without feeling soggy. They look remarkably good for their age and how often they've been used. They work so well that I always reach for them first. I have some fun printed cotton ones that I like to use for drying hands, and that type improves in softness and absorbency over time, but they don't hold quite as much water as these ribbed ones do. The dark red also hides any stains or marks from drying cast iron very well. And for some reason, every stain or mark always seems to wash out.
The dishwashing liquid we use makes me so happy. Down East Dishwashing Liquid is made right here in Nova Scotia, is unscented and gentle on the environment (and hands) and you can buy 4L for $10.99 at Sobeys! It is very concentrated and a little goes a loooong way. It can be used as hand soap, too. I decant it into the large amber pump bottle in the first picture, and add in a few drops of essential oil, usually orange or grapefruit, and we use that for handwashing the items that don't go in the dishwasher.
And since we're washing our hands at the kitchen sink many times a day, we also have hand soap at the ready. I saved a foaming soap dispenser (I'm not a huge fan of the ingredients in Watkins products, but their packaging is pretty and functional and won't break if dropped) and refill it when needed with 1/4 full of Down East dishwashing liquid, and 3/4 water. It's easy and inexpensive, and I usually add in a few drops of a citrus essential oil like grapefruit or lemon.
For scrubbing really tough spots, the purple thing above is terrific. My sister-in-law's mother crochets them, and they last forever - I just toss them in the washer every now and then and they last for ages - I think I've been using this one for almost a year and it's still going strong. For the cast iron pans, the scrubby brush on the right (I think it was from the dollar store, I've had it for years) has a nice pointy end that scrubs around the edges really well. I just toss it in the dishwasher every now and then, and it still looks pretty good.
Who knew there was so much to write about washing dishes?! I'm totally open to suggestions if you have products you buy or make that you love! Please share. Happy dishwashing!