Even though dish soaps are supposed to get our stuff clean, the truth is that a lot of the soaps and cleaners we use on a daily basis actually contain chemicals that can cause endocrine disruption, skin irritation, and more.
Some of those ingredients can also contaminate our waterways and harm wildlife when we wash them down the drain.
So, what is the best toxin-free dish soap? I’ve narrowed down all the brands to give you my favorite dish soaps (liquid, solid, and powdered!) that are free from harsh chemicals but will still leave your dishes sparkling clean.
P.S. This article is specifically about dish soap (for hand-washing). If you’re interested in learning about the best dishwasher detergents, check out this guide.
Table of Contents
- Ingredients to Avoid in Dish Soaps
- My Top Picks for Natural & Non-Toxic Dish Soap in 2023
- Branch Basics (My favorite non-toxic, multi-use, foaming dish soap)
- Blueland (Refillable powdered dish soap)
- ATTITUDE (Scented & fragrance-free liquid dish soap)
- AspenClean (Natural liquid dish soap)
- Meliora (Non-toxic, plastic-free dish soap block)
- Eco-Me (Best natural dish soap at Walmart)
- ECOS (Most affordable option; available at Walmart)
- 9 Elements (Best natural dish soap at Target)
- Some more FAQS about dish soap
This guide contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase.
Ingredients to Avoid in Dish Soaps
As I mentioned, many dishwashing liquids on the market today contain chemicals that are linked to allergic reactions, hormone disruption, and other health concerns.
You can’t always avoid all of the toxic chemicals around you, which is why I suggest focusing on what you can control… and your cleaning supplies are one of those things!
So, here are some of the potentially problematic ingredients to watch out for in dishwashing liquid:
We talk about “fragrance” (also listed on ingredient labels as “parfum”) all the time here at The Filtery. This “ingredient” is in so many personal care and household cleaning products, from laundry detergent to candles and more.
The problem with fragrance is that U.S. law allows companies to include over 3,500 different chemicals in a product under this vague umbrella term of “fragrance,” without actually listing those ingredients on the label.
Some of those 3,500+ ingredients are safe, but others include things like phthalates (which are endocrine disruptors that can lead to infertility and more) and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), which can contribute to indoor air pollution.
“Fragrance” is not always bad, but consumers should be able to know what exactly is in their products, and that’s especially true for those with asthma, allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity, or other condition.
The good news is that with recent legislative changes in California, the fragrance loophole is slowly beginning to close. Even though brands are still not required to put fragrance ingredients on their product labels, they do now have to list them online (if they sell to California residents, that is). Those ingredient lists can be quite difficult to find (and understand!), but hey, at least it’s a start.
Are synthetic fragrances bad? What’s the difference between synthetic and natural fragrances? Learn all about the “fragrance loophole” and more.
It’s important for consumer products to contain preservatives in order to prevent mold and bacteria growth, but some of them are safer than others.
Isothiazolinone preservatives (like methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, and benzisothiazolinone) are extremely common in dish soaps and dishwasher detergents (even some of the ones marketed as “green” or “clean”).
The problem with these antimicrobial chemicals is that they are irritants and can cause skin allergies upon contact.
Some of these preservatives as also suspected to be potential endocrine disruptors, and some are also toxic to aquatic life. That means we don’t really want to be washing this stuff down our drains if we can help it.
Sulfates—such as sodium lauryl sulfate (or SLS)—are also very common in dish soaps. They are one of the primary ingredients that make that soapy lather people like, and they help break down food particles.
The problem with SLS is that it can cause skin irritation, which means people with sensitive skin, eczema, or other allergies should usually try to avoid it.
Sodium laureth sulfate (or SLES) is an SLS-alternative that is less irritating on the skin. The problem with SLES is that it is ethoxylated. The problem with ethoxylated ingredients is that they have been found to be contaminated with a couple of carcinogens (1,4 dioxane and ethylene oxide) due to the manufacturing process.
It’s practically impossible to avoid ethoxylated ingredients entirely (even many natural and eco-friendly brands use them), but you’ll want to try and minimize them when possible. You can also buy from brands who either a) test their ethoxylated ingredients for impurities regularly, and/or b) process these chemicals in a way that eliminates contamination potential (that’s what Honest does, for example).
The good news is that these days, there are plenty of safer, plant-based ingredients that can give you that soapy lather and clean your dishes just as well as SLS can… but without all that skin irritation! When it comes to dish soap and other cleaning products, look for things like lauryl glucoside or coco glucoside instead.
The colorants that make dish soaps blue, orange, or green are (almost always) derived from petroleum.
Petroleum-derived ingredients come with various problems, depending on what the specific ingredient is and how it’s processed. PAHs, for example, are common in petroleum products and can result in everything from infertility and allergies to cancer and genetic defects.
Plus, as we know, the petroleum industry as a whole is environmentally destructive. Although it’s currently unrealistic to completely rid ourselves of petroleum-based products, it’s always beneficial to move in that direction when we can.
Some dyes are also associated with behavioral problems in children. Although the main concern here has to do with food dyes that are actually ingested, it’s still worth considering whether or not we should be washing these dyes into our waterways when it’s completely unnecessary.
There’s just no reason your dish soap needs to be bright blue, orange, or green… It’s just for aesthetics and provides no real function. That’s why all of the non-toxic dish soap recommended below is free from dyes and colorants.
My Top Picks for Natural & Non-Toxic Dish Soap in 2023
Alright, now let’s get to it. I’ve narrowed down my choices for the best safe dish soap brands in each category. All of these brands are effective in getting your dishes clean, and they’re all formulated without toxic chemicals.
I’m also giving you a few different varieties to choose from based on your personal preferences. There are liquid, foaming, powdered, and block options. Some are scented, and some are fragrance-free. Some are from direct-to-consumer brands that you have to order online and others are available in big box stores like Target and Walmart.
Branch Basics (My favorite non-toxic, multi-use, foaming dish soap)
Price: $55+ (for a full bottle of the Concentrate)
Types: Fragrance-free foaming dish/hand soap and PVA-free dishwasher detergent tablets
Certifications: MADE SAFE, Leaping Bunny (Cruelty-Free)
I talk about Branch Basics a lot; it’s one of my all-time favorite household cleaning brands. (You can check out my full review on the brand here.)
One of the reasons I like it is just how simple it is. You get a bottle of the Concentrate, which you can then separate and dilute into different bottles and use it for different purposes.
I like how I can use the foaming soap as BOTH a dish soap and hand soap—so I only have to have one soap dispenser sitting next to my sink. I personally really like foaming soaps because I feel like they go further and require a little less “elbow grease” because you don’t have to lather it up after it comes out of the dispenser.
The Concentrate formulation is made with simple, safe, and effective ingredients. It’s plant- and mineral-based and free from things like fragrances, animal products, gluten, irritants, synthetics, etc.
By the way, as you can see in the photo above, I’ve been using my own foaming soap dispenser. I personally just eyeball the Concentrate-to-water ratio, but you can also find all of the ratios here if you want to use a dispenser you already have (use the ratio for hand soap). But Branch Basics also sells both glass and plastic foaming soap dispensers, which have markings on them to help you easily dilute it using the right ratio.
You can use the code THEFILTERY for 15% off Starter Kits.
Blueland (Refillable powdered dish soap)
Types: Fragrance-free & refillable powdered dish soap and dishwasher detergent tablets
Certifications: EWG Verified
Blueland’s eco-friendly dish soap is free from toxicants like petroleum derivatives, dyes and colorants, artificial fragrances, parabens, phthalates, and more.
All of their products and packaging are Cradle to Cradle certified for circularity, everything is vegan, and refills are available for everything. It’s also a Climate Neutral B Corp brand as well.
I like how this brand is working to eliminate single-use plastics. The first time you buy their dish soap, you get a silicone shaker bottle, which can be “infinitely” refilled. If you sign up for a subscription, then you’ll get the dish soap powder delivered to your doorstep as often as you choose. (The paper refill packets are technically compostable, but only in an industrial facility, which is unfortunate.)
All you have to do is refill your shaker bottle with the dish soap powder. Then when you’re washing dishes, just shake some of the soap onto a sponge, get it wet, and wash away!
I have noticed that some reviewers say that the dish soap doesn’t get “sudsy” enough for them, but I honestly have not found that to be the case. (This makes me think maybe the amount of bubbles the soap generates has more to do with the soap or scrubber you’re using?)
I do have one tip for you: When you refill your bottle with the powder, hold it over the sink and at an arm’s length away so that you don’t inhale the powder.
ATTITUDE (Scented & fragrance-free liquid dish soap)
Types: Fragrance-free & scented liquid dish soap (and refills)
Certifications: EWG Verified, ECOLOGO, Leaping Bunny (Cruelty-Free)
One of the reasons why I love ATTITUDE is that, with so many different options, they’ve got something for everyone! (They also carry a lot of different personal care and cleaning products, so you can get a lot of your stuff in one place.)
Their natural dish soap comes in several different varieties:
- Fragrance-free or scented
- 100% essential oils and natural/plant-based scents
- Different types of bottles (plastic or aluminum; pump or squeeze)
- Refills (that come in cardboard boxes so you can refill your bottles)
If you’re someone who likes the traditional Dawn type of dish soap, then ATTITUDE is a good option for you. There is zero learning curve, and it works the same as conventional dish soaps: just put as much of the liquid soap on a sponge, brush, or in the sink and let the suds go to work.
ATTITUDE also carries dishwasher detergent tablets, which I’ve used before and work well. However, these days, I’ve been transitioning away from detergent pods that contain PVA. The two non-toxic dishwasher detergent brands that carry PVA-free pods are Blueland and Branch Basics.
AspenClean (Natural liquid dish soap)
Types: Fragrance-free & scented liquid dish soap
Certifications: EWG Verified, ECOCERT, Leaping Bunny (Cruelty-Free)
AspenClean is similar to ATTITUDE in that they provide clean dish soap that’s similar in function to your traditional Dawn or Palmolive or whatever you used as a kid.
The main difference is that they offer fewer options. They have Unscented, Lavender & Lemongrass, and Eucalyptus & Rosemary. They all come in easy-to-use pump bottles (but unfortunately they don’t offer refills at this time).
AspenClean’s safe dish soap formulations are made in Canada using plant-based ingredients and are free from all of the harsh ingredients like isothiazolinone preservatives, SLS, phthalates, artificial dyes, etc.
I don’t really have that much to say about this toxic-chemical-free dish soap! There’s nothing special about it, but it gets the job done and there’s nothing I really don’t like about it (besides the fact that I wish it was refillable).
Like ATTITUDE, AspenClean also carries dishwasher detergent tablets, which I’ve used in the past and work well. But like I said, I personally am moving away from PVA-pods for now.
Meliora (Non-toxic, plastic-free dish soap block)
If you’re on a zero-waste or low-waste journey, you’ll definitely want to check out Meliora’s natural dish soap. It comes in solid form and you can either get it packaged in a (cardboard, plastic-free) box, or you can order it totally package-free to reduce waste even more!
This natural, zero-waste dish soap comes in both Lemon and Unscented, and it’s made from very minimal ingredients.
In my opinion, using block dish soaps takes a little bit of getting used to. I think it ultimately comes down to preference; some people really like using them and some don’t. I definitely love that they’re zero-waste, and they tend to last a lot longer than liquid dish soap, too (you definitely get more bang for your buck!).
In terms of cleaning effectiveness, my Meliora soap block works great. But I do think it requires a bit more effort to get the soap on your sponge or brush (you have to scrub the block a few times to get the soap on). I also don’t love how the block can get dirty (pictured below). You can totally wash it off; it’s just a little inconvenience.
All that to say, there are definitely pros and cons, and I know that some people love the dish soap blocks. If you’re curious, you should just give it a try!
Oh, and I would definitely recommend keeping your dish block on a soap saver dish (like this one). Not only does it make your soap last longer, but it keeps the soap from sliding around and keeps your sink area from getting messy with soap residue.
In addition to their MADE SAFE certification (which indicates it’s been vetted to be free from all potentially toxic ingredients), Meliora is also a member of 1% for the Planet (which means they give back 1% of profits to non-profit organizations), and is a certified B Corp as well.
Eco-Me (Best natural dish soap at Walmart)
Types: Liquid dish soap
Certifications: Leaping Bunny (Cruelty-Free)
If you’re at Walmart and need to grab some safe dish soap, Eco-Me is one of your best options. This cleaning brand was actually started when the founder’s sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and the family wanted to ditch their conventional dish soap (and other products) and switch to safer alternatives.
It’s plant-based and free from things like sulfates, phthalates, and the harsh preservatives that are so common in other dish soap brands.
I recommend the Fragrance-Free variety. The scented options contain “Natural Plant Essential Oils,” but they’re not always clear about which oils are used. (Even though, I will say: I bought the Citrus Berry scent on accident and it does smell good!)
ECOS (Most affordable option; available at Walmart)
Types: Liquid dish soap
Certifications: EPA Safer Choice, Leaping Bunny Cruelty-Free
Coming in at less than $3 for a 25 fl oz bottle, this non-toxic dish soap is more affordable than the rest.
Again, if you have any allergies or sensitivities, I recommend the Free & Clear version.
ECOS also has several other sustainability initiatives as well—it’s made in the USA using renewable energy, it’s Women-Owned, and it’s vegan/cruelty-free.
Both Eco-Me and ECOS are two more brands about which I honestly don’t have much to say! They produce a good amount of suds and work well when it comes to getting my dishes clean. Again, they’re comparable to Dawn in terms of usability, so there’s no learning curve like there might be when using a powdered or block dish soap.
Of course, I don’t love that they come in non-refillable plastic bottles. But if you’re at the store and need to grab something or you simply need a more affordable option, you can feel good about throwing either of these two non-toxic dish soap brands into your cart.
9 Elements (Best natural dish soap at Target)
So, it’s slim pickings when it comes to clean dish soap at Target. Even though some of the “green” brands might be better than conventional brands, most of the ones I’ve looked at have a few “not-great” ingredients. For example:
- Seventh Generation contains SLS and multiple isothiazolinone preservatives (which are irritants).
- Everspring also contains isothiazolinone preservatives.
- Method contains isothiazolinone preservatives, undisclosed fragrances, SLS, and unnecessary dyes.
- Mrs. Meyer’s contains undisclosed fragrance and isothiazolinone preservatives.
- Grove Co. contains isothiazolinone preservatives and SLS.
- Safely contains isothiazolinone preservatives and undisclosed fragrance.
That basically leaves 9 Elements as the only option I’d feel comfortable recommending if you’re at Target. It’s definitely not my favorite dish soap, but in my opinion, it’s the best option available at Target at this time, especially if you’re in a pinch.
(I personally would go with the liquid dish soap because I didn’t like how the dish spray put little soap droplets into the air for me to breathe in. But if you like Dawn’s dish spray, then you might like it! It’s a preference thing.)
If you’re working on reducing the toxic chemicals in your kitchen, here are the best natural and non-toxic dishwasher detergent brands that actually work!
Some more FAQS about dish soap
Is Dawn dish soap toxic?
Unfortunately, Dawn dish soap cannot be considered non-toxic according to the standards outlined above. It contains SLS, many ethoxylated ingredients, artificial fragrances and dyes, and isothiazolinone preservatives.
Is Great Value dish soap toxic?
Great Value dish soap also cannot be considered non-toxic. Similar to Dawn, it contains sulfates, thoxylated ingredients, artificial fragrances and dyes, and isothiazolinone preservatives. If you’re looking for a more affordable clean dish soap, I would recommend ECOS.
Is Palmolive dishwashing liquid toxic?
Palmolive’s dish soap contains undisclosed fragrance, artificial colorants, and ethoxylated ingredients, and can therefore not be considered non-toxic or natural. That said, the Palmolive Pure + Clear Fragrance-Free variety is your safest option.
Is Mrs. Meyer’s Toxic?
Even though Mrs. Meyer’s is advertised as “eco-friendly,” their formulations contain many artificial and ethoxylated ingredients, artificial fragrances, and isothiazolinone preservatives. Therefore, Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap is not the safest option. You can read my deep dive into Mrs. Meyer’s here.
Is Method Toxic?
Method is another big “green” brand that’s marketed as “eco-friendly,” but really isn’t… You can read my full deep dive into Method right here.
Does Dawn dish soap have phthalates?
No. Dawn says they do not use phthalates in their dish soap. That’s good news!
Is is safe to breathe in Dawn Powerwash?
While breathing in a small amount of Dawn Powerwash is unlikely to cause an acute reaction for most people, the ingredients it uses are not meant to be inhaled on a regular basis.
If you’ve been looking to find a safer way to wash your dirty dishes, try out a couple of the best natural dish soaps recommended above and find out which one works the best for you and your household.
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