Take a minute and think about how much plastic is generated through the dishwashing process. There's the plastic dish soap bottles, the plastic sponges, and even plastic drying racks. It's a lot, but swapping out your dish soap for something more environmentally friendly is simple.
Solid dish soap bars like those from No Tox Life work great for cleaning up hand-washed dishes. It generates more suds than Dawn and lasts forever (plus, it cleans stovetops like a dream). Or you could opt for refillable dish soap or something packaged in a glass bottle.
Whatever your preference, there are many zero waste dish soaps on the market for you to try. I've put together a comprehensive list of the 13 best zero waste dish soaps for your kitchen.
A cult-classic, Cleancult's liquid dish soap is packaged in recyclable milk cartons with a compostable plant-based cap. The product is designed to be used with their signature glass bottles, but you can use a container you already have on hand.
The dish soap is scented with essential oil and full of organic, non-toxic ingredients. Its coconut-based formula is gentle on the hands without sacrificing cleaning power. Plus, it's highly concentrated—you only need a small amount to get extra sparkly dishes.
Cleancult also has zero waste dishwasher tablets. Your first purchase comes with two attractive storage jars, and after that, you can get refills with minimal packaging. The tablets themselves are 100% biodegradable, being completely plant-based and wrapped in a water-soluble film (PVA) that dissolves in water.
Blueland sells an excellent zero waste dish soap that's a powder made with baking soda. You shake it onto your sponge or directly onto wet dishes and it creates suds. It's fully biodegradable, Leaping Bunny certified, and hypoallergenic.
The soap is made with none of the toxic ingredients we've become accustomed to, like parabens, phosphates, petroleum, and artificial dyes. Plus, it's a super gentle washing soda that's gentle on hands and can cut grease with little effort.
Not only is the packaging itself plastic free, but it is also shipped plastic free-right down to paper tape to close the box with. It's thoughtful details like this that make a big difference.
Grove's ultimate dish soap is plastic free. The bottle is made from aluminum, which can be recycled indefinitely. They have other products in plastic packaging but are taking the removal of plastic from their products seriously.
On their website, they have a plastic report card, which gives you a detailed look at where they are in their large-scale zero waste journey. It's exciting and refreshing to see a company that cares so much.
As for their dish soap, it's tough on grime, and you'll never have to scrape dishes. The formula is plant-based and comes with three different scents. And they sell refills in pouches, so you don't have to purchase a new bottle every time. Perfect for a zero waste kitchen.
Although we loved the soap, we didn't love how eager they are to sign you up for their recurring program. It's confusing and difficult to navigate the website without getting a million "free" products you may not want.
4. No Tox Life
No Tox Life's signature dish block checks all the important points of a good plastic free dish washing block. It's vegan, cruelty-free, septic safe, and biodegradable. It creates tons of fluffy suds (way more than Dawn) and cuts grease and stubborn grime better than liquid dish soap (in my opinion).
What makes this stand out from other zero waste dish soaps is that it has a wide range of potential uses. It works to treat carpet stains, wash the sink or stovetop, and even remove labels from jars. It's truly versatile, which may help you reduce plastic in other areas.
When paired with their fully compostable dish brush, sponge, and soap dish, your kitchen will be completely zero waste in no time.
5. The Bare Home
With another excellent dishwashing block, The Bare Home is another good option for washing your dishes. It uses plant-based suds plus essential oil to leave your dishes spotless all while leaving a fresh scent in the home.
What's more, they also offer a liquid dish soap if that's more your speed. It's also completely biodegradable, cruelty-free, and made with plant-based ingredients. It comes in a 500 ML glass bottle (no plastic bottle here), and you can purchase 3-liter refill boxes, cutting out plastic waste.
If you love your liquid soap, shopetee has a plastic-free option-one of the few choices outside of a refillery. Shopetee's sustainable zero waste dish soap comes in a biodegradable "pod" that you mix with water yourself, making it especially lightweight and easy to ship.
The formula is highly concentrated and 100% plant-based, free from toxic ingredients like phosphates, colors, artificial fragrances, and sulfates. The result is a powerful clean that will get your dishes sparkling, all without the wasteful packaging.
7. Bestowed Essentials
This castile soap has just about everything you could ask for in a zero waste dish soap. The bar is vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, and sulfate-free. It's 12 oz and is meant to be used with a sisal washcloth or other zero waste cleaning tool to get your dishes sparkling clean.
Bestowed Essentials takes its mission to reduce plastic waste a step farther. Every time you buy this castile soap, Bestowed Essentials pays for a pound of plastic to be removed from the oceans and recycled. Not only are you avoiding plastic by using this product, but you're taking an actionable step towards cleaning up the planet as well.
One look at Meliora's website and it's clear how much they care about making an ethical soap. Their solid dish soap bar is zero waste, but it also goes a lot farther than that. Their products are vegan, cruelty-free, and they carefully explain each ingredient, so you understand exactly what it is.
They're also palm-oil free, which is important to help keep rainforests safe and avoid unsustainable practices.
9. Cassia Organics
This zero waste dish soap is palm oil-free, vegan, and, most importantly, ethically sourced. In fact, many of the ingredients used in this handcrafted soap comes from "Bee's" own one-acre homestead. This soap is wrapped in recycled paper and is made without phthalates, petroleum, dyes, SLS, or other chemicals.
These products have antibacterial properties, making them excellent cleaning agents for a safer kitchen.
10. Elva's All Naturals
Elva's All Naturals zero waste dish soap is a dish liquid and a hand soap. It's super concentrated and comes packages in a glass bottle that's available in three sizes: 300ml, 500ml, and 15L.
Made with organic Soapwort herb and essential oil, you only need a small amount to get your dishes spotless. What's more, you can use this as dishwasher soap-just make sure you only use a teaspoon.
Aside from washing dishes, Elva's Squeak zero waste dish soap can be used to wash your fruits and veggies and as a general-purpose soap. It's 100% biodegradable and natural, so it's as safe as can be. Plus, it's cruelty-free and vegan.
11. The Unscented Company
I love what The Unscented Company has created. They offer dishwasher tablets that do it all-pre-soak, clean, and rinse. Its super-concentrated plant- and mineral-based formula is non-toxic and safe for your home.
They're free of fragrance, phosphates, dye, and chlorine all while wiping away grease and grime. Trust me when I say you won't need to run your dishwasher twice with these.
If you're a handwash kind of person, they also have liquid dish soap that you can purchase in bulk. It's a great way to get liquid dish soap while reducing plastic bottles in the home.
An excellent zero waste dish soap bar by a Canadian zero waste company. The soap bar is vegan and made with organic ingredients. The amount of rich suds these dish bars create is amazing, and I've found they outperform liquid dish soap.
I love that ZeroWasteMVMT created a zero waste shipping process. They go the extra mile by printing all shipping labels on recycled paper, using post-consumer boxes when available, and using paper tape. If you're looking for a completely zero waste experience, you'll love these guys.
13. Green & Frugal
Green & Frugal is another Canadian brand making waves in the zero waste world. Their solid soap is made in small batches with only natural ingredients. Its cleaning power comes from coconut oil, like other dish soap blocks.
They make sure to source all of their raw ingredients ethically. In addition, their products are super affordable and smell great.
What Makes a Good Zero Waste Dish Soap?
All of the products listed above reduce plastic waste in some way. But from an ethical standpoint, here are 5 considerations that improve the overall earth-friendliness of a product.
The zero waste dish soap you choose will be washing things you eat or drink off of. It is essential that the bar soap be non-toxic (castile soap is great), so if there is residue left over even after rinsing, it causes no harm to you or your family.
Surprisingly, many dish soaps are made with potentially toxic ingredients. Sulfates, phosphates, parabens are common ingredients in dish soaps, yet they can cause irritation, and may even be harmful. It's better to not have these ingredients in your body, or on your dishes.
Animals are more "expensive" to the planet than plants. Farmed animals need food in order to grow, which has to be grown on their own separate plot of land. This essentially doubles the amount of space needed but for a single product.
It makes no sense to farm something intensively for a product like bar soap. If you're looking for an Earth friendly product, vegan is gentler than a similar product that isn't.
Early products were tested on animals to make sure that they were safe for humans first. With new technologies that allow labs to run in analyses on a new product instead, animal testing isn't necessary.
It goes without saying that a product should be cruelty-free in order to protect animals as well as people.
Ethical sourcing & manufacturing
It's easy to forget that at some point down the line, humans were responsible for the creation of your product. Sometimes the people working in factories are treated well, and other times they are forced to work long hours with low pay.
The best dish soap bar isn't just going to be good for the planet, but also for people too.
A less known problem with many soaps is palm oil. When palm oil was first brought into wide spread use, it was hailed as a climate friendly solution. Palm oil was thought to be a sustainable option, but the truth is current growing methods are anything but sustainable.
For palm oil to be grown, enormous amounts of rainforest is destroyed. Popular growing areas for palm oil usually also push out endangered Orangutans, who suffer greatly. While palm oil itself could be sustainable if grown properly-chances are it isn't.
Other Zero Waste Dishwashing Swaps
It's not just sustainable dish soap that benefits from zero waste solutions. There are plenty of other products that belong with the sink that may need swapped. Your sponge, dish cloths, pot scrubbers, and other related items should also ideally be zero waste to help cut your plastic footprint even more.
Here are a few different items that you can swap for zero waste options, and what our pick is for each one.
Zero Waste Sponge
Sponges are usually made from plastic, but there are actually plenty of plastic free options available. Hemp sponges are one option, because they are made from a relatively low impact plant that not only doesn't need pesticides or very much fertilizer, but also improves the soil it is grown on.
If you really want a sponge that looks and feels exactly like a regular one but without the guilt, try a sponge made from cellulose.
Eco Friendly Dish Cloth
Many times a dish cloth or scrub brush can be a good alternative to a sponge, and much easier to source without plastic. Cheeks Ahoy makes a number of perfectly sized dish cloths to help you get your dishes clean without washing microplastics down the drain every time you do so.
Compostable Pot Scrubbers
Sometimes, a good clean can't be achieved with a sponge alone. Yet eco-friendly pot scrubbers can be challenging to find. No Tox Life has an extremely cute plastic free dish scrubber that will last a long time and give you the scrubbing action you've been looking for. As an added bonus, they are 100% backyard compostable at the end of their life.
Zero Waste Soap Holders
Soap holders keep zero waste dish soap from leaving a mess behind, and also make drying it easier. No Tox Life makes a nice one out of bamboo. It looks great with all your other zero waste products, but also gets the job done without using plastic.
Creating Your Zero Waste Life
Going plastic free can be tough. There's always one part of the house we're reluctant to give up plastic in, or can't find just the right thing to replace it with. We all have this struggle. Almost no one is completely zero waste because it is just so difficult in today's world.
Instead of focusing on those things you can't or won't change, focus on what you can. When you look back after a year of small changes, you may be stunned by just how much plastic you've put a stop to.
Dish soap is a fairly easy replacement because we usually aren't attached to a specific brand. While we may be stuck on our favorite plastic packaged comfort food, or can't dream of a life without creamer in it, zero waste dish soap is an easy change. 30 plastic bottles a year can add up to a huge number over time, and it's a fairly easy swap to make.