Washing dishes by hand is seen as healthier than using a dishwasher, mainly because traditional dish soap typically contains fewer ingredients than dish tablets.
The best selling dishwashing soaps are in nearly every American home, but that doesn’t mean that they’re safe.
And if you take a look at their ingredients, you’ll find that many simply aren’t as “natural” or “green” as their labels would have you think.
Here are 5 of the worst ingredients in conventional dish soap (1).
1. Silicate Salts
Sodium silicate is an ingredient found in most conventional household cleaners “Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)” by the US Food and Drug Administration (2).
However, the substance is corrosive, making it harmful to swallow or inhale. Among other things, it’s known to cause severe irritation to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract and is toxic to aquatic life (3).
Formaldehyde is a fungicide, germicide, and disinfectant present in building products and household goods. It’s also used in laboratories and mortuaries to preserve bodies (4).
Short-term exposure is known to cause a burning sensation in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. Worse yet, it’s also a known carcinogen.
Many dish soap brands contain a small amount of formaldehyde, but one cleaning giant, Palmolive, promises to remove it from their products by the end of 2017 (5).
3. Sulfuric Acid
This ingredient is used in dishwashing gel, dishwasher detergent, and laundry detergent (6).
The chemical is carcinogenic and can cause burns upon contact with the skin and the sensitive tissues of the respiratory tract. Mainly, it is known to cause laryngeal cancer, nasal sinus cancer, and pneumonitis.
Your dish soap doesn’t naturally smell like apples or lemons: it all comes down to the right combination of chemicals.
Fragrance can be made up of a combination of 3,000 chemicals that do not have to be disclosed to customers. These are considered an industry secret, even if the “fragrance” contains any of the 900 toxic chemicals typically used (7).
Fragrance is known to cause allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system, according to the Environmental Working Group (8).
5. Ammonium Sulfate
This ingredient is used as a cleaning and foaming agent. It’s known to cause gastrointestinal pain if ingested and may damage the skin and eyes if contact occurs (9).
Moreover, one study found that inhaling the substance caused irregular respiratory rhythm in rabbits, which eventually lead to respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.
What You Can Do
You can’t control how many dishes you’ll have to do this week, but you can control what kind of dish soap you wash them with.
Here are 5 relatively safe detergents to use (10):
- Seventh Generation
- Earth & Sun
- Fit Organic
And 5 harmful products to avoid (11):
- Legacy of Clean
Non Toxic Dish Soap Recipe
If you want the best reassurance that your dish soap is safe, make it yourself with the recipe below .
- 1/2 cup Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup warm distilled water
- 1 tsp. citric acid or lemon juice
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 20 drops essential oils
- In a medium sized bowl, dissolve the salt in the water.
- In a separate bowl, combine Sal Suds, vinegar, and citric acid.
- Add the vinegar mixture into the salt water and stir until thick.
- Add essential oils.
- Store in a jar or soap dispenser.