Using less: soap and detergents

Apartment Therapy, through a first-person post, intimates that many of us use too much dish soap. I suspect that’s right.

One of my core assumptions is that the first step to an environmentally sustainable common life is to use what we need, not use what we think we need or have been lead to believe we need. You can enjoy the same or similar quality of life using less, but who’s going to sell that? Even green manufacturers want to move product.

So I

  • use one-half to three-quarters the amount of dishwasher detergent as recommended.
  • use one-half the laundry detergent, or two tablespoons of a mixture of equal parts (by volume) of borax, washing soda and finely grated household soap
  • use a foaming dispenser for hand washing in the kitchen and bath, with liquid soap diluted 4:1.
  • use less shampoo, which still gets my hair clean (without shampoo-horn-quality lather, I admit)

I don’t notice the difference apart from buying less. I think my Grandmothers would approve, that being my touchstone for such economies.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. I once knew a guy who was a chemist for Proctor and Gamble. He told me that it is true, that generally you can use half the amount of laundry detergent recommend on a package for a normal sized load of normally soiled laundry. The reason is that chemical surfactants and enzymes do the real work, but you don’t need huge quantities of these chemicals to do most normal laundry jobs. Much of the material actually in laundry detergent consists of chemicals the carry scent, or that serve as fillers.

  2. Hey I still make a soap cake out of all the little ends of the bar of soap. I’m the only one who uses it, as my wife think that it’s gross. I have a friend whose grandfather would take that soap and put it in one of those red net bags that oranges used to come in and use it as a louffa.

  3. Ah Hank — I made a new cake of soap from grated bits and it looked exactly like a patty of raw ground chicken. I alone used it, but used every bit, too.

    The mesh bags are good for making dishmops, too.

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