For our ongoing series of DIY cleaning tests, we scoured the Internet (pun intended) for homemade formulas for hand-cleaning dishes.
We tested each of three homemade dish cleaners with three tough-to-clean items — a pan with some fried-egg residue, a plate with dried-on yolk from said eggs, and a plastic high chair tray smeared with stain-inducing spaghetti sauce.
1. Melted bar soap
PROS: Inexpensive; simple to make; eventually removed food, grease and odors.
CONS: Unpleasant smell; too thick; too labor-intensive to use.
Rodale, respected publishers of Prevention and Men’s Health magazines, offers a recipe for essentially turning a bar of hand soap into liquid dish soap.
It’s pretty straightforward. Grate one 4-ounce bar of plain soap (we used Ivory, which had the simplest list of ingredients we could find) and whisk the shavings into 8 cups of steaming hot water until melted, then add a few drops of essential oil if desired. We used peppermint oil in all three of our tests for a more direct comparison.
After letting the resulting liquid cool overnight, we returned to a pot full of opaque goop with the consistency of egg whites — a little too thick for effective use in a bottle with a pour spout, which Rodale suggests. Instead, we scooped it onto the sponge for cleaning dishes.
The mix of Ivory and peppermint also had an odd smell, but that would not be an issue with a more pure unscented soap.
The liquid cleaned grease and food off plates and pans, and did not seem to leave any residue, but it took more effort and time than the standard commercial dish liquid.
The biggest advantage of this mixture was the cost. An Ivory bar costs about 56 cents, and the other ingredients are optional, so this recipe makes half a gallon of dish soap for well under $1, or about one cent per ounce.