Category Archives: Household Cleaners

To Dishwasher or Not?

by Liz Rutledge

Girl loading plate into dishwasher


In 2000, I did something not most people do.  I read my dishwasher’s user manual…cover to cover.  I wouldn’t have thought that doing that would have such an impact on my life, but it did. I learned how to properly load a dishwasher and learned it so well, I can load any dishwasher now and pack it to the gills and the dishes (pretty much, mostly) always come clean.  It saves time, water, energy and detergent to have this important skill.

The most important thing to know is that you do not need to clean your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher.   If you’re trying to be more green, this is simply wasteful.  Most dishwashers today are energy efficient and designed to save water.  They are also very efficient at cleaning dishes – if you know how to load the machine.

Having said all that, I learned it is important to get STARCH and EGG off dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.  So, scraping rice, bread crumbs, pasta and such off before putting dishes in the machine helps.  Also, rinsing egg yolk off with cold water is important so it doesn’t get cooked on by the machine.  Just a quick rinse gets most pasta, egg and tomato sauces off to the point that the energy and water efficient machine can take it from there.

Then, if dishes are loaded so the water can get to them, they come clean.  So, the art is in the loading.  Dishwasher user manuals come with a diagram, but the gist is…load glasses, bowls, etc. face down towards the sprayers.  More dirty dishes should be near the middle of the spray jet fan.  Glasses and dishwasher-safe plastics should be on the top rack and plates, cutting boards, pots and pans should be on the bottom.

As for detergent, Trader Joe’s dishwasher tabs get a good rating on’s web site and do a good job.  Seventh Generation’s powdered dishwasher detergent works well.  You don’t need super strong detergents to get the dishes clean.

Here are more suggestions on detergents from EWG’s web site:

Two ways to save extra energy are to run the “eco/light” cycle and skip the heated dry.

If you want to get into the nitty-gritty details about how much water and energy is used, I’d recommend reading this article:

Except that she’s using Cascade and Rinse-Aid products, I find this video helpful:

The tip about running the water to hot and the disposer (to clear the drain) before starting the dishwasher is a great tip which I do because it helps the dishwasher do a better job.  I disagree with her about sharp knives.  I put them in the top rack, sharp side down and they come clean and don’t get damaged.

Some say to hand wash dishes to improve immunity.  It can also be meditative to wash dishes by hand.  Personally, I do a bit of a hybrid as there are always dishes that need to be washed by hand…like delicate glasses and some pans that simply do not fit once the dishwasher is loaded.

Taming the Toxins in Your Home

Did you know that most of the cleaners on the shelves of your local store have hazardous ingredients?

Many of us grew up using off-the-shelf products to clean our homes, deodorize the air, rid our home and gardens of pests (insects, weeds, bad odors, etc.).  But, did you know that most of the products on store shelves these days have products that are causing all sorts of havoc on our bodies and our environment?

Let’s take this well-known carpet cleaner as an example:


Resolve Spot and Stain Carpet Cleaner may be effective at removing those annoying stains in your carpet, but it contains many toxic ingredients that are difficult to pronounce such as methylchloroisothiazolinone.  Some you can pronounce, but they still are caustic.

Some side effects of the ingredients in this product include:

*Asthma / Respiratory Issues

*Skin Allergies and Irritation

*Developmental & Reproductive Toxicity

*Negative Environmental Impact (Especially to Aquatic Life*)

*Damage to DNA

*If you eat fish, think about what that means.

Simple Green Naturals CarpetA safer alternative is Simple Green Naturals Carpet Care





I will delve more specifically into other products in a later post.

Some other products considered to be hazardous are:

  • Automotive Fluid
  • Auto Batteries
  • Chlorine
  • Bleach Cleaners
  • Corrosive Chemicals
  • Drain Openers
  • Fluorescent Bulbs
  • Fluorescent Tubes
  • Fertilizers
  • Gasoline
  • Glue Adhesives
  • Herbicides
  • Hobby Chemicals
  • Household Batteries
  • Insecticides
  • Latex Paint
  • Mercury
  • Mercury Thermometers
  • Mercury Thermostats
  • Motor Oil & Used Filters
  • Muriactic Acid
  • Oil-Based Paint
  • Paint Thinner
  • Pesticides
  • Polishes
  • Pool Chemicals
  • Rust Remover
  • Stains Spray
  • Paint Stripper
  • Varnishes
  • Waxes
  • Weed Killer
  • Wood Preservatives

If you’re like most people, you don’t have time when shopping to read labels.  And, you probably don’t have time to deal with safely disposing of your hazardous chemicals.

Here is the SustainableThree solution in three steps:

  1. To tame those toxins, a quick and easy option is to contact Waste Management At Your Door.  You can arrange to have your household hazardous waste collected here:
  2. Purchase environmentally-friendly products.  I like to use Environmental Working Group’s web site’s search engine to figure out what’s toxic and what’s not:
  3. Make your own!  This may sound tedious, but it’s actually quite easy and will save you lots of money.  Often, more environmentally-friendly products are more expensive than their toxic counterparts.  You most likely only need to make up batches a couple times a year.  For example, a 32oz/1L. spray bottle of the name brand glass cleaner will cost you about $4. But, if you make your own using white vinegar, water, a drop of dish-washing liquid and some essential oils, the cost is about $0.60 (including the cost of the water.

Here is a great site for recipes  to make your own, eco-friendly cleaners:

Here are some examples of common products and their eco-friendly counterparts:

Most Products People Use to Clean:

  • Toilet Bowl Cleaner


Seventh Generation ToiletSeventh Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Received an “A” on’s web site



Lysol Toilet CleanerLysol Power Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Received an “F” on’s web site

  • Window Cleaner


WFM-Glass-Cleaner-UnscentedWhole Foods Market glass cleaner, unscented

Received an “A” on’s web site




Windex Glass CleanerWindex Original Glass Cleaner with Ammonia-D

Received an “F” on’s web site

  • Cleanser


Bon-Ami CleanserBon-Ami Powder

Received an “A” on’s web site



Comet CleanserComet Disinfectant Cleanser Powder with Bleach

Received an “F” on’s web site

  • Dusting Spray


Sadly, does not list an “A” rated dusting spray.

Here’s a good option:

Citra WoodCitraWood Natural Wood Polish



EndustEndust Multi-Surface Dusting and Cleaning Spray, Lemon Zest

Received an “F” on’s web site


I was shocked at what I found on’s web site.  Many products that I considered to be environmentally-friendly failed when compared to some products which I would have thought to be toxic that weren’t. (i.e. Trader Joe’s “Next to Godliness Environmentally Sound Automatic Dishwashing Detergent Powder” received a “D” while their “…Concentrated Monodose Pacs” received a “B”, so it’s good to take a little time to research your products before you buy them.

Give me your specific questions about specific issues/products you are concerned about and let’s start a conversation!  Click here to ask your questions or express your concern.


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