Sustainable Living | Jan 27, 2020 4:00:00 PM

A Guide to Non-Toxic Dishwasher Detergent

If you are looking for eco-friendly dishwasher packs in green grocers or on the internet, you seem to be spoilt for choice. But are they really non-toxic?

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Unfortunately, green washing is a serious concern in many industries, including cleaning products. Companies use “eco-friendly” and “green” for marketing their products, because there are no regulations regarding those - any manufacturer can use these terms, even though their products are far from safe!

Dishwasher Detergents’ Harmful Residue

Everyone knows to avoid harmful chemicals in personal care products. But did you know that chemicals in conventional cleaning products can also put your health at risk?

That’s because every cleaner leaves a residue. The kitchen cleaner with which we wipe our counter tops and tables, the laundry detergent we use on the clothes that we wear in direct contact with our skin, and of course dish washing products that touch our plates, pots and cutlery!

Even though the dishes are rinsed, dish soap for sink-washing and dishwasher detergents for the automated dishwasher will leave harmful residues on the surfaces you eat from. And we will ingest the harmful residue with every bite we take.

In order to avoid harmful chemicals on your surfaces, you should look for non-toxic cleaning products, such as dishwasher detergents.

EWG-Ratings for Dishwasher Detergents

Only 10% of dishwasher packs and powders are rated A by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The EWG rates consumer products based on the safety of their ingredients for human health and the environment and decades of research. 

An A rating means that there are no or few known or suspected hazards to health or the environment. That means a shocking 90% of all dishwasher packs and powders on EWG have the potential to be harmful.Dishwasher-packs-ewg-rating

Unfortunately, an A rating on EWG also doesn’t mean that a product doesn’t contain any harmful ingredients. Since EWG’s score for products are the sum of their ingredients’ ratings by their weight percentage, a toxic ingredient in small quantities might not influence the total score enough to warrant a B rating.

So whether a product has an A rating on EWG or not, always have a look at the ingredients listed there, and their respective ratings.

Harmful Chemicals in Dishwasher Detergents

Most of us are not chemists, and usually struggle when looking at the ingredient list of any cleaning, dish washing or laundry product. We can’t pronounce most of the ingredients, let alone know what these ingredients are and whether they are safe to use. 

EWG lists the individual ingredients of the products and their ratings, so you can check whether any of the ingredients are D rated or even worse, and why. This helps you find safe and healthy products.

For your ease, we have compiled a list of ingredients commonly found in Dishwasher Packs that you should avoid:

Ethoxylated ingredients:

Ethoxylated ingredients are often used as surfactants in cleaning, dish washing and laundry products because they are cheap and effective - almost every cleaning product on the market contains ethoxylated ingredients. They are the result of reacting ethylene oxide with other chemicals. 

However, ethylene oxide is listed as a known human carcinogen and an endocrine disruptor, causing reproductive issues and genetic defects. It is also toxic if inhaled, and a known irritant and asthmagen.

A byproduct of ethoxylation is 1,4-dioxane. 1,4-dioxane is a strongly suspected human carcinogen. It is also a known irritant, and can damage the nervous system. New York was the first US state that recently set a maximum contaminant limit for 1,4-dioxane in personal care and household cleaning products.

Ethoxylated ingredients themselves typically have low levels of concerns, but they are contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, and therefore with carcinogens. The EWG rates ethoxylated ingredients C at best, for medium concern and some potential for hazards to health and/or the environment.

If you want to avoid these carcinogens, keep away from ethoxylated ingredients. They include:

  • Alcohol ethoxylates, also listed as ethoxylated alcohol, alcohol ethoxysulfates, fatty alcohol ethoxylate, linear alcohol ethoxylate, alcohol alkoxylate, fatty alcohol alkoxylate (usually recognizable by the -eth ending):
    • C12-14 Pareth-11
    • Ceteareth
    • Deceth-6
    • Laureth-7
    • Ppg-10-laureth-7
    • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
    • Trideceth-4
  • Poloxamers, such as Poloxamer 181 (polyoxyethlyene, polyoxypropylene block polymers)bad-ingredients

Polyacrylic Acid

Polyacrylic acid polymers or salts (for example, sodium polyacrylate) are often used in dishwasher packs or powders as anti-spotting agents thanks to their water-absorbing properties. Polyacrylic acid itself is not deemed dangerous to humans.

However, polyacrylic acid can be contaminated with acrylic acid, which is caustic and associated with severe skin burns and eye damage, and acrylamide. Acrylamide is highly toxic, likely to be a human carcinogen and a known respiratory and skin irritant.

Sodium Metasilicate

Sodium metasilicate can be found in many laundry detergents and dishwasher packs and powders. It is used as a water softener and can greatly enhance the performance of cleaning products.

But sodium metasilicate is rated F by the EWG. It is extremely caustic, which means it can cause severe skin burns, eye damage and respiratory irritation. If you are looking for safe dishwasher detergents, avoid products with sodium metasilicate - sodium silicate is much safer, and just as effective!

Fragrance

In Canada and the US, manufacturers of cleaning products don’t have to disclose a full list of ingredients. Scents are usually just listed as “fragrance” or “parfum”, because their exact formula and ingredients are considered trade secrets.

However, fragrances can be comprised of 200 separate chemicals, many of which are skin or respiratory irritants, endocrine or hormone disruptors, known or suspected carcinogens or harmful to the environment. There are many reasons why you should avoid artificial fragrances in cleaning products, including dishwasher detergents! 

Non-Specific ingredients

Since manufacturers in North America don’t have to disclose a full list of ingredients, they can list “non-specific ingredients” - giving a general term without disclosing the exact chemical used. This means that you don’t know what is in the product!

This is especially troublesome if you are allergic to certain ingredients. But even if you are not allergic, you might want to avoid some ingredients you know are bad for you, such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). But did you know that they (and other ethoxylated ingredients) are non-ionic surfactants?

So if your dishwasher pack or powder lists non-specific ingredients like the following, look for other options that disclose the exact ingredients:

  • Enzymes
  • Fragrance
  • Non-ionic Surfactant
  • Organic Acid Salts
  • Oxygen-Based Bleaching Agent
  • Polycarboxylate

Our Alternative to Toxic Dishwasher Detergent

AspenClean Dishwasher Packs are non-toxic and 100% free of ingredients harmful to human health, animal health or the environment. And we always list all our ingredients, so you know exactly what is in our products.

All our ingredients are derived from plants and minerals, and sustainably sourced. Our dishwasher detergent is free of chlorine and phosphates and uses eco-friendly oxygen bleach and enzymes to clean your dishes. Thanks to a unique ingredient derived from chicory root, your dishes, glasses and cutlery will be sparkling and free of spots and films.Natural-Dishwasher-Packs-Unscented

Our Dishwasher Packs are not wrapped in plastic, but coated with polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which dissolves when it comes into contact with water and is completely non-toxic to humans, animals and the environment. The plastic pouch is made from HDPE #2 and is 100% recyclable.

So if you are looking for a non-toxic dishwasher detergent, try ours! The Dishwasher Packs are available in various green retail stores across Canada or in our online store.Shop Eco-Friendly Dishwasher Detergent

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