Dishwashing liquid is something many of us take for granted. We use it every day– it’s a kitchen essential – and yet very few of us actually know much about it. Do you know why it’s important to use washing-up liquid? Do you know how it works? Do you know how to ensure you use it safely in your home? No? Then here’s everything you need to know:
What is washing-up liquid used for?
Why use washing-up liquid over plain water? Well, that’s obvious. Imagine washing your hair in water alone, or washing your clothes without using any detergent. It’s the soap that really gets dishes clean and removes any bacteria left by meats and fish. If you’ve enjoyed a cheeky fried meal, or an oily Indian curry, washing up liquid really is a lifesaver. Grease clings to plates like a baby clings to a bottle of warm milk, and, as you’ll know, oils are immune to the effects of water – what you need is a dishwashing liquid that can cut through grease, leaving clean plates that are ready to be used again. Of course, washing up liquid isn’t just used for cleaning dishes – diluted with water it makes an excellent bubble-blowing solution, and some people even swear by dishwashing soap for washing their hair… each to their own.
How does washing-up liquid work?
The way washing-up liquid works is actually very clever. The solution contains molecules that have two opposing sides – one side is hydrophilic (meaning it loves water) and one end is hydrophobic (meaning it does everything it can to stay away from water). The hydrophobic ends of the molecules cling to the grease on your dirty plates, while the hydrophilic ends try their best to get into the water. Fortunately, the hydrophilic ends are a little stronger, and the molecules are drawn into the water, with the grease attached. Clever, huh?
How much washing-up liquid should I use?
Are you one of these people that squirts washing up liquid directly onto your dishes? Then you’re wasting money. This type of soap contains SLS (we’ll talk more about this later), which makes the solution foam like crazy. In each bowl of water, you only need one or two squirts to create enough soap to wash all your dishes. Add too much, and you’ll be fighting through the suds to find your glasses and mugs.
Always rinse after washing up
Once you’ve finished washing, always rinse dishes in hot or cold water – always. In the UK, rinsing isn’t really the norm, while across the pond in the United States it’s really quite popular. If you’ve ever seen American kitchens with double sinks, this is why – one sink is used for washing, while the other is used for rinsing. So why is rinsing dishes in cold water so important? Well, there are a number of reasons why you don’t want those soapy residues all over your clean dishes.
First, allowing soap to dry onto your dishes can affect the taste of food and drink – not everyone notices, but those who are more sensitive to different tastes can definitely tell when there’s soap in the mix. Additionally, soap scum can affect the look of glass and crystal, making it look cloudy and smeared. Secondly, rinsing dishes with cold water is better for your health. Many mainstream washing up liquids contain sodium laureth sulphate (or SLS), a chemical found in dishwashing liquids, shampoos, and toothpastes to encourage the soap to foam, helping it to clean better. Unfortunately, SLS is an irritant, which is why shampoo stings when it gets in your eyes. You really don’t want to be eating food that’s covered in SLS, so make sure you wash all those suds off before drying your dishes.
For more information on the ingredients in products mentioned in this tip, visit What’s in Unilever Products here.