One Simple Tip for Finding Nontoxic Dishwasher Detergent

cleaning kitchen Oct 11, 2018

by Angela Cummings and Sophia Ruan Gushée


Are you concerned about harmful chemicals in dishwasher detergent?

We are.

Dishwasher detergents can remain on cups and glasses, even after running through the rinse cycle.

Adding a rinse agent, which also can contain harmful chemicals, may add to the toxic film left on dishes.

What are these chemicals and how can we choose nontoxic dishwasher detergent in order to create a nontoxic home?


What are the toxic chemicals in conventional dishwasher detergent?

Surfactants, commonly found in dishwasher detergents, are a large class of chemicals. The reason manufacturers’ use them is that they:

  • don’t leave a film behind
  • help cleaners to perform well even with hard water

Cleaners with surfactants are often petroleum-based. This means they’re made of refined crude oil. The oil is combined with several chemicals to make cleaning products.

Mixing of several chemicals during manufacturing can create other harmful chemicals. Since these chemicals are not intended to be included in the final product, they’re referred to as “unintentional by-products.”

Examples of unintentional by-products from mixing of surfactants include alcohol ethoxylates, 1,4-dioxane, alkyl ammonium chloride, sodium laureth sulfate, and nitrosamines.


What are the health effects caused by using conventional dishwasher detergent?

Health effects that may be caused by conventional dishwasher detergent range from irritation to serious illness.

When dishwasher chemicals become stuck to glasses, they may become part of our beverages.

We drink the beverage, causing the chemicals to enter our bodies, organs, and digestive systems. This may contribute to the development of health effects.

Below are a few examples of possible health effects from surfactants and unintentional by-products in cleaners.

  • asthma and respiratory issues
  • skin allergies and irritation
  • hormone disruption
  • cancer

In addition to health effects, these chemicals have been linked to environmental issues. In turn, environmental issues can cause further health effects.


What are the nontoxic options?

Between health concerns and environmental impacts, choosing a nontoxic dishwasher detergent helps to detox your home and environment.

Third-party organizations that certify products based on health effects and environment make it easy to choose nontoxic cleaners. Below is our favorite resource for finding nontoxic dishwasher detergent:

Environmental Working Group (EWG).

EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning is a free, easy-to-use resource. The EWG rates cleaners using an “A” through “F” rating system that’s easy to follow. Plus, their guide shows why the cleaner received the rating.

Choosing nontoxic dishwasher detergent rated “A” or “B” from the EWG cleaning guide is an easy way to detox your dishwasher detergent.


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About Ruan Living

Ruan Living simplifies a nontoxic lifestyle through its Practical Nontoxic Living podcast, free detox workshops, online D-Tox Academy, and transformative 40-Day Home Detox. It aims to help you avoid toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from what you buy, own, and do— without compromising your joy and convenience. Ruan was founded by Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of the bestselling critically acclaimed book A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Toxic Exposures and several detox workbooks. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Business School, Sophia has served on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and Well+Good Council. A popular nontoxic living speaker, consultant, and teacher, Sophia lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters. Her passion for empowering others to enjoy nontoxic living began with the birth of her first daughter in 2007. Everything she creates is a love letter to her children and for the healthiest, brightest future possible. You can learn more here: Sophia’s Impact.


This article is for informational purposes only. This information is provided “as is” without warranty.

It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. We do not offer medical advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other opinion on your conditions or treatment options. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Ruan Living.

In no event will Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living be liable for any damages or loss of any kind resulting from the use of this website. Anyone relying upon or making use of the information on this website does so at his or her own risk.

Some of the services and products recommended on this website provide compensation to Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living. All recommendations are based foremost upon an honest belief that the product, service, or site will benefit our site visitors in some way.  

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