Dish Detergent: Eat It and Breathe It

OK, so I don’t really think you should eat or breathe your dish detergent, but you could be doing so already.

Dishwasher Detergent

It is common for some residue to be left on dishes coming from the dishwasher, and while the dishwasher is running, a great deal of steam is being put out into your home environment. If there are toxic ingredients in your detergent, guess what you’re ingesting and inhaling?

I switched from “standard” Costco brand dishwasher detergent to a natural one a few years ago when I read that cancer patients should have their dishes run through the cycle without detergent to avoid the tax on the immune system. Well, I didn’t think taxing the immune system was a good idea for the rest of us either. So I tried a dish powder from BioKleen. It worked OK. I switched to the Trader Joe’s brand for a better price, and I think that it may be the exact same product (TJ’s uses other manufacturers in some of their private label goods).

After months of using these cleaners, I noted a few things:

  • Pro: there was no bleach odor coming from the dishwasher while it ran.
  • Con: the glasses began to have a white residue build up on the outsides (bottoms), and sometimes had small granules of white powder on the inside.

I could scrub that white film off by hand (totally planning to do this when the kids leave for college . . .) but the granules inside? We might be eating that if I don’t wipe each time. So recently I switched to liquid dishwasher soap.

A friend who had just switched to the BioKleen liquid dishwasher soap warned me that it wasn’t getting her dishes clean, so I bought the Seventh Generation product which smells like grapefruit.

I think it is working well, although I noticed that I have to rinse and brush my silverware clean of stuck-on food, as there are no granules to act as an abrasive for scrubbing them off.

It also looks to me like this detergent may be slowly removing some of the white film from my glasses, but I may just be imagining it.

When you look for a detergent, make sure it is free of chlorine bleach, phosphates, and EDTA. All are toxic, both to your home environment/family and to everything living downstream from you.

Dish Liquid (for washing by hand)

Here’s some good news: of all the soaps and cleansers in our homes, the liquid dish detergent we use for washing up by hand is likely the least toxic if it does not have Triclosan in it (the FDA just recently stated that, based upon animal studies, there is valid concern that Triclosan can have an impact on the endocrine (hormonal) system). Otherwise, this can happily wait for replacement until you’ve run out of your current soap.

I have been quite happy with the BioKleen Dish Liquid. Lovely fragrance, cuts grease but doesn’t strip my hands, and foams up well. Get it at 15% off from; I get mine through my local food co-op/drop for greater savings.

Tip: In addition to washing up dishes and other kitchen surfaces, dish soap works well to get oil stains out of clothing (think butter and peanut butter stains on kid clothes). Dawn detergent is the BEST for this, as it is an awesome grease cutter, but it’s not a natural product, so if you use it avoid touching it to your skin. Use your dish liquid full strength on the stain, let set for half an hour, rinse in the sink, then launder. Dish liquid is far too foamy for washing machines, so never add it to your load or you may have a huge mess on your hands!

0 thoughts on “Dish Detergent: Eat It and Breathe It

  1. To both kill germs and bacteria and remove the cloudy build up of hard water minerals off of your glassware, flatware, and dishes, add one cup of white distilled vinegar to your dishwasher. Of course you still along with it use your Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent.

    If you have quite a build up on your glassware, it may take two or three times using this method to remove the cloudy build up.

    I live in Phoenix where our water is very hard and I have found that I need to use a cup of vinegar for each dishwasher load.

    It also keeps the inside of my dishwasher, which is stainless steel, sparkling, as it also had the same cloudy build up.

    1. This is a great suggestion, Arlyne. Thank you! I’ve been adding this to my loads since you added this comment, and I think the cloudy build-up is going away faster with this method.

  2. Bronwyn, have you ever tried making your own detergent? I have used the following, but not sure if all the ingredients are safe: 🙂

    1 c. Borax
    1 c. Washing Soda
    1/2 cup Kosher or sea salt (large crystals)
    1/2 Tablespoon Citric Acid (or 2 packets lemon Koolaid)

    1. I’ve never made my own detergent. Kudos to you for doing it!! Your ingredient list looks A-OK to me. Did you like how it cleaned your dishes? What was the price comparison? How long did it take to make up, and how long did it last?

      1. Yes, I do feel the dishes get clean. Over time my glasses get a little cloudy. I just use one cup of white vinegar in the wash for a couple of days and then everything becomes shiny again. This recipe is good for about 40 loads. I don’t know the exact cost, but I want to say under $1.

        It takes just minutes to make. I put everything in my blender and run it for a few seconds. Then add the salt and put in a little jar with a 1 Tablespoon scoop inside. You can get all the ingredients at Walmart. I found the citric acid at an Oriental Grocery store nearby.

    1. Water. 🙂 If I have a more oily spot, I might use a little dishwashing soap, and if poultry juices (bacterial) I might use some Seventh Generation anti-bacterial. I just saw a recipe on Pinterest for some mix you make up with lemon…I need to give that a try.

  3. The membrane used by these filters can become worn and form tiny holes that bacteria can pass through.
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