What Harmful Ingredients are in your Dishwashing Detergents?
Consider that you are washing your dishes many times a day. The product you use leaves residue on your plates, bowls, and cutlery and then you ingest it when you eat your food off these items. So, what if the product you use has a host of nasty chemicals in it. Are you eating them? Yes, you are!
Not to mention that the person washing the dishes is also exposed to the product especially if they are not using gloves when washing those said items.
Now the problem is your exposure. Maybe if you were only exposed to these chemicals a handful of times then it possibly would do no harm. But when we are exposed to these chemicals daily, over time, this means your exposure is high. The EWG’s chief concern is the toxic body burden when it come to household products. They believe that weekly or chronic exposures over a lifetime, may build up enough harm in your body to trigger a disease that is harmful to your health.
So, when it comes to dishwashing products what are some of the nasties we need to look for?
Triclosan - this is sold as a broad-spectrum anti-bacterium. This product has been banned in the US and Europe due to its concerns around disrupting hormones. But here in Australia it was concluded that as long as it is used within the normal conditions of consumer use (which is a % of use) then it posed little or low risk factor. (Cancer Council). You will find this in products marked “Anti-Bacterial”.
- Hormone disruptor
- Immune disruptor
- Thyroid disruptor
- Banned by FDA in 2017, but still used under name of “antibacterial”
Phthlates – these are plasticiser compounds that are used to make fragrances last longer. They are the ones behind those “fake smells”. These guys are endocrine disruptors and can specially harm male reproductive organs (Lol! maybe a reason why men don’t do the dishes! Just saying! No Judgements here!). They can also increase the risk of asthma.
- Low sperm count
- Changes in male babies’ testes and penis size
- Incident of breast cancer and tumours.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES): SLS are a surfactant, this allows the oil and water molecules to bind together and is what’s found in soaps and detergents so we can wash our oily faces or dishes with water and get the grime to disappear.
SLS are also touted as an antibacterial product which sounds good in theory but can be a petroleum-based product or a palm oil derivative. Clearly palm oil unless sourced ethically is an issue. Petroleum is not something you want on your skin. SLES is a slightly better version of SLS but still not something you want on your skin either. If it contains 1,4-dioxane, it is a likely carcinogen. (According to EPA).
This product penetrates the skin and is a known irritant. There are many studies around that say it is safe in minimal dosage and exposure, but these studies are considering this chemical as a singular item. Often when found in products it is alongside numerous other chemical products as well, these are not studied or measured as a combination.
- Know skin irritant
Parabens: Parabens are a group of chemicals that are widely used as artificial preservatives in cosmetic and body care products. Cosmetic ingredients can biodegrade quickly, and parabens prevent and reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and mould, increasing the shelf life of the product.
Parabens are estrogen mimickers, which means it can trick the body into thinking it is estrogen and uses it accordingly. These products have been found in breast tissue and cancerous tissue suggesting a link between the two. Parabens are also reproductive disruptors for both females and males.
- Endocrine disruption
- Reproductive issues, including infertility
- Skin irritation
The above lists some of the basic ingredients to look for in your dishwashing liquids. Below is a comparison chart looking at the ingredients of a leading supermarket brand vs 3 products I sell in my store. The supermarket brand took a bit of sourcing and even Choice did not have the listed ingredients. The site does tell you what the ingredients are meant to do so at least that information is there.
Leading Supermarket Brand
Abode Lime Spritz Dish Liquid
Kin Kin Lime & Eucalypt Dish Liquid
Simply Clean Mandarin Dish Liquid
Ammonium Laureth Sulfate🟠
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate🟠
Alkylpolyglucosides (derived from coconut, wheat and corn and found in high end personal care products),✅
Sodium coco sulphate (derived from coconut oil)✅
Sodium cocoyl isethionate (derived from coconut oil)✅
Citric acid (food grade)
Sodium citrate (food grade)✅
Glycine extracts (amino acids)✅
Pure lime essential oils.
Coconut-based anionic & non-ionic surfactants (NO alcohol ethoxylate, LAS or SLS),
Blue gardenia extract,
Lime essential oil,
Organic eucalypt essential oil.
Australian mandarin oil blend (citrus reticulata, citrus sinensis, eucalyptus globulus, citrus limonum, citrus aurantifolia),
Sodium coco sulfate & cocoamidopropyl betaine (mild, plant derived surfactants)✅
Glycerin (vegetable-based skin moisturiser)✅
Sodium C14 -16 olefin sulfonate (biodegradable surfactant)✅
Citric acid (food grade)
Alcohol (plant derived ethanol), Phenoxyethanol & sorbic acid (low dose, food grade organic preservatives stop the growth of bacteria and mould in product stored in wet areas),
You may notice there are still some big words in the healthy brands as well. But along-side their list is an explanation of what and where they come from. You will notice that they are all plant based. Even so something like Sodium coco sulphate and Sodium cocoyl isethionate seem a bit chemically sounding right? There is some discussion on the internet about them still being part of the SLS family and therefore technically a chemical. Well this is true but the argument for this was they were looking for totally natural products.
Your decision needs to consider what you are looking for. What is considered a chemical? A chemical reaction is a chain of events that end up with an end product. This happens in our bodies as well, as we are a constant chemical reaction.
The above listed chemicals I have mentioned are chemicals, but their starting ingredients come from coconut rather than petroleum-based product. So, for me I am looking at the quality of the ingredient and whether the end product can cause harm or disruption to your hormones.
I have used the Chemical Maze app to apply ratings for the products with green being good, orange mild and red is a toxic product. Some of the orange ones in the Maze, like sorbic acid are only there if they are derived from petroleum, which in Simply Cleans product it is a food grade organic product, so it is green. Those with * means that I couldn’t find the exact match on the Chemical Maze but showed as an irritant or problem in EWG’s search.
So hopefully this have given you some idea in the difference between your supermarket brands and products that are eco-friendly and better for your health.
Head over to the shop and take a look at our dishwashing liquids and powders.
Authored by Jan Caton BHSc-Nat, Owner and Naturopath at Magnolia Apothecary and Owner of The Conscious Spender
Stuart A, 2018, Low Tox Life - A Handbook for a Healthy You and a Happy Planet, Murdoch Books Australia, Crows Nest, NSW