If you’ve been using liquid dishwashing detergent, prepare to have your world rocked. Seriously. Solid dishwashing paste kicks dishwashing butt in ways you didn’t think could happen. It’s so amazing that I was actually excited about washing dishes as I was developing this recipe. Solid detergent blows liquid detergent out of the water and I will never understand why it’s not more readily available in North America. But no matter, because now you can make your own super concentrated lemon dishwashing paste!
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Back in 2015 I spent a month in Costa Rica. I’d been for about ten days in 2014, so I had a few things I knew I wanted to bring back to Canada after the second trip. You might be thinking rum, but you’d be wrong. What I stuffed my suitcase with when I returned home was Axion dishwashing paste. Yes, I do realize that is really quite odd, but hear me out. Axion is incredible. Axion was the start of my love affair with solid dishwashing pastes.
Axion is basically a semi-solid surfactant paste with added abrasives (baking soda) to boost scrubbing power. You swipe a bit up on your sponge, and the smallest amount is enough to clean a sink full of greasy dishes. The paste lasts forever, takes up far less space on your counter, and uses less water and less packaging than traditional liquid detergent. The added abrasives make it even more effective than pure concentration alone. Basically, dishwashing paste is superior in every way to liquid dish detergent. It performs better, meaning you’re done dishes faster, and your dishes get cleaner with less effort. There’s no going back.
While I have found a local source for Axion since motoring through the two kilos I carted back from Central America (Unimarket!), I (of course) wanted to make my own. Given many recipes using surfactants start with a surfactant paste, and the end product here is basically a surfactant paste, it wasn’t too difficult! In contrast to when we’re blending surfactants for use on the skin and the hair, our main concerns here are highly effective grease cutting. We obviously don’t want to create something that’s going to be irritating to the skin in passing, but since this paste goes on sponges and on dishes and is supposed to get things super clean in no time, our surfactant blend will differ from the sort of thing you’d see in a shampoo or hand wash.
Our surfactant blend is made up from some of the stronger surfactants I have. I used quite a lot of SCS (Sodium Coco Sulfate) as it’s an excellent cleanser and produces oodles of lovely bubbles. To that I added some Cocamidopropyl Betaine, which helps stabilize our lather and makes for a milder blend. Our last surfactant is Bioterge AS40 Surfactant (Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate), which offers great cleansing and more lovely lather right off the bat. In order to keep this nice and pasty our surfactant blend is heavily tilted towards the SCS as it is solid, with the other two serving as a nice melting medium to get us a stiff paste.
In addition to the surfactants I’ve added some baking soda for some crusted-on-food busting up power, and some d-limonene for bright, citrusy scent and even more grease cutting power. The final paste is smooth, white, and generally unassuming—until you get it on a sponge. That’s when the grease blasting, dish cleaning, holy-wow-move-over-liquid-detergent magic begins. This stuff is incredi-balls (a step up from amazeballs), and I can’t wait for you to fall in love with it. I’m pretty sure you’ll have some Super Concentrated Lemon Dishwashing Paste next to your kitchen sink from now on.
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Super Concentrated Lemon Dishwashing Paste
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan.
Weigh the SCS, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, and Bioterge into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through. Stir the mixture with a flexible silicone spatula to incorporate and speed up the melting process. At first it’ll seem like there’s no way it could possibly melt at all, but it will, I promise! I left mine over medium-low heat for about 30–40 minutes, stirring occasionally, but mostly doing other things.
Once you have a uniform, soft, semi-transluscent paste, stir in the baking soda and d-limonene. Stir the mixture occasionally as it cools. Once it is cooler than 50°C, add the liquid germall plus and stir thoroughly to combine.
Transfer the paste to a wide plastic jar (given the constant exposure to water metal is not a good idea, and given the constant use and the possibility of the jar getting pushed off the counter or into the sink I’d avoid glass). I put a 70g batch in a 50mL plastic tub from YellowBee.
To use, swipe a damp sponge across the surface of the paste and use that to wash your dishes; you’ll quickly get a feel for how incredibly potent it is! Leave the lid on when it isn’t in use so it doesn’t dry out.
Because this dish detergent will constantly be in contact with water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. Even with a preservative this project is likely to eventually spoil as our kitchens are not sterile laboratories, so in the event you notice any change in colour, scent, or texture, chuck it out and make a fresh batch.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the recipe, you will get a different final product than I did.
- As I’ve provided this recipe in percentages as well as grams you can easily calculate it to any size using a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams this recipe will make 100g (which is quite a lot!)
- You could use powdered Sodium Lauryl Sulfate instead of theSodium Coco Sulfate. I’d recommend sticking to sulfate surfactant because they kick so much greasy butt.
- You can use a different liquid anionic surfactant in place of the Bioterge AS40
- I don’t recommend altering any of the other ingredients. The pH of this product is high enough that many preservatives are not compatible with it.