Archive for Washing dishes

Scrubbers, scourers and sponges

Yes, I know you’ve all been on the edge of your seats since I promised you this exciting post a few weeks ago. Relax, the wait is over: sit back with your cup of tea and enjoy (?).

I hope I did not alienate too many with my disparaging remarks about washing dishes with cloths. I am now trying to claw my way back into your good books by giving you fantastic options for implements with which to abrade your plates and pots when the going gets tough.

For my stainless pots, the first thing I reach for (while still clutching my blue washing up brush) is my Lagostina stainless cleaning powder. Many times that does the job on its own (it’s also great on my Corain sink).

But when things are really stuck tight, my next choice is a scouring pad. I have two top choices. The first is a coconut fibre scrub pad by Safix. It looks somewhat like a loofah but is actually made, in India, from stuck-together coir (the hair-like strands that surround a coconut shell).

So this is a truly natural product, without question biodegradable, non-rusting and not injurious to the hands like some metal scrubbers. The website does not claim that production benefits poor people, but let’s hope. And using coir – which can also be made into rope, but is often wasted – is a great idea.

The pad is so light that shipping emissions don’t bother me.

Safix products are available in health food stores in Canada and, apparently at Waitrose stores in the UAE (this is from the website: not sure about UK Waitrose stores as no UK distributor is listed). [If you are in the Ottawa area, try Arbour in the Glebe.]

My other top choice, for a full range of scourers and implements to suit every washing up disposition, is a UK family-owned company called Ecoforce.

Ecoforce makes laundry and cleaning hardware most of which contain at least 95% post-industrial and post-consumer recycled content. It has several scourer options (all non-metallic): a dark green heavy duty pad; a white non-scratch scourer pad and a thicker sponge topped with a scourer pad (a good all-in-one option for non-brush washer-uppers).

All are pretty traditional products in appearance and work well on pots, pans and plates (begging the question: why use virgin materials for these tasks?).

Ecoforce scourers are not biodegradable. The good news is that they are made in the UK, which hopefully means they are made in a pretty non-polluting/wasting facility (always a big concern with cheap stuff from China).

Ecoforce is part of a family of companies (EasyDo) which also makes a product called Dishmatic. I’m sure you have seen something like this before. It is a hollow implement (like a brush handle) that can be filled with your favourite washing up soap (Biovert in my case..). Dishmatic has the advantage of offering three interchangeable head types that can be clicked into place: white non-scratch; green heavy duty and a steel scourer option.

I give you this information somewhat grudgingly as I am no fan of these washing up wands. On the plus side, Dishmatic is made of 50% recycled content (less than the Ecoforce products: I guess the plastic handle isn’t great). On the negative side, these tools dispense way too much dish soap for my liking and they are almost expressly designed to serve those who wash dishes under a running tap.

Please, please don’t do this. It’s a huge waste of water. And it is also inefficient: it’s much more effective to let your dishes soak in a basin of water while you wash. (or, if you have these bad washing up habits, to use a good, energy-efficient dishwasher).

So, was that worth waiting for? I cannot imagine it was, but here’s hoping.

Ecoforce products area available widely in the UK and through independent health food and eco-stores in Canada (though not the US, as far as I can see). Prices seem fair at $3.59 for a 3-pack of scourers (but they are much lower in the UK at £1.25 for the same pack).

Full disclosure here: Ecoforce sent me scourers to review. Saffix did not.

Cleaning up after Christmas

I like Christmas more and more each year, but by the end of December I am usually itching to get all the Christmas ‘stuff’ out of the house and get a good clean going.
I have posted several times about effective and non-toxic cleaning products (see here for silver cleaning, stainless cleaning, window cleaning, dish cleaning,  the list goes on). I have also told you about my favourite cleaning cloth. But I haven’t really got down and dirty on other cleaning implements. So here we go……

First let me say that I believe there are two fundamentally different types of people in this world: those that wash up with a brush (I fall into this category) and those that wash up with a cloth or sponge (god forbid).

Cloth and sponge people: I respect you, I admire you, but I just don’t understand why you would choose a grimy cloth over a lovely washing-up brush. And, in my view, the loveliest of all the washing up brushes is the ‘professional’ washing-up brush made by the Swedish company, Stiwex, sold by Lakeland in the UK (2 for £5.99).

This brush lasts for years (I kid you not) without the bristles flattening, thereby cutting back on significant amounts of plastic and landfill space. The handle is the right length, the bristles are the right stiffness: it works.

And maybe I like that I am officially a professional cleaner when I use it. Beats being a downtrodden housewife.

I haven’t found these Stiwex brushes stateside, which limits the usefulness of this post. I am sorry. Lakeland does ship overseas, but the cost is high (a £15 washing up brush may not be worth it). So just make sure that next time a friend travels to the UK, you lodge a request for a cheap and useful souvenir.

As much as I love my blue-bristled brush, there are jobs that it can’t handle. For that you need scourers and scrubbers and the like. It won’t surprise you to know that I have views on those too, but you’ll have to wait a week or so to hear them.

Dishwasher essentials

Although it seems quite counter-intuitive, it has been shown that washing in a dishwasher may be more environmental than washing by hand (typically using excess hot water). Now, that depends, of course, on the type of dishwasher you have and how full you fill it. Realistically, though, we all love our dishwashers and are not going to give them up, so we need to think about how we can use them better.

Conventional dishwasher powders can be a nasty cocktail of chemicals, including petroleum-derived fragrances and phosphates that pollute waterways. But, the truth is, that most people will continue to use these unless they can find a detergent that really works. There is nothing more miserable (or unecological) than unloading the dishwasher and finding that you have to rewash it all. A few bad experiences and most everyone reverts to conventional products.

The eco-question that I am most often asked by friends is which dishwashing powder I use.

So here’s the answer: I am a long-time devotee of Seventh Generation Free and Clear Automatic Dishwasher Powder. I have tried numerous other powders and gels (including the gel from Seventh Generation) and have never had anything close to the success rate I have with this product. In fact I would go as far as to say that I am completely happy with it. I like that it has no chlorine, phosphates, fragrances, petroleum-based products, etc. in it. I like that it is a powder (shipping liquids unnecessarily is something that really bugs me, as you may have noticed in many of my posts). I like that it comes in a paper box that can be recycled (plastics recycling is always somewhat hit-and-miss, it seems). Most of all, I like the fact that it works (in my machine – which is a Bosch) and my dishes come out sparkling.

free and clear small

I do not even use commercial rinse-aid any more. This is another questionable, and also expensive, product that can be readily replaced by white vinegar. No effort, no mixing, just fill your dispenser with vinegar the same way you would with rinse-aid. And there you go.

I hope these items work as well for you as they do for me. Who knows? Maybe dishwasher/powder pairings are highly specific.

Can any eco-dishwashing soap really tackle the tough jobs?

The answer is: yes. But so many people I know have guiltily headed back to conventional products after trying eco-soaps that are watery and ineffective.

Ecover’s various dishwashing soaps do a really good job, are widely available and are generally in the mid-upper band of the price range. Since they are pretty viscous, a little goes a long way. The main problem with them, for those of us who are based in north America, is that they are all manufactured in Europe (albeit in an eco facility, that uses only green electricity, has a green roof, etc.). Now, shipping heavy liquids across the Atlantic does not make much sense and is costly in carbon terms. So I have tried a number of the products that are made closer to home.

Here in Canada, my favourite product is made by a Montreal company called Bio-Vert.

small bio vert

It comes in two scents, citrus and green apple. I prefer the former but that is a matter of opinion. Bio-Vert has an informative website and, as far as I can make out, a pretty strong commitment to green products. Post-consumer recycled materials are used in packaging and the company is presently undertaking a full life-cycle assessment of all its products. Best of all, this dish-soap really works, even on tough pans.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Featuring Recent Posts WordPress Widget development by YD