Why Choose Organic & Natural Dishwasher Detergent?
Did you know that in the United States, cleaning manufacturers aren’t legally bound to disclose their full product formula?
It’s a massive issue given that many of our home cleaning products, including dishwasher detergent, enter our waterways, where they destroy aquatic ecosystems.
Why should you use natural dishwasher detergent?
While we believe the very best rule of thumb is to focus on what’s available to you, most conventional dishwashing products contain harsh bleaching agents, grease-breaking enzymes, and surfactants that are highly toxic.
Dishwasher pods also contain artificial preservatives, dyes, fragrances, binding agents, solvents, and corrosive inhibitors. Some also have low levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, which are harmful to the planet and toxic to human health.
What about the globally marketed Cascade brand? Is Cascade dishwasher detergent non-toxic?
While the brand’s marketing would like us to believe it’s good for us, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), it’s far from it.
Here is a list of common dishwasher detergent ingredients to avoid:
- Phosphates: These enter the water system where they cause mineral poisoning, which kills aquatic plants and animals.
- Polyacrylates: On humans, they cause severe burns and eye damage. To aquatic animals, they’re toxic.
- Benzisothiazolinone: An environmental pollutant to aquatic life and a chemical that causes painful lung, skin, and eye irritation—even acute or chronic bronchitis—in humans.
- Methylisothiazolinone: This is linked to allergic reactions, inhalation toxicity, allergic and possibly neurotoxicity.
- Artificial Fragrances: Artificial fragrances in dish detergent and regular dish soap have hundreds of undisclosed chemicals, which cause allergic reactions, chemical sensitivities, rashes, and are likely toxic to the environment.
- Dyes: They do nothing but help sell the product to look like candy. Can cause rashes and allergies, plus many dyes are proven endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.
- Bleach: AKA sodium hypochlorite, which is corrosive to human eyes and skin, plus can cause gastric burns, throat irritation, and fluid in the lungs.
- Surfactants: Theses usually come from palm oil, petroleum, or even animals in conventional dishwasher detergent.
A Note on PVOH:
The water-soluble film that many detergent pods come in, which is made of polyvinyl alcohol, AKA PVOH (also called PVA) is also a problem because it’s technically plastic that never fully biodegrades unless in very specific conditions—of which most water treatment plants do not meet.
According to studies, 75% of PVOH goes untreated in water systems in the US from detergent pods alone.
This means it can negatively disrupt the ecosystem as it travels from drain to sea.
It’s for these reasons that the Plastic Oceans project concludes that pods add further to plastic pollution. And this detrimental impact increases monumentally when you consider that over 8000 tons of PVA products are released yearly into the environment.
Risks of PVOH / PVA include:
- Destroyed plant life cycle
- Imbalanced oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere
- Accumulation in landfills if it doesn’t pass through water treatment plants
- Water pollutants that negatively affects aquatic life
While PVA does have its advocates and it’s a step up from the many traditional formulas, the jury is really still out, and we’re not convinced. Check out our PVA deep dive for more dirt on the dissolvable plastic.
However, right now, it’s largely what we have to work with, but we hope to see the best dishwasher detergents sans PVA in the future.
How We Found The Best Non-Toxic Dishwasher Detergent
Is your dishwasher detergent natural? How do you know?
Unlike natural skin care ingredients, which are mostly recognizable or at least pronounceable, natural detergent ingredients can still sound a little on the sciency side—like Sodium Chloride and Citric Acid, to name a couple.
That’s why we scrubbed through the following criteria (which also happen to be our sustainable and ethical beauty ones) to suss the best sparkly, sustainable, natural dishwasher detergents:
- Non-toxic: Commercial dishwasher detergent can have phosphates and other chemicals that end up in waterways and harm aquatic life. We seek out brands that invest in developing plant-based formulas that safely biodegrade for minimum environmental impact. While there are not fully Certified USDA organic dishwasher detergents, we hope innovation eventually leads to more 100% organic dishwasher detergents.
- Cruelty-free and vegan: We don’t accept products tested on animals. Simple. Likewise, there’s no reason for a cleaning product to use animal byproducts, which unfortunately are often used as surfactants.
- Palm oil free: We prefer non-toxic dishwasher tabs to be palm oil-free. If brands do use it, then we need it sustainably sourced e.g. RSPO certified.
- Ethical ingredient sourcing
- Thoughtful packaging: Zero waste (i.e. compostable or reusable) packaging is best. Packaging should at least be recyclable and/or made of recycled materials.
We also love to see community-focused brands that give back by donating funds, products, and time to worthy endeavors.