Ara the altar
earth-aware adornment for the everyday
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Letters of Ara

An online journal & e-mail newsletter in which to explore areas of interest and influence for Ara the altar.

Low Waste Washing Up

Our low waste dish washing set up

Our low waste dish washing set up

As part of Plastic Free July last year, one of the things I shared was our low waste dish washing set up and this little collection of tools that my partner and I gradually built up over the years. When taking steps to live more consciously, whilst it can be tempting to replace existing plastic items with more sustainable ones, I’m very much an advocate of first using up what we have. When the time does come to replace any items, we can be sure that we have gotten the most out of them and can feel good about our choice to replace them with something less environmentally impactful.

Whilst these tools all have their uses, the one I reach for most is the coconut scrubbing brush (top left). It’s the perfect size for cups and mugs but it makes cleaning bowls super simple too. Replacement brush heads are available for the wooden handled brush on the right so when the heads reach the end of their life they can go straight into the compost. We also have a large bottle brush that’s great for our reusable water bottles and a less than appealing, old, slightly abrasive cloth that’s useful for the surfaces etc.

One of the more recent additions to our little collection, and the biggest step away from a daily reliance on plastic, was this block of olive soap from Savon de Marseille. As I have a skin contact allergy to fragrance, before I found this, I sourced fragrance free washing up liquid in a plastic bottle. So, to find this fragrance free bar of soap suitable for washing dishes made me very happy. When I posted about this in July 2018 it was still early days but, eight months on and this block of soap has very much become part of our daily habit. Given how well it’s lasted, I expect to get at least 3 more months out of it before we’ll need to replace it. When the time comes, we’ll be looking for another block of soap - we’re definitely converted. For anyone who can’t part with liquid soap, Elsa Lindholm has written a helpful blog post about making your own plastic free dish soap.

Being a natural avoider of dish washing responsibility (!) I do find that using these tactile tools that use natural materials such as wood and coconut fibre make tasks like doing the dishes a little less painful, and a little more mindful.

A few things I’ve learnt along the way:

  • to help prolong the life of wooden brushes, it’s worth taking a little time to oil them before first use, and to let them air and dry out throughly after each use - we repurposed a cracked class tumbler to keep them in by the sink but something that would allow them to drain better would be more sensible!

  • if you want to give the brushes a good clean, you can do so by soaking them in a little organic white vinegar

  • keep the block of soap on a soap dish - we found that it quickly stuck quite firmly to our wooden soap dish (pictured), making it more solid and preventing it from sliding around

  • to use the block of soap - rub your brush on it and swish it in the water or apply straight to the dishes. Or, to get the water really soapy for a good soak, hold the block under the tap and run the water over it straight into the basin

  • watch out for block soap that has been made using palm oil - there are palm oil free versions available like this one

If you have any tips or recommendations for low waste washing up I’d love to hear them.

Happy dish washing!