Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dastardly Dishwasher Detergent and Why You Shouldn't Make Your Own!

Growing or buying organic foods is a great start to a healthier toxin-free life. But how often do we think about those chemicals that absorb through the skin, or vapors that we inhale, from products we use on a daily basis?

I love flowery or tropical fragrances and could spend days at Macy's sniffing the bottles of not-going-to-happen-on-my-budget perfumes. My favorite fabric softener is a lavender/vanilla scent that smells like summer in a bottle. And I remember buying laundry soap, not for it's ability to remove stains, but for it's ability to make me feel like I wasn't doing laundry at all! (I've since switched to a natural perfume, white vinegar for the rinse cycle, and homemade laundry soap with a little added essential oil.)

"Petroleum, toluene, ethanol, acetone, formaldehyde, benzene, and methylene chloride are all in fragrances and are known to cause cancer, birth defects, infertility, and nervous system damage. Even fabric softener contains chloroform..." (The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading) Remember high school biology? I can still remember how the classroom smelled on frog dissection day. It smelled bad because we were inhaling toxic fumes!

I personally believe that many illness and disorders are preventable. Before the "discovery" of most of our modern day conveniences, people did not die from the diseases that are so prevalent today. They died in war. They died in childbirth. They died in accidents. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that small pox was caused by microwaves. I'm not talking about viruses or bacterial infections.

I'm talking about illnesses caused from chemical exposure .

There are modern conveniences that I am not willing to give up. The coffee pot, hot water heater, washing machine, and hair dryer to name a few that I would find it hard to live without.

Then there is the dishwasher. As a mom of many, the dishwasher is the appliance that I love the most. I can handle my children smelling like the Beagle and dirt. I can tolerate reading by candlelight. What I cannot, no, what I refuse to give up is the dishwasher. Even if it meant that I had to use pedal power to make it run! (Great, my Mister will be all over this one.)

If you know me, you know that's love.

For every pro though, there is usually some con lurking about. I thought pro's and con's naturally had to go together.

But do they really?

Here are the ingredients in a popular dishwashing detergent.

Aqua~good old water
Sodium Laureth Sulfate~can cause skin and permanent eye damage, is toxic to the liver and since it cannot be metabolized by the liver, it stays in the body tissues for a longer period of time.
Sodium Choloride~salt
Cocamide DEA~used as a thickener; known to cause cancer in laboratory animals
Triclosan~may cause cancer in humans, endocrine disruptor; when mixed with tap water, creates chloroform or other chlorine byproducts. 
Aloe Barbadensis~aloe; can cause contact dermatitis on sensitive skin
Cocamidopropyl Betaine~a synthetic surfactant; associated with irritation and allergic contact dermatitis.
Glycerin~low toxicity, a simple compound used in many applications
Parfum~most fragrances contain petroleum; can also contain acetone, formaldehyde and benzene among others. (Found in the Ultimate Guide to Homesteading)
Citric Acid~a weak organic acid found in citrus fruits; helps to cut grease; can also cause skin irritation.
Benzoic Acid~may cause irritation to the respiratory tract (nose & throat)
Benzyl Alcohol~Warning labels states: Harmful if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. Causes irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. Affects central nervous system. Combustible liquid and vapor.
Benzyl Salicylate~has been associated with allergies and contact dermatitis
Butylphenyl Methylpropional~Synthetic fragrance. A skin irritant, its use is restricted in both leave-on and wash-off products because of its powerful sensitisation potential. In animals, skin applications at high concentrations caused sperm damage and CNS effects such as drowsiness and breathing difficulties.
Methyparaben~Parabens mimic estrogen and can act as potential hormone (endocrine) system disruptors; has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, and allergies.
Methylchloroisothiazolinone~used preservative; has been associated with allergic reactions; linked to cancer.
Methylisothiazolinone~has been associated with allergic reactions. Lab studies on the brain cells of mammals also suggest that methylisothiazolinone may be neurotoxic.
Magnesium Chloride~a natural mineral
Magnesium Nitrate~may cause irritation and burns to the respiratory tract; can cause permanent eye damage; causes irritation and burns to the skin.
Propylene Glycol~may cause irritation to the skin and eyes.
Triethylene Glycol~causes eye irritation; may cause skin irritation
CI 42090~colorant; animal studies show brain, nervous system, or behavioral effects at very low doses; organ toxicity, linked to cancer.
CI 19140~colorant; linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity; classified as a medium human health priority.

So why am I showing you this?

Because it's not enough to just keep these chemicals from touching our skin. These chemicals are used to clean the plates, glasses, and utensils that hold our organic foods & beverages.

How many times have you taken a plate or fork out of the dishwasher and found debris still clinging to it, despite the dishwasher detergent's claims to "cut grease and make dishes sparkle!"?

And for all of the times you've noticed the debris hanging from your coffee mug,how many times have you not noticed?

Your checking your glass now, huh?

I don't know about you, but it's gross enough finding the previous users lip prints on the rim of my glass without having to worry about the chemical residue hanging on it too!

While I can do nothing about the efficiency of my dishwasher, I can do something about what is used to clean my dishes. But here's where it gets tricky.

Houston, we have a problem.

While researching natural alternatives and homemade dishwasher detergents, I stumbled across one that piqued my interest. But then my Mister suggested that I do the fair thing and research the ingredients in the homemade soap.

Ummm...apparently, Borax is NOT a good thing to use on your dishes. While Borax includes a natural trace mineral called boron, Borax itself has been linked to reproductive issues in both men and women. There is also a warning that says, "Harmful if swallowed." (This link is just one of many~Google safety of Borax and check it for yourself.) It doesn't appear that using Borax as an ingredient in homemade laundry soap is a problem though. At least, I couldn't find anything saying so.

I guess it could be problematic if you're prone to eating your t-shirts.

So, this is where I was going to post a recipe for homemade dishwasher detergent. I actually made up a batch, didn't like the results of that recipe, and made up a new, more-improved version.

The results were mixed. The first batch, made with Borax and Washing Soda (equal parts) left a filmy residue on everything. So I ended up rewashing everything by hand.

Second batch was better, but there was still a residue. This one had citric acid and Kosher salt added into the mixture. Both used white vinegar as a rinse aid. And still, I ended up rewashing all of the dishes by hand.

My conclusion is to spend the extra money and purchase a truly green, organic, chemical free dishwasher soap. (I did find Biokleen on sale at our local Fred Meyer store for $6.39. For 32 loads that's less than $.20/load!) It may cost a little more up front, but with the alternative being sickness, dermatitis, or loss of vision, it is a cost well worth spending.

My other choice is to hand wash all of the dishes and use the dishwasher as a drying rack.

Maybe once the nest empties out a bit more. ☺ 


Michaela Dunn Leeper said...

And as an FYI- when you burn something on the bottom of a pot, you can use dishwasher detergent. Pour on, let sit & the burned crud comes right off. Of course I wouldn't know this, but I did use a "green" detergent when I did this. I mean when I heard about this. I mean.... *ahem*

Mountain Home Quilts said...

I use 7th generaton alternated with ecover. It seems to work well. :)

Corn in my Coffee-Pot said...

I don't own a dishwasher currently in this house; but did in my previous house 15 years ago...didn't use it.

Found it to be an endeavor to frustrate more than!

However, I DID enjoy reading this article- found it informative and eye opening.

thanks for posting it!