9 Best Eco-Friendly Dish Soaps (Natural, No Harsh Chemicals)

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James Miller
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James is an environmentalist, sustainability expert and senior editor at TheRoundup, specializing in testing non-toxic, organic and eco-friendly products. James, his wife and two daughters believe in chemical-free and zero-waste living. They aim to leave the planet in a better state than we found it, for future generations to enjoy.
James Miller
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Updated: March 19, 2024

Did you know that because of the harsh chemicals in some dish soaps, 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 the best eco-friendly dish soaps.

In the past, plastic-free soaps without chemicals have not performed too well.

But in 2024, using sustainable dishwashing soap doesn't mean you need to compromise on cleaning quality.

I've tested the leading brands with the help of the world's messiest baker (my youngest daughter), and those dirty dishes and stubborn baked-on food didn’t stand a chance...

Best Biodegradable Liquid Dish Soaps

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, it is possible to get a sustainable and environmentally friendly dishwashing liquid.

Ingredients: Alcohol ethoxylate (plant-derived grease-cutting agent), polyglucoside (plant-derived cleaning agent), amine oxide (plant-derived cleaning agent), hydroxyethylcellulose (plant-derived viscosity modifier).

We Say: Etee is a favorite brand of mine, and this liquid dish soap concentrate more than deserves its place as my overall winner!

To use it, you simply open a pod and squeeze the concentrate into a glass jar or 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 or shake, and you’re ready.

The liquid dish soap does produce suds and foam, although perhaps not as much as some brands I’ve used in the past. So there was a short transitional period while I figured out how much to use.

However, I soon got the hang of it, and then 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 as ethical as a company can get.

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.

Pros & Cons

Highly Effective Cleaning Power
Fully Biodegradable
100% Plant-Based Ingredients
No SLS, Phthalates, or Sulfates
Subscribe & Save Option
Slight learning curve to figure out how much to use

Verified Customer Reviews

  • It’s perfect

    Easy to use. It works as any other dishwasher but without the nasty stuff. All good.

    Brenda Tapia
    ★★★★★

  • Love it!

    Love this product! Easy to use and very little waste.

    Jennifer Schollmeyer
    ★★★★★

  • Excellent

    works well, I love the fact of no plastic in packing and, after rinsing it the beeswax can go into the compost

    Leslie Zondervan-droz
    ★★★★★

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.

We Say: This unscented dish soap is tough on grease, long-lasting, and biodegradable.

My one gripe is that there is no bulk refill pouch option to reduce plastic use and save a few bucks.

This dish soap 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.

AspenClean is a brand with a long list of eco-credentials...but a short list of chemical ingredients.

The bottle is made from 100% recycled plastic, and the Leaping Bunny certification gives you peace of mind that this detergent is vegan and has not been tested on animals.

Pros & Cons

Organic Ingredients
EWG Verified
Hypoallergenic
Safe for Kids, Babies, and Pets
No Toxic Residue
No Refill Pouch Option

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.

We Say: I initially tested the 16oz bottle of Puracy dish liquid. 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 and not too overpowering.

Although it didn't suds up too much, 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.

I love to bulk buy. It saves on shipping costs (both financial and environmental), and I never run out of the things I need.

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 old dish soap bottle so you can keep topping it up with this refill.

Pros & Cons

EWG A Rating
Gentle on Skin
Plant-Based Ingredients
Some Users Have Difficulty Opening the Packaging
Limited Suds

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.

We Say: This lavender-scented dish soap has one of the shortest lists of ingredients I’ve seen.

However, the ingredients they do a pretty thorough job!

It does feel quite thin compared to other brands though, and may lack the cleaning punch on very tough burnt-on grease. But for most regular dishes, it worked fine for us 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 in the softness stakes.

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.

The Free & Clean version of this product has an even shorter list of ingredients...just eight!

Pros & Cons

EWG A Rating
Plant-Based Ingredients
No Dyes, 1,4-Dioxane, Parabens, or Phosphates
Climate Positive Factory
Good for Sensitive Skin
Not as Effective as Others on Tough Grease
Limited Suds

Ingredients: Water (aqua), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Lauryl/Myristyl Glucoside, Ethanol, Sodium Chloride, Glycerin, Sodium Citrate, Citric Acid, Fragrance

We Say: I was initially hesitant about including this liquid dish soap from Ecover because I couldn’t see it listed in the EWG database.

However, after further research, I’m happy that this naturally derived product is eco-friendly and non-toxic enough to make the cut.

It’s also incredible value for money and an excellent choice for anyone looking for a powerful, non-toxic dishwashing solution that won’t leave behind any unwanted residues or fragrances.

During testing, the biodegradable plant-based formula cut through grease and grime, leaving my pots, pans, and dinnerware spotless and sparkling clean.

The bottle is a mix of recycled plastic and PlantPlastic making them an excellent choice for anyone who cares about the environment and clean dishes.

So if you’re looking for a top-quality sustainable dishwashing liquid that won’t harm your skin or the planet, this could be the one for you.

Pros & Cons

Plant-Based and Mineral Ingredients
Gentle on Skin
Powerful Clean
Fragrance-Free
Not EWG rated

Best Solid Dish Soaps

Some people prefer solid bar zero waste dish soaps to liquid soaps because they generally have less packaging and require fewer carbon emissions to transport.

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).

We Say: When used with a wooden dish brush, or natural dish sponge, this eco-friendly 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 biodegradable 5.9oz bar will last you as long as three standard bottles of liquid dish soap.

The plastic saving doesn’t end there. This natural 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, but this is not a significant issue and easily resolved by drying them 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.

Pros & Cons

EWG Rating A
Vegan
Aloe Leaf Juice is very Gentle on Hands
No Dyes or Fragrance
Also Works on Carpet and Fabric Stains
Leaves a Light Film on Stainless Steel (removed by Towel Drying)

Ingredients: Olive oil, water, coconut oil, sodium hydroxide, french green clay, pacific sea salt.

We Say: A bar of this Castille Soap lasts about as long as one bottle of regular eco dish soap. It is slightly more expensive, but you can save 10% if you subscribe and get regular deliveries so you never run out.

The cleaning power was pretty good. 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!

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.

Pros & Cons

Vegan
Organic
100% Natural Formula
Not EWG Rated
Quite Expensive

Best Dishwasher Detergents

Ingredients: Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Gluconate, Sodium Polyacrylate, Fatty Alcohol Alkoxylate, Sodium Carbonate Peroxide, Tetra Acetyl Ethylene Diamine, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Sulphate, Sodium Metasilicate.

We Say: I also love the concentrated powdered nature of this product (a little really does go a long way!). One teaspoon of this eco miracle is enough for a full load.

This concentrated powder has the edge over pods and tablets because you can easily reduce the dosage as required. For example, if your load is only lightly soiled or you’re running half a load of delicate items on the eco setting.

I’ve been using this detergent for several months and have been blown away by the results. It cleans just as well as conventional detergents but without leaving any unnecessary chemicals or other unwanted additives behind.

Etee makes it onto the list twice...and with good reason…they’re awesome!

If you’re looking for a non-toxic liquid dishwashing detergent that works, look no further than Etee.

The formula is free from harsh chemicals, toxic additives, and plastic, so it's completely safe for septic systems and waterways.

Pros & Cons

Biodegradable Packaging
No Palm Oil, Parabens, or Harsh Chemicals
No Animal Testing
May Leave Slight Foggy Residue in Hard Water Areas

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.

We Say: Cleaning power certainly has not been compromised by the 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 nephew’s baby bottles when he and his mum had a sleepover recently.

AspenClean also makes it onto the list twice...also with good reason!

Most dishwasher detergent brands use extra chemicals to replace the scrubbing action of hand washing.

However, this dishwasher soap from AspenClean is one of the few I’ve seen with almost the same formula as liquid dish soap.

With plastic-free, recyclable and biodegradable packaging, you have everything you need for sparkling clean dishes without harming the environment.

Pros & Cons

EWG Verified
5* Customer Rated
Natural and Unscented
Fully Biodegradable
Free from Dyes, Chlorine and Phosphates
More Expensive

How to Choose an Eco-Friendly Dish Soap or Dishwashing Liquid

When choosing the eco-friendly dish soaps to recommend, we considered the following criteria.

Incorporating these factors will help you choose a sustainable dish detergent that is effective, safe for your family, and kind to the environment.

Ingredients

Opt for soaps with natural, plant-based ingredients and avoid those with phosphates, sulfates, and parabens.

Biodegradability

Choose soaps that are labeled as fully biodegradable, this means they won't contribute to the buildup of harmful chemicals in waterways.

Packaging

Only consider products that ship in recycled, recyclable, or refillable packaging to minimize waste.

Certifications

Look for certifications like EcoCert, USDA Organic, or Leaping Bunny, indicating adherence to environmental and ethical standards.

EWG Rating

Aim for products that are EWG Verified or that have an "A" rating, indicating the lowest concern for health and environmental impact, to ensure the soap is safe and eco-friendly.

Company Practices

Support brands committed to sustainable practices, such as using renewable energy and participating in conservation efforts.

Fragrance

Select soaps with natural essential oils for fragrance, or choose fragrance-free options to avoid synthetic smells.

Concentration

Concentrated formulas mean less volume is transported, reducing carbon footprint and packaging waste.

Handwash Soap vs Dish Detergent: Which is Better for the Planet?

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.

Using an ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher can bring that down to just three gallons of water per load. A potential saving of around 5,000 gallons of water per year.

It’s not just the water usage, though. You also need to consider energy usage and chemical waste:

  • Modern dishwashers are very energy efficient and use only a tiny amount of electricity per load.
  • Using eco-friendly dishwasher detergents will reduce the chemicals in your dishwasher wastewater dramatically.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Ingredients Should I Avoid in a Dish Soap?

This varies from person to person depending on individual allergies, etc. However, some ingredients to try and avoid are:

  • Artificial colors
  • Synthetic fragrances
  • Preservatives
  • Animal ingredients
  • Petroleum
  • Phosphates
  • Parabens
  • Ethoxylates and Sulfates (SLS/SLES)
  • Carcinogenic ingredients

Dish soap and laundry detergent share many of the same hidden harmful chemicals.

Is Dawn Dish Soap Bad for the Environment?

Yes, Dawn dish soaps get C and D ratings from the EWG, so I would not class them as eco-friendly.

You can read more about Dawn's environmental impact here.

Do Sustainable Dish Soap Brands Sanitize Dishes?

While it’s true that eco-friendly 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.

  • Dishwasher: Select the program with the highest temperature If you’re worried about germs. Some dishwashers will even have a hygiene setting for extra germ-killing heat.
  • Handwashing: Ensure that the water is hot enough to kill germs and that the dishes come into contact with the hot water for more than just a few seconds. Natural rubber gloves will enable you to use water hot enough to help the soap kill the germs.

Is Palmolive Dish Soap Environmentally Safe?

No, Palmolive dish soaps get D and F ratings from the EWG, so I would not class them as environmentally safe.

The Final Word

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 environment.

The best two ways to do that is:

  1. Use a product recommended in this article.
  2. Use a product rated either ‘VERIFIED’ or ‘A’ by the EWG.

If you prefer to hand-wash, then the Etee Liquid Dish Soap Concentrate is an excellent choice.

For those who prefer to use the dishwasher, either Etee or the AspenClean Natural Dishwasher Pods both have all the eco features you need.

Either way, ditching your regular brand in favor of an eco-friendly dish soap is a simple swap that will make a big difference.

Get In Touch

What eco-friendly soap do you use? Have I missed your favorite brand off the list? Do you handwash or use the dishwasher? Got a DIY dish soap recipe you’d like to share with the group? Drop me a line and let me know.

James Miller
James Miller
James is an environmentalist, sustainability expert and senior editor at TheRoundup, specializing in testing non-toxic, organic and eco-friendly products. James, his wife and two daughters believe in chemical-free and zero-waste living. They aim to leave the planet in a better state than we found it, for future generations to enjoy.

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