We have tolerated toxic dishwasher products as a necessary evil knowing that hand washing everything is a non-starter for busy households – especially when cooking from scratch. Many of us have looked with despair at the extended list of complex-sounding ingredients on labels and wondered what the long-term effects of these chemicals could be. Inhaling fumes after a dishwasher cycle can be very unpleasant and you may have worried about the impact on your breathing and lungs. As has often been shown, chronic exposure to toxins adds up and increases the risks of chronic illnesses.
What is the real cost of conventional dishwasher powder?
Supermarket dishwasher powders are powerful and generally convenient. They are easy to access and sometimes cheap to buy. Conventional dishwasher products are accepted because there have been few alternatives. This is despite the increasing evidence that dishwasher products are not good for our health or the health of the planet. Dishwasher products can cause unnecessary environmental harm and increase health risks which are not included in the ‘over the counter’ cost.
What are dishwasher tablets made from?
A sample of conventional dishwasher tablet ingredients are listed here:
|Detergent 1 (Finish)
|5– < 15% oxygen-based bleaching agents, < 5% phosphonates, non-ionic surfactants, polycarboxylates. Contains enzymes (subtilisin, amylase). Contains perfumes
|Detergent 2 (Presto)
|5–30% oxygen-based bleaching agents, < 5% non-ionic surfactants, polycarboxylates. Contains enzymes and perfumes
|Detergent 3 (Fairy)
|Oxygen-based bleaching agents, < 5% phosphonates, 5–15% non-ionic surfactants, polycarboxylates, enzymes, perfumes, citronellol, limonene, linalool
From Sol & others (2023)
In fact, Ethical Consumer’s best buy for dishwasher detergent manufactured by BioD has very similar ingredients. Here is the list taken from their website:
“5-15% Oxygen Bleaching Agents, <5% non ionic surfactants, Polycarboxylates, enzymes. Contains Subtilisin. May produce an allergic reaction”.
Although the group of chemicals is listed, there is no complete ingredients list so customers are unable to check whether they will be allergic to the product. As far as can be seen from these ingredients lists, the only advantage of the BioD product is that it does not contain artificial perfume.
For comparison, the ingredients list for Greenscents dishwasher powder taken from the label is:
“Citric acid*, maltodextrin*, sodium hydrogen carbonate, sodium citrate, sodium chloride, sapindus mukorossi (soap nut shells)*, pyrus malus (apple vinegar) fruit extract*, azadirachta indica (neem) leaf powder*, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil*, sodium gluconate, eucalyptus smithii leaf oil. *denotes organic
Every ingredient is listed and each ingredient is approved by The Soil Association. The Greenscents difference is fundamental to the safety and quality of the dishwasher product.
Alcohol ethoxylates in dishwasher products and rinse aids are a danger to human health
New research on professional dishwasher products has focused on gut health and the “Epithelial Barrier Hypothesis” which is associated with the rise in allergic, autoimmune, and metabolic diseases. These epithelial barrier–damaging agents include toxic substances present in laundry and household detergents, as well as surfactants, enzymes and microplastics all of which are present in conventional dishwasher products.
Alcohol ethoxylates are widely used non-ionic surfactants in detergents and rinse aids. The research results point to residual alcohol ethoxylates as the component that disrupts the integrity of the epithelial barrier. Rinse aids are usually the last chemicals to reach the contents of your dishwasher and therefore this is the most likely product with alcohol ethoxylates to avoid. However, soap residue is a common problem with dishwasher powders and liquids and it is safer to avoid all dishwasher & rinse aid products containing alcohol ethoxylates. Ethoxylation is banned by The Soil Association and no alcohol ethoxylates will ever be included in Greenscents products.
The research also points out that household dishwasher detergents contain a wide variety of possible toxic substances including sodium lauryl sulphate, bleaching agents, enzymes, and artificial perfumes which have been found to be toxic as trace ingredients at up to 1:20,000 dilutions. These are serious findings and a real reason to look for verified non-toxic alternative dishwasher products.
Research reveals a cocktail of toxic ingredients in dishwasher products
A recent study by The Danish Consumer Council has discovered that dishwasher detergents may contain suspected endocrine disruptors and other harmful chemicals. The results showed that 13 of the 41 products contained a suspected endocrine disruptor called benzotriazole. 18 products contained artificial perfumes which can cause allergies.
Dishwashers and indoor air quality
The heat generated by dishwashers causes any pollutants or VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) present to vapourise and this vapour is then released into your kitchen as steam. Visible steam usually dissipates a few inches from the dishwasher, but the invisible VOCs travel throughout your home. These pollutants come from your dishwasher products and from toxins in drinking water. According to a University of Texas study, dishwashers vent about 6 litres of air per minute during the wash cycle and if the dishwasher is opened during the dry cycle, a dense cloud of toxic steam is released into your face and into the room. This study concluded that dishwashers were particularly effective at stripping chemicals from water to indoor air, with the bulk of chemicals released when the door is opened after a dishwashing event.
This study needs to be updated but it points to critical issues with pollutants in dishwasher products and tap water when combined with heat to create steam. Toxic ingredients in dishwasher products add to our burden of unwanted chemicals, reducing indoor air quality and potentially leading to stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer (WHO, 2023).
Dishwasher products and microplastic pollution
Domestic dishwashing is an important source of microplastic pollution, especially when plastics are being washed. A recent study found that microplastics were found in all three conventional dishwasher tablets evaluated (Finish, Presto & Fairy). Greenscents dishwasher powder is free from microplastics and does not add to plastic pollution in our water systems.
What about the environment?
Standard dishwasher products are not only bad for our health but also bad for the environment. Toxic residues and plastics make their way into drains and waterways polluting our aquatic environment, sometimes creating algal blooms. Research from Brunel University found that toxic chemicals such as benzotriazole and tolytriazole from dishwasher products were identified in wastewater in the UK. Both these chemicals were then found in all 80 samples of tap water that were investigated. The long term effects of these poisons on our health and the health of the environment is still poorly understood but is likely to be significant.
The Greenscents Alternative
“I was never happy with the dishwasher powder I was using. Plastic, toxins, and bleach smells left a very sour taste. After a 2 year development phase I am happy to say I am now comfortable to use Greenscents organic dishwasher powder and delighted to recommend it to our customers”, Christina Hawkes, Founder Greenscents
After extensive research and trials, the Greenscents dishwasher powder was launched in January 2024. Each non-toxic ingredient is listed on the paper pouch so you will be able to tell at a glance whether there is anything that you may be allergic to. However, we strongly advise that children, babies and animals are kept away from Greenscents dishwasher powder at all times.
Greenscents dishwasher powder is:
- certified organic with The Soil Association
- palm oil free
- cruelty free
- safe for our rivers and water systems
- free from bleach, alcohol ethoxylates, endocrine disruptors and harmful chemicals
- free from plastics
- free from artificial perfumes
- unfragranced and part of the Nonscents collection, the heart of the Greenscents range
- powered by probiotics and botanicals
- super concentrated with no added fillers or bulking agents
- packaged in a simple recyclable paper pouch
- made by the Greenscents team in Somerset, England.
How does Greenscents dishwasher powder work?
Our dishwasher powder proves that toxic ingredients are not necessary for a powerful clean. In particular, the combination of botanicals (soap nut shells, neem) cider vinegar and probiotics provide superb cleaning power. Please follow the directions on the pouch and do not add more powder than the 6g advised for a standard dishwasher load. More powder just leads to a less effective wash and can cause a scum to form on your crockery and cutlery.
Clean without compromise with Greenscents dishwasher powder
It is not necessary to increase your allergy or health risks using standard or ‘green’ dishwasher products. Unwanted chemicals present hazards to human health and the environment that are cumulative. Using Greenscents organic dishwasher powder is an easy swap that has multiple benefits for us all.