The Scary Truth About Toxins in Baby Dish Soap
After reading this post, you’ll be an expert on baby-safe dish soap.
We looked at why baby dish soap is necessary;
What toxins are hidden in dish soap for baby bottles;
What criteria does a baby bottle soap have to meet so you can trust it 100%;
And we put together a step-by-step checklist for getting baby bottles squeaky clean.
Let’s dive right in!
Toxins in baby dish soap
You might expect so-called “baby-safe” dish soap to be 100% nontoxic.
Unfortunately, most baby bottle dish soaps contain dangerous ingredients. For example:
1. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
Manufacturers include these foaming agents in order to create bubbles. Lots and lots of bubbles.
But SLS and SLES have been so heavily processed that they are a far cry from coconut oil. Several steps of chemical-intensive processing stand between them.
Unlike coconut oil, SLS and SLES can damage DNA and harm your baby’s respiratory, endocrine, reproductive, digestive, and nervous systems.
Scientists also suspect that SLS and SLES cause cancer.
Remember the chemical-intensive processing that produced them? The SLS and SLES that go into conventional “baby-safe” dish soaps contain residues from those other chemicals.
And many of them are super toxic—like 1,4-dioxane.
The process of making SLS and SLES involves 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) gives 1,4-dioxane a toxicity score of 8 out of 10.
Another chemical impurity commonly found in SLS and SLES is ethylene oxide.
Ethylene oxide causes cancer, and (believe it or not) is even more dangerous than 1,4-dioxane.
Ethylene oxide received a toxicity score of 10 in the EWG’s Skin Deep database—the highest possible score.
Not exactly an ingredient you want in dish soap for baby bottles!
The lesson? Keep dish soaps with SLS or SLES far away from baby bottles.
Unfortunately, that rules out most supposedly “baby-safe” dish soaps.
But fear not; a truly safe dish soap for baby bottles does exist. We’ll tell you more about it at the end of this post.
But first: what other harmful ingredients do “baby-safe” dish soaps often contain?
Fragrance is a catch-all term that can hide up to 3,163 chemicals in baby dish soaps and other products.
These harmful chemicals include phthalates, a well-known hormone disruptor.
3. Methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone
These ingredients can irritate the skin.
They also trigger allergic reactions in up to 3% of the population.
Worst of all, methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone are neurotoxins—in other words, they poison the brain.
These kinds of poisonous ingredients don’t belong in baby dish soap—yet there they are.
This chemical harms children’s development and poisons the reproductive system.
It also irritates skin.
The EWG gives it a “C” toxicity rating in their Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
Many other harsh substances can be found in baby dish soap.
* * *
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are many harmful ingredients in baby dish soap besides those.
But how exactly would these harmful ingredients get inside the baby?
Don’t they all go down the drain when you rinse the baby bottle?
Let’s find out...
Is baby dish soap necessary?
After rinsing, even though you might not see any dish soap left, the truth is that some of it remains behind.
Conventional baby dish soaps leave behind a thin film that is hard to wash off entirely.
And if your area has hard water, the water’s minerals cause even more of the dish soap residue to cling to your dishes.
If the dish soap for baby bottles you’re using happens to include toxic ingredients, those toxins will stick around and mix in with your baby’s next meal.
The bottle goes into the baby’s mouth, and those toxins enter the baby’s body... where they spread out through the bloodstream, and harm her organs.
A study conducted at the University of Georgia revealed that because babies’ and children’s organs are still developing, toxins harm them more easily than they would adults.
So, is baby dish soap necessary?
It absolutely is—but with a caveat.
How to choose a baby-safe dish soap
Unfortunately, most baby dish soaps—even the ones that brand themselves as “natural” or even “organic”—contain the same chemicals as conventional dish soap. Ingredient lists commonly look something like this:
So how are you supposed to see through the marketing hype and find a truly baby-safe brand?
Finding a genuinely, no-nonsense, truly natural dish soap requires that you read the ingredients list with great care.
A truly natural dish soap contains no dangerous chemicals that will harm your baby’s respiratory, endocrine, reproductive, digestive, or nervous systems.
Or ingredients that cause allergies or cancer.
Or parabens, phthalates, petrochemcials, artificial colors or fragrances.
Instead, the ingredient list should look like this:
This helps you to recognize a truly natural dish soap when you see it—one that is safe for washing baby items.
Baby-safe dish soap checklist
Many manufacturers cunningly try to persuade you of a dish soap’s safety for babies by emphasizing other aspects of the product that, when you think about it, actually have nothing to do with safety itself.
They might tell you the product is:
- Made with plant-based ingredients
- Softly scented
- BPA-free packaging
While these might also sound like great features for a baby-safe dish soap to have, they don’t tell you anything about the product’s safety for babies.
Here’s what we mean:
Harsh ingredients such as SLS are made from coconut oil and thus constitute “natural” and “vegetable-based” ingredients.
Does that make SLS safe? Heck no!
“Biodegradable” means that the product will break down within one year. But a biodegradable formula may still include harsh ingredients that harm your little darling’s health long before they break down.
Even BPA-free packaging doesn’t tell you anything about the ingredients lurking inside the dish soap bottle.
So what can you do?
Look at the ingredients. Period.
Go to EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, and in the search box, look up the product itself. If the product isn’t listed, look up each ingredient individually.
The EWG is a wonderful, high-quality resource. If a baby dish soap passes their test and gets an “A” rating, you can safely use it to wash baby bottles.
Here’s an example for an all-natural dish soap that meets all of the above requirements and includes only safe ingredients.
If you check it out, you’ll see what we mean.
Should you use antibacterial baby dish soap?
You should NEVER use antibacterial dish soap for baby bottles—for several reasons.
The first is that antibacterial dish soap doesn’t do what it claims to. A team of Korean researchers discovered that antibacterial dish soap only kills more bacteria than regular dish soap if the dishes are soaked in it for at least 9 hours—without adding any water.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concurs, and has banned many common antibacterial ingredients in soaps because they provide no benefit to consumers.
Even if antibacterial soap did what it promises, the health effect on babies would be negative.
A team of Swedish researchers discovered that babies’ immune systems develop incredibly quickly during the first weeks after birth.
The process of developing a strong immune system depends on the kind of bacteria a baby encounters and prevents allergies, asthma and other diseases later in life.
While antibacterial ingredients don’t do much good, they also cause harm—such as by polluting the environment.
In conclusion, antibacterial baby dish soap doesn’t provide ANY health advantages, but instead harms the health of your little ones (read this post on antibacterial dish soap for more details).
The best way to clean baby bottles
Is it better to clean baby bottles using a dishwasher or by hand?
That’s easy. Dried milk inside baby bottles is almost impossible for dishwashers to remove.
The best way to get dirty baby bottles truly clean is to hand-wash them with the right tools.
Here’s how to wash baby bottles like a pro:
1. Immediately after use: disassemble, rinse, and soak the baby bottles to prevent milk residue from drying and hardening inside. (You will be glad you did: this step will save you a LOT of time!)
2. Get a separate baby bottle cleaner brush.
While it might be tempting to use a regular ol’ dish sponge, we suggest you don’t. Here’s why.
Dish sponges contain lots of food residue—and that’s not all.
A group of German researchers discovered that used dish sponges contain up to 362 different types of bacteria, and as many as 82 billion bacteria per square inch.
While not all bacteria are bad, the goal is to get the baby bottles clean—and a baby bottle cleaner brush is the right tool for that job.
The we recommend is made from wood and horse bristles. This means there are no micro-plastics released into the baby bottle.
It comes with an extra long handle for easier access and handling. This company that has been making brushes by hand since 1935.
See what customers have to say about this brush.
Use a brush like the one described here to clean each individual baby bottle part. Don’t forget to get into the narrow spaces.
3. Rinse each part carefully to minimize the chemical dish-soap residue that will stay behind on the bottle.
But if your conventional soap includes petrochemicals or surfactants like SLS, remember that those are hard to remove entirely from baby bottles or any other dishes.
So scrub that nasty stuff off as completely as you can!
If you want to learn more about the most baby-safe dish soap on the market, you can do so here.
4. Last but not least, you have to let the baby bottles dry completely before re-using.
A research team found that significantly more bacteria grow on dishes that are stacked slightly moist compared to dishes that are stored away when they’re entirely dry.
A great way for letting baby dishes dry 100% is to get a baby bottle drying rack for easy air drying.
Here’s a handy drying rack that saves plenty of space thanks to its efficient design. It also offers enough storage room for pacifiers and baby bottle nipples.
Check out the awesome product rating it received from happy customers.
Now it’s your turn
If you want to keep toxins like SLS, 1,4-dioxane, and artificial fragrances away from your baby’s bottles (and out of her mouth), then you need to get a truly all-natural, 100% nontoxic, baby-safe dish soap.
You won’t have to worry anymore about parabens, phthalates, petrochemicals, and other harmful substances mixing in with the meals of your little darling.
We highly recommend this awesome soap – absolutely the safest dish soap for baby bottles. Get it here!