Zero Waste Dishwashing

Much of transitioning to a trash-free, sustainable lifestyle has meant rethinking the mundane. I live in an apartment building, so I can't install solar panels on my roof. But I can alter my daily routines to reduce the amount of trash, plastic, and superfluous materials that they use. Last week, I posted about a few of the kitchen tools that have helped me stay zero waste. This week, I'll share how I wash dishes while avoiding trash. Namely, I've ditched those ubiquitous smelly cellulose sponges and sticky, luridly bright bottles of dish soap, and I don't miss them at all.

The above tools are my dishwashing bread and butter. I purchase liquid dish soap from the bulk aisle of Willy Street Co-op in Madison, WI, where they happily let you bring your own jars (for a source near you, check here). I store the dish soap in a glass cruet for easy pouring. Plates, bowls, glasses, and silverware I scrub using a hand-knit hemp cloth with a bit of soap on it. This works really well, and the hemp cloth stays clean and odor-free as long as I rinse it out after use and hang it up to dry.

For tougher dishes to clean, such as pots and pans sticky with oil and stir-fry residue, I use a sturdier brush made of compostable materials. I clean it and set it aside to dry after use to make it last as long as possible, and when it wears out completely it will go in the compost bin. I also use a wire scrubber when needed, but because it tends to scratch metal pots and pans I prefer the wooden brush, which does the job as long as the pot in question has soaked for a few hours first. Finally, I clean the countertop using a bit of dish soap on a reusable cotton cloth like the blue and white ones above. 

For everyday sustainability, I've found that it's important to make routines that are easy to keep. I try to offer glimpses into the daily systems that help me stay trash-free, here. Are there any zero waste kitchen tips you'd like to share?