The wastewater leaving our kitchens can be a severe polluter of our waterways.
Fortunately, you can dramatically reduce the number of toxins in your kitchen wastewater (and on your plates, cups, utensils, etc.) by using eco-friendly dish soap.
This one simple daily switch can make a big difference.
My youngest daughter loves to bake. She is fantastic at it. Her vegan triple choc brownies are A.MA.ZING!
There’s a downside, though, unfortunately...and not just for my waistline.
She is soooooooo messy! She uses every pot, pan, tray, spoon, etc., she can get her hands on!
When I had the idea to write this article, I knew what I would use to test out each product’s cleaning power. The almost daily pile of our sustainable dinnerware, bowls and cake tins left on the kitchen counter!
After much soaking, scrubbing, and rinsing, my youngest and I have compiled a list of the best eco-friendly dish soap currently available in the U.S.
As well as baking mess, I also tested every product in this article across a wide range of everyday kitchen washing tasks.
From big heavy saucepans of caked-on mac and cheese to delicate champagne flutes...and everything in between. Dirty dishes and stubborn baked-on food didn’t stand a chance!
NOTE: This article focuses mainly on dish soaps for hand-washed dishes. However, I’ve also included a section about eco-friendly dishwasher soap. You can find this towards the end of the article.
Ingredients: Purified water (Aqua, eau), Lauryl/myristyl glucoside (Coconut-based cleanser), Cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine (Coconut-based cleanser), Sodium lauroamphoacetate (Coconut-based cleanser), Lauramine oxide (Coconut-based cleanser), Sodium chloride (Natural salt), Vegetable glycerin (Plant-based skin softener), Benzisothiazolinone (Biodegradable preservative), Tetrasodium glutamate diacetate (Plant-based cleanser), Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate (Coconut oil-based cleanser), Natural fragrance, Citric acid (Plant-based pH neutralizer), Sodium citrate (Plant-based water softener), Himalayan pink sea salt, Aloe barbadensis (Aloe vera) leaf juice.
They Say: Puracy Natural Dish Soap is a high foam, fast-rinsing, family safe alternative to the dish soaps made with petroleum-based chemicals or harsh sulfates. Our liquid soap was developed by doctors to be gentle on your skin yet uniquely effective on dishware. The premium ingredients are sourced from plants, minerals, water, and a hint of real green tea and lime. The ultra-concentrated gel requires just a teaspoon to do a sink full of dishes.
We Say: I love to bulk buy. It saves on shipping costs (both financial and environmental), and I never run out of the things I need.
I initially tested the 16oz bottle of Puracy Natural Dish Soap. It passed all tests with flying colors, and now I bulk buy the 64oz refills once a year.
The smell of the product is lovely. Very natural and not too overpowering.
It cleaned everything I threw at it will ease. I was particularly impressed with its grease cutting power and how well it rinses off glassware to leave a squeaky finish.
You only need a small amount of this to wash a sink full of dirty dishes, so this 64oz refill pack will last months.
Refill pouches are one of the best dish soap packaging options.
It saves you money. It also saves over 90% in plastic, water, and energy compared to buying four 16oz bottles. This Puracy refill pouch is recyclable and made of nylon and polypropylene plastic.
Just remember to keep your oldbottle so you can keep topping it up with this refill.
During the testing and selection process, I not only considered how well the soap cleaned the dishes. I also looked at the health and environmental impact of the ingredients used to make the product.
With the help of the Environmental Working Group database, I tried to balance cleaning power with eco-credentials.
I tested A LOT of different dish soaps.
Not just different brands, but also various types (liquid, solid, etc.).
So, for the sake of clarity, I’m going to break it down into the following categories:
Liquid dish soaps might not initially sound like the most eco-friendly option since a large percentage of the product is water. Not to mention the plastic bottles involved.
However, if you choose the right brands with the right packaging, liquid dish soaps can be a sustainable option.
Ingredients: Water, Sodium Coco-Sulfate (plant-derived surfactant), Cocamidopropylamine Oxide (plant-derived surfactant), Lauramine Oxide (plant-derived surfactant), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Coco Betaine (plant-derived surfactant), Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate (plant-derived water softener), Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative), Citric Acid (plant-derived pH adjuster), Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil and Lavandula Hybrida Oil Blend.
They Say: Sparkling clean dishes come from a sparkling clean ingredient list. Tough on grease and food residue, this formula is packed with gentle-yet-powerful plant derived cleaners – like those found in coconuts. With no harsh chemicals to dry out your hands, you can wash worry-free. Made without dyes, 1,4-dioxane, parabens, phosphates and 500+ other nasty ingredients we promise to never use. Sustainably produced in a Climate Positive factory. Made for sensitive skin.
We Say: ECOS is a brand offering a full range of earth-friendly products that aim to give you a superior clean with as few ingredients as possible.
In fact, I've already recommended the ECOS all purpose cleaner in my roundup of the best eco-friendly cleaning products.
This lavender-scented version has one of the shortest lists of ingredients I’ve seen.
However, the ingredients they do use pack a mighty punch!
This product tackled every dishwashing task with ease and rinsed away completely.
This is a readily biodegradable dish soap that is not tested on animals.
All of the dish soaps I tested were gentle on my hands, but this one probably had the edge it the softness stakes.
The Free & Clean version has an even shorter list of ingredients...just eight!
Water, Sodium Coco-Sulfate (plant-derived surfactant), Cocamidopropylamine Oxide (plant-derived surfactant), Lauramine Oxide (plant-derived surfactant), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Coco Betaine (plant-derived surfactant), Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate (plant-derived water softener), Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative), Citric Acid (plant-derived pH adjuster).
Ingredients: Water, Sodium Chloride (Salt), Lauryl Glucoside (sustainable Coconut, Palm Kernel Oil derived), Coco Glucoside (sustainable Coconut, Palm, Palm Kernel Oil derived), Organic Glycerine (Vegetables derived), Citric Acid, Populus Tremuloides (Aspen) Bark Extract.
They Say: Our dish soap liquid is fragrance free and made with organic ingredients. First EWG verified dish soap. It's natural, baby-safe and hypoallergenic, perfect for people with sensitive skin, allergies or who just want an unscented option. It leaves dishes sparkling clean without any toxic residue while being gentle on your hands. The plant and mineral-derived ingredients mean our soap is readily biodegradable, greywater and septic safe, and 100% safe for pets, kids and babies.
We Say: AspenClean is a brand with a long list of eco-credentials...but a short list of chemical ingredients.
This unscented dish soap is tough on grease, long-lasting, and biodegradable.
The bottle is made from 100% recycled plastic.
My one gripe is that there is no bulk refill pouch option to reduce plastic use and save a few bucks.
AspenClean performed best on my stainless steel pans. Bringing them back to a brilliant shine after a timing mishap one chili and taco night produced a fair amount of burnt residue.
As Stephanie pointed out in her eco-friendly shampoo article, shipping water-based shampoo around the world produces more planet-damaging emissions than shipping solid shampoo.
That’s why some people prefer solid bar zero waste dish soaps.
Ingredients: Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (plant derived) Decyl Glucoside (plant derived) Sodium Cocoate (plant derived) Quillaja Saponaria (from the South American soap bark tree - organic) Glycerin (plant derived) Aloe Vera Leaf (organic) Purified Water Sodium Carbonate (mineral derived).
They Say: The DISH BLOCK concentrated dishwashing soap is a cleaning powerhouse with a rich, sudsy lather. Cuts stubborn grime and grease on dishes, pots and pans. With added aloe leaf juice to be gentle on your hands. Free of dyes and fragrance.
We Say: When used with a wooden dish brush, or natural dish sponge, this zero waste dish soap bar produces plenty of natural foam and gets the dishes squeaky clean.
The first few times, I used too much and had to give the dishes an extra rinse. A little goes a long way.
This 5.9oz bar will last you a long time because it’s the equivalent amount of product as approximately three standard bottles of liquid dish soap.
I plastic saving doesn’t end there. This zero waste dish soap comes in plastic-free and recyclable packaging.
Water spots can appear if you let stainless steel items air dry after using this soap bar. Not a significant issue and easily resolved by drying with a tea towel.
Mrs. M has even used it to get grass stains out of some soccer shorts. A truly versatile product!
No Tox Life was founded by Sandee Ferman and her daughter Callie. Everything is handmade by a small team.
Ingredients: Olive oil, water, coconut oil, sodium hydroxide, french green clay, pacific sea salt.
They Say: Bestowed Essentials' knew how hard it was to find alternatives to typical plastic dish soap bottles, and wanted to create a vegan, natural formula that also worked hard to get even the dirtiest dishes clean. This 12oz concentrated solid soap does just that, using the power of french green clay, sea salt, and natural oils to lather and cleanse dishes. Pair with a natural loofah or sisal washcloth for a zero waste clean!
We Say: This is as about as natural and homemade dish soap gets...without actually making it yourself, of course!
This castile soap does not have an EWG rating. However, as you can see from the list of natural ingredients, there are no hidden nasties.
The only time this natural solid dish soap let me down was when cleaning a roasting dish after a particularly fatty joint of pork. It got the dish clean eventually...but it did take two passes.
Although, to be fair, I think most dish soaps would have struggled with the amount of grease on that dish!
Concentrated dish soap could be considered a ‘halfway house’ between liquid soaps and solid soaps.
It dramatically reduces the amount of water being shipped around the world but still offers the convenience of a liquid.
Simply put the concentrate in a bottle of your choice. Add water. Voila...liquid dish soap!
Ingredients: Alcohol ethoxylate (plant-derived grease-cutting agent), polyglucoside (plant-derived cleaning agent), amine oxide (plant-derived cleaning agent), hydroxyethylcellulose (plant-derived viscosity modifier).
They Say: Etee's team of innovators have created a wax based pod that holds our concentrated dish soap so that you can wave goodbye to the plastic bottles in the grocery aisle - see ya later! Each biodegradable pod holds our all-natural, bio-based concentrated dish soap and is made with 100% plant-based ingredients. Free from SLS, Phthalates, Sulphites, Sulphates, Synthetics, Colourants and Fragrance. Packaged in our one of a kind, backyard compostable Beepods!
This is not favoritism, though, far from it. This liquid dish soap concentrate more than deserves to be part of the list.
Simply open a pod and squeeze the concentrate into a bottle of your choice (this is very satisfying to do...or is that just me being weird?) and add 375 ml (12.7 oz) of water. Give it a thorough mix/shake, and you’re good to go.
The liquid dish soap it produces is a great allrounder. There was nothing it couldn’t get clean during testing.
The pods are made from unprocessed waxes, oils, tree resins, and soy-based inks. They’re fully compostable at home.
Etee is pretty much as ethical as a company gets.
They power their factory with 100% renewable energy and contribute to numerous community projects.
They estimate that since 2017 their plastic-free products have helped keep over 100,000,000 single-use plastic items out of landfills.
Ingredients: Sodium Citrate, Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Sulfate, Sodium Percarbonate, Sodium Silicate, Decyl Glucoside (sustainable Coconut, Palm Kernel Oil derived), Water, Carboxymethyl Inulin (Chicory Root derived), Subtilisin (Enzyme), Sodium Chloride (Salt), Alpha Amylase (Enzyme), Polyvinyl Alcohol.
They Say: Our Dishwasher Detergent Pods are natural and unscented. First EWG verified dishwasher detergent. They will leave behind no dried-on foods or stains, only a powerful, natural shine thanks to chicory root. This auto dish detergent will leave your dishes sparkling clean due to oxygen bleach and enzymes It is 100% free of synthetic fragrances, dyes, chlorine and phosphates for your health, as well as fully biodegradable and septic-safe for our environment.
We Say: AspenClean make it onto the list twice...and with good reason!
Most dishwasher detergents have extra chemicals to replace the scrubbing action of hand washing.
However, this dishwasher soap from AspenClean is one of the few I’ve seen that has almost the same list of ingredients as liquid dish soap.
Cleaning power certainly has not been compromised by this minimal approach to the ingredients list.
During my tests, these dishwasher pods performed incredibly well. Tackling burnt cake batter, greasy lined tins, and delicate glass bowls.
It also did a great job cleaning the milky residue left in our little niece’s baby bottles when she and her mum had a sleepover recently.
It might be hard to believe, but using a dishwasher is usually more eco-friendly than washing dishes by hand.
This is mainly down to the water usage.
Washing dishes in the sink can use up to 27 gallons of water per load.
It’s not just the water usage, though. You also need to consider energy usage and chemical waste:
This varies from person to person depending on individual allergies, etc. However, some ingredients to try and avoid are:
Dish soap and laundry detergent share many of the same hidden harmful chemicals. You can read more about them here.
Dawn dish soaps get C and D ratings from the EWG, so I would not class them as eco-friendly.
While it’s true that eco-friendly dish soaps don’t contain the powerful (but potentially toxic) germ-killing chemicals (formaldehyde, for example) found in standard dish soap, they’re still more than a match for germs if you use them properly.
Palmolive dish soaps get D and F ratings from the EWG, so I would not class them as environmentally safe.
So...I did it...I managed to (almost) get through an entire dish soap article without moaning about the insane haphazard way Mrs. M loads the dishwasher!
Whether you decide to wash your dishes by hand or use a dishwasher, you should use a soap that doesn’t harm your health or the planet’s health.
The best two ways to do that is:
What eco-friendly dish soaps do you use? Have I missed your favorite brand off the list? Do you handwash or use the dishwasher? Got a natural dish soap recipe you’d like to share with the group? Drop me a line and let me know.