detergent

When it comes to washing dishes, what could be wrong with a little soap? The thing is, most conventional dishwashing liquids, soaps and detergents aren’t just soap. They’re filled with toxic chemicals and unspecified substances that are harmful to your health and to the environment. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released 10 low-scoring dish-cleaning products from its database of cleaners. Find out what makes these dishwashing products the worst of the worst.

1. Simple Green Naturals Dish Washing Liquid

This dishwashing liquid is anything but green. And, anything but natural. Simple Green Naturals Dish Washing Liquid contains two F-rated ingredients by the EWG: sodium borate and cocamide dea. Although sodium borate is a naturally-occurring mineral, it poses high concern for developmental, reproductive and endocrine disruption—meaning it messes with our hormones. Cocamide dea is a chemically-modified form of coconut oil used as a foaming agent. It’s also a possible carcinogen. Besides that, this soap also contains fragrance, which is an unspecified ingredient, and several ingredients that are toxic to aquatic life. (Not so great for a product that goes straight down the drain.) Overall, it earned an F from the EWG.

2. Ajax Dish Liquid With Bleach Alternative, Lime

The lime green color of this dish liquid isn’t coming from a lime—or anything natural. This soap derives its look from unspecified “colors”, which likely come from one or more synthetic colors identified by the EWG suspected of causing cancer. However, because the company doesn’t disclose the ingredients that make up its colors, it’s hard to say. Other non-specified ingredients in this dish liquid include that always dubious “fragrance”, or as the label on the dish liquid puts it “fresh fruit scent”, and preservatives. Other than that you’ll also find formaldehyde, methanol and a slew of other chemicals that are bad for your health and for the environment. Overall, this dish liquid earned an F from the EWG.

3. Clorox Commercial Solutions SOS Pot & Pan Detergent

You’d need to have one insanely crusty, burnt pan to want to pour this chemical-filled detergent in your dishwasher. (It still wouldn’t be worth it.) Of the ingredients that the EWG was able to identify (the company had poor ingredient disclosure), this detergent includes only F and C-rated ingredients. The F-rated ingredients include glycol ethers, grease-cutting compounds that can damage developmental and reproductive systems, and diethanolamine, which poses concern for cancer and kidney effects. Overall, this detergent earned an F from the EWG.

4. Palmolive Eco + Gel Dishwasher Detergent, Lemon Splash

Despite its cheery name, this detergent contains toxic chemicals, including chlorine bleach and silicate salts—the label even includes this information under a warning. The product’s label also warns against letting this product come in contact with mouth, eyes and skin. (Yet, somehow it’s safe to use on your dishes?) Overall, this product earned an F from the EWG for its mixture of harmful chemicals.

5. Ajax Triple Action Dish Liquid Hand Soap, Orange

Especially concerning ingredients in this soap include FD&C Red 40, a synthetic color that poses extreme concern for cancer and damage to DNA, as well as dmdm hydantoin, a formaldehyde-releasing preservative. If that wasn’t enough, you’ll also find unknown fragrances, and other chemicals that cause respiratory and skin irritation—not great qualities for a hand soap. Overall, this soap earned an F from the EWG.

6. Cascade Dishwasher Detergent Gel

Although the label on this product does note that the gel contains chlorine bleach, more concerning are the ingredients that aren’t named. Many of the ingredients in this product disclosed by the company are vague terms like stabilizer, buffer, colors, fragrance and water thickening agent. These terms make it difficult to know what exactly is in this product. Overall, this gel earned an F from the EWG.

7. Dawn Ultra Concentrated Liquid Dishwashing Detergent, Hawaiian Pineapple

Want to know how this detergent gets its iconic Hawaiian pineapple scent? Good luck. The only ingredient disclosed in this product is “surfactants”, which in itself is non-specific. Overall, this product earned an F from the EWG.

8. EASY-OFF Professional Liquid Dish Detergent Concentrate

For a product that goes into the dishwasher and straight down the drain, it contains an awful lot of ingredients that aren’t biodegradable or that are downright toxic to the environment. These include cocamide dea, methylisothiazolinone, fragrance, sodium dodecylbenzenesulfonate, dea-dodecylbenzenesulfonate, tetrasodium edta, sodium laureth sulfate and benzisothiazolinone. Overall, this product from EASY-OFF earned an F from the EWG.

9. Cascade Powder Dishwasher Detergent

Loading your dishwasher with this powder detergent means you’ll clean your dishes with chlorine bleach, phosphates, fragrance and other unknown chemicals. From cancer concerns to nervous system effects and ecotoxicity, this detergent has a lot wrong with it. Overall, it earned an F from the EWG.

10. Palmolive Ultra Oxy Plus Odor Eliminator Dish Liquid

This pink-hued soap doesn’t look too natural. You know why? Because it’s not. Made with a variety of chemicals that pose negative health and environmental effects, it’s anything but natural. This dish liquid also contains several non-specific ingredients including colors, preservatives and fragrance. Overall, it earned an F from the EWG.

This is just a sampling of products in the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning database. Visit the database for more information.

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image: adapted from Jeremy Brooks