Washing dishes is an inevitable daily task. And if you prefer to load your dishes in a dishwasher, you might want to look into what type of dishwasher detergent you use.
Many cleaning products, including dishwasher detergent, contain chemicals harmful to the environment, wash down our drains with every cycle, find their way into our waterways, and harm the aquatic system. Furthermore, every plastic tub or bottle of detergent is another single-use plastic polluter the planet will thank us if we did without.
Thankfully, cleaning doesn’t have to get toxic, and many eco-friendly dishwashing detergents are shunning harmful ingredients and wasteful packaging. There are non-toxic zero waste dishwasher detergents that remove the grease from your dishes while remaining a safe option for you and the environment.
Related: If you prefer to wash your dishes by hand, you can check out our list of the best zero waste dish soap bars you can shop for.
We all want a dishwasher detergent that is tough on stains. However, toughness on stains can come at a costly price.
While our conventional dishwasher detergent isn’t harmful, when mixed with water, the chemicals designed to cut grease are activated. These chemicals can enter your body when you inhale them. They can also linger on your clean dishes after a wash cycle.
There are two significant issues when it comes to the environmental impact of dishwasher detergents. The first is the toxic ingredients present in the dishwasher detergent. The second is the packaging that these dishwasher detergents come in. Our conventional dishwasher detergents can also find their way into our waterways.
Some dishwasher detergents contain toxic chemicals like phosphates, which can form big algae blooms in water systems. These algae blooms deplete water and oxygen, harming marine life. These chemicals shorten the life span of organisms and can wind their way up the food chain.
These dishwasher detergents are toxic, and some come in single-use plastic packaging that cannot be reused or recycled. This contributes to plastic pollution harmful to the environment.
Many brands make dishwashing detergents that are both non-toxic and eco-friendly. When shopping for a dishwasher detergent, you want to make sure you look out for the type of ingredients listed and the packaging used.
Most eco-friendly zero-waste dishwashing detergents come with natural ingredients and sustainable packaging, completely plastic-free. You want to avoid detergents containing ingredients like phosphates and chlorine bleach.
Some of the picks below do come in plastic outer packaging. Where we have featured these, we’ve chosen brands that ensure the packaging can be easily recycled or is made from recycled plastic to reduce the overall impact of virgin plastic. In your search for zero waste dishwasher detergent, the choice ultimately will come down to products that clean amazingly free from chemicals and the best choice you have available for environmentally friendly packaging.
Start your zero-waste journey with this list of zero-waste dishwashing detergents:
Type: Dishwasher powder
Product feature: Plant-based ingredients, recyclable packaging, USDA-certified bio-based product
You can wipe away stuck-on food and tough stains and leave your dishes sparkly clean with this dishwasher powder from Seventh Generation.
The powder contains powerful enzymes and oxygen bleach that can wipe off tough stains easily. Its plant-based ingredients break residue naturally while keeping your dishes healthy for you and your loved ones.
Seventh Generation is a certified B corporation on a mission to create a healthy and sustainable world for generations to come. The brand also has an FSC certification and makes completely cruelty-free products. The brand also aims to use 100% reusable, recyclable, or biodegradable packaging to reduce waste.
Type: Dishwasher powder
Product feature: Zero waste, baking soda, kosher salt, vinegar
They make these all-purpose cleaning products with natural ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and salts. With one or two cubes of detergent powder, you can get your dishes clean. They are also safe for you and the environment. This non-toxic dishwasher detergent comes in a reusable glass jar or kraft paper.
Jialiving is a US-based brand that creates eco-friendly handmade cleaning and skincare products that are kind to our planet. Jialiving claims to use ingredients completely free of toxic chemicals and artificial fragrances. With every purchase, Jialiving shows its passion for the earth by planting a tree through One Tree Planted - a tree-planting charity.
Product feature: Bio-based content, zero-waste, plastic-free, recyclable packaging
Made with mineral and plant-based ingredients, Beyond Auto dish tablets contain 75% biobased content certified by the USDA BioPreferred Program. Its design makes washing effective and can leave your dishes clean in shorter dishwasher cycles. This means you can conserve more water. They also dissolve very easily in hard water. These dishwasher tabs come in recyclable fiber packaging.
This zero-waste dishwashing detergent is free of plastics, fragrances, dyes, chlorine, and toxic chemicals, making them safe for you, your family, and the earth. Also, these dish tablets are completely cruelty-free and contain no animal by-products.
Type: Dishwasher powder
Product feature: fragrance-free, plant-based, mineral-based
Biokleen dish detergent contains mineral-based ingredients tough on stains, breaking down grease and food particles on your dishes. This dishwasher detergent is phosphate-free and contains no dyes, artificial colors, or brighteners. With this detergent, you get naturally sparkly clean dishes without worrying about chemical residues on your plate.
Biokleen is a sustainable brand that claims to be committed to producing plant and mineral-based cleaning products that are safe for you, the family, pets, and pretty much the entire planet. Their products are free of phosphates, artificial fragrances, chlorine bleach, and other toxins. Their products come in plastics accepted by curbside recycling programs and as super concentrated you'll use less plastic with this powder option.
Type: Dishwasher pods
Product feature: Mineral-based, lemon-scented, plastic-free packaging, cardboard box
Dropps claims that their zero waste dish detergent removes stuck-on food and tough stains that have stayed up to 48 hours from your dishes. Inside each pod is a biodegradable formula in a biodegradable pod shell to remove greasy food from your dishes.
You don't need to worry about any loose powder, as each pod comes individually wrapped with a strong seal technology. Its powerful mineral-based ingredients can clean your dishes in one load. This means you can save water as you don't have to pre-wash your dishes.
These unscented pods come free of synthetic ingredients like phosphates, parabens, dyes, or phthalates, keeping you and your family healthy and safe.
These dishwasher pods from Dropps come with a compact design removing excess air. This compact design makes it efficient to ship the product, reducing carbon emissions. Dropps also partners with 3Degrees for carbon-neutral shipping.
Type: Dishwasher gel
Product feature: Mineral and plant-based ingredients, natural scents, cruelty-free, recyclable pouch
They make these dishwasher packs with 78% mineral and plant-based cleansers free of phosphates, dyes, and other toxic chemicals. The brand claims that one detergent pack is highly concentrated enough to remove tough greasy food particles on your plates, pots, and pans.
You don’t have to pre-rinse your dishes. Simply put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher and watch this detergent get the cleaning job done. Its Moroccan argan oil and french lavender leave your clean dishes with a calm natural scent. All ingredients are certified cruelty-free and vegan by PETA.
With every dishwasher pack you buy, Love, Home, and Plant channels part of its proceeds to support environmental change-makers and recycling initiatives with the ultimate goal of reducing its carbon footprint to the barest minimum.
Type: Detergent gel
Product feature: Mineral-based ingredients (like sodium carbonate, castile soap, etc.), plant-based ingredients, leaping bunny certified
Better Life dishwasher gel is a super-concentrated detergent that can thoroughly clean out stubborn stains leaving no cloudiness or film on your dishes. This comes from all-natural mineral and plant-based ingredients free of phosphates, bleaches, fragrances, or dyes. To wash, simply shake it up and add it to your dishwasher. The brand recommends a pre-rinse for best results.
Better Life creates the most eco-friendly cleaning products that still deliver a powerful clean. They claim their products are safe to use around your kids, pets, and the whole family. They are leaping bunny certified, meaning their products are cruelty-free and never tested on animals.
Product feature: biodegradable dish tabs, plant-based ingredients, recyclable cardboard box
These dishwasher tabs can make dishwashing easy and effective. Thanks to its 100% biodegradable and plant-based ingredients, you can wash your dishes naturally in one cycle. Its scent is bright and refreshing, filling your home with a classic tropical citrus scent. They are safe for both you and the environment containing no phosphates, chlorine, or toxic chemicals. You can get these dish tabs in a 100% recyclable cardboard box.
Cleancult is a cleaning brand committed to creating a better cleaning system that is both sustainable and cost-effective. Cleancult deliberately uses eco-friendly materials, packaging, and shipping.
Cleancult makes Its dish tablets with GMO-free and cruelty-free ingredients.
Type: Detergent pods
Product feature: plant-based ingredients, Certified B Corp, cruelty-free, recyclable packaging
These detergent pods clean your dishes powerfully with their natural enzymes that fight off greasy and stubborn food stains. Its biodegradable formula is 91% plant-based ingredients free of phosphates, chlorine bleach, dyes, parabens, etc. It contains 100% natural fragrances made from essential oils and plant extracts. Each detergent pack comes in recyclable pouch packaging.
Grove Collaborative is a certified B corporation committed to bettering the lives of its partners, employees, customers, and communities. They prioritize using post-consumer materials for packaging their products and carbon offset every order for shipment.
Another option for zero waste dishwasher detergents is to make your own. The best part of making your own dish detergent is that it is budget-friendly and still as effective. Some popular ingredients used in making DIY dishwasher powder detergents include borax, white vinegar, citric acid, baking soda, etc. You can search online for easy recipes for dish detergent. You can also check out our guide to zero waste cleaning to get more information.
Whereas dishwashers provide all sorts of convenience, it’s not unusual for loads to go through not quite full which also wastes water. Grabbing a bar of zero waste dish soap and washing smaller amounts of dishes with a small amount of water can save energy, water, and the overuse of detergent.
There’s nothing more terrifying than knowing that the very thing that cleans our dishes can equally be toxic to us and the environment. Thankfully, these zero-waste, non-toxic, (mostly) plastic-free options get the cleaning job done and still protect us and the environment.
You can go through our list above to shop any of these zero waste dishwasher detergent options and cleaning products.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.