Is dish soap toxic?
Here’s the brutal truth. Not only is your dish soap not that great for you, it’s downright poisonous.
Most dish soaps contain at least 8-10 ingredients that could be harming your health right now. ...And the health of everyone in your household – not just the one who does the dishes.
Think about it: You suds up the dishes. You rinse. All clean, right?
Actually, most dish soaps are super clingy, and hard to wash off completely. Even after rinsing, a film of dish soap stays behind on your dishes, where it dries (find out more about why dish soap sticks to your dishes in our post about water types).
At mealtime you put your food on the “clean” dishes. The food is moist, and re-hydrates that film of dish soap, which sticks to your food. And into your mouth it goes.
That’s why it matters a lot what’s in your dish soap. It matters more than perhaps for any other kind of cleaning product or toiletry in your home.
In this post, we’ll show you which ingredients in dish soap to keep a sharp eye out for, so that you can decide which brands to avoid.
We’ll also give you a foolproof way to wash the dishes without ever having to expose yourself and your family to toxic chemicals in dish soap again.
But first, let’s see what’s inside typical dish soap.
9 toxic ingredients found in conventional dish soaps
We’ve spent hours scouring the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Health Cleaning database to find the most common ingredients in conventional dish soap. Here’s what we found, along with the risks that accompany these chemicals:
1. Sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate
These two ingredients are referred to as “SLS,” and are among the most common ones found in conventional liquid soaps.
Even if you think your current dish soap is “organic” or “natural”, we challenge you to check its ingredient list. Chances are, you’ll find it contains SLS or a similar chemical.
SLS is not good for your health. It affects your respiratory system, your reproductive system, your nervous systems, and your digestive system. It’s also carcinogenic.
Due to the numerous health concerns that come with SLS, it’s not something you should be using on your dishes.
What’s more, once it washes down the drain, chances are that your local water treatment plant can only remove a fraction of the SLS that comes its way.
So SLS ends up getting discharged into your local watershed... where it pollutes your local ecosystem and kills aquatic life.
2. Cocamidopropyl betaine
Cocamidopropyl betaine contributes to water pollution, and harms any living creature inside the water.
3. Dipropylene glycol
Dipropylene glycol leads to cancer, damages your DNA, and impacts your respiratory, digestive, nervous, endocrine, and reproductive systems. It also irritates your skin and damages your vision.
If you see “fragrance” written on any ingredient label, that should raise a red flag, because “fragrance” is not a single ingredient. Instead it’s a “black-box” term that manufacturers can use to hide over 3,000 chemicals, many of which lead to health problems.
5. Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose
This ingredient can harm your digestive system, and therefore definitely shouldn’t be put on your dishes.
As we saw, your food will pick up the dish soap’s residue on your dishes and bring it into direct contact with your digestive system, where it causes trouble.
6. Methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, and benzisothiazolinone
These three ingredients harm ecosystems by killing anything that lives in the water. And they’re also harmful to your health. They irritate your skin, including by causing allergic contact dermatitis.
This ingredient is responsible for a number of health issues. It damages your DNA and causes cancer. It can cause developmental, reproductive, and endocrine issues.
In addition, it can also cause problems for your respiratory system, your nervous system, and your digestive systems, as well as your skin and your vision.
8. Sodium polyacrylate
This ingredient is responsible for water pollution, and like others on this list, it is extremely harmful to aquatic life once it washes down the drain.
To return to our original question: is dish soap toxic?
Judging from the known effects of the most common dish soap ingredients, clearly it is. You will find these ingredients in 99% of the dish soaps on the market.
What to do? Fortunately there is one brand of dish soap that is made only with ingredients that have been known for centuries (and proven in modernity) to be safe.
Is dish soap bad for your skin?
You bet it is.
Since nearly all dish soaps contain toxic ingredients, you should avoid getting it on your skin.
Why is this important?
And once a chemical enters your body through the skin, it reaches your bloodstream and from there, enters your organs.
Here’s what to do to avoid this:
Start wearing rubber gloves.
Rubber gloves won’t let any chemicals enter your skin.
If you need a highly durable and practicable set of dish gloves you should check out this one.
Although gloves won’t solve the problem of harmful dish-soap film clinging to your dishes, they will protect your skin, and that’s a start.
Since it’s toxic, is dish soap bad for the environment?
Unfortunately, dish soap continues to cause harm after it flows down your drain.
Aquatic life suffers as a result.
These harsh ingredients also kill fish eggs, and if concentrations reach levels beyond 15 parts per million (ppm) inside the water, then they can also kill adult fish.
Unfortunately, most water treatment plants can’t filter out these chemicals.
This isn’t what you want to flow into your local watershed, right?
Especially not if anyone else is planning to eat the fish that inhabit these waters.
But there’s more.
If you have a septic tank, then you might be polluting your ground water.
Anything that ends up in your septic system needs to be broken down by bacteria.
When you use harsh household cleaners in your home, including conventional dish soap, they make it harder for the bacteria in your septic tank to break down sewage (learn more about biodegradable dish soap).
If the bacteria can’t do their job, these chemicals (and anything else that doesn’t get broken down) flow into your groundwater, where they can contaminate nearby wells.
And if you’re hooked up to a municipal sewer system, then more chemicals going down the drain means that your area’s water treatment plant has to work harder to clean the wastewater, increasing the public’s expense.
So what can you do about the environmental impact of toxins in your dish soap?
You can start using a genuinely all-natural dish soap that doesn’t contain any harsh substances.
No harsh chemicals that harm you and your family. No toxins that damage the environment. Just a high-quality dish soap that really works.
Is dishwashing soap toxic?
Based on the research made available in the EWG’s Healthy Cleaning Guide, most dish soaps are indeed toxic, and should be kept away from both your skin and your dishes.
And they shouldn’t end up in the environment, where they wreak further havoc.
And while most dish soaps look like this...
...this one is the most natural dish soap there is:
Six all-natural ingredients. That's it. And it really works!
Then check out our monthly giveaway for a chance to win some amazing, all-natural products.