If you, like me, are heartily sick of buying expensive, ready-made dishwashing liquid in non-recyclable containers, there are alternatives.
The first alternative is the easy one - use bar soap and a dishcloth. Those fancy detergents really aren't necessary. Simply add soap to the dishcloth the same way that you would to a facewasher to clean your body (with the dishcloth in one hand, and the soap in the other), and wash those dishes!
For scrubbing pots and pans, the same works well, together with a dish scrubbing brush (I picked ours up at the local bargain basement for $2.99). Rub the bristles of the scrubbing brush against the bar of soap, and wash your dishes as normal.
(You may find that keeping a soap dish in the kitchen keeps everything nice and tidy, and stops soap mush going everywhere.)
Liquid dishwashing soap
If you prefer a liquid dishwashing soap, try out my really, really easy liquid soap recipe.
To make liquid soap up using my recipe, you need no special, dangerous ingredients, and no specialist equipment. Plus it's quick and easy and can be used the day you make it.
Check it out: Cluttercut's really, really easy liquid soap recipe.
Vinegar rinse water
Some people swear by adding a dessertspoon of vinegar to the rinse water for their dishes, but I don't think it is necessary. For glassware, it will give an extra sparkle though, if you're trying to impress company.
As with normal dishwashing, wash the glasses and light plastics first, then follow in order of dirtiness, finishing with pots and pans. An obvious tip is to soak anything that is really dirty in hot water before washing and scrubbing, to make the job easier.
Which soap to use?
Most plain bar soaps are less toxic than the average brand-name dishwashing liquid on the market, and that's a fact. Your planet will thank you, as will your bank balance - and possibly your lack of cancer, as some of the chemicals in dishwashing detergents have not been tested for safety in human consumption, and rarely have any of them been tested in combination.
If you're a vegetarian, vegan or have allergies, you may prefer to use a vegetable-based soap. Most soaps these days are tallow-based, meaning that they are derived from the rendered fat of animals, and may contain all sorts of nasties you don't really want in residue on your dishes (and therefore in your stomachs).
As an aside, most detergents contain animal products as well, so by switching to vegetable-based soap you are avoiding these ingredients.
As a general rule, the simpler the soap, the better. I'd avoid anything perfumed or coloured. And simpler soaps are usually cheaper.
If you're really careful about your environmental impact, one point to consider is how local the soap is you're using, and the miles it has travelled from manufacture to end-use. Try your local Farmer's Market for handmade and locally-produced bar soaps.
I've often wondered about the ethics of companies that claim to be environmentally friendly - then package their products in non-recyclable containers. Sure, everyone has to turn a buck but why plastic? Plastic does not, regardless of anything you might have read, break down in the environment. That dishwashing liquid container you buy today will be haunting the planet for the next thousand years - long after your physical remains are dust. Yuck.
Personally, if I were Queen Of The World I'd ban ALL plastics tomorrow, but as that's not likely to happen, it's up to you and me to stop buying the horrible stuff.
Bar soap usually has the least packaging of any type of soap. Often you can even buy bar soap loose, and choose the no-packaging option at the shop. Bar soap is also kinder to the environment, and breaks down faster. It is a much better option than detergent.
So give it a go! While I think it makes sense to use up the residue of dishwashing liquid you have, why not post a comment here and now and make a vow to the planet to stop buying dishwashing liquid and switch to bar soap instead? I'll be right there with you, I promise!