TBH, I kinda hate doing the dishes. 😉 

Nevertheless, it’s a necessary task. And I’m thankful to be able to wash my dishes rather than create waste with disposables! 

Before I share with you my zero waste dish washing routine, allow me to share the WHY behind the small changes I’ve made. 

Why does it matter?

Here are the top 3 factors that drove my decision to adopt zero waste dish washing habits:

Cleanliness, Safety, and Less Waste. 

At some point many years ago, I remember hearing that a typical household sponge held more bacteria than a toilet seat. I was super disgusted by this idea but didn’t know any other options, so continued to use my sponges. Sticking them in the dishwasher once a week seemed like a decent idea to me. 

Little did I know that there is a lot of controversial research out there describing how to and how not to clean your sponge. And the most common recommendation is to simply replace your sponge every 2 weeks. (source) Looking into natural, zero-waste options to replace my sponges resonated with my desire to produce less waste and to decrease the amount of bacteria living in my kitchen sink / on my dishes. 

In this same train of thought, I realized how much waste I was producing by purchasing disposable dish soaps. AND, I began to learn about how dangerous certain toxic chemicals are for my health and skin. Even for aquatic life, as a result of dishwater pollution! (find out more here) Equally disappointing, I learned that most of the traditional dish soaps sold conveniently are mainly water-based. This means you’re spending money on a bottle of mostly water with harsh, toxic chemicals mixed in. 

This all made me think — there has to be a better way! 

Zero Waste Dish Washing Tools

Those 3 points above motivated me to make some changes to my dishwashing routine. In order to ensure your family’s well-being when it comes to cleanliness, safety, and living in an eco-conscious way, check out my simple swaps!


zero waste dish washing with solid block of castile soap sitting in plastic dish on sink, wooden dish brush lathering on top
photo credit: Elizabeth Mae Photography

I have tried both liquid and solid options when it comes to zero waste dish washing soap. Personally, I love the solid option best! We have found that a solid Castile soap block is powerful enough to remove all the grime from our dishes. AND it lasts the longest. With just the 2 of us, a single soap block typically lasts us about 3-4 months. I purchase mine from The Zero Market, and they also provide low-waste shipping! (Castile soap is basically just soap in its purest form. All plant-based and naturally safe.)

We do use a refillable liquid dish soap, as well — just not as often. We reserve this for when we need to get soap into narrow spaces, like bottles. If you have a zero waste market near you, you will often find at least one brand of safe, all-natural / organic dishwashing soap to purchase and refill. Again, we go to The Zero Market (above) and refill our bottles / jars whenever we run out. 

zero waste dish washing with pump bottle of refillable dish soap and standing wooden dish brushes
photo credit: Elizabeth Mae Photography

If you do not have a zero waste market near you yet (and I say “yet” because this business is rising!), there are many options available online. The Zero Market ships, but so do many dish soap brands from which you can buy directly! Here’s a fantastic post with 10 awesome zero-waste dish soap options

Lastly, when it comes to dishwasher detergents, I would recommend using a refillable powder/liquid form if you have access. If not, definitely do a quick Google search and you’ll find many options similar to those above! (Dropps is a brand I’ve heard a lot about, but have yet to personally use… If you’ve given them a try, let us know your thoughts in the comments!) 


There are many brands on typical store shelves these days that are “green-washing”. They’re trying to pass themselves off as being environmentally conscious or “green”. This is sadly not the case much of the time. It’s important to look into their labor ethics, the ingredients, and the sourcing of these materials. (here’s a helpful list of greenwashing signs and brands to avoid)

“Zero Waste” living, or even better, “sustainable” living is more than just being plastic-free. I personally wouldn’t consistently buy dishwashing products that come in disposable plastic packaging. But, I do reuse the plastic bottles I’ve already brought into my home. It’s more important to me, however, to support local or small businesses that are caring for the environment. It’s more important to me that I know where these ingredients come from — if they’re ethically and sustainably sourced, and if their laborers are treated fairly. It’s more important to me to support vegan and cruelty-free companies, also ensuring my drained dishwater does no toxic harm to aquatic life. 

Just food for thought. 


standing wooden dish brushes in a vase by the sink
photo credit: Elizabeth Mae Photography

After using up the sponges we already owned (because, waste-not!), we replaced these scrubby tools with ones that are made from natural, compostable/recyclable materials, and repurposed items like cloth! 

Our wooden dish brush is made by Redeker, purchased through — you guessed it! — The Zero Market. We’ve been using it for about 6ish months and the dish brush head still doesn’t need to be replaced! When that day comes, we can keep the wooden handle, replace the dish brush head, and compost the old one. The bristles are made with Tampico fibers, so they’re vegan and perfectly safe for dishwashing! 

Our bottle brush is also wooden, made by EcoCoconut and purchased through our same favorite place. 😉 

We’ve also incorporated one “Not-Sponge” that we use as a soft spongy scrubby and can machine-wash it as needed. It’s also super easy to make something like that. You could DIY sewing a two-sided scrubby with one side being a washcloth and one side being some other fabric. Or just up-cycle a rag / cloth you already own without needing to sew!

Finally, we have a copper scrubby for really stuck-on particles (which can be recycled whenever it starts falling apart). We’re also still using a couple Nylon pot/pan-scrapers I got from Pampered Chef years ago. You can easily find wooden scrapers instead! 

zero waste copper scrubbing tool next to solid dish soap block
photo credit: Elizabeth Mae Photography

To clean all of these…

We’ll machine-wash the cloth items and soak the others in boiling water with some vinegar as needed. Unlike sponges, these scrubby tools dry out faster and harbor less bacteria on their surfaces. We also dry our dish brushes standing up, rather than leaving the brush heads soaking up dirty water. (here’s a handy guide on how and when to clean)

Shop Small, Shop Local

stainless steel dishes air drying on towel on the granite countertop
photo credit: Elizabeth Mae Photography

So there you have it! Some simple swaps for a zero waste dish washing experience. Minor adjustments that care for the safety and health of your family and the earth.

Explore the options available to you in your area… But as always, I would recommend supporting small and/or local businesses as much as possible!

Got any zero waste dish washing tips?? Let’s hear them in the comments!

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