People use all kinds of soaps and detergents in their daily lives. But they never consider the harmful effects of using them on their dishware. A dishwasher cleans dishes and utensils that we use to cut, cook, and put our food in. 

The detergents used in dishwashers are fairly toxic if swallowed. The answer to the question of “Is dishwasher detergent toxic?”, the facts need to be analyzed. But in short, yes dishwasher detergent is toxic. Especially for children.

Key Takeaway:

Ingredients Matter: Many dishwasher detergents contain chemicals like phosphates, chlorine, and synthetic fragrances, which can be harmful to human health and the environment.
Health Risks: Exposure to toxic dishwasher detergent ingredients may lead to respiratory issues, skin irritation, and contribute to indoor air pollution. Long-term exposure could pose more severe health risks.
Environmental Impact: Chemicals in dishwasher detergents can harm aquatic life and ecosystems when they are washed away into waterways. Phosphates, in particular, can cause algal blooms and disrupt the balance of aquatic environments.
Safer Alternatives Exist: Opting for eco-friendly and biodegradable dishwasher detergents can significantly reduce the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals. Look for products labeled as phosphate-free, chlorine-free, and with natural fragrances. Homemade dishwasher detergent recipes using simple, non-toxic ingredients are gaining popularity as safer alternatives.

Is Dishwasher Detergent Toxic? Toxic Ingredients and The Potential Damage

Many people keep their dishwasher detergents lying around the house. Even the best dishwasher pods have some level of toxicity.

These are some common toxic ingredients that are found in dishwasher detergents:

  • Phosphates: Phosphate, when it mixes with water and drains down to ponds and rivers is extremely harmful to the environment. They can even mix with drinking water and pollute it.
  • Bleach: Chlorine bleach is a disinfectant that removes stains and kills bacteria. But it has an eerie smell that can cause respiratory problems.
  • Synthetic fragrance: Many detergents use synthetic fragrances to get rid of bad odors from the dishes. This irritates the skin. 
  • SLS: Also known as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate it removes grease from dishes. It can cause eye irritation and coughing.

These ingredients cause great harm to the human body. Here are the potential dangers of dishwasher detergents:

Alkaline Substances

Dishwasher detergents work by dissolving the food particles and then rinsing them off the plates and glassware. The main ingredients that do the dissolving are alkaline substances.

When washing detergent be careful for residue. If this gets into the food then that will cause bad rash and other health hazards.

This is harmful if somebody accidentally consumes them. Many detergents leave white residue on the dishware and cookware. If you serve or prepare food with them, you will be injecting it into your system.

Impact of Toxins

Dishwashers contain sodium carbonate which is highly toxic for the human body. It can irritate the skin and cause poisoning in your body.

It also contains sodium silicate. This is a corrosive material that can dry out your skin and damage it.

Other enzymes in the detergents like amylase or protease are not usually dangerous but will give you a bad stomachache.

Chemical Burns

Chemical burns from dishwasher detergent are very common. Prolonged exposure to the detergent can result in eyesight loss. It also severely damages the skin tissue to the point where you may need therapy to heal.

The risk of chemical burns should not be considered lightly. It is not just bad for the injuries but has long-term consequences as well. More severe health issues can start with simple burns.

Some detergent chemicals can even alter the genes of cell survival and metabolism. The risks are endless.

Environmental Concerns

Overuse of detergents not only harms human life but the environment as well. If the detergent water somehow comes into contact with the sea or a river, it can heavily pollute a big chunk of water.

The phosphate in dishwasher detergents is fed for algae overgrowth. This depletes the oxygen in the water and hurts life in the sea. 

Dishwasher detergent has zero recyclability. So whatever your dishwasher is pumping out stays in the environment. 

Allergies and Sensitivities

Dishwasher detergents are very harmful to people who have sensitivity or allergies to such things. Even the smell of the chemicals can trigger a life-threatening reaction.

People who have existing skin conditions are more susceptible to the irritants in the dishwasher detergents. If you are not careful, it can extensively damage the skin barrier.

It can drain the natural oil from the skin and damage the nerves. It can damage the lungs and cause asthma attacks in certain cases as well. The particles from dishwasher detergents trigger asthma attacks or shortness of breath.

Choosing a Non-Toxic Dishwasher Detergent?

You have to be thoughtful about keeping your dishwasher detergent choices nontoxic. This will not only help keep your family out of harm but also have an environmental impact as well.

Here is how to choose a good nontoxic detergent:

  • Check the Ingredients: You have to understand what the different ingredients in detergents do. Some will be chemically enhanced for a better cleaning performance like phosphates, sulfides, etc. 
  • Look for Certifications: An easy and effective way to identify toxin-free detergents is to look for labels or certifications like “eco-friendly” or “Green”. Double-check the certifications’ credibility just to be sure.
  • Reviews from Other Customers: Word of mouth is the best way to find yourself a detergent or any other product that is not toxic.
  • Brand Image: Detergent brands like VOYA or Blueland have good reputations for being environmentally friendly. This means these detergents will have zero to very minimal amount of toxic ingredients in them. 
  • Research: Take it into your hands to find the best nontoxic detergent. Put in the time to determine the good ones. Researching topics and articles that have credibility to find out which detergents to use.

Natural Solutions: Non-Toxic Detergent Alternatives:

No matter how much brands scream about being eco-friendly, their detergents will always contain at least a bit of toxic materials. 

If you are unsure about which detergents are less harmful you can switch to some natural homemade alternatives.

Here are some clean detergent solutions you can make at home:

Baking Soda and Citric Acid Mixture

You can get a really good cleaning solution from mixing baking soda with citric acid. These have mild properties that are not harmful to the human body.

This will help keep you and your family out of the harm of toxic detergents and be gentle on dishes as a bonus.


Vinegar is a versatile item when it comes to cooking and cleaning. It is naturally acidic meaning it can break down grease and other mineral residue effectively.

Pour a cup or two into the dishwasher and run the cycle with just that. No need to add any other cleaning solutions.

Lime Juice

Lime and lemon juice have natural cleaning properties. It contains citric acid and other stuff that is an organic stain remover.

Just like how lime clears an inflamed stomach it can clean your dishes as well. 

Homemade Detergent

You can also make a homemade solution of a makeshift detergent. There will be a bit more work than just getting one from the shelves but it will be far safer than any detergent out there.

Take one cup each of washing soda and borax and half a cup each of citric acid and kosher salt and add them in a mixing bowl.

Stir the whole thing with a clean wooden stick or spoon and put it in an airtight container.

Every time you wash your dishes in the dishwasher, pour a tablespoon full or two and run the wash cycle. It acts as a natural detergent and your dishware will come out clean.

Are Dishwasher Detergents Toxic? – (FAQs)

Is dishwashing liquid harmful?

Dishwashing liquids also have chemical surfactants which are harmful to the human body. 

What chemicals should I avoid in my dishwasher detergent?

Fragrances that are not on the label, surfactants, phosphate, Polyacrylates, and other formaldehyde-releasing agents.

Is dishwasher detergent alkaline or acidic?

Dishwasher detergents are strong alkaline solutions. None of them have acidic properties.

Similar Posts