Fortunately, the availability of commercial liquid dishwashing products with less toxic ingredients is increasing. The challenge for the consumer is that it can be difficult to determine which liquid dishwashing formulations are the least harmful because manufacturers are not required to list all of the ingredients. Only household cleaners that are active disinfectants or known to be potentially hazardous are required to carry a warning label.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a Household Products Database that links over 10,000 brands of products to the health effects listed in the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) which are provided by the manufacturers. Here you can find the ingredients for many consumer products and their health effects. Note that these health effects are immediate health effects, not effects that may occur with long-term use. What you also won’t necessarily find is the environmental impact of these chemicals.
Method and Seventh Generation are two of the companies recognized as a SDSI “champion,” the highest level of recognition within the program, for committing to develop and sell exclusively products containing surfactants that have been proven to be safe for people and the environment. SDSI (Safer Detergents Stewardship Initiative) is an U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Partnership Program. (How many acronyms can you find on this page?) If you’d like to read more about this program, you can go SDSI Champions.
Since most animal testing occurs at the ingredient level, a company may claim that its product (its finished product), is “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals” while ingredients used in the product may have actually been tested on animals. Also, if a company hires another company to do testing on its product, which may include animal testing, it can still claim “we do not test on animals.”
Method, Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyers are all Leaping Bunny certified. The Leaping Bunny certification is your assurance that a company is cruelty-free.
For more detailed information on this and other types of greenwashing, refer to this Greenwashing article.
Manual Dishwashing Liquid
Method Dish Soaps are made from
a natural, biodegradable formula that’s never
been tested on animals and they're in
recyclable bottles made from recycled material.
Method Dish Soap Pump * – available in these scents: Clementine, Fresh Currant, Limited Edition/Lemon Mint, Cucumber, Ginger Yuzu, Sea Minerals and Basil.
Method Dish Soap Refill, 36 fl oz *
Seventh Generation dish liquids
are non-toxic, plant derived cleaners that are free
of dyes and synthetic fragrances. What does
“biodegradable formula” mean to Seventh
Generation? The following answer was given in a FAQ
on their website: “Technically speaking, this
means the formula and each of its carbon containing
ingredients will rapidly decompose into simple,
non-toxic substances in 28 days or less.”
Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid * – comes in Free and Clear, Lavender Floral and Mint, Lemongrass and Clementine Zest
All of Mrs. Meyer's liquid
products are biodegradable. Their products do not
contain ammonia, chlorine, glycol solvents,
parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, artificial
colorants, phosphates or petroleum distillates.
Their packaging is recyclable and uses 25% post
consumer plastic in their bottles. They do not test
their products on animals, nor are their products
made with animal-derived ingredients.
Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap * comes in geranium, basil, lavender, lemon verbena, rosemary, and honeysuckle scents.
Automatic Dishwashing Detergents
The same comments as in the first 2 paragraphs above for manual dishwashing liquids apply for automatic dishwashing detergents as well. However, automatic dishwashing detergents often have added chlorine bleaches and phosphates.
A number of states now have laws that prohibit the distribution and sale of automatic dishwashing detergents that contain more than 0.5% phosphorous. That’s good for the environment, but many people claim that automatic dishwashing detergents with low phosphates don’t get the dishes clean.
We think some companies have made good progress in that area within the last couple of years and there are now more eco friendly, low-phosphate automatic dishwashing detergents that do a better job cleaning dishes.
Our top Automatic Dishwashing Detergent Picks
Method Smarty Dish Detergent cleans dirty dishes
without resorting to dirty chemicals like
phosphates and bleach.
Method Smarty Dish Dishwasher Detergent Tabs * – Pink Grapefruit or Free of Dyes & Perfume
Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Automatic Dishwashing Packs * – available in geranium, basil, lavender, and lemon verbena.
Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwasing Gel, Free & Clear * – non-toxic formula without the use of phosphates or chlorine.