One of the main kitchen essentials, liquid dish soap is somewhat overlooked as a cleaner. Honestly, not much thought goes into which type of dish soap we buy, what kind of ingredients are in it or which one is actually the best both for dirty dishes and hands. Have you ever stopped to think why it’s important to use dish soap when washing dishes? How it works? Have you really put thought into how to use it safely in your home? How to use it correctly without being wasteful?
First, let’s talk about the why. Why should we use dish soap when washing dishes instead of just plain water? This one’s easy. Just like you use soap to wash your hands, clean your hair or wash your car, you need soap to really clean your dishes, remove any stuck gunk and get rid of grease and bacteria. When eating fried, greasy or sauce-heavy foods, dish soap really comes in handy. After serving food in a plate, grease cleans to the surface and since oils are immune to the effects of water, you will need a special chemical to separate the grease from the surface of the plates. The ingredients in cleaners like Dawn dish soap make this separation pretty easily. Of course, dish washing liquid isn’t just used for cleaning dishes – diluted with water it makes an excellent bubble-blowing solution, and it even could work for cleaning cars and floors.
On to the how. How does dish soap work? Well, the soap solution contains molecules that have two opposing sides – one side is hydrophilic (meaning it attracts water) and one end is hydrophobic (meaning it repels water). The hydrophobic part of the molecules cling to the grease on your dirty plates, while the hydrophilic part try their best to get into the water. However, since the hydrophilic part is stronger, the molecules are drawn into the water with the grease attached. And that’s it! Clean plates!
On a somewhat different note, are you one of those people that squirt a bunch of soap directly into each plate to get better gunk-removal power? If you are, then let us tell you that you’re wasting your soap, your water and your money (even if you make your own dish soap). Most liquid dish soaps contain a chemical that make the solution foam and make an incredible number of suds. You just need to squirt a small amount onto your sponge and wash the dishes away. Expert tip: for maximum conservation of resources, quickly rinse all of the dishes you are going to wash, turn off the tap, soap them all up with your sponge and then rinse them. This way you won’t waste water by having the tap running and you will end up using just a small amount of soap. Using too much soap will also make rinsing your dishes more difficult and almost surely leave dangerous soap and chemical residue on dishes, mugs, and glasses.
Allowing soap to dry onto your dishes can affect the taste of food and drink! Trust us, everyone notices. Moreover, soap scum can affect the look of glass and crystal, making it look cloudy and yucky. Rinsing dishes with cold water is better for your health. Many mainstream liquid dish soaps contain sodium laureth sulphate (or SLS), a chemical found in many different detergents, which encourages the soap to foam, giving us the illusion that it cleans better (this is not always the case, there are some great soaps that don’t create much suds, and crappy soaps that are very sudsy). Unfortunately, SLS is a powerful irritant, which is why shampoo stings when it gets in your eyes. Imagine what it can do when you ingest it with food.
Now that you know a little bit more about dish soap, you can definitely make a more informed decision the next time you’re on the grocery store stocking up on detergents.