Dish soap (also called dish detergent or dishwashing liquid) is a specialized form of soap that contains a mixture of surfactants (substances designed to break the tension between solids) that are especially high-foaming and chosen because they do not irritate the skin. This special mixture of surfactants is what makes dish soap so effective at cutting oils and grease on dishes and pots. Some types of dish soap also include dyes, scents, or rinsing agents.
Some years ago, some dish soaps also contained phosphates that assisted in cleaning but posed an environmental hazard. Phosphates can reach lakes and streams, where they encourage algae blooms that reduce water oxygen levels. Today, most dish soaps omit these phosphates. Some dish soaps also contain triclosan, an antibacterial substance that may create problems by hindering the microbial breakdown of wastes at wastewater treatment facilities. Whatever you are using dish soap for, it is a good idea to check product labels to make sure it does not contain either phosphates or triclosan.
Generally speaking, though, dish soap is one of the safest of all cleaning products. The rather gentle nature of dish soap makes it a good choice for many uses that does not involve dishes at all. Perhaps most famously, dish soap has been used to save thousands of birds badly soiled by ocean oil spills in Alaska and Louisiana.
Take a look at some of the many cleaning uses for ordinary dish soap.
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Mild dish soap is a surprisingly good floor cleaner. All you need is 1 to 2 tablespoons of dish soap mixed in with a bucket of water. Floors will be clean and shiny in no time.
Dish soap is very effective on resilient floorings, such as linoleum and vinyl, and also works well on ceramic tile. But do not use soap and water on wood floors, as they may be stained or warped by moisture. If you have plastic laminate flooring, follow the manufacturer's recommendation for cleaning. Most laminates carry warnings about the effects of excessive moisture.
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Oil-based stains on fabrics are some of the most difficult ones to remove. For these tough chores, dish soap is one of the best stain removers out there. Gently rub dish soap into the oil stain before washing in the hottest water that is safe for your fabric type.
Dish soap is especially effective on food-based oils, such as salad dressing, and it is mild enough to use even on fine fabrics such as silk and wool.
If you do not have a dedicated fine-washables detergent on hand, carefully hand-wash fine fabrics such as wool and silk in a solution of 1 gallon of water and a tablespoon of dish soap. Place the fabric item into the solution and submerge it to wet it completely. Then, use your hands to agitate the item gently, for about one minute. Make sure to rinse in clear, cool water afterward.
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Many regular surfaces in your home can benefit from using dish soap as a cleaner. A mild dish soap solution works well on countertops, baseboards, windowsills, and many more surfaces.
An easy way to apply is to add a little dish soap to a spray bottle filled with warm water. Mist the surfaces and wipe clean, then rinse with a damp cloth and dry the surfaces.
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Appliances need cleaning often, whether they are small or large, and dish soap is a great go-to cleaner. Kitchen appliances, including microwaves, toasters, blenders, griddles, ovens, cooktops, refrigerators and more, are perfect candidates for cleaning with dish soap. Other appliances in your home, such as washers, dryers, and freezers may also benefit from mild but thorough cleaning with a solution of dish soap and water.
Make sure to rinse appliance surfaces after washing by wiping with a damp cloth, then drying thoroughly.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Cleaning Air Conditioner Filters
You can also use dish soap to clean the foam or metal mesh filter on an air conditioner. Soak the filter in warm water mixed with dish soap, gently scrub with a toothbrush, then rinse and dry. Clean the filter once a month during the summer for cleaner air.
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Metal blinds are no fun to clean, since they must be taken down and cleaned blade-by-blade. This will never be anyone's favorite chore, but you can make it easier by using a mixture of dish soap and water, one of the best choices to get blinds clean.
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Diluted dish soap can be used to clean glass surfaces, and it is the best one to use on really dirty glass. Try using diluted dish soap to thoroughly clean glass before going back over the surface with a glass cleaner to shine it up. If you use a squeegee with your dish soap on a glass, then glass cleaner may not be necessary.
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Kitchen cabinets that have been neglected are a big chore to clean. Oils and grease from the kitchen will mix with smoke, dust, and other kitchen grime to create a thick layer of sticky grit on kitchen cabinets. Dish soap and regular wipe-downs are your first line of defense against this buildup. Mix two tablespoons of dish soap in warm water to create a solution for scrubbing cabinets.
The same surfactants that cut grease on dishes will also lift it from cabinet surfaces.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Things that need cleaning outdoors can use a good cleaning, too. When it comes time to clean your patio chairs and table, barbecue grill and its parts, or oil or grease stains on concrete, look no further than your kitchen dish detergent.
- Patio furniture: A small amount of dish detergent mixed in a bowl of warm water can be used to wipe down plastic or metal patio furniture. After soaping down the furniture and lightly scrubbing with a non-scratch nylon pad, rinse the outdoor furniture with a garden hose. This technique works well on plastic or metal furniture, but do not clean teak or other wood furniture with dish soap.
- Barbecue grill: Make a strong mixture measure of dish soap and warm water and use the solution to scrub away grease residue from the walls of a grill and the burner grates. Make sure to rinse thoroughly before using the grill again.
- Concrete slabs: Oil and antifreeze stains on a garage slab or driveway can be removed by first covering the stain with baking soda, then pouring some undiluted dish soap over it. Scrub the stain with a plastic brush, then let it sit for several hours. Rinse the stained area, and, if necessary, repeat several times until the stain is gone.
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Try mixing a tiny amount of dish soap with seltzer water in a bowl, then soak dirty jewelry pieces in the solution for 5 minutes or so, sloshing it around in the mixture. A soft toothbrush can be used to remove grime.
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Dish soap is mild enough that it can be used as a substitute for shampoo and body soap. This is a favorite trick of backpack campers—bringing along a small bottle of dish soap to serve all cleaning needs. Use the dish soap in the same way you would use liquid body soap: squirt a small amount onto your palm, then apply to scalp or body.
Natural hair oils and grooming products that build up on brushes and combs can be removed by soaking them in a solution of warm water and dish soap for an hour or so.
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Many carpet stains can be removed with a dish soap solution. Mix 1 tablespoon of dish liquid into 2 cups of warm water, then dab the stain with a clean cloth moistened with the solution. Repeat the process until the stain is fully removed from the carpet, then rinse by sponging the spot with cold water. Pat the area dry with a cloth or paper towels.