Top Eco-Friendly Ingredients to Look for in Natural Dish Soaps

Written by Salif Thomas — April 21, 2023

Top Eco-Friendly Ingredients to Look for in Natural Dish Soaps
In a world where climate change and environmental pollution have become pressing concerns, making eco-friendly choices is more critical than ever. One small yet significant change is to opt for an eco-friendly dish soap, which not only benefits the environment but also safeguards your health. In this article, we will explore the top eco-friendly ingredients to consider when choosing the best dish soap for your home.
Natural dish soaps are made from biodegradable ingredients, such as plant-based oils, essential oils, and natural cleansers like baking soda or vinegar. These products are free from synthetic fragrances and artificial dyes. They often come in concentrated form, which means you can use less for the same amount of cleanliness.


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Biodegradable Surfactants

Surfactants are responsible for the cleansing action in dish soaps, helping to remove grease and food residue. However, conventional surfactants often have adverse environmental impacts, contributing to water pollution and harming aquatic life. To minimize these effects, all-natural dish soaps use biodegradable surfactants, which break down into harmless components in the environment.
Sourced from renewable plant-based resources such as coconut and corn, these surfactants are designed to minimize environmental impact. They not only preserve natural ecosystems but also ensure that the cleaning products are safe and effective. Below are insights into each of these environmentally friendly surfactants:
  • Coco-glucoside: This surfactant stands out for its ability to effectively remove grease and food residues, making it a staple in kitchen cleaning products. Derived primarily from coconut oil and fruit sugars, coco-glucoside is known for its excellent solubility and foaming capacity, which are essential for thorough cleaning. It is mild, non-irritating, and has a very low toxicity level, making it suitable for all skin types, including those of children and pets. Its biodegradability ensures that it breaks down quickly in the environment, reducing the risk of pollution.
  • Lauryl glucoside: Lauryl glucoside is a mild and gentle surfactant, making it perfect for individuals with sensitive skin. Derived from lauryl alcohol, which is sourced from coconut oil, and glucose from corn, this surfactant maintains skin's natural balance while effectively cleaning. It does not strip the skin of natural oils or cause dryness, which is often a concern with more aggressive cleaning agents. Lauryl glucoside is also highly biodegradable and does not accumulate in the environment, thus supporting aquatic life and reducing environmental toxicity.
  • Decyl glucoside: Known for its role in producing a rich, satisfying lather, decyl glucoside enhances the performance of cleaning products by ensuring that dirt and oils are effectively encapsulated and removed. Originating from decyl alcohol (found in coconut) and glucose, it combines mildness with efficient cleaning capabilities. This surfactant is especially favored in formulas for children’s soaps and sensitive skin care products due to its non-irritating properties. Like its counterparts, decyl glucoside is readily biodegradable and does not adversely affect the environment, aligning with the values of sustainability and ecological responsibility.
The incorporation of coco-glucoside, lauryl glucoside, and decyl glucoside into dish soaps represents a significant step towards more sustainable cleaning practices. By choosing products that contain these ingredients, consumers can actively contribute to the preservation of natural resources and help reduce the chemical load on our planet. As more people opt for eco-friendly products, the demand for environmentally responsible ingredients is likely to increase, further encouraging manufacturers to adopt greener practices.

Plant-Based Ingredients

Sustainable and renewable resources like plant-based ingredients form its backbone. By using these ingredients, manufacturers can reduce their reliance on nonrenewable resources, thus reducing their carbon footprint and supporting a greener future.
Coconut oil, olive oil, and sunflower oil are vital components of eco-friendly dish soaps, chosen for their unique and beneficial properties. Each of these oils not only aids in effective cleaning but also ensures that the process is gentle on both the environment and the user. Here is a look at each of their contributions:
  • Hydrating Properties: Coconut oil, olive oil, and sunflower oil are renowned for their hydrating effects, which are especially beneficial during dishwashing. These oils lock in moisture, preventing the harsh drying effect often associated with conventional dishwashing soaps. Regular exposure to these oils during dishwashing can help maintain the natural suppleness of the hands. This moisture retention is crucial for those who frequently wash dishes, as it helps to protect the skin’s natural oils from being stripped away, thereby preventing dry, cracked hands.
  • Saponification Contribution: In the soap-making process, known as saponification, these oils play a pivotal role. They react with an alkali, typically lye, to create soap and glycerin. Coconut oil is particularly valued for its ability to produce a hard soap that lathers well even in saltwater. Olive oil contributes to the soap’s conditioning properties, making it softer and less stripping, while sunflower oil provides a lightweight, moisturizing quality. The glycerin formed during this process is a humectant, which attracts moisture to the skin, further enhancing the soap’s moisturizing properties.
  • Luxurious Lather: The lathering quality of dish soap is crucial as it directly impacts the efficiency of cleaning. Coconut, olive, and sunflower oils are excellent at producing a rich, frothy lather that effectively captures and lifts grease and food residues from dishes. This luxurious lather does not just make the cleaning process more efficient but also more enjoyable, as it glides smoothly over dishes and cutlery, ensuring that every surface is immaculately cleaned with minimal effort.
  • Nurturing Qualities: Beyond their cleaning capabilities, these oils have nurturing qualities that make them stand out in skincare, which translates well to dish soaps. They help to soften and condition the skin, turning a routine chore into a moment of care for your hands. Dishwashing becomes less intimidating and more enjoyable because of this feature, which appeals especially to people who want a more loving experience in their everyday obligations.
Incorporating coconut, olive, and sunflower oils into dish soaps aligns with a growing consumer preference for products that are both effective and gentle. These oils enrich the dishwashing experience, providing a product that not only cleans dishes effectively but also cares for the user's hands, marrying practicality with sensory pleasure.


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Essential Oils

The addition of essential oils in safe dish soap formulations not only imparts pleasant fragrances but also brings various benefits. For instance, many essential oils possess antimicrobial properties that aid in cleaning, while others can help soothe and moisturize your skin.
Lavender essential oil is highly regarded in the realm of natural cleaning products, not only for its delightful fragrance but also for its therapeutic benefits. Renowned for its ability to impart a calming and soothing aroma, lavender oil is often used to reduce stress and anxiety, making the chore of dishwashing a more pleasant and relaxing experience. Beyond its aromatic appeal, lavender essential oil possesses potent antimicrobial properties that enhance the cleaning efficacy of dish soaps. It effectively combats common pathogens found in the kitchen, making it a safer and more natural alternative to synthetic chemicals. The presence of linalool and linalyl acetate, two of the main components in lavender oil, contribute to its ability to disrupt the growth of bacteria and fungi, ensuring a thorough clean while also providing a therapeutic sensory experience.
Citrus essential oils, such as lemon, orange, and grapefruit, are another group of natural ingredients favored for their powerful cleaning capabilities. These oils are particularly valued for their potent grease-cutting properties, which stem from the natural solvents known as limonene and citral. These components break down tough grease and food residues, leaving dishes sparkling clean without the need for harsh chemicals. Additionally, the vibrant, invigorating scents of citrus oils uplift the mood and energize the senses during dishwashing tasks. Their natural antiseptic properties further enhance the cleaning process by eliminating germs and leaving behind a fresh, citrusy fragrance that purifies the air and neutralizes odors in the kitchen.
Eucalyptus essential oil rounds out the trio of beneficial oils in natural dish soap formulations with its robust antimicrobial, antifungal, and deodorizing properties. Known for its crisp, clean scent, eucalyptus oil is effective in eliminating a wide range of microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, which are common in kitchen environments. This makes it an excellent choice for ensuring hygienic cleaning. Additionally, eucalyptus oil is a powerful deodorizer, capable of tackling unpleasant smells that can linger on dishes and in the sink area.

Natural Thickeners

Thickeners are crucial additives in many products, including eco-friendly dish soaps, where they serve to enhance viscosity and consistency. This adjustment in texture is vital not only for the product's performance but also for user satisfaction. Traditional soaps often use synthetic thickeners, which can be harsh on the environment and the skin. In contrast, eco-friendly soaps tend to incorporate natural thickeners like xanthan gum, guar gum, and cellulose gum. These substances are derived from renewable resources—xanthan gum is produced from sugar fermented by Xanthomonas campestris bacteria, guar gum is extracted from guar beans, and cellulose gum is made from plant cellulose. These are effective in small quantities, and they do not compromise the soap’s cleaning power. They stabilize the mixture, preventing the separation of ingredients in the bottle, and enhance the soap’s ability to cling to surfaces, thereby improving its cleaning action. This clinginess allows the active cleaning agents more time to work on greasy and dirty surfaces, resulting in a more efficient wash. Moreover, these thickeners contribute to a smoother texture, making the soap feel more luxurious and pleasant to use.
Eco-friendly thickeners are generally safe for all skin types, reducing the risk of skin irritation that can occur with synthetic alternatives. They also contribute to the overall sustainability of the product lifecycle. As these thickeners break down naturally, they do not contribute to the long-term pollution of water systems, which is a significant concern with many synthetic, non-biodegradable thickeners.
Additionally, natural emulsifiers such as sunflower lecithin and cetyl alcohol can help blend the ingredients. These emulsifiers also give a rich, creamy texture that helps make them easier to use. Natural enzymes are another great ingredient for giving dish soaps their cleaning power. Protease and amylase are two enzymes commonly used to help break down stubborn food residue and dirt.
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Natural Preservatives

Preservatives are necessary to prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast in dish soaps, ensuring a longer shelf life and overall product safety. In this, natural preservatives like citric acid, potassium sorbate, and sodium benzoate are preferred over synthetic alternatives. These preservatives have a minimal environmental impact and are considered safe for human use.
Citric acid, commonly found in citrus fruits like lemons and oranges, plays a crucial role in the formulation of eco-friendly dish soaps. As a mild organic acid, it is primarily used as a pH stabilizer and a natural preservative in these cleaning products. The inclusion of citric acid helps maintain the soap's pH at a level that is not only effective for cleaning but also gentle on the skin and safe for the environment. Maintaining an optimal pH enhances the soap’s ability to break down dirt and grease, improving its cleaning efficiency. Moreover, as a preservative, citric acid helps prevent the growth of bacteria and mold within the soap, extending its shelf life and keeping it safe and effective for consumer use over time.
In addition to citric acid, other natural preservatives such as potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate are integral to the formulation of dish soaps. These compounds, derived from natural sources like berries and apples, are known for their efficacy in inhibiting the growth of microbes. Potassium sorbate is particularly effective against fungi and mold, while sodium benzoate excels in combating bacteria and yeast. The use of these preservatives ensures that dish soaps remain free from microbial contamination that could otherwise degrade the product and potentially harm the user. By using these natural preservatives, manufacturers can offer products that are not only effective but also align with the values of health-conscious and environmentally aware consumers.
Incorporating eco-friendly ingredients is a small but meaningful step towards a more sustainable and health-conscious lifestyle. By choosing one that contains biodegradable surfactants, plant-based ingredients, essential oils, natural thickeners, and natural preservatives, you contribute to reducing environmental pollution and conserving natural resources. Furthermore, these ingredients are gentle on your skin and often provide additional benefits like soothing and moisturizing properties.
Embracing eco-friendly dish soaps not only ensures the cleanliness of your dishes but also supports a greener planet and promotes overall well-being. As consumers, we have the power to make informed choices and foster a sustainable future by opting for products that prioritize the environment and our health. So next time you need a new dish soap, consider seeking out eco-friendly options with safe dish soap ingredients, and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Together, we can make a difference and protect our precious planet for generations to come.