Our green lifestyle is really tested when it comes to buying cleaning products, dishwasher detergents included. In the supermarket aisle, we are faced with a variety of products all claiming to wash greener than its neighbour and each showing proudly its green colour and eco-labelling. How do you know which green dishwasher detergent to choose? Are they all the same? Why not stay with your regular brand?
To reduce our part in water pollution, and to make our house safer for
The problem with
What’s regular dishwasher detergent made with?
In your regular dishwasher detergent whether powder tablet or gel, you can find chlorine bleach, sulfuric acid and other strong corrosive petroleum-based detergents harmful to humans and to the environment. Artificial or natural fragrances boosted with phthalates to make the smell last longer. Unfortunately, they also cause asthma, allergies and endocrine disruption amongst other things. As well as other nasty chemicals.
Some of the culprits to avoid in a detergent.
- Polyacrylates that are toxic to aquatic life as well as causing burns eye damage and respiratory irritation.
- Benzothiazoline an antimicrobial agent that irritates eyes skin and lungs and is toxic to fish too.
- Methylisothiazolinone, a preservative responsible for dangerous allergic reactions and a potential neuro-toxic
- Chlorine bleach can cause respiratory distress by raleasing toxic gas during the drying cycle
When you realise that your family is exposed to those fumes every day
Why aren’t all green dishwasher detergent safe?
You would think that escaping harsh, polluting chemicals is easy. You just pick up a green product on the shelves? It is a bit more pricey than your regular but worth it right?
Well, not quite, some “natural” cleaning products can also have harmful ingredients as they do not have to disclose all the ingredients from their recipe to avoid copycats.
For example, you find the preservative methylisothiazolinone (the one that causes dangerous allergic reactions) in some “natural” dishwasher detergents. Which is why it is important to avoid products that list fragrance or dye as an ingredient. They often encompass a host of other ingredients that are not necessarily environmentally friendly.
Some firms just go for the marketing angle. To jump on the green lifestyle bandwagon, they’ll advertise some organic or natural ingredient in their detergent in big letters and slap a lot of green on the label when in fact it is just a regular product.
Best supermarket eco-friendly dishwasher detergents when you don’t want to DIY
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When we found out that even some natural dishwasher detergents could be harmful to us and the environment we looked for greener products.
Seventh Generation Dishwasher detergent and Ecover dishwasher tabs were easily available detergents and answering to our budding eco-friendly views. They both cleaned the dishes as well as the traditional brand we were using. (Our water is really soft so I cannot comment on their efficiency in hard water.)
In the end, we chose to stay with Seventh Generation Dishwasher pods. First, because it is fragrance-free and second because it lists all its ingredients so all is clear straight away.
Make your own dishwasher detergent
No waste, 3 ingredients.
After a while, although we were happy with the Seventh Generation pods, we decided to go further. As we wanted to reduce our waste and also be more ethical in our choices, all on a limited budget, we decided to make our own detergent.
We have been making it for two years now and love it. It washes just as well as the commercial detergent and we buy the ingredients in bulk, so we have even less waste. We can choose which fragrance (essential oils) to use. At first, we were compacting the mix into ice cube trays but in the end, we stopped doing it to save time. We just put 1 tablespoon of powder in the distributor and it works just great.
The dishwasher powder recipe
To make this recipe you will need :
- a mask and some protective glasses as we are working with pure detergent and acid,
- a measuring cup,
- a bowl,
- a spoon to stir
- an air-tight box for storage.
- 250 ml washing soda
- 60 ml citric acid
- 30 drops tea-tree essential oil
125 ml sodium percarbonate
Mix dry ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Dot essential oils all over the mix, and combine them until they are absorbed. Store in an airtight box
The sodium percarbonate (aka oxygen bleach) oxygenates the water and offers extra help to clean food stains.
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Frequently asked questions
What if I don’t have any tea-tree essential oil?
You can leave out the essential oil altogether, use a different oil or use more than one as long as you keep to 30 drops in total. for example, right now we’re using 15 drops of mint and 15 drops of bergamot, we also like mint or rosemary. I have tried lavender too, but I’m not a fan of flowery smells.
What can I use as an eco-friendly rinse-aid in my dishwasher?
We just use regular alcohol vinegar.
How can I clean my dishwasher without chemicals?
We put a cup of baking soda in the bottom of the dishwasher and vinegar in the rinse-aid dispenser and run the dishwasher empty on a short hot cycle. We only do this once a year. Usually, we clean the filter by emptying it in the compost bucket and we wipe the edges of the door with a soapy sponge and dry with a rag every week.
Do I need to rinse the dishes beforehand?
No, that would wasting water. Just scrape them as well as possible and load them in the dishwasher. A rubber spatula is brilliant for that job. Keeping the filter clean also helps with getting clean dishes.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about dishwasher detergent
- Detergents are a big source of water pollutants and are dangerous for your family, either through inhalation of the steam when a load is finished, contact or ingestion of residue left after a rinse. It is best to choose wisely when you buy in a supermarket and look at the listed ingredients. Paying attention to packaging is important too. If you are buying, choose the bigger formats to reduce waste with as little plastics as possible. The absolute best would be to buy organic certified products that also respects animals rights, but sometimes we don’t have the means and it’s OK. The important part is to do the best we can at the time.
- Do you have any tips to share about dishwashers or detergents? Do you have any questions? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment or shoot us a mail. Happy dishwashing!