Health effects of dish wash liquid by Sarah Seitaridis | Sep 18, 2016

chemicals detergents dishwashing

Health Effects of Dish Wash Liquid

There is a plethora of chemicals lurking in our washing up liquid. They are there to perform a myriad of functions such as; surfactants, foaming agents, fragrance, preservatives, hand softeners and colour.  “There is approximately 8.6 million kilograms of hand dishwashing detergent consumed every year in NZ.” That is a lot of chemicals being flushed down our drains and absorbed through our skin, every single year. And yet so many of us are unaware of the health effects of dish wash liquid that we blindly use every single day. In case you need more convincing to change the way you clean, below is a closer look into just a few of the nasties that can be found in your washing up liquid.

  • “Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS): SLS is a detergent and a surfactant used to break down surface tension allowing the shampoo to become a more effective cleanser. SLS is also linked to Nitrosamines a potent carcinogen that causes your body to absorb nitrates, another known carcinogen. Over 40,000 studies in PubMed science library include information on the toxicity of this chemical.
  • Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES): SLES is a concern as it can become contaminated with Dioxane. Whether or not Dioxane is present is dependent upon the manufacturing process. Dioxane is a suspected carcinogen. Because the liver has a difficult time metabolizing this effectively, it remains in the body for an extended period of time.
  • Propylene Glycol: Although this ingredient is used in anti-freeze for your car radiator, you can also find it in dish soap, moisturizers, hand sanitizers, baby products, conditioners and shampoos. MSDS sheets warn users to avoid skin contact, yet it remains in many cosmetics. It is linked to liver abnormalities and kidney damage.
  • Methylisothiazolinone: According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep site, this widely used preservative is associated with allergic reactions and lab studies on brain cells of mammals suggest that it may also be neurotoxic. Methylisothiazolinone can be very irritating. For this reason, it is mostly used in rinse-off products. The concentrations in leave-on products are restricted to a minimal amount to lessen the risk of a negative reaction.
  • Fragrance: Artificial fragrances can contain hundreds, even thousands of chemicals, including phthalates. Since fragrances are protected as a trade secret, the full ingredients do not have to be listed on the label. Fragrances are a major cause of allergic reactions.
  • Phthalates are manmade chemicals used in a variety of products such as personal care products, food packaging, plastic medical devices, jar lids and plastic tubes. Phthalates can negatively affect estrogen and testosterone levels.
  • Triclosan: Triclosan was introduced to the marketplace in 1972, although it was originally developed and registered as a pesticide in 1969. Triclosan is a commonly found antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal ingredient in numerous products such as soaps, toothpastes, cosmetics, deodorants, first aid products, kitchen ware, clothing, office and school products, air filters, anti-microbial sponges, paints and coolers.

Manufacturers of a number of triclosan-containing toothpaste and soap products claim that the active ingredient continues to work for as long as 12 hours after use. Thus, consumers are exposed to triclosan for much longer than the time it takes to wash their dishes or brush their teeth.”

This list is an excerpt from an article written by Elisha McFarlandis the founder of My Health Maven. It goes on to talk about how dish washing liquid fares in the Environmental Working Group’s rating system for health effects and how to find safe products.


This list only covers some of the chemicals found in dish detergent, there are many more to be found. There are countless blog posts, medical and journal articles available that outline the health effects of dish wash liquid and the environment costs of the continued use of these products. It is time we took a hard look at the products we use on a daily basis in our homes and start to make better, informed decisions that will safeguard our personal health and that of the planet.

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