Many of us are concerned about removing toxic chemicals from our diets, and in addition to avoiding processed foods, avoid toxins in other areas of the home such as laundry detergent and surface cleaners. But what about dishwasher detergent?
When choosing unprocessed, whole plant-based foods to put on our plate, we need to make sure we thoughtfully clean the plate that they're on! My mom recently needed her dishwasher serviced, and the repair technician was also a retired research scientist. He asked her if she used a brand name detergent in the dishwasher, as he was very concerned about the toxins that are prevalent in generic soaps. He advised using name-brand dishwasher detergents... but is that enough?
Chemicals used in dishwasher detergents
Probably not. The ingredients in dish detergents, name brand or not, can be terrible for your health and for the environment too. Not to mention, fragrances used in dishwasher products also pollute your home. Here's an example of what is within 10 different dishwasher detergents, and how they rank with the EWG (Environmental Working Group). So while it's clear that many common name-brand detergents have nasty ingredients, what are our options?
It can be tricky to find a dishwasher detergent that works well. The difference in water hardness will affect how well certain products or recipes work. However, luckily there are many recipes out there, and a growing list of safer products you can try while avoiding ingredients that may impact your health and the environment.
Healthful options to buy or make
Decide whether you would like to make your own detergent, or carefully research the ingredients that go into the brand you select to use. However, it's important to remember that companies do not have to disclose a complete list of ingredients, and some ingredients listed may contain a blend of unlisted ingredients (for example, you may see an ingredient that is described as a "natural cleaner", which could mean many things). If you're not sure, contact the manufacturer or avoid that product.
The safest option is making your own. Detergents may use preservatives in their products to increase shelf life, something you don't need to do if making small batches of your own detergent.
Store bought: options for safer dishwasher detergent
Here are a few products to consider at the store. Because formulas often change, remember to check the ingredient list carefully on the product you purchase to make sure your information is up-to-date and the product is up to your own safety standards.
You can check all dishwashing products on the EWG website, which includes categories for Dishwasher Detergent, and also Pods and Pouches. For each product listed, you can check the ingredients label and review any concerns - please note that while these products all rate "A" some ingredients within them rate as low as "C".
Make your own DIY dishwasher detergent
You can also make your own dishwasher detergent or even dishwasher tabs. It's simple, and very cost-effective. Instead of paying around 15-20c per load, you can wash your dishes for around 3c per load.
The efficacy will again depend on how hard or soft your water is, so if your first batch doesn't work make sure to adjust the ingredients or ratios until you are happy with the end result.
Here is a basic recipe for dishwasher detergent
Combine the following ingredients in a jar:
- 1 cup of Borax
- 1 cup Washing Soda
- 1 cup Citric Acid
(you can purchase the first two ingredients here)
And here is a basic recipe for dishwasher tabs
- 1 cup of Borax
- 1 cup Washing Soda
- 1/4 cup salt (kosher or epsom)
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- Optional: Essential oil (15 drops of your choice - lemon or lavender work great)
Combine all ingredients, and then press into an ice-cube tray. Let them dry really well, then remove from the trays and store in an air-tight container.
- When buying products, make sure you check the ingredient list and ask questions.
- Check ingredients on the label and cross-check on the EWG's website, and always check for changed formulas before using a product. Don't be afraid to ask questions and return products!
- Consider making your own detergent to know exactly what's cleaning your plate (and in that potential residue!), in the air, and going down the drain into the environment.
An extra tip
The technician also mentioned not cleaning jars that have labels in the dishwasher. The glue from the label commonly gets stuck in the dishwasher drain, and causes it to clog. This is the reason for many of his service calls, so he advises to remove the label and glue entirely before putting them in the dishwasher.
Do you have tips to add? Add them in the comments below!
Last updated: October 22, 2016. Originally published: August 20, 2016
Photo: Public domain. Source.
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