Best Non-Toxic Dishwasher Detergent for Sparkly Clean Dishes

Discover the best non-toxic dishwasher detergent powder, pods and liquid made with natural ingredients and eco-friendly packaging, so you can find a dishwasher detergent that is free from harsh chemicals and that works best for your needs!

Best Non-Toxic Dishwasher Detergents POST

Oh, the magic of the dishwasher! Pile in a day’s worth of dirty dishes, load in the detergent, press the button, and voila – clean dishes!

Having lived without an automatic dishwasher in a few apartments in my younger years, I distinctly remember the feeling that a machine that washed my dishes was truly magic!

One thing I didn’t give much thought to in those early years was the type of dishwasher detergent I was using. Turns out, I should have been!

dishwasher with dishes

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Ingredients in Non Toxic Dishwasher Detergent

So some ingredients in dishwasher detergent are better than others? You guessed it! If you’re a regular reader of mindfulmomma you know that there are many toxic chemicals hiding in conventional cleaning products. Many ingredients in traditional dishwasher detergents can be harmful to human health, as well as harmful to aquatic life, plant life and the environment. 

Harmful chemicals you should try to AVOID in dishwasher detergents include:

  • sodium hypochlorite – a bleaching agent (chlorine bleach) linked to respiratory effects in humans and acute aquatic toxicity
  • zinc carbonate – can cause burns to skin and eye damage, also very toxic to aquatic life
  • formaldehyde – a known carcinogen
  • ethoxylated ingredients – they can create carcinogenic 1,4 dioxane when mixed
  • acrylic polymer – not biodegradable in the environment
  • artificial fragrances – these non-specific ingredients can be hormone disruptors or lead to allergic reactions and skin irritation 
  • artificial colors/dyes – these non-specific ingredients my be linked to developmental, endocrine or reproductive effects

Instead, the best dishwasher detergents are made with mineral and plant-based ingredients, including sodium carbonate, sodium citronate and sodium silicate. Don’t worry – these natural ingredients still have strong cleaning power!

My preference is for an unscented dishwasher detergent, because I do not like any scent left on my clean dishes at all. But if you do prefer a scented dishwasher detergent, be sure that the scent comes from natural essential oils or plant extracts only, and not from synthetic fragrances.

Fortunately, one of the worst environmental offenders, phosphates, have been effectively banned in dishwasher detergents, so we don’t have to worry too much about them anymore. Just beware of cheap dollar store dishwasher detergents or random products on Amazon that may still have phosphates hiding in them. 

Sustainable Swaps Guide

Best Packaging for Eco Friendly Dishwasher Detergent

A truly eco-friendly dishwasher detergent is about more than just ingredients. It’s about the packaging too. 

Cleaning products are notorious for being packaged in big plastic bottles, and dishwashing detergents are no exception. Fortunately, some smart, eco-friendly alternatives have popped up! I especially appreciate brands that offer plastic-free refill packs.

There are three primary types of dishwasher detergent and they all come packaged in different ways.

  • Dishwasher detergent pods, packs or tablets: Detergent pods and packs are individual packages of detergent wrapped in a biodegradable film*. Detergent tablets typically have no wrapper. Both types are sold in either a cardboard box, a recyclable tin or a plastic bag. 
  • Dishwasher detergent powder: Powder is sold in either a cardboard box or a plastic bag.
  • Dishwasher Detergent gel or liquid: Dishwasher gel comes in a plastic bottle. 

*A note about dishwasher pods: Dishwasher detergent pods have become very popular but the outside film is made using polyvinyl alcohol (also known as PVA, PVOH and PVAI), which is a synthetic plastic polymer. Polyvinyl alcohol is marketed as sustainable because it is water soluble, but while it seems to disappear, it doesn’t actually degrade in real-life scenarios. This means that PVA ends up in waterways and soil, and eventually, in the food chain

So which type of dishwasher detergent packaging is best? Pods or tablets are the most convenient because there is no measuring involved. I personally prefer to use dishwasher tablets (without any film or extra packaging), or dishwasher powder that comes in a cardboard box. 


RELATED: Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent


Best Natural Dishwasher Detergent Brands

(I may receive commissions from purchases made through affiliate links in this article including Amazon Affiliates. Full Disclosure)

So let’s help you find the best natural dishwasher detergent that is non-toxic and eco-friendly and most of all – meets YOUR needs!

A note about pricing: In my comparison of brands below, I’ve included a cost per load. Some brands recommend 1-oz per load and others go by 1/2-oz per load. The amount you need depends on your dishwasher. Also, prices will change over time, so check brand websites for current pricing!

Best Natural Dishwasher Detergent Pods or Tablets

As I mentioned earlier, dishwasher tablets are the more sustainable choice, because tablets do not have a PVA film like dishwasher pods do. That said, some people prefer the pods, so I’ve shared some of each type for you to choose from. 

blueland-dishwasher-tablets

Blueland

  • Key Ingredients: sodium carbonate, citric acid, sodium citrate, alkyl polyglucoside, sorbitan caprylate 
  • Packaging options: tablets
  • Scent options: Unscented
  • Other benefits: A great zero waste dishwasher detergent. Purchase a reusable storage tin, refills come in paper bags
  • Certifications: Cradle to Cradle Certified, EPA Safer Choice, Leaping Bunny, EWG Verified, B-Corporation
  • EWG rating: EWG-Verified
  • Cost per load: $.35 – $.50 depending on quantity purchased
  • These are my new favorite dishwasher tablets. They are a bit more expensive, but I appreciate that they are PVA-free and they work really well.
  • Get free shipping on orders over $45, save on subscriptions

branch basics eco friendly dishwasher tablets

Branch Basics

  • Ingredients: Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Percarbonate, MGDA Trisodium Salt, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Silicate, Poly(itaconic acid-co-AMPS) Sodium Salt, TAED, Protease, Amalyse, Magnesium Stearate, Decyl Glucoside
  • Packaging options: tablets 
  • Scent options: Unscented
  • Other benefits: These high-quality, sustainable dishwasher tablets are PVA-free
  • Certifications: Leaping Bunny, EWG Verified
  • EWG rating: EWG-Verified
  • Cost per load: $.34 – $.38 depending on subscription

Dropps and more of the best eco-friendly dishwasher detergent brands

Dropps

  • Ingredients: Sodium carbonate*, sodium percarbonate*, poly(itaconic acid-co-AMPS) sodium salt* , trisodium citrate dihydrate*, alkoxylated alcohol*, subtilisin, silicic acid*, tetraacetylethylenediamine*, alpha amylase, polyvinyl alcohol film (PVOH). *Denotes plant or mineral origin.
  • Packaging options: pods
  • Scent options: Unscented or Lemon
  • Other benefits: Shipped in low-waste, recyclable cardboard packaging.
  • Certifications: EPA Safer Choice, B-Corp
  • EWG rating: A for unscented, B for lemon
  • Cost per load: $.29 to $.39 per pod, depending on subscription
  • If you prefer non-toxic dishwasher pods, these ones work well and are very convenient to have on subscription
  • Get 15% off your first order with code DROPPS15 at checkout.
Attitude dishwasher tablets

ATTITUDE

  • Ingredients: 5-15% oxygen-based bleaching agents (sodium percarbonate), <5% vegetable non-ionic surfactants, <5% enzymes. Contains also : Sodium citrate, sodium chloride, sodium carbonate, sodium silicate, glycerin.
  • Packaging options: tablets
  • Scent options: Unscented
  • Other benefits: ATTITUDE dishwasher tablets have no extra packaging and come in a recyclable cardboard box. 
  • Certifications: EcoLogo certified
  • EWG rating: Current product not listed
  • ATTITUDE also makes my favorite non-toxic dish soap that is also refillable
  • Cost per load: $.37 to $.45 per tablet, depending on subscription.
  • Get 15% off with code MINDFULMOMMA15 at checkout.

Aspen Clean dishwasher pods

Aspen Clean

  • Ingredients: Sodium Citrate; Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Carbonate Peroxide; Sodium Sulfate; Sodium Silicate, Decyl Glucoside (Coconut, Palm Kernel Oil derived), Subtilisin (Enzyme), Alpha-amylase (Enzyme), Sodium Carboxymethyl Inulin (Chicory Root derived), Water / Eau, Alcohol (Corn derived)**, Sodium Chloride (Salt) Film: Polyvinyl Alcohol Polymer (water-soluble, biodegradable) 
  • Packaging options: pods
  • Scent options: Unscented
  • Other benefits: Comes in a recyclable cardboard box
  • Certifications: Eco-Cert, Leaping Bunny, EWG Verified™
  • EWG rating: EWG Verified™
  • Cost per load: $.58 to $.64 per pod, depending on subscription
Grove Co dishwasher detergent packs - non-toxic dishwasher detergent

Grove Collaborative

  • Ingredients: Sodium carbonate, citric acid,* sodium sulfate, sodium percarbonate, sodium silicate, sorbitan caprylate,* tetrasodium glutamate diacetic acid,* sodium carboxymethyl inulin,* protease,* amylase.* *Plant-derived ingredient (Scented product includes: natural fragrance,** citral,* d-Limonene,* linalool.*)
  • Packaging options: packs
  • Scent options: Free & Clear or Lemon & Eucalyptus
  • Other benefits: Comes packaged in a recyclable aluminum tin
  • Certifications: USDA BioPreferred, Certified Cruelty Free, B-Corp
  • EWG rating: Not listed
  • Cost per load: $0.33 per pod

Best Non-Toxic Dishwasher Detergent Powder

Dishwasher powder is the simplest form of dishwasher detergent. It can be poured or scooped directly into the detergent dispenser. The advantages of dishwasher powder are that it is affordable and also that it often comes packaged in a cardboard box instead of plastic. The disadvantages of powder is that it can be messy. Also, I have found that if I accidentally over-fill my detergent dispenser, it either won’t open during cleaning, or there is powder still left over at the end of the cycle.

Seventh-Generation-dishwasher-detergent-powder-new

Seventh Generation

  • Ingredients: Sodium chloride (mineral-based processing aid), sodium sulfate (mineral-based processing aid), sodium carbonate (mineral-based cleaning agent), citric acid (plant-derived water softener), sodium percarbonate (mineral-based oxygen stain removal agent), ppg-10-laureth-7 (plant-modified synthetic cleaning agent), sodium silicate (mineral-based cleaning enhancer), sodium polyaspartate (synthetic anti-filming agent), protease enzyme blend (plant-based soil remover), amylase enzyme blend (plant-based soil remover).
  • Packaging options: powder, packs or gel
  • Scent options: free & clear, fresh citrus, lemon
  • Other benefits: comes in a cardboard box
  • Certifications: USDA Certified Biobased Product, Leaping Bunny, B-Corporation
  • EWG rating: A
  • Cost per load: $0.12 (based on 1-oz per load)

rosey dishwasher detergent powder

Rosey Dishwasher Detergent Powder

(used to be Thrive Market brand)

  • Ingredients: Sodium Chloride, Sodium Carbonate, Citric Acid, Sodium Carbonate Peroxide, Sodium Sulfate, Protease Enzyme.
  • Packaging options: powder or packs 
  • Scent options: Unscented or Fresh Lemon
  • Other benefits: The lowest cost per load
  • Certifications: Leaping Bunny, B-Corp
  • EWG rating: Current product not listed, but previous version was an A
  • Cost per load: $0.06 (based on 1/2 oz per load)

Ecover dishwasher powder

Ecover

  • Ingredients: Sodium sulfate (pH adjuster/processing aid), Sodium carbonate (Cleaning agent/pH optimizer), Sodium citrate (pH adjuster), Sodium chloride (pH adjuster/processing aid), Sodium metasilicate (Corrosion inhibitor/pH adjuster), Sodium carbonate peroxide (Cleaning agent), Sodium polyitaconate (Anti-filming agent), Alcohol alkoxylate (Cleaning agent), Subtilisin (Enzymatic stain removal), Amylase (Cleaning enzyme)
  • Packaging options: powder or tablets
  • Scent options: Zero (fragrance free) or Citrus
  • Other benefits: Comes in a cardboard carton
  • EWG rating: Current product not listed
  • Cost per load: $0.13 (based on 1-oz per load)

Best Eco Dishwasher Detergent Gel

Some people prefer dishwasher gel because it is easier to dispense the correct amount than with powder, although you can still over-pour if you are not careful. A big disadvantage of dishwasher gels is that they come packaged in a plastic bottle. Even though it is recyclable, it is still plastic and I’m all for avoiding plastic whenever possible!

Better Life dishwasher gel

Better Life

  • Ingredients: Purified water, Potassium Cocoate, Sodium Citrate, Coco Glucoside, Sodium Silicate, Decyl glucoside, Quillaja saponaria bark extract, Glycerin (vegetable), Sodium carbonate, Xanthan gum, Sorbitan oleate, Enzyme blend, Citric acid
  • Packaging options: gel
  • Scent options: Unscented
  • Other benefits:  Easy squirt bottle
  • EWG rating: A
  • Cost per load: $0.12 (based on 1/2 oz per load)
ECOS Wave dishwasher gel

ECOS

  • Ingredients: Water, Sodium Citrate (plant-derived water softener), Citric Acid (plant-derived pH adjuster), Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate (plant-derived water softener), Xanthan Gum (plant-derived thickener), Caprylyl/Myristyl Glucoside (plant-derived surfactant), Potassium Sorbate (plant-derived preservative), Enzymatic Blend (soil remover).
  • Packaging options: gel
  • Scent options: Free & Clear
  • EWG rating: A
  • Cost per load: $0.14 (based on 1-oz per load)

Best Unscented Natural Dishwasher Detergent

If you or anyone in your home has allergies or sensitivities to fragrances, you probably want to stick with unscented dishwasher detergent since fragrances in detergents can contain various chemicals that may irritate sensitive individuals.

Scented detergents can leave behind fragrance residues on dishes which can affect the flavor of food served on them. Personally, I prefer using an unscented dishwasher detergent for this reason.

All of the dishwasher detergent recommendations in this post have unscented options available. My favorite are the Blueland Dishwasher Tablets because they are unscented and PVA-free.

Best Eco Friendly Dishwasher Detergent FAQs

What is the best dishwasher detergent for hard water?

From what I’ve read, dishwasher detergents that contain sodium chloride or sodium carbonate work best for homes with hard water. These detergents typically come in the form of powders, pods or tablets, but not liquids or gels. 

Do you need a rinse aid in the dishwasher?

If you live in an area that has especially hard water, you may need to use a rinse aid. Seventh Generation Rinse Aid works well for me!

Which is better – dishwasher pods, liquid or powder?

This mostly comes down to your personal preference. According to a poll by Consumer Reports, pods are by far the most popular type of dishwasher detergent (over 70%), while liquid is next (20%), and less than 10% prefer powdered detergent. Pods tested best in their cleaning trials too. Given the premeasured convenience of pods and tablets, I can see why they win this popularity contest! From an environmental perspective package-free tablets score better than PVA pods. But if you are looking for the most affordable dishwasher detergent, a powder will be your best bet. 

My dishes aren’t clean – what should I do?

When was the last time you cleaned your dishwasher filter? It can get pretty gross and this will impact the cleaning cycle. Be sure to clean the filter regularly and perform a more thorough cleaning occasionally as well. 

My glasses have spots on them – what should I do?

No one likes spotty glassware. If you have hard water, you probably need to use a rinse aid to get your glassware to come out sparkly clean. 

Do you have a favorite eco-friendly dishwasher detergent? Let me know in the comments!

green & healthy wishes Micaela signature

5 Comments

  1. Hi. Really need some advice. We use gg pods for dishwasher and lemishine. We have well water w salt softener. And now have a new dishwasher and major etching on glasses. Some say you need zinc, don’t rinse dishes, less soap, shorter wash cycle. I am at my wits end. A bowl of vinegar run in dishwasher once a month? Any advice would be great.
    Karen

    1. I’m afraid I’m not an expert in this area. I would contact the manufacturer of the dishwasher.

  2. Thanks for the list! Just ordered the Blueland tablets based on your reviews.

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