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Living more sustainably doesn't always require overhauling your everyday routine. Even a few tweaks here and there can do the trick. Take washing the dishes, for example. Instead of using a standard soap to clean your pots and pans, turn to eco-friendly iterations to refresh your wares. They are just as effective and better for the planet.
Conventional dish soaps use synthetic surfactants to reduce the surface tension of food and cut grease, notes Mollie Hughes, a sustainable products expert and the CEO of Softly, an online sustainable shopping assistant. These ingredients, which include sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), should be avoided since they can harm aquatic life and water sources, Hughes says. When possible, steer clear of parabens, perfumes, phthalates, and synthetic dyes (which are not biodegradable!), too; these chemicals can cause skin irritation and have been linked with hormonal imbalances and increased cancer risks, shares Hughes.
Eco-Friendly Dish Soap Ingredients That Work
Eco-friendly dish soaps are a green, better-for-you alternative. Their formulas wash away food with plant-based acids, which cut grease without damaging the environment. "Essential oils, like lemon, eucalyptus, or lavender, are known to increase the cleaning power of soaps—and they also have natural antibacterial properties," says Hughes. Look for options with sodium-based ingredients, such as sodium chloride (yes, table salt!) and sodium carbonate. "These are great because they soften water and reduce residual buildup that can linger on dishes," she adds.
According to Hughes, the exception to this rule is sodium hypochlorite—also known as bleach.
Look for Eco-Friendly Certifications
It's important to be able to identify products that are truly eco-friendly—so start by reading the labels closely. Look for the following product certifications that verify environmentally safe practices and ingredients, suggests Hughes.
EWG Verified: The product meets strict guidelines on health, eco-toxicity, or contamination.
EcoLogo Certified: The product is biodegradable and has a reduced impact on the environment.
Made Safe: The product is made without known toxic chemicals and is free of substances that harm human health or the environment.
Opt for Sustainable Packaging
Consider packaging when you're evaluating a dish soap's sustainability, too. Hughes points to paper or cardboard boxes, since they are typically recyclable or biodegradable. "Recycled plastic is also an option, however, statistics show that most plastics (even if recyclable), don't get recycled and end up in a landfill," she adds. "Currently, plastic recycling is very area dependent and difficult for the consumer to navigate." If you do opt for a plastic bottle, consider finding and using a refill dish soap station whenever possible to extend its life cycle.
Ready to incorporate a sustainable dish soap into your cleaning regimen? We've gathered the top options on the market, so you can shop, scrub, and see the difference right now.
Attitude Mineral Based Dishwashing Soap Refill
This plant-based dish soap comes in a bulk refill format, which means less packaging and waste, says Hughes. It is also EWG Verified and EcoLogo Certified, so the cleaner is free of harmful ingredients, like SLS, triclosan, and parabens; it's also biodegradable.
Blueland Dish Soap Starter Set
Plant-based ingredients fill this powder dish soap, which can simply be added to a sponge or directly onto dishes for cleaning. When activated with water, this cleaner forms a thick foam that removes stuck-on food and other stains. The packaging cuts down on waste, and is Cradle to Cradle Certified (which indicates that it is responsibly made). The formula has also been approved by EPA Safer Choice and Leaping Bunny (so it's cruelty-free to boot).
Cleancult Liquid Dish Soap
Everything about this Carbonfree-certified dish liquid soap is sustainable: It has a 100 percent biodegradable formula and 100 percent recyclable carton. Most importantly, the soap, which comes in lemongrass and grapefruit basil scents, is effective. It can release even the toughest messes thanks to its aloe and coconut oil content.
Meliora Dish Soap Bar
Consider eco-friendly soap options outside of standard liquid formulas. "Many people don't know it, but bar soap is always a great option for washing dishes because it cuts down on bulky plastic bottles, which are not environmentally friendly and are oftentimes difficult to recycle," says Hughes. "We recommend you leave a scrub brush on top of your bar of soap so it's ready to go when you need it!"
This product also has a Made Safe certification, which verifies that it is made without toxic chemicals.
Grove Co. Bubble Up Dish Soap Dispenser and Brush Set
This sustainable soap and brush set was made with renewable bamboo, ceramic, and recycled plastic. The ergonomic brush's design makes it easy to hold and its gentle bristles refresh your cookware without leaving scratches. The recycled plastic spring activates the suds, so you can get to cleaning without having to pour or open up a dish soap bottle or package.
ECOS Hypoallergenic Dish Soap
With a 100 percent vegan and Kosher formula, this dish soap is a U.S. EPA Safer Choice-certified product, thanks to its all-natural ingredients. The coconut-based cleaning agents cut grease, and are safe for sensitive skin: The soap is dermatologist-tested, hypoallergenic, and pH-balanced.
Public Goods Mandarin Basil Dish Soap
Purified water, coconut-based active ingredients, citric acid, sea salt, mandarin orange, and basil essential oils are the key organic ingredients featured in this heavy-duty dish soap. Together, these agents fight bacteria, cut through grease, and are greywater friendly and biodegradable.
Dawn Free & Clear Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap
There are no dyes or harsh perfumes in Dawn's powerful free and clear formula. Powered by biodegradable ingredients, the soap is backed with a lemon essence fragrance and essential oils that cut food residue and allow for 50 percent less scrubbing.
Tieralia Handcrafted Dish Bar Soap With Bamboo Tray
The Tieralia bar soap is completely zero waste due to its eco-friendly packaging and palm oil-, dye-, and cruelty-free formula, and its star ingredient, coconut oil compounds, can clear grease and grime. The vegan soap is also loaded with vitamin E—and safe to use on skin.
Mrs. Meyer's Dish Soap
Free of parabens, phthalates, and artificial colors, this plant-based formula includes essential ingredients, like soap bark extract (an all-natural degreaser), that ensure you are able to wash away grease and other food particles with ease. Mrs. Meyer's products are also biodegradable, so they won't leave an imprint on the environment.