Homemade dish detergents, Smark towels, and more

Well, it appears I am allergic to jellyfish because my ankles look much worse today, 9 days later, than they did when I last posted. The evening after I wrote that post, blisters began to form, and since then it’s just been getting redder and spreading. Actually, today is the first day that I woke up and decided my one really bad ankle might actually feel (and look) a tiny bit better than it did the day before, so hopefully this thing is turning around, especially since no doctors will address the swelling I still have from the original running injury until the jellyfish sting that is on top of the swelling has healed. Le sigh.

Yeah, so, there’s that. Basically I’ve taken up the very uncharacteristic non-animal-rights-friendly stance that all jellyfish need to die. Perhaps my jellyfish hatred will relax a bit once I’m healed, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up with a permanent tentacle scar wrapped around my left ankle.

But enough of that – I really do think it’s finally starting to get better. So how about I tell you something useful? Homemade dish soap and dishwasher detergent! I’ve taken to making all of my detergents (including laundry detergent). Yeah, it’s better because I know what’s in them and it’s cheaper, but to be honest the biggest reason I do it is because I hated lugging those things home from the grocery store all the time. And I also hated running out of them and not having any on hand. It’s much easier, to me, to just keep boxes of Borax and washing soda on hand and mix up a batch of whatever I need whenever I need it. They’re so easy to make it takes less time than buying them at the store. Plus I really hate packaging and try to cut down on it whenever I can, and making your own detergents definitely helps there.

I copied both my dish and dishwasher detergents from others on the internet. Both of the recipes I found work so well I haven’t found a need to tweak them, so I totally want to give full credit to the bloggers who created and tested them. I’m sure perfecting these recipes took a lot of trial and error and I’m grateful they went through the trouble so I don’t have to! Here they are:

Dish Soap
From Frugally Sustainable – I have tripled the amounts in the original recipe because that’s how much I make at a time.

4 1/2 cups near-boiling water
1 1/2 cups liquid castille soap
3 Tbsp washing soda
3 Tbsp grated bar soap (any kind is fine; the original recipe says this is optional to provide extra thickening, but I always do it)
3 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
1/2 tsp tea tree oil (optional, but I always use it)
essential oil(s) for fragrance (optional)

Heat the water until it’s very hot. I have an electric kettle that was specifically made for tea (though I use it for soooo much more, LOVE the electric kettle!) and I usually set it mid-way between “green tea” and “black tea”, which is probably around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature doesn’t matter much – you just want it hot enough to melt the grated soap and washing soda.

Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl (I use my 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup because it has a pouring spout, which is very handy when transferring the soap to containers) …

… saving the hot water for last. Whisk until the bar soap has melted completely and the mixture is uniform.

Let cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally, then transfer to a container with a pump or squirt top. I usually add lavender essential oil to mine, but if someone could tell me how to make it smell like the original Palmolive scent, I WOULD LOVE THEM. Someone once bought a container of Palmolive for the kitchen sink at work and I used it and the smell immediately invoked a long-forgotten memory of washing dishes at my grandmother’s house when I was very little. I had no idea she had used Palmolive until I smelled it that day, but one whiff and I was instantly transported to her kitchen, playing in suds. (I’ve heard smell is actually the most powerful trigger of memories and I believe it after that.) It was a very happy memory because my grandmother was totally awesome and I miss her, and I don’t want to actually buy Palmolive, but sometimes I kinda want to just to think of her every time I do the dishes.

Oh, and of course I keep mine in a vintage mason jar. But you knew that, right?

My tripled version of the recipe makes more than my quart mason jar can hold, so I keep the remainder in an old juice jar and store it under the sink.

The dishwasher detergent is even easier!

Dishwasher Detergent
From One Good Thing by Jillee

1 cup Borax
1 cup washing soda
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup citric acid

Mix together. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of detergent per load of dishes. The original recipe recommends also adding no more than 3 drops of liquid dish soap to the detergent compartment and I usually do this. I also add a couple of good splashes of distilled white vinegar to the bottom of the dishwasher, also as recommended by Jillee, although I’ve always done this and recommend you do it regardless of what detergent you use.

Of course it’s in a mason jar, though this one isn’t vintage. I did write the recipe on it so I wouldn’t have to look it up on the internet every time though!

While we are coming clean in this post, here’s a bonus craft that’s fun and easy for all ages!

Smark Towels!

So, the genesis of these reSMARKable towels (wow, I need to get out more) is thus: Smark is fairly trainable, but sometimes he needs a little help. He’s usually in charge of doing the dishes because I almost always cook, but I used to not let him touch my cast iron or my wok because he wanted to scrub the seasoning off it. I managed to teach him how to clean woks and cast iron (though I still catch him with that dish soap…), and he was very good about immediately drying them after washing, except he always grabbed one of my good tea towels to do so and pretty soon all of my lovely tea towels were grubby and drab from pot drying and various spills. Which wasn’t entirely his fault because with paper towels being verboten in my kitchen, he didn’t have much of an alternative. So I made him these paper towel alternatives, which I conceived of specifically for messy jobs that might stain nice towels, but which have a multitude of uses. Smark goes through several a day!

These are soooo easy. Every time I have a sewing tutorial on here I tell you it’s really easy or I wouldn’t have been able to make it myself because I’m hopeless with a sewing machine, but seriously, this is THE easiest. Just get yourself a bunch of birdseye cotton, which is used to make fabric diapers, cut it to whatever size you want (I like 14″ squares), and finish the edges. Since my main sewing machine is a straight stitch machine (the wonderful Singer 15-91, which I LOVE), all I did was stitch a straight line 1/4″ from the edge and I’m allowing it to fray to that stitching. Honestly, that’s pretty raggedy looking, so you may prefer to use a zig-zag stitch to finish the edges if you have a zig-zag machine. You could also roll the edges over twice and stitch down to finish, but I couldn’t be bothered with that.

Smark uses these all the time, as do I. I put a little pail under the sink where I stash soiled Smark towels until I’m ready to do a load of laundry. Then I treated myself to a couple new sets of cute tea towels. 🙂

In other Smark news, he’s a master of growing peppers. Although I wish he’d branch out and grow other veggies (as I have a black thumb, myself), I’ll take what I can get. We’re starting to be inundated with peppers! Who has suggestions for these adorable tiny sweet peppers???

The ghost peppers are so incredibly hot there is no way I could use a whole one in any one dish so we’re preserving them in vinegar. This container is disproportionately large because it only has 3 peppers in it right now and I expect many more.

I’m overrun with these “super chilis”, which impart the perfect amount of heat in everything from soups to cucumber salads, but mostly I’ve been drying them. I won’t have to buy crushed red chili flakes this year…

And in cooking news, I’ve become obsessed with canning! I’ll probably do a post on it, although I just started so I’m no authority and I doubt I’ll do a tutorial. Except maybe I will do one on canning tomatoes because I’ve already canned 60 pounds of them… Tinned tomatoes are one of the few canned goods I buy, but I buy TONS of them. I’m so excited to be canning my own because it’s cheaper, there’s no wasted packaging, the tomatoes are local, and dang it, it’s fun! I came home from the ER (don’t worry, I wasn’t having a medical emergency, just got bad medical advice from a stupid doctor) at 10:30 p.m. a couple of weeks ago and immediately canned 18 jars of tomatoes despite Mark’s pleas for me to get off my feet and rest. And let me tell you, I felt much better about life once those tomatoes were canned!

Finally, here are some more pictures from our trip to Charleston last week. These are all infrared.


  1. susan Said,

    August 23, 2013 @ 4:36 am

    I read this before work. Makes me smile that someone else finds comfort in canning and kitchen tasks. I tend to get comments from my friends about how cheap they could buy something.

    (I think we need to see those cats again soon?)

  2. Josiane Said,

    August 28, 2013 @ 11:22 pm

    A while ago, I looked for a homemade dish soap recipe, and didn’t find anything that made sense to me. This one, though, sounds perfect! Thank you for sharing it; it’ll certainly become my go-to recipe as soon as I’m done with the store bought dish soap we still have around.
    I’m curious about your laundry detergent: are you happy with the recipe you’re using? Any chance you’d share that one too if/when you’re happy with it?

    You know I *love* all your sewing projects and tutorials, right? Your Smark Towels are no exception! Birdseye cotton looks like the perfect fabric for that use. I’m definitely going to look for some at the fabric store.

    Sounds like you’re all set with canned tomatoes for a bit! Those must be so much more awesome than the store bought ones in so many ways! And the abundance of delicious homegrown peppers sounds like a good problem to have… Enjoy!

  3. Nikki Said,

    August 29, 2013 @ 10:21 am

    Don’t forget you can yourself some salsa while you have a surplus of the main ingredients and some pepper juice. Sprinkle some pepper juice on purple hulls on a bed of crumbled hot water cornbread is slammin’. 🙂

  4. Dad, aka Larry Said,

    September 26, 2013 @ 3:57 pm

    The infrared photos are very cool. Speaking of canning however, have you tried canning peaches? If so, how did that turn out? Might be a good way for me to extend peach season (as long as I don’t have to actually do the canning myself).

RSS feed for comments on this post

Leave a Comment