When’s the last time you really thought about the dish soap that you were using? For a product that we use several times a day, many of us have a tendency to overlook what’s in that formula. But, the bottom line is that some dish soaps are far better than others, based on their ingredients, how effectively they clean, and even their effects on our hands.
So, what determines the quality of a dish soap?
Of course, the primary goal of dish soap is to effectively clean dishes. Not all of us have dishwashers, and so we need a dish soap that does a great job at removing grease, film, and stains from our wine glasses, plates, cutlery, pots and pans, etc.
In general, dish soaps rely on surfactants, which are ingredients that bond to grease and residue so that they lift away from your dishes and easily rinse off. If you scrub a bowl with dish soap and the inside of the bowl still has a greasy film, it’s safe to say that your dish soap isn’t doing its job.
Gentleness on Hands
While we want our dish soap to do a great job cleaning our dishes, its effectiveness can come at a cost. Those same surfactants that are stripping your dishes of grease and food residue can also strip the skin of our hands of moisture, which leaves our hands dry and at risk of cracking. What this means is that we want a dish soap that uses the right surfactants which remove standard kitchen grease, but not the protective oils of our skin.
Sulfates are the most common surfactant you’ll find in dish soap, and they’re also commonly used in shampoos. They are effective without a doubt, but they can also be quite “stripping” to our skin. That’s why many companies use gentler surfactants which get the job done without the cost to our hands. These gentler surfactants are called, “nonionic surfactants”, and are more common in “natural” dish soaps.
Presence of Toxins
Obviously, most of us want a dish soap that’s as free of toxins as possible. Common toxins found in dish soaps include:
- Propylene glycol: An alcohol derivative; also used as a colorless, odorless, and slightly syrupy synthetic food additive, which may cause liver abnormalities.
- Polysorbate-20: A sugar alcohol that’s blended with ethylene oxide that may cause allergic reactions and carcinogenic effects.
- Methylchloroisothiazolinone: Although it’s a preservative that is active against bacteria, yeast, and fungi, MCI is still a potential neurotoxin.
- Cocamidopropyl Betaine: Is a mixture of closely linked organic compounds attained from coconut oil and dimethylaminopropylamine. Still an irritant though, meaning, it has been associated with irritation and allergic contact dermatitis.
Note: As long as these ingredients are used in exceptionally low amounts and properly mixed in the batch to create the liquid dish soap, then you won’t have to worry so much about their effects.
Presence of Allergens
While allergens don’t affect all of us in the same way, a hypoallergenic dish soap is ideal because many of us don’t even know that our skin is allergic to specific ingredients until we find out the hard way. Hypoallergenic dish soaps are free of ingredients that are particularly known to cause allergic reactions.
Not all of us want a scented dish soap, and the good news is that there are plenty of unscented options out there. But, if you do want your dish soap to have a fragrance, then obviously you’ll want to find the one that appeals to you the most, since scent is highly subjective. Not only do you want a smell that appeals to you, but you also want to know that it comes from natural ingredients, since synthetic fragrances can be irritating, and are a common cause for allergic reactions.