Less Disposable Dish Washing

I don’t mind doing dishes. In fact, I might go as far as saying that I like doing dishes. One of the main reasons, I think, unlike cooking, which stresses me out tremendously, I can think about other stuff while doing dishes. With the water flowing (only while rinsing, not during scrubbing!), and my hands gently caressing the dishes, there is something meditative, almost monastic about it. Perhaps, it is the edited nature of the chore, the diminishing pile of filthy dishes, makes it cathartic. It’s often while doing dishes I think about a variety of things- nifty sentences, status quo, the health of my intestine (the quality of the diet is often directly related to the ease of doing dishes- greasier the dishes, unhealthier the food, harder to clean- therefore, dirty dishes is the reductive version of my intestines!).

It has been even more pleasant for the last two months, since I’ve started to do my dishes with gram flour. It took some attention to set up a system that de-tangles the issues of using a powder, instead of the usual liquid. But now I have perfected the logistics and made it me(sloppy)-proof.

On the image below, the main stash of  gram flour is on the left. This is what I have after 2 months of a 3.5 lb bag (ran for about $5). On the right is the second receptacle which sits on the counter. It holds a week’s ( or 2 weeks’, depending on the size of the household) worth of flour. This (thrifted) bowl is bottom heavy, so it does not topple. The spoon, bought from the bar-ware section, has a very long handle, which prevents water droplets lumping up the flour. (Folks in Bangladesh, actually have something better at your disposal- ‘mistris’ or craftsmen, who can make you your custom spoon, at any length you like.)

beshon dishThen comes the small (in this case, a thrifted, footed, brass, lotus) bowl where I’d take a single batch’s worth of gram flour. Half a teaspoon for two plates, a couple of teaspoons for half a sink of dishes.

beshon dish 2Below are all the scrubbing utensils. There is no plastic other than the nylon bristles in the toothbrush. The other brushes are made of wood with natural fiber. It has only been a month or so since I have switched to these from typical petro- scrubbers-packaged-in-four, that were landfill-bound at the end of their life cycle. They are compostable, artisanal and much more beautiful.

dishwash 1In Bangladesh, you could easily use a cotton cloth cut up in small square.dishwash 2I used this when I ran out of plastic scrubbers and was waiting for the compostable brush to arrive. It worked perfectly. However, for Bangladesh weather, I’d keep a couple (2-3) of them on hand to switch out once or twice a day. This allows the scrubbing cloth to dry thoroughly between use. The lentil’s protein mixed with intense humidity could cook up some nasty smell. Another issue to consider is, unlike liquid soap, even the thinnest residue left by flour-water would be noticeable when the dishes dry up- but, soap or otherwise, any residue should be washed off anyway.

beshon dish 3

When I was using conventional dish-washing liquid, my right hand used to be significantly rougher than the left. Now, both the hands are equally smooth (or more like equally rough!). The dishes now make a ‘squeaky’ sound, that I never heard while using liquid soap. I do not worry anymore if my veggies get an accidental dunk in this ‘soapy’ water.

clean glassI did not even notice the overall Eco-unfriendliness or unhealthiness of the existing dish-washing setup- the plastic scrubbers’ disposability- even during their last purchase, a couple of months ago. It’s interesting how these editing/ clean-living elements work in layers. The next layer of discrepancy only surfaces after the previous layer has been dealt with. All it takes, is to be mindful.



  1. I love your blog Saba! your writing is lovely, and your thoughts always on point. Thank you for sharing. I agree with you that trying to live a gentler life comes progressively – first you reduce a few things or switch material, then you realize that you could make do without some of these items, etc. “All it takes, is to be mindful” is a great way to put it.

    1. Thank you so much for such a thoughtful comment! I love your blog (and I’m not saying that just to reciprocate)! You tackle issues beyond deodorant. I pinned so many things!

  2. Hello, Saba! I’m going to try cleaning my dishes with chickpea flour, and have read that it it works as a de-greaser, but am curious whether it works as a disinfectant. Could you speak to that? Though you wrote this post a couple of years ago, the internet still doesn’t have much information on this topic. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    1. Hi Angela,

      The short answer to your question is: no, gram/ chick pea flour does not work as a disinfectant.
      With that being said, bacteria would grow on food residue left behind by any cleaner, be it dish soap or gram flour. So, it’s a matter of leaving behind no grime.

      When it comes to cleaning up after raw meat and such, I usually give an additional scrub with vinegar or lemon juice, and salt. It has worked very well on our wood cutting board so far.

      The business of disinfectants, anti-bacterials, and sanitizers is a marketing ploy anyway. They do nothing but making our immune system weaker. We need a certain level of pathogen to keep us healthy. I believe FDA has finally even banned “anti-bacterial” soaps.

      Hope you find my comment helpful, and let me know how you like it!

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