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One of the things someone had requested, was a dish-washing detergent cheat sheet.   I get a lot of questions on dish-washing detergents, so I figured I’d put together a quick list of some of the green(er) detergents out there.

Ingredients to avoid:

Phosphates: Phosphates are all sorts of bad and are completely unnecessary in your detergents.  Phosphates act as a water softener, in order to make your detergent “work better.”  They leak into the ground and water system, and wreak havoc on our eco-system.  Once in the water system, it causes algae blooms, which rob water of oxygen.  This is just a smidge important for our aquatic life.  (fish need oxygen too!)

Chlorine: Chlorine is one of those cleaners that people swear by.  Your house is just not “clean” unless you douse it with a healthy dose of bleach.  Need your baby’s toys or bottles sanitized?  Just add a little bleach to the water.   Again, entirely unnecessary.  Bleach is caustic.  The fumes alone are enough to make you sick.

Artifical perfumes (phthalates): By now, it’s known that phthalates are just plain bad for you.   Those fresh morning daisies you’re smelling in your dishwashing detergent, most likely contain phthalates.   And are most likely leaving that residue on your glasses.  Ew.

Good Alternatives:

Please keep in mind that this is not a complete list.

Without further adieu:

AUTOMAGIC_1024x1024 Better Life Automatic MagicAutomatic Magic is an ultra concentrated gel designed for use in automatic dishwashers – and it’s scent free.  Ahhh.

EcoStore Auto Dish Powder: I’ve heard of this around the Internet and our buddy Sommer from Green and Clean Mom raves about EcoStore’s products.  Lo and behold, they carry a powder dish detergent for a relatively affordable price considering how much you get (Huge container for $12).

Seventh Generation: This is probably one of the more popular eco-friendly dishwashing detergents on the market.  It’s available at most grocery stores, as well as Target.   Truthfully, I was not a fan of it, BUT, I only used the powder, so the gel may be a different story entirely. Kathy has used the gel version with much success – she’s a fan! Please note that some Seventh Generation products use SLS and this might be one of them. If you avoid it, skip this one.

Biokleen Automatic Dish Powder: I haven’t tried biokleen’s dishwashing detergent, but I have used some of their other stuff and am a big fan.  Their bac-out works wonders. So this might be worth checking out.  I’ve always found their stuff to be affordable too.

Citradish: I have to admit, I’ve been curious about Citradish for awhile now.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I love the smell and the cleaning power of orange.   This one is next to try on my list, as I feel better about it being a gel, versus a powder.

Dapple: We’ve actually done a review of the Dapple dish soap, and it worked pretty well.   This detergent was made specifically for baby bottles and dishes.  I haven’t had a chance to try the detergent, but given that my daughter gets bottles, and given how much I hate washing them by hand (which I still do, anyway, because they just don’t seem as clean otherwise, see above re: caked on food), it makes me feel better that there are moms out there who get the same icky thoughts about putting their baby’s bottles in the dishwasher with a harsh chemical detergent.

Ecover: I have to say, out of all of the eco-friendly dishwashing detergents out there, this one worked the best.  Especially being a powder.   If you couldn’t tell, I tend to not be a powder fan.  I hate the powder residue.  But these handy little tablets actually worked rather well, and didn’t leave much in the way of residue.  The downside?  Is the cost.   I also had a hard time finding them, and that whole new baby thing has left me a tad bit forgetful in remembering to order some.   Given the amount of dishes we go through on a regular basis, running out of detergent is just not an option.   But this has no bearing on the performance.  I love Ecover products!

Method Smarty Dish: If there’s one thing that Method has down, it’s a knack for packaging.  They try to make their packaging appealing and cute.  And I’ll admit that it gets me.   Those sleek curved edges.   But I have not tried their smarty dish.  I’ve heard good things, but I just have a hard time justifying the cost of only 20 tablets.  That’s like a week in my house.  Also the fact that it’s a powder makes me leery.   I’d like to say you can teach an old dog new tricks, but not for a mere 20 tablets.

Nellie’s Dishwasher Nuggets: Again.  I haven’t tried these, but they popped up in my quest for a safer detergent.  I passed on them, because of the powder/ small amount they give you combo.   If you only do a few loads a week, maybe this is the detergent for you.

Mrs. Meyers: Mrs. Meyers is another popular “eco-friendly” brand out there.   I’ve always loved their products, and the majority of them have worked well.  I have not tried this, however, so I make no claims.  I will say that if you’re familiar with the brand, you know their a bit on the pungent side.  So if you’re olfactory can’t handle strong smells, you’re probably best to steer clear of Mrs. Meyers. (Note: This is the only Mrs Meyers product we recommend. The other products they carry do not pass our requirements)

Allen’s Naturally: Allen’s has a pretty popular following of their laundry detergent in the cloth diaper world.   I know it works rather well.  I would be surprised if the dishwasher detergent did not do the same.  I have not tried this…  In fact, I didn’t even know they made dishwasher detergent.  I may have to check this out.

SafeMama Reader Mention: Someone had made mention of Trader Joe’s making a dishwasher detergent, however, I went searching for this at my local store and all I saw was dish soap.  So I’m not sure if I maybe misunderstood, or maybe my local TJ’s didn’t carry it?   If it’s out there, I’d love to try it out.

Alternatively, I did find a recipe for making your own, online, and the recipe is as follows:

  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup liquid castile soap (scented is fine)
  • 1 lemon
Instructions Here: Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Without Borax

I’m ALL about the vinegar and baking soda.  We use TONS of it in our house, and I did try my hand at a couple of methods (not this one) in my dishwasher, and was unsuccessful.  I would love to hear if anyone has used this recipe or something similar with success, because I would switch in a heartbeat if I knew it would work.

Now it’s your turn SafeMama readers.   Is there anything here that we haven’t mentioned that has worked for you?

Posted by: Statia on January 28, 2010


16 Responses to “SafeMama Cheat Sheet: Dishwashing Detergents”

  1. shelley mcdowell on January 28th, 2010 2:57 pm

    You ladies are awesome. I just want you to know that your efforts to make a greener world and safer environment for our children is genuinely appreciated. I honestly don’t know how you do it. I am a full time stay at home mom of a very active two year old and work part-time usually with little by my side and I’m amazed I’m able to complete the smallest tasks. All that being said, be encouraaged. This website is very informative and provides a humanitarian service. Keep up the good work.

  2. Kathy on January 28th, 2010 3:01 pm

    Thanks Shelley! It’s definitely nice to hear… thank you for reading!

  3. Alicia [The Soft Landing] on January 28th, 2010 3:27 pm

    What a fantastic list of safer dishwashing detergents! I L.O.V.E. your cheat sheets – keep them coming!

  4. Somewhere in the Midwest on January 28th, 2010 3:40 pm

    Hi there!

    We just started making our own dishwasher detergent and since citric acid seemed to be expensive (at least where we found it); we are doing this:

    – 1 part washing soda (The site I found this recipe on called washing soda baking soda’s big bad cousin or something like that. I found it at our local health food store, but I hear it is available at grocery and hardware stores too.)

    – 1 part borax

    – White vinegar in the dishwasher’s rinse aid compartment.

    Not knowing how it would work, I mixed 1/2 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup borax. We’ve used 1 Tbs. for each load of dishes, and for the past three loads, we’ve been thoroughly impressed! This homemade mixture is not only cheaper than the chemical-free detergents we had tried, but it works *much* better!

    P.S. Thanks for your work on this blog, I read it daily and recommend it to folks regularly!

  5. Diana on January 28th, 2010 4:28 pm

    I love love LOVE the Dapple dish soap, but the Dapple dish detergent just didn’t work for us. Too much powder residue.

  6. melissa on January 28th, 2010 4:39 pm

    have you been secretly listening in on my kitchen? this is the single most talked about “frustration” in my house. my husband hates the eco-friendly detergents (i cook, he cleans) because he doesn’t think they do a good job. we’ve been using 7th gen and while i love everything else they do i’m not totally satisfied with it. we weren’t happy w/ ecover either, but i dont think we used the tabs.

    we use vinegar to clean but i didn’t know you could make your own detergent. maybe i’ll try this next.

    thanks for this list! it’ll be interesting to see other reader reviews.

  7. gerti on January 28th, 2010 5:09 pm

    Hello, thanks for your list! I have tried the Seventh Generation powder and really tried to like it but ended up hating it. It nearly ruined my one year old dishwasher. It ruined my friend´s moms dishwasher though! I really like the Ecover tablets. I also think the price is reasonable for a green product. Unfortunately they are never cheap. I use vinegar as a rinse agent and it works just fine. I have tried baking soda by itself as a detergent and well, it was ok but nothing I wanted to stick with so I went back to Ecover.I think I´ll have to try the Citradish one next…

  8. Statia on January 28th, 2010 6:11 pm

    @ Alicia: Likewise, girlie. :)

  9. SaraR on January 28th, 2010 6:12 pm

    I’ve use TJ’s dishwasher detergent pretty regularly. It’s powder and it seems to work just fine. The only other natural brand I’ve used is Seventh Generation so I don’t have much to compare it to but I never had any problems getting dishes clean. Come to think of it it might work better than the SG liquid detergent that I have right now but is pretty comparable to the SG powder. I especially like TJ’s b/c it’s so cheap.

  10. Summer on January 28th, 2010 7:29 pm

    I actually really like the 7th Generation Dishwashing Tablets. I find that they work better than the Ecover tablets.

    When I used to use the Ecover tablets, I found they worked better with a squirt of 7th Gen dishwashing gel in the secondary compartment. But it was a bummer spending money on both.

  11. Amy on January 28th, 2010 7:50 pm

    I am with you safe mama – I am just not that impressed with any kind of powder detergents. I tried the seventh generation powder and got lots of yucky residue in a new dishwasher. I also tried the packets – but had a hard time justifying the cost. I have been using the 7th gen gel and works pretty well as well as being easy to find. Think I might try my hand at “homemade” detergent though – sounds easy and cost effective.

  12. Laura on January 28th, 2010 10:39 pm

    Trader Joes DOES have a dishwashing powder that we use. It works well, and surprisingly, it gets the nasty caked on food off even the dirtiest dishes (and I have 3 kids under 5!) I’d be interested to hear how the ingredients stack up because we’ve been very pleased with its performance!

  13. rebecca on January 29th, 2010 5:12 pm

    We’ve been using the Shaklee dishwasher detergent for over a year and love it! I have several friends that use it too and they seem pleased. It is concentrate, so you only have to use a little bit and it is very safe.

  14. Tiffany@MommyGoesGreen on January 29th, 2010 5:55 pm

    Thank you for providing some new products to try! I’ve used the Trader Joe’s powder detergent. It’s economically priced but admittedly does not work as well as conventional cleaners. Frankly, we haven’t found an eco-friendly DW detergent that works as well as conventional but alas, we just stick with eco-friendly and scrub extra hard…..someone will get it rigt!

  15. Lisa on January 30th, 2010 3:44 am

    I hated 7Gen as well…didn’t work at all. I’ve been using Costco’s environmentally friendly powder dishwash soap as well as their liquid laundry detergent and love them both. I was getting some build up recently in my dishwasher and on my glasses, but I just did a cycle with vinegar and I’m good as new.

    And THANKS ladies, for all your hard work. I am a new mom of two as well (almost 4 and 9mths) and it really has thrown me for a loop. We are done FOR SURE here with 2.

  16. Laura on January 30th, 2010 3:45 am

    I don’t like 7th Generation gel. Over time my glasses and silverware get cloudy. I recently bought Method tablets to try..I was skeptical. I think I’ve done two loads and have been really impressed. So far they seem to work as well the tablets I’ve always gone back to when I get tired of the greener stuff not cleaning my dishes. I hope I’ll still be thinking highly of the Method tablets in a few weeks.