Thursday, May 25, 2006

To Soap or Not to Soap?

I was recently informed, vehemently and at great length, that it is extremely unhealthy to wash dishes with soap. Allegedly, one can never rinse away all the soap particles, which then get into the food and eventually cause cancer because they dissolve the fat molecules in the intestines and kill the beneficial bacteria that help us digest our food.
This was not a theory I had ever heard, and while I am reasonably receptive to alternative ideas about health, I responded with considerable skepticism.
My informant asserted that, sadly, few people are aware of it (although one would have thought from the original remarks that use of soap on dishes was a barbarism not normally encountered in Prague), because soap is big business and a lot of money would be lost if we didn't use it on dishes. If there is grease on the dishes, one must use vinegar.
I did not really feel up to debating the issue, as all I really wanted to do was lie down and close my eyes, or perhaps simply get the dishes washed. Assuredly, of the various complaints I have heard in my life about my housekeeping, this was an utterly new one. Even roommates who thought I spent too much time ironing and cleaning out the sink never claimed that soap was actively harmful.
It has occurred to me to wonder, however, whether one must also avoid using soap on clothing and external bodily surfaces. I don't really think I want to know. I don't want to hear that I should be cleaning my clothes by rubbing them against a boulder in the Vltava, or coating my body in oil and scraping it off as if I were in ancient Greece.
I would be interested to know whether any of my readers have previously encountered the dish-soap-as-carcinogen theory.

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Blogger Julia said...

Hm! I know that dishwasher detergent is pretty toxic because of the phosphates it contains (it is near the top of the list of cleaning agents to keep away from kids). But I don't think they make dish soap with phosphates any more.

That said, our office has just started using an eco friendly dish soap (a lot easier to clean with than vinegar!), so maybe this is a concern sweeping across the Czech Republic?

May 26, 2006 12:17 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

who told u about this theory in the first place?

May 26, 2006 7:32 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

Oy vey! I do know that using baking soda and vinegar to clean dishes was very common here until recent decades, but that's due to the fact that dish soap was one of those things that was very hard to get under the Soviets. I do use eco-friendly stuff at home, but not because I thought about carcinogens on my plates, but rather in the environment. Anyway, remind your dish-soap fanatic that oxygen is a carcinogen. (Not that I'm necessarily cavalier about cancer, mind you.)

May 26, 2006 9:05 PM  
Blogger P'tit-Loup said...

Ihad heard about this in the seventies, when I was a hippy (which I still am by the way). I remember that my mom never even rinse the dishes after washing them and my sibs are now in their upper 50's and early 60's. So maybe it is not so bad as picture. However, I'm not sure of what kind of soap is used in the Czech republic.

May 27, 2006 8:55 AM  
Blogger Karla said...

I heard this from a Czech friend who will remain anonymous!

Anyway, I'm totally in favor of eco-friendly soap, but I'm still using up the soap left by my landlady, whatever it is. And my parents are in their 80s and have used dish soap all their lives with no ill effects, so...

May 27, 2006 9:49 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

A good rinse should be enough, right? This reminds me of a friend who briefly lost himself in OberlinĀ“s liberal one-upmanship and proudly came home from Christmas talking about how not only was his house vegetarian, but meat had never touched their plates. Anyway, Country Life sells eco dish soap and eco everything else. Besides, Jar is oppressively fragrant.

May 29, 2006 3:03 PM  

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