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One Simple Tip for Finding Nontoxic Dishwasher Detergent

Oct 11, 2018

by Angela Cummings and Sophia Ruan Gushée


Are you concerned about harmful chemicals in dishwasher detergent?

We are.

Dishwasher detergents can remain on cups and glasses, even after running through the rinse cycle.

Adding a rinse agent, which also can contain harmful chemicals, may add to the toxic film left on dishes.

What are these chemicals and how can we choose nontoxic dishwasher detergent in order to create a nontoxic home?


What are the toxic chemicals in conventional dishwasher detergent?

Surfactants, commonly found in dishwasher detergents, are a large class of chemicals. The reason manufacturers’ use them is that they:

  • don’t leave a film behind
  • help cleaners to perform well even with hard water

Cleaners with surfactants are often petroleum-based. This means they’re made of refined crude oil. The oil is combined with several chemicals to make cleaning products.

Mixing of several chemicals during manufacturing can create other harmful chemicals. Since these chemicals are not intended to be included in the final product, they’re referred to as “unintentional by-products.”

Examples of unintentional by-products from mixing of surfactants include alcohol ethoxylates, 1,4-dioxane, alkyl ammonium chloride, sodium laureth sulfate, and nitrosamines.


What are the health effects caused by using conventional dishwasher detergent?

Health effects that may be caused by conventional dishwasher detergent range from irritation to serious illness.

When dishwasher chemicals become stuck to glasses, they may become part of our beverages.

We drink the beverage, causing the chemicals to enter our bodies, organs, and digestive systems. This may contribute to the development of health effects.

Below are a few examples of possible health effects from surfactants and unintentional by-products in cleaners.

  • asthma and respiratory issues
  • skin allergies and irritation
  • hormone disruption
  • cancer

In addition to health effects, these chemicals have been linked to environmental issues. In turn, environmental issues can cause further health effects.


What are the nontoxic options?

Between health concerns and environmental impacts, choosing a nontoxic dishwasher detergent helps to detox your home and environment.

Third-party organizations that certify products based on health effects and environment make it easy to choose nontoxic cleaners. Below is our favorite resource for finding nontoxic dishwasher detergent:

Environmental Working Group (EWG).

EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning is a free, easy-to-use resource. The EWG rates cleaners using an “A” through “F” rating system that’s easy to follow. Plus, their guide shows why the cleaner received the rating.

Choosing nontoxic dishwasher detergent rated “A” or “B” from the EWG cleaning guide is an easy way to detox your dishwasher detergent.



Deconstruct to reconstruct.

In 2020, we're deconstructing our home, habits, and things to reconstruct a practical nontoxic and healing lifestyle. We're bringing consciousness to unconscious choices.



This article is for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. Views expressed in this article by an expert are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Nontoxic Living or Ruan Living.

Jumpstart your home detox

Access Sophia's shopping list for her household staples. They're her favorite low toxic items that she can't live without. Also see which EMF protection products she uses. 




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