Looking for zero-waste and plastic-free dishwasher detergent and tablets? Here are my favourite brands for 2023. This includes those made from vegan-friendly and plant-derived ingredients, the refill brands and more.
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I make around 95% of my own cleaning products. This saves on so much plastic. The other 5%? Dishwasher detergent and washing up liquid. Both have eluded me. Dishwasher detergent and tablets in particular.
After trying countless formulations and re-formulations to make my own plastic-free dishwasher tablets or detergent, nothing has cut the mustard.
Everything I tried either left a white film on all of our dishes or a greasy film. Sometimes, it even left the double whammy – a white greasy film. The worst! The homemade dishwasher powder experimentation era in our house was a grim time indeed.
I sat down and did some extensive research to see where I was going wrong. What I discovered was that pretty much all commercial dishwasher tablets and powders, even eco-friendly brands, contain an ingredient called sodium silicate powder.
This sodium silicate powder rinses away food and soap deposits and is completely soluble in water. As a result, dishes always come out clean and streak-free.
Dishwashing & The Law
Great, you’re thinking. Just add sodium silicate powder to the ingredients of your homemade plastic-free dishwasher powder or tablets. However, it’s not that simple I’m afraid.
Sodium silicate powder is only available commercially. Its sale is very heavily restricted. In fact, one supplier of sodium silicate powder says “we have a duty to control the supply of these chemicals and any private individual attempting to purchase these chemicals may have their details passed to the police in their area“.
Eco-friendlier shop-bought dishwasher detergent/tablets it is then. The pursuit of homemade dishwasher powder is not worth the very real threat of getting arrested!
The Best Plastic-Free Dishwasher Tablets
Eco-friendly dishwasher detergents/tablets are one or two a penny. However, eco-friendly and plastic-free dishwasher detergent or tablets has proved to be a trickier thing to source.
Even Ecover tablets are individually wrapped in polypropylene plastic. These wrappers can only be recycled in certain areas where facilities exist. Zero-waste it isn’t.
The good news is that I have tracked down some zero-waste and eco-friendlier dishwasher tablets (that won’t get you in trouble with the law). Here are my favourite brands:
Made from plant-derived ingredients, the dishwasher tablets are free of phosphates, SLS, SLES, parabens, triclosan, and synthetic fragrances. They are also certified cruelty-free and vegan-friendly. The one downside is that they do contain palm oil.
Each tablet is wrapped in a water-soluble wrapper, that dissolves as your dishwasher starts running. I was initially worried that this wrapper might contribute to microplastic. The good news is Grist says no. The dissolvable wrapper is similar to the coating that covers medicinal capsules. In contact with water, it breaks down into carbon dioxide and water. No microplastic here.
The Ecoleaf dishwasher tablets are designed to leave your dishes sparkling clean. They have a built-in rinse-aid, degreasing agents, and powerful cleaning action. I’ve been using them in our soft water area and I concur. I have found that they perform great on our dirty dishes and glassware. I’ve also had no issues with their cleaning ability.
Fill dishwasher powder (£7.44 for 500g / 23p per wash) – available online at Veo – is another good plastic-free dishwasher detergent. It comes in a glass jar with a metal lid, both of which are easily recyclable.
What’s also to love about Fill is that it is made with natural and biodegradable ingredients which are vegan and cruelty-free. Plus it supports local manufacturing as it makes all of its products in the UK – in Northamptonshire to be exact.
Each jar offers around 33 washes. What’s more, once you have finished with the 500g jar you can purchase a 5kg bulk refill tub (£34.50 / 12p per wash) to reduce both waste and cost.
This dishwasher detergent refill comes in a recycled plastic tub, which is returnable through Fill’s closed-loop scheme. These are then refilled and reused helping to keep plastic out of landfill. I’ve found (and readers have found) that this big tub of dishwasher detergent lasts for ages – around 300 washes!
Homethings dishwasher tablets (£9.99 for 40 / 25p per wash) are made with a plant-based formulation that’s both vegan and cruelty-free. Delivered through your letterbox, these zero-waste and plastic-free dishwasher tablets tackle dirty dishes with ease. The tablets include rinse aid and dishwasher salts, so you don’t need to buy additional products.
If you like Homethings, you can set up a subscription. Here you can have your dishwasher tablets delivered through your letterbox, at a frequency that suits you. It works out cheaper this way too – coming in at 21.2p per wash.
What’s also good to know is that the tablets are made in the EU, and contain no phosphate or chlorine. Homethings also confirmed by email in January 2023 that its dishwasher tablets do not contain palm oil or any palm oil-derived ingredients.
Smol’s dishwasher tablets (£6.30 for 30 tablets / 21p per wash) are 100% free vegan-friendly and cruelty-free, accredited by Leaping Bunny certification.
Smol’s plastic-free dishwasher tablets come packaged in a cardboard box that fits through your letterbox. As the pink and white tablets look like sweets, Smol has made their cardboard box childproof. This means that if your child gets to the post first, they can’t get into the box.
Beyond their cruelty-free status and plastic-free packaging, that’s where the eco-credentials end. Instead, I would say that Smol is more akin to conventional dishwashing brands, without the plastic packaging.
Smol says that “we have found a way to use lower levels of added chemicals per wash when compared to the other tablet brands“. So although Smol uses fewer harsh chemicals this means its ingredients don’t have any particular sustainability credentials.
That being said, the tablets are pretty effective and dishes don’t need a second wash – saving water.
Something I picked up on is that Smol’s dishwasher tablets contain an ingredient called acrylic copolymer. Whilst Beat The Bead – a campaign against microplastic – says this is a microplastic, I have checked with Smol on this.
The good news is that Smol says “Our dishwasher tablets DO NOT contain microplastic. Sometimes ‘acrylate copolymer’ is mistaken for a microplastic, because this is a generic name for a variety of chemicals. The acrylate copolymer we use is a water-soluble liquid and does not meet the definition of a microplastic. Additionally, our products including dishwasher tabs have been certified Microplastic free by Flustix“.
Want to try Smol? Enjoy a free trial using this link – just pay £1 to cover postage.
Plastic Free Dishwasher Tablets That May Contain Microplastic
As I eluded to earlier, unfortunately, some of the ‘plastic-free’ brands may contain microplastic, in the form of plastic-based polymers. These go by rather complicated names. Acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, Acrylates copolymer, Carbome, Cyclohexasiloxane, Cyclopentasiloxane, Polyquaternium-7, and/or Sodium polyacrylate are all plastic-based polymers that don’t roll off the tongue easily but are important ones to look out for.
You might be wondering why some brands use these types of polymers in their ingredients. Dishwasher brands use plastic-based polymers to keep your dishes clean and to increase the shine of your crockery.
Here are the brands to potentially watch out for:
Ecozone dishwasher tablets (£5.29 for 25 / 21.2p per load) at first sound good. They carry proof of Allergy UK certification. This ensures that these tablets won’t cause any adverse allergic reactions. What’s more, their tablets are cruelty-free, suitable for vegans and palm oil-free.
Unfortunately, Ecozone dishwasher tablets contain an ingredient called sodium polyacrylate. Beat The Bead say that sodium polyacrylate is a microplastic and should be avoided. I’d like to see Ecozone move away from the use of potentially plastic-based polymers in its ingredients.
Any Other Recommendations?
Have you found any other plastic-free dishwasher detergents? Or have you been able to make your own dishwasher detergent successfully, without the horrible white and/or greasy films? If so, you have my eternal respect! Let me know in the comments below!