Sustainable Living

Plastic Free Kitchen DIY

Why Make Your Own?

This month we’ve been focusing on ways to reduce plastics in our lives. We’ve come across some great ideas from our amazing community and wanted to try a couple out and share our experiences to wrap up the month!

I decided to make some homemade dishwasher tabs when I ran out and I realized I had all of the ingredients to make my own. I had made dishwasher powder before but never tabs and as it turns out they work great!

My other experiment came about as a result of reading “I Quit Plastics” by Kate Nelson, also known as the Plastic Free Mermaid. I was amazed by the many uses of soapberries* (also known as soap nuts) she details in the book so I decided to try them out! They are the fruit of the Sapindus tree that are collected and dried for use after they fall to the ground. They have properties that allow them to be used for many household cleaning needs. I haven’t tried all of the suggested uses yet but apparently they can be put in the dishwasher, laundry, and as a concentrate for handwash and dishwashing liquid. See below for my results!

Recipe and Instructions for Dishwasher Tabs

Adapted from recipe found here

1 C baking soda
1/4 C citric acid
2 TBSP castile soap
5 drops essential oil (optional)

1. Combine citric acid and baking soda
2. Slowly stir in 1 tablespoon of castile soap, drizzling it all over the baking soda and citric acid mixture so as not to create a pool of the castile soap
3. Add second tablespoon of soap slowly until the mixture sticks together when pressed
4. Press into ice cube trays or silicone mold and let cure for 24-48 hours.

Thoughts on the Process

The mixture puffed up quite a bit more than I expected when I mixed in the castile soap so I ended up scooping some of the mixture off the top of my tablets and creating several more. I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough un-activated baking soda and castile left in the tablets but they still seem to clean well! This recipe made 12 or so large tablets using my ice cube tray however these are a bit too big to fit into my dishwasher’s soap compartment, If I continue making these I’ll try to find a silicone mold that would make tablets that fit. All in all I’ve been very impressed with how these clean! There is a bit of residue left on my dishes which was solved by adding vinegar at the beginning of the cycle as a rinse aid.

Instructions for Soapberry Concentrate

Following the instructions on the package that I received these berries in, I boiled approximately six berries for an hour in two cups of water. At the end of the hour I squeezed the remaining liquid from the berries into the pot and was amazed at the soapy liquid that came out! The resulting mixture was tea-coloured and kind of smelled like tea but with a tinge of sour milk. This dissipated as the mixture cooled but I did add a couple of drops of essential oil to the mixture.

I had planned to use the mixture as foaming hand soap but the particulate in the concentrate has since jammed my soap dispenser so it’s destined to become dishwashing liquid. I had recently posted about looking for a good option for homemade dishwashing liquid here and this seems to be a fantastic waste-free solution!

I’m very interested to see how these perform in the wash machine as well as the dishwasher! However, before incorporating these into my regular routines I will be looking into the sustainability of soap nuts to ensure that my choice to use it them is not negatively impacting another area of the world.

Have you made any changes to your routine as a result of Plastic Free July 2020?


  • Ming Qian

    I have never heard of soapberries before, and I had to google it. That’s interesting! I have heard of homemade soap bars, but never homemade washing detergent. I’m so afraid of how they would fare against store bought dishwashing liquid. It would be great and even more informative (to me) if you could share some thoughts on how effective they are! Thanks for sharing!

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Soap berries are pretty new to us too, but we are fascinated by them! Slightly disappointing they did not work as we’d hoped for hand soap. I love the idea of a store bought vs soap berries comparison. Will keep you posted once we try some more experiments with them! 🙂

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!