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Cleaning Dishes in a Healthier Way

Dishpan hands were the scourge of the housewife of the 1950s, or so advertisers would have us believe. I don't know where the ads have gone, but the problem of dishpan hands remains - although thankfully the ranks of males doing the dishes have grown. Dish detergents pull natural oils from your skin as easily as they pull salad dressing from a dirty plate or hamburger grease from a skillet. Wearing gloves is an option not relished by most of us, but it is to be recommended, especially if you use commonly available dish detergents with antibacterial agents (pesticides), artificial fragrances, and dyes. Health food store brands don't have synthetic additives, but they still strip the oils from your skin. Liquid soaps can also be caustic and drying to the hands. If you don't wear gloves, be sure to treat your skin with something like [an]...aloe and glycerin moisturizer.


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Buyer's Guide to Dish Detergents


The most difficult product to substitute for an environmentally preferable one is automatic dish detergent. Most commercial products have phosphates and chlorine, and I'm sorry to say that, if you have hard water, you'll have trouble getting your dishes sparkling clean without those ingredients. I speak from experience. However, Life Tree and Seventh Generation products, available in health food stores, are good formulations that are worth a try. For washing dishes by hand, be sure to buy a product that is free of dyes and synthetic fragrances. Ecover has some good choices; the one I use has lemon and aloe and cuts grease well.


  • If you don't plan to wash dishes right away, sprinkle non-aluminum cookware with baking soda, and soak items with burned-on food in baking soda and water. It makes cleanup easier.
  • Add white distilled vinegar to the rinse water; it will help remove hard-water spots, as will a little borax.
  • Washing soda is an excellent choice for pots and pans with burned-on food. Add a few tablespoons to the pans, fill with enough water to cover the problem areas, and soak for a few hours or overnight. Don't use washing soda on aluminum.
  • Clean electric drip coffeemakers with white distilled vinegar. Add one-fourth cup vinegar to eight to 10 cups water, and run the machine through one cycle.
  • Clean nonstick pans by soaking the burned-on food with a mixture of baking soda and water.
  • Remove coffee and tea stains by soaking with a teaspoon or so of baking soda.
  • Always wash utensils exposed to raw meat in very hot water to reduce bacteria.
  • Try any combination of the following...materials for dirty vases and mineral buildup on glass and china: black tea, vinegar, salt, lemon juice, and CocaCola.
  • For stubborn buildup on white porcelain, try 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution as a bleach.

Excerpted from:


BETTER BASICS FOR THE HOME: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living
Copyright 1999 by Annie B. Bond. Published by Three Rivers Press.
Reprinted with permission of the author.



(Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The Healthy House Institute, LLC.)



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Cleaning Dishes in a Healthier Way:  Created on July 14th, 2007.  Last Modified on April 16th, 2010


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About Annie B. Bond

Annie B. Bond

Annie B. Bond has more than 20 years of experience as a leading authority, writer and editor about the connections between the environment, personal health and well-being.


Annie has authored four books, including: Home Enlightenment (Rodale Press, 2005), Better Basics for the Home (Three Rivers Press, 1999), Clean & Green (Ceres Press, 1990), and The Green Kitchen Handbook (with Mothers & Others; foreword by Meryl Streep) (HarperCollins, 1997).


Annie is the official green living expert for Maid Brigade and its Green Clean Certified system.





Information provided by The Healthy House Institute is designed to support, not to replace the relationship between patient/physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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