8 Of The Best Zero Waste Dishwasher Detergent Options You Need to Try Now

8 Of The Best Zero Waste Dishwasher Detergent Options You Need to Try Now

I don’t have a dishwasher in my apartment, but my mom does! So if I ever get gifted any zero waste dishwasher detergent, she’s the one who tests it out! We’ve used Dropps in the past and loved them (more on that later), as well as DIY dishwasher detergent! We liked that as well, though it’s definitely not for everyone. Beyond plastic packaging, the reason it’s important to use a sustainable dishwasher detergent is because cleaning companies in the USA aren’t required to disclose the ingredients in their products. If you’re short on time, not into DIYs, or worried a DIY may not work for you, here are the best zero waste dishwasher detergents on the market.

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8 Of The Best Zero Waste Dishwasher Detergent Options You Need to Try Now

8 Of The Best Zero Waste Dishwasher Detergent Options You Need to Try Now

What is the most environmentally friendly dishwasher detergent?

The most environmentally friendly dishwasher detergent is typically any product that’s made ethically using natural ingredients and materials that are biodegradable. Here’s what to look for in your natural dishwasher detergents:

  • Packaging that’s compostable, recyclable, or biodegradable
  • Natural ingredients: plant-based, organic, vegan, and natural are a few examples of keywords to search for
  • Free from any harsh chemicals, phthalates, chlorine, synthetic dyes, parabens, sulfates, or any other toxins
  • Certifications such as: EPA Safer Choice, Certified B-Corp, Certified Plastic Neutral, etc. These let you know that these products are made as ethically and sustainably as possible. 

Knowing what’s inside the products you use every day is way more important than some people may realize. Conventional dishwasher detergent brands tend to use alkaline chemicals, which are corrosive in nature. This makes these products dangerous for our skin, tissues, and internal organs. Liquid detergents are the worst, with an alkalinity as high as 13, making them extremely dangerous.

8 Of The Best Zero Waste Dishwasher Detergent Options You Need to Try Now

Are dishwasher pods good for the environment?

You may be wondering if dishwasher pods are good for the environment because of recent news about polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) being in pods.

Here’s the thing: Yes, most dishwasher (and laundry!) detergent pods are wrapped in PVA (or PVOH). While this is technically a form of plastic, it does not have the same negative qualities as typical plastic. Lets discuss what this means.

What’s the deal with pods?

A new bill nicknamed Pods are Plastic was recently introduced by a New York City council member that would ban laundry and dish detergent pods. However, the study that backs up this bill was funded by Blueland.

Blueland is one of my FAVORITE sustainable cleaning companies. I use them all the time – and they are even on this list of zero waste dishwasher detergents. So this is NO shade to them as a brand.

But, Blueland is a cleaning company that doesn’t use PVA. And I’m always a bit cautious when I hear a study has been funded by a brand, so that said brand comes out looking better.

According to the Blueland-funded study, PVA dishwasher/laundry pods (and laundry detergent sheets) are toxic and turn into microplastics when they dissolve in water.

However, the EPA says there’s plenty of evidence that PVA is safe and that the studies on microplastics from the Blueland-funded study do not demonstrate that PVA is not safe.

On top of this, scientist Mike Belliveau, the co-founder of the advocacy organization Defend Our Health, said in an EcoCult article on this topic, “I think that EPA’s conclusion is sound…that the available scientific evidence suggests that the form of polyvinyl alcohol used in some detergent and laundry pods is highly water soluble, does not form microplastics, likely biodegrades readily in the environment, does not bioaccumulate, and is relatively low toxicity.”

So should I use detergent pods?

EcoCult’s article goes much more into depth on this topic and honestly everyone should read it.

But here’s the main conclusion: Don’t fret over the PVA in your pods, but instead, worry about the toxic chemicals INSIDE the pods. It’s the detergent itself you should be concerned with, as many conventional detergents are proven to contain actual toxins bad for human and environmental health.

Is Cascade powder eco-friendly?

Cascade is considered a conventional detergent brand that can easily be found in most supermarkets, so many people may be wondering if their products, especially their powder detergent, falls under the eco-friendly category.

While Cascade claims their packaging is made with 100% renewable or recyclable materials, they don’t have any green certifications to prove this, such as Fair Trade, Plastic Neutral, or EPA Safer Choice. 

However, the biggest issues are their ingredients. Cascade powder contains complex sodium phosphates, chlorine bleach, sodium sulfate, perfumes, etc. These types of ingredients are known to cause developmental & reproductive toxicity, asthma, respiratory issues, and even cancer. 

The best zero waste dishwasher detergent brands

These are the top eight zero waste dishwasher detergent options on the market. Almost all of these brands ship their products without excessive plastic packaging. Some are completely plastic-free, and some even have refill schemes.

Yes, a lot of these brands utilize detergent pods, which contain PVA. However, please read the section “are dishwasher pods good for the environment?” to learn my thoughts on this. That said, if you’re still uncomfortable using PVA, there are several PVA-free brands listed below as well – so there’s something for everyone!

Blueland: 8 Of The Best Zero Waste Dishwasher Detergent Options You Need to Try Now

1. Blueland

  • Dishwasher tablets
  • Free from dyes, fragrances, and harmful ingredients
  • Vegan, cruelty-free, EPA Safer Choice
  • Refill packs packaged in compostable paper
  • 100% plastic free
  • Refills come in packs of 60, 120 or 240

Image credit: Blueland

Cleancult: 8 Of The Best Zero Waste Dishwasher Detergent Options You Need to Try Now

2. Cleancult

  • Dishwasher tablets
  • Tablets wrapped in water soluble dissolving film
  • Free from parabens, phthalates, dyes + other toxic chemicals
  • Recyclable packaging
  • Lightly scented with lemon verbena
  • Certified Plastic Neutral
Dropps: 8 Of The Best Zero Waste Dishwasher Detergent Options You Need to Try Now

3. Dropps

  • Dishwasher pods
  • Pods wrapped in water soluble dissolving film
  • No dyes, chlorine, phosphates, or phthalates
  • Mineral-based ingredients
  • Recyclable cardboard packaging
  • Cruelty-free & vegan
  • Comes in scents lemon, fresh rain + unscented
  • Certified Plastic Neutral
Nellie's: 8 Of The Best Zero Waste Dishwasher Detergent Options You Need to Try Now

4. Nellie’s

  • Dishwasher powder
  • Plant-based ingredients
  • Hypoallergenic, vegan + fragrance-free
  • Powder is biodegradable, septic-safe + phosphate-free
  • Packaged in either pouch, tin, or bucket
Grove Collaborative: 8 Of The Best Zero Waste Dishwasher Detergent Options You Need to Try Now

5. Grove Collaborative

  • Dishwasher detergent packs
  • 91% plant-based formula
  • Recyclable aluminum packaging
  • 100% natural fragrance using essential oils
  • No harsh chemicals
  • Each pack dissolves in water, made of PVA
Public Goods: 8 Of The Best Zero Waste Dishwasher Detergent Options You Need to Try Now

6. Public Goods

  • Dishwasher pods
  • Natural, plant-based ingredients
  • Comes with 24 water soluble pods
  • Biodegradable + Greywater friendly
  • Free from chlorine, phosphates + other harsh chemicals
Earth Breeze

7. Earth Breeze

  • Dishwasher tablets
  • Cardboard packaging
  • Fragrance-free and lemon citrus scent options
  • Cruelty-free
  • 1% For The Planet member
  • We Are Neutral partner

8. Dirty Labs

  • Dishwasher powder
  • Plastic-free recyclable cardboard packaging with scoop made of responsibly sourced schima superba wood
  • No SLS or SLES, dyes, parabens, preservatives or 1,4-dioxane
  • Bio-based and biodegradable formula
  • Vegan + cruelty-free

So, what do you think of these sustainable dishwasher detergent options? Let me know in the comments!

For more inspo, check out my all-time favorite zero waste cleaning brands!

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By Ariana Storniolo (Palmieri)

Ariana Storniolo is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.

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