Let’s be honest, the dishwasher may be the best invention of the 20th century. It is an indispensable facet of modern life. There isn’t a single stage of existence that doesn’t benefit from a dishwasher. From single, college age, to bustling, busy families, to aging retirees, the dishwasher is absolutely essential! However the dishwasher is only as effective as the detergent within it, and not all detergents are created equal.
The purpose of detergent is obviously to clean the dishes, removing any visible residue along with any invisible germs. A good detergent should be able to do that, but it should also be able to do it without flushing pollutants into the water stream or leaving dangerous chemicals in your air or on your utensils. Most detergents fail this second criterion.
For a soap to be effective, it has to contain some kind of a surfactant— that is an ingredient that releases grime from whatever it is attached to and allows it to be rinsed away. Basic old-fashioned soap works as a surfactant because the lipid ingredients in it have been ‘saponified’ to have a fat-loving (lipophilic) side and a water-loving (hydrophilic) side. The fat-loving side attaches to whatever grease or grime is present, and then the water-loving side magnetizes all of it right down the drain with the current.
A basic soap, combined with hot water to flush away germs, can clean almost anything.
Most dish detergents, however, rely on chlorine and phosphates for their cleaning and sterilizing ability, both of which are frequently allergenic and harmful to both our bodies and our water sources.
Other ingredients in typical dish detergents often include synthetic fragrances and colors, polymers, alcohol alkoxylates, dipropylene glycol, titanium dioxide, and a laundry list of preservatives that have numerous known side effects on the human body, such as decreased fertility, cancer, and asthma. This is just the beginning. There are as many as twenty questionable ingredients in certain detergents, not counting all of the things that can be hidden under the title ‘fragrance’.
All of these troubling additives makes it incredibly important that we consider where these chemicals are going. Your dishes may be sterile when you load them up with mashed potatoes and gravy, but are you shoveling in those chemicals when you start eating? What about your children’s dishes and baby supplies?
Bottles and breast pumps that run through the wash are all being coated with whatever harmful chemicals are included in the soap. All of these chemicals are also flushed away somewhere once the cycle is done. Is this a septic tank that is leaching into your yard or garden? Or are they ‘just’ going into the city water system where they will find their way to ponds, rivers, and eventually back to the water you’re drinking? These chemicals we use don’t just disappear once they’ve done what we want them to. They persist and continue to wreak havoc on our environment and us.
Because of these troubling considerations, it is important to choose carefully what kind of dishwasher detergent to add to your beloved machine. As it turns out, there are some really good options that won’t have you scrambling to keep up with the dishes by hand or laboriously making your own detergent at home.
Below are the natural brands that we recommend:
Better Life Dishwasher Gel
Better Life dishwasher gel is one of the most effective natural dishwashing detergents on the market. Its dishwashing ability comes from soapbark extract and citric acid and it works extremely well on almost anything. This is a very concentrated formula, so it is important that you follow the directions and not add too much, or you may have a problem with over-sudsing.
The nice thing about the concentration though is that each bottle lasts a very long time. The bottle itself also needs to be shaken in between every use to keep the formula consistent, but if you don’t mind the hassle of shaking a bottle, then this product will work great for you.
Biokleen Automatic Dish Gel
Biokleen has been a staple in non-toxic household cleaners for over 30 years. Biokleen’s automatic dish gel is no exception. The formula earns an ‘A’ rating on the Environmental Working Group’s assessment page, and it has great ingredients.
It has slightly mixed reviews on Amazon, possibly resulting from differences in water softness. Natural dishwasher detergents don’t contain water softeners, so hard water would need a separate additive either before or during the cycle. If you’re working with soft water or don’t have a problem adding a little baking soda to your dishwasher, then this gel will deliver great results without harming anyone in or around your home.
Seventh Generation Dishwasher Detergent
Seventh Generation dishwater detergent is a great natural product. The formula comes in a liquid gel or individual pods for whichever style you prefer and it works without any phosphates, chlorine bleach, or synthetic additives.
The cleaning and streak-free power comes from a variety of enzymes, such as protease and amylase, which break down food particles and whisk them away in the water. It is definitely an effective detergent that will leave your dishes clean and clear of toxins.
Grab Green Automatic Dishwashing Detergent Pods
Do you prefer the convenience of a pre-measured pod to a gel or powder? Grab Green has an environmentally clean pod that is sure to satisfy. You just use one per load like any other dishwashing pod and it will clean any regular load. Grab Green’s detergent pods clean great and leave dishes completely residue-free and bright and clear.
The formula has no chlorine or phosphates, so you don’t have to worry about ingesting them or dispersing them, and it is fragrance and dye free. This detergent is also completely septic safe and designed to work with both American and European dishwashers.
You don’t need to worry about the effects of your dishwashing detergent any longer! Choose one of these great products and feel good about the convenience of your dishwasher and the responsibility of your choices. The dishes will be clean, and so will your body and our environment as well. Honestly it’s a no-brainer when these products work just as well as the conventional ones. So give one a try and be worry free.