(Update: I’ve switched from using baking soda to washing soda. The baking soda worked really well with the commercial dish soaps, like Dawn, but Dr. Bronner’s need the little extra “umph”.)
I’ve titled this non-toxic dishwasher detergent but the truth is, it’s really a dishwasher soap. The difference? Apparently detergents are synthetically made while soaps are not. I know, a bit nit-picky. However, if it ever comes up on Jeopardy (or you read a label for “natural” detergent) you’ll know.
I’ve been doing this for years, it is so easy and works as well as the store bought dishwasher detergents and rinse-aids without the cost. We ran out of dishwasher detergent one day and I hate running out to the store of just one item so I looked around to see if you could use liquid detergent, like Dawn, instead. Turns out you can! And it makes so much sense once you realize that the powder detergents are just soap and a powdery scrubbing agent. The simple solution was to add a few drops of liquid detergent (about 1/4 teaspoon) in the closed compartment and throw about a half cup of
baking soda washing soda into the bottom of the dishwasher. The baking soda washing soda acts as a scrubbing agent while the liquid detergent acts as a cleaner. I then added vinegar to the rinse aid reservoir and had my dishes coming out sparkly clean!
Only trouble is, Dawn detergent is really quite toxic. The ingredients and processes are not readily available, usually a bad sign. There is a high chance of the detergent containing 1,4 Dioxane which is a carcinogen and groundwater contaminant (Thanks to From Faye for a great breakdown of why!). It does contain methylisothiazolinone which is a highly corrosive chemical found to be toxic when ingested, inhaled, or applied to the skin (like when washing dishes…) according to the EPA’s 1998 document, “Reregistration Eligibility Decision, Methylisothiazolinone”. Plus Parabens and god-knows-what-else. EWG gives them a D for “Poor disclosure; May contain ingredients with potential for acute aquatic toxicity; respiratory effects; nervous system effects.” ‘Poor disclosure’…if you’ve got nothing to hide then why not share? Looks like they’ve got a lot to hide.
Personally I spend a lot of time in the kitchen working with raw ingredients which means plenty of hand washing. The skin around my knuckles gets irritated and inflamed, often with a small rash. I had written it off to dry skin from all the soap. After researching the ingredients I’m convinced now that it wasn’t the drying effects of the “soap” (remember, it’s not a soap, it’s a detergent). My reaction was a response to the detergent’s irritants.
On top of all that, I’m rather against torturing animals. Dawn is owned by Proctor & Gamble which still uses extensive animal testing. I had planned to juxtapose an image of Dawn’s “saves wildlife” campaign with an image of P&G’s animal testing but really couldn’t bring myself to do it. A quick Google search will bring up enough images and information to make you physically sick.
So I’m not purchasing Dawn anymore. I looked around and remembered the castile soap by Dr. Bonner’s I’d been using for body wash and cleaning. I did a bit of research and found that a lot of people had been dissatisfied with the result, using it as dish soap. I also noticed that these people had recommended using the soap with lemon or vinegar. That’s an issue because castile soap is a basic and combining it with an acid will neutralize it and you’ll be left with a less effective cleaner (From Lisa Bronner).
I did a load of dishes with a half cup of
baking soda washing soda, a half teaspoon of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, and vinegar in the rinse aid container (so they don’t mix) and had sparkling dishes again. I’ve also combined a few splashed of the castile soap with water in a soap dispenser for hand washing and already I’ve seen a difference in the skin on my hands. It’s not irritated or raw. I’m looking forward to seeing if the improvement in my skin is longterm but all signs are looking good!
A bonus, this is way cheaper than store bought dishwasher detergent. Adam and I do a lot to conserve money. I never have time for the more complicated household and beauty DIYs, but there are a ton that you can whip up on the spot that are extremely effective, non-toxic, and inexpensive. This is just one of many I’ve been tweaking over the years. I like to take this approach because it frees up more of our budget to invest in high quality food, it’s easier on the environment, and it lets me thumb my nose a bit at mega-corporations with unethical business practices.
My simple recipe for a non-toxic dishwasher soap:
Ingredients (per load):
1/2 cup of washing soda
1 teaspoon of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap
Vinegar to fill the rinse-aid compartment
Put the washing soda in the bottom of the dishwasher (under the racks). Add the soap to the dishwasher detergent compartment and close the lid. Fill the rinse aid compartment with vinegar and close. Run dishwasher as normal.