There are several alternatives to dish soap from conventional manufacturers which can be used to get dishes clean and sparkling. The main advantage to using an ecologically friendly dish soap is that the soap will break down quickly, and since it doesn't contain chemicals, it will not generate pollution. While there are lots of commercial alternatives to dish soap on the market, it is actually cheaper to make your own, and by making your own, you can control the composition and scent.
If you want liquid alternatives to dish soap, you have a couple of options. One of the best is castile soap, a natural soap made from vegetable oils. You can use straight castile soap, which is largely odorless, or you can add essential oils to the soap to create a specifically desired scent. If you're having problems with grease, add a few drops of lemon juice to your castile soap blend to help cut through grease. This liquid soap is available at most health food stores.
You can also make liquid dish soap by heating soap flakes with water until they dissolve, and then scenting this mixture, if desired. Soap flakes can be purchased in many stores, and they can also be made by grating bar soap. Be aware that this technique sometimes yields a chunky dish soap which may be challenging to deal with; some people prefer to use glycerin soap blocks, which melt down into a gel, making the soap easier to handle. Again, lemon or vinegar can be added to cut through grease.
Although you may be accustomed to liquid dish soaps, one of the best alternatives to dish soap is actually powdered soap, which will froth up quite nicely under hot water. Powdered dish soap can be made with soap flakes and essential oils, and it can also be used in the dishwasher, although be careful about how much you use; it froths quite a lot, and you don't want to clog or flood the dishwasher.
If you have a stubborn stain situation going on, you can use baking soda as a scouring powder. Baking soda can also be run through a dishwasher on an empty cycle to eliminate odors and remove soap residue. Soaking in a baking soda and vinegar mixture can also eliminate stains and odors from stubborn pans, and baking soda works very well to remove built-up grease and other materials, especially on baking sheets. With these alternatives to dish soap in your kitchen, you can save on regular detergent and help the environment to boot.