Dish Soap Ingredients: The Good & Not So Good

Washing your dishes may seem harmless, but have you ever stopped to wonder what’s in your average liquid dish soap? Despite ingredients disguised under the umbrella term “cleaning agents,” there are skin-irritating and environmentally-unfriendly substances in standard home cleaning supplies. Just as you check your personal care products, from your shampoo to your hand washes, it's also important to know what is in your dishwashing liquid.

So, how are you supposed to know whether dish soap is safe or not? 

The general rule of thumb when picking out any cleaning product: the simpler, the better. With a quick guide on ingredients to steer clear of, you can work toward a healthier, cleaner home. 

What’s In Your Dish Soap? 

As far as dish soaps go, there are green flags and red flags. When it comes to understanding how to wash dishes with efficiency and care, you can start with the ingredient list on your favorite bottle of dish soap. Checking to see what is in your household products is just as important as checking to see what’s in your food, but isn’t as easy as flipping over the dish soap bottle and reading what’s inside. 

In the cleaning product market—unlike the food or drug market—a full ingredient list on products is not a requirement by law.1 This secrecy, disguised as trade secrets, makes it difficult to know just what is in that blue bottle of soap sitting by your kitchen sink. 

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The Not-So-Good Ingredients

From environmental issues to health complications, the ingredients in dish soap currently on the market probably aren’t what you think you’re bringing home. Here are just some of the shocking ingredients and harsh chemicals found in conventional dish soap currently on the market, along with their risks: 

  • Sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) – Also known as chemical surfactants, these ingredients are harsh on the skin. Studies have shown they can cause inflammation and irritation of the skin and tissue swelling.2
  • Parabens – This common cosmetic ingredient has been under much scrutiny in the past decade. With links to hormone disruption and environmental damage,3 it’s better to avoid these when identifying dish soap.
  • Phthalates – Phthalates are no better than parabens, with links to adverse human health reactions. Several countries have even enacted restrictions on phthalate use.4
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine – This coded term is a contributor to water pollution and unsafe for sea animals—meaning the residue that leaves the drain and spreads to the ocean can be harmful.5 
  • Fragrance – Some “ingredients” are labeled as being simply for fragrance—although these are typically harmful chemicals disguised as positives.

  • To be clear, a few uses of a product with the above compounds won’t have serious long-term health effects. Yet it begs the question: why continue buying them knowing there are simpler, safer dish soap options?

    Ingredient Absorption: What to be Aware Of 

    Out of all the home cleaning products, dish soap is so important because of what it’s cleaning—dishes you eat out of. Even though you aren’t going to be taking spoonfuls of the stuff, your body still gradually absorbs the product. 

    There are two main ways in which your body absorbs what’s in your dish soap: 

  • By mouth – Dish soap residue can be left behind on your dishes where you eventually will serve food to family and friends.

  • By skin – The epidermis (our skin) is like a sponge, able to absorb whatever it comes into contact with, including soap as you're washing dishes. Although you can protect your skin from harsh dish soap with rubber gloves, you shouldn’t fear touching what’s on your dishes. 

  • How to Select Safe Dish Soap 

    You don't need toxic ingredients and harsh chemicals to get rid of the grease and gunk from your dirty dishes. Selecting a safe alternative is easy once you know just exactly what is dish soap made of. As it might be difficult to get your hands on a full ingredient list, steer clear of these three, easy-to-pick-out ingredients when selecting your next dish soap: 

  • Antibacterial Agents – The FDA confirms that plain soap and water are all you need to effectively rid your hands of bacteria and the killing of bacteria is unnecessary as long as it's off of a surface.6 Antibacterial dish soap often contains triclosan, an ingredient under review by the FDA due to potential adverse effects on hormones and the environment.

  • Artificial Fragrance – Chemical fragrances have the potential to cause serious skin problems and allergies, especially for anyone with sensitive skin. They have no place in dish soap because they don’t improve washing power.

  • Artificial Dyes – Companies will put artificial dyes in their cleaning products to make them more appealing to the eye. Similar to chemical fragrances, dyes play no role in the actual effectiveness of the soap. Studies linked synthetic dyes in foods with hyperactivity and learning disorders in children, so they have no place in your cleaning products either.7

  • Opt instead for dish soaps, such Achipelago’s Natural Dish Soap, with any of the following green flags to clean and breathe easy: 

    • Essential oils 
    • Fragrance-free 
    • Hand-safe 
    • Dye-free
    • Plant-based 
    • Paraben and Phthalate-free 

    Clean Simpler, Clean Better with Archipelago 


    Much akin to our diets, simple and natural cleaning products with recognizable ingredients should be non-negotiable in a healthy home. There’s no need to continue picking up toxic cleaning products when there are clean, plant-based options you can use. 

    At Archipelago, we formulate each of our natural products with your home and health in mind. We’ve ditched the harsh artificial chemicals for essential oils and plant-based ingredients without compromising cleaning power. 

    To learn what simple, safe, and effective cleaning feels like, shop our Home Cleaning line today. 


    1. NRDC. Why We Need Ingredient Labeling for Cleaning Products. 
    2. NCBI. Improvement in the Safety of Use of Hand Dishwashing Liquids Through the Addition of Hydrophobic Plant Extracts.
    3. EWG. What Are Parabens, and Why Don’t They Belong in Cosmetics?
    4. NCBI. Phthalates and Their Impacts on Human Health.
    5. Medical News Today. Cocamidopropyl betaine: Uses and safety.
    6. FDA. Antibacterial Soap? You Can Skip It, Use Plain Soap and Water. 
    7. Children's Health Defense. Synthetic Dyes in Popular Kids’ Foods Linked to Hyperactivity, Learning Disorders.