Everything that touches our food can get inside our bodies, which is a really bad thing! And, that goes for dishes, glasses, and utensils, too. The experts say that we should be very careful, because the commercial dishwasher detergents are made with chemicals to not only clean but soften water, prevent spotting, and add fragrance. Water in the rinse cycle (which may contain added fluoride, another toxic chemical) will take off most of them but some will remain on—or even IN—the items you use for serving, storing, and feeding—especially plastics. And, you’ll be shocked when we tell you that dishwasher (and laundry) detergent pods are especially hazardous: children seem to like to chew on them. Thousands of children have required hospital attention due to accidental ingestion and poisoning. So, many experts consider these as great risk and they highly recommend that you should stay away from them.
Here are some common ingredients you will probably find in your dishwasher detergent. You can decide for yourself if they sound appetizing.
Ammonia – ammonia is the main reason why a bottle of this product has a skull and cross bones on its label! You should be very careful, because a long-term exposure to this volatile, toxic corrosive chemical can cause respiratory and skin ailments. Here’s what you need to know – in the presence of moisture (such as high relative humidity) [or hot water in the dishwasher], the liquefied anhydrous ammonia gas forms vapors that are heavier than air…Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia in air causes immediate burning of the nose, throat and respiratory tract. This can cause bronchiolar and alveolar edema, and airway destruction resulting in respiratory distress or failure. Inhalation of lower concentrations can cause coughing, and nose and throat irritation…ammonia also causes olfactory fatigue or adaptation, reducing awareness of one’s prolonged exposure at low concentrations.
And, you should also know that your children may be exposed to higher concentrations than adults in the same location because of their shorter height and the higher concentrations of ammonia vapor initially found near the ground. Unfortunately, exposure to even low concentrations of ammonia in air or solution may produce rapid skin or eye irritation. And, you’ll be shocked when we tell you that higher concentrations of ammonia may cause severe injury and burns. Contact with concentrated ammonia solutions such as industrial cleaners may cause corrosive injury including skin burns, permanent eye damage or blindness. The full extent of eye injury may not be apparent for up to a week after the exposure. And, one more thing – exposure to high concentrations of ammonia from swallowing usually results in corrosive damage to the mouth, throat and stomach.
Coal Tar Dye – does the name Coal Tar Dye rings any bell? Well, this ingredient is an artificial colorant made either from petroleum or coal distillates. Here’s what you need to know – coal tar is recognized as a human carcinogen and the main concern with individual coal tar colors (whether produced from coal tar or synthetically) is their potential to cause cancer. As well, these colors may be contaminated with low levels of heavy metals and some are combined with aluminum substrate. Aluminum compounds and many heavy metals are toxic to the brain.
Chlorine Bleach – we all know what’s chlorine bleach, right? And you know it’s poison when there’s “yucky face” right on the label. Chlorine bleach was used as the first chemical warfare agent in World War I. Like ammonia, chlorine bleach is chemically unstable and corrosive. Mixing it with other cleaners (remember being told never to mix ammonia and bleach?) increases its instability. The experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that you should be very careful, because when chlorine gas comes into contact with moist tissues such as the eyes, throat, and lungs, an acid is produced that can damage these tissues. Long-term complications may occur after breathing in high concentrations of chlorine. Complications are more likely to be seen in people who develop severe health problems such as fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) following the initial exposure. No antidote exists for chlorine exposure. Treatment consists of removing the chlorine from the body as soon as possible and providing supportive medical care such as inhaled breathing treatments for wheezing in a hospital setting.”
Physical contact with liquid chlorine – if you think you may have been exposed, remove your clothing, rapidly wash your entire body with soap and water, and get medical care as quickly as possible.
Ingestion – you should seek medical attention right away. Consider dialing 911 and explaining what has happened.
MEA, DEA, and TEA – mono-, di-, and/or triethanolamine make the detergent lather. When mixed with other chemicals, they can become carcinogenic.
Formaldehyde – good for preserving dead frogs.
First, you should know that formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen. And, be very careful, because a short-term exposure to formaldehyde can be fatal. Long-term exposure to low levels of formaldehyde may cause respiratory difficulty, eczema, and sensitization.
SLS and SLES – sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates (these 2 ingredients make the detergent foamy). And, unfortunately, these are readily absorbed through the skin and can cause irritation, rash, and allergic reactions. They are also toxic to aquatic life so they go on giving after the detergent drains down to the sewer and eventually into some larger body of water.
Fragrance – well, to be honest with you, this can be virtually anything—there is little or no regulation around household products. We dare you to pronounce any one of them on the first try. If you like a little fragrance in your dish detergent, can you pronounce “lavender”, “lemon”, or “orange” essential oil? We knew you could.
Glycol Ethers – these are the grease-cutters. The experts warn that overexposure to glycol ethers can cause anemia (a shortage of red blood cells), intoxication similar to the effects of alcohol, and irritation of the eyes, nose, or skin. A recent study, conducted on laboratory animals, has discovered that a low-level exposure to certain glycol ethers can cause birth defects and can damage a male’s sperm and testicles. There is some evidence that workplace exposure can reduce human sperm counts. Based on the animal tests and on studies of workers, you should treat certain glycol ethers as hazards to your reproductive health.
Phosphates – the good thing is that many states have banned this substance from commercial products. It’s a radioactive rock that is toxic to marine animals. A recent study has discovered that phosphate apparently damages blood vessels and induces aging processes. Free phosphate (the type found in food additives) is entirely resorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. Persons with renal disease have been found to have a markedly elevated serum phosphate concentration. Phosphate additives are present in many types of fast food, which are eaten mainly by persons of lower socioeconomic status. It seems likely that excessive phosphate consumption is linked to the increased prevalence of cardiovascular diseases in the general population.
Sodium Borate – well, you may also know it by the name borax. Sodium borate is a natural mineral! But, you should also know that it can be an irritant if inhaled or digested. It’s safe when used as a cleaner but may be questionable for washing your dishes, as ingestion can cause burning and gastrointestinal distress. Great for the laundry, though.
This means that you should ditch the commercial dishwasher capsules, and make your own, homemade dishwasher detergent! Here’s a recipe for dishwasher detergent that’s safe enough to eat (though we don’t really recommend that). You just have to follow the simple instructions. Here’s what you need to do:
Borax-free Dishwasher Detergent
You will need the following ingredients:
- 1 cup baking soda
- 1/4 cup citric acid
- 1/4 cup coarse salt
- 10-15 drops lemon essential oil
- Distilled white vinegar
Here’s what you need to do – it’s very simple: thoroughly mix first 3 ingredients in an airtight container, preferably glass. Add essential oil and mix again. How to use it – you should use 1 teaspoon detergent for average loads or 1 tablespoon for extra greasy, dirty loads. Fill the rinse aid compartment of the dishwasher with undiluted white distilled vinegar—works better than the blue stuff and costs less, too. We really hope you find this article helpful and don’t forget to share it with your friends and family. Thank you and have a good one!