The Foodie Dish Detergents of Williams-Sonoma


Should I squirt it in the sink, or sprinkle it on my steak?

Folks wealthy enough to shop at Williams-Sonoma have dishwashers, right? So it seems somewhat strange that the temple of mercantile foodism would stock a line of liquid soaps for hand-washing dishes in the sink. Are the customers of the Chelsea retail store buying them for use at vacation houses upstate? Or is there a certain unstated pleasure in rolling up your slerves, putting your arms up to the elbows in dishwater, and saying a final goodbye to the scraps and grease stains from your last gourmet meal?

Lined up and begging for an impulse purchase

The detergents come in medicinal-looking tall plastic bottles, which the label assures us are 25 percent “postconsumer plastic.” Does that mean that one-quarter of the people who used the plastic before have stopped buying things? But what’s unusual about the detergents is not the bottles, but the scents.

These include fleur de sel, Tuscan fig, pink grapefruit, and Meyer lemon. Even though citrusy stinkum has been used in cleaning products since the dawn of the Cleaning Age, identifying an odor as “Meyer lemon” seems overly subtle, no? Does a Meyer lemon even have a distinct scent from other lemons?

And so it goes with the other smells, the strangest of which is fleur de sel, whose italic translation underneath is “sea salt,” which doesn’t quite get the gist of fleur de sel, does it? I sniffed the pull-up nib that releases the contents of the bottle. It did kinda smell like the beach — that random mixture of rotting fish and caked-on sand — but certainly not specifically like an ultra-expensive, flaky NaCl from France.

Ultimately, then, these products are intended to appeal more to the taste buds than our cleaning instincts, to make us salivate and then purchase. It’s a rather cynical move on the part of Williams-Sonoma, to go rifling through the flavor centers of our brains to sell us overpriced cleaning products.

Still, maybe some mixologist will cop to these, and we’ll soon be seeing them in $15 cocktails. Especially Tuscan fig.

Note the subtle color shades, even though the synthesized chemicals that underlie the scents are colorless.

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