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Is Dawn Dish Soap Toxic and Bad for the Environment?

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Is Dawn Dish Soap Toxic?

Millions of people trust Dawn dish soap to clean their dishes, but at what cost to the planet? Is Dawn dish soap toxic and bad for the planet?

We’ll take a closer look at the ingredients in Dawn dish soap to see whether or not the soap is non-toxic and to discover if there are any health concerns you need to be aware of before using it.

What Is Dawn Dish Soap?

dish washing liquid flows out of the bottle, blue sponge on white

Dawn is a degreasing liquid soap manufactured by Procter & Gamble that’s commonly used to wash dishes and clean around the house. In addition to being available in a variety of colors and scents, Dawn dish soap also comes in different formulas, such as those designed to remove grease or baked-on food.

People often do more than just clean dirty dishes with Dawn. It’s also been used to get stains out of carpet, as a dog and cat shampoo, in the garden to repel pests, and when doing laundry.

Related: The Best Non-Toxic Hand Soap for a Safe and Natural Clean

What Are the Ingredients in Dawn Dish Soap?

According to the ingredient list on the back of the bottle, Dawn soap contains the following:

Water; Sodium Lauryl Sulfate; Sodium Laureth Sulfate; C10-16 Alkyldime-Thylamine Oxide; Alcohol Denat.; Ppg-26; Sodium Chloride; Sodium Hydroxide; Pei-14 Peg-24/Ppg-16 Copolymer; Phenoxyethanol; Fragrances; Methylisothiazo-Linone; Colorants Blue 1, Yellow 5, Red 33; C9-11 Pareth-8; Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer; Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate; Chloroxylenol; Phenoxy-Isopropanol; Glycerin; Sodium Cumene-Sulfonate; Propylene Glycol; Terpineol.

Is Dawn Dish Soap Toxic?

Yes, Dawn soap contains toxic ingredients. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) gives Dawn dish soap a D rating.

The following ingredients from the ingredient label are of particular concern:

  • Methylisothiszolinone– A high concern for acute aquatic toxicity and some concern for skin irritation, allergies, and damage — especially for people with sensitive skin.
  • C9-11 Paeth-8– Some concern for acute aquatic toxicity and allergic reactions on the skin.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate– Some concern for chronic aquatic toxicity, acute aquatic toxicity, damage to vision, and general organ damage.
  • DECETH-8– Some concern for skin irritation and allergies, cancer, developmental and reproductive effects, damage to DNA, damage to vision, and respiratory effects.
  • Fragrance– An unspecified ingredient and catch-all term that companies can use to hide hundreds of other harmful chemicals.

Related: The Dangerous Secrets Hiding in Common Cleaning Products in Your Home

Is Dawn Dish Soap Biodegradable?

While Dawn claims to use “biodegradable surfactants” in its soap, that’s just one ingredient out of many. Since the majority of its ingredients are not biodegradable, the company cannot claim its soap is completely biodegradable.

Additionally, Dawn dishwashing liquid comes packaged in a plastic bottle, which is definitely not biodegradable. At best, these bottles are recyclable only if they’re thoroughly washed out and your local recycling facility accepts PET and HDPE plastics.

Does Dawn Dish Soap Help Save Wildlife?

It says right on the bottle that Dawn dishwashing soaps help save wildlife, and we often see commercials about people using Dawn soap to clean birds covered in oil from a disastrous oil spill. Unfortunately, Dawn does not help wildlife in the best ways possible.

In fact, as we’ve discovered by looking at the ingredients in Dawn, it actually pollutes the water that birds and other animals live in. Ingredients like methylisothiszolinone, sodium lauryl sulfate, and C9-11 paeth-8 are all known to cause adverse effects to aquatic life.

People use Dawn dish soap to clean birds caught in an oil spill because it does do a good job of removing oil. Of course, one problem here is that some of the key ingredients in Dawn are petroleum-based. So they’re using oil-based ingredients to clean off oil, which simply increases the world’s demand for more oil!

While it is true that Dawn has donated over $4.5 million to wildlife charities, such as The Marine Mammal Center and International Bird Rescue, the company has not stated the exact amounts donated to each charity.

Related: What Are Carbon Offset Programs? And Why Should You Use One?

Is Dawn Dish Soap Septic Safe?

If your home has a septic system, you know how important it is to carefully watch what goes down the drain. Anything that disrupts the balance of enzymes and bacteria in the septic system, such as bleach or phosphates, can destroy it.

This is one reason why it’s so important for septic tank owners to choose an eco-friendly and natural drain cleaner. Of course, everyone else should as well so they can avoid the dangerous fumes and potential plumbing system damage from chemical-based drain cleaners!

Bleach and Septic Tanks

Some people like to clean with bleach because it can kill pretty much all types of germs and bacteria. Of course, sometimes bleach is a little TOO effective.

Introducing just 2 gallons of chlorine bleach into your septic system over a short period of time can kill most, if not all, of the good bacteria.

Exposure to bleach can cause nose, eye, lung, throat, and skin irritation. Additionally, a study published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine suggests that even passive exposure to bleach can give children a higher chance of respiratory illness and other infections.

If you want to brighten your laundry whites without using bleach, check out this amazingly effective DIY bleach alternative.

Phosphates and Septic Tanks

Phosphorous is a common ingredient used in different types of detergents because it helps to clean and remove grime. However, phosphates in your septic tank can kill the bacteria and enzymes that are there to decompose waste.

Additionally, phosphates can filter through the septic drain field, soak into the surrounding soil, and eventually make their way into nearby waterways where they can kill plants, fish, and other wildlife and even cause dangerous algae blooms.

This is why it’s important for everyone — not just septic system owners — to use an eco-friendly laundry detergent and sustainable dishwasher detergents that don’t contain phosphates.

Dawn Soap and Septic Tanks

If you search “Is Dawn soap safe for septic tanks,” you’ll get a lot of differing opinions. Some people will flat out say no, it’s not safe.

Other people will say it’s safe, yet immediately go on to say that any petroleum-based dish soaps that contain non-biodegradable components and harsh chemicals can pose a threat to your septic system. As we’ve already covered, Dawn soap does indeed contain petroleum-based ingredients, harsh chemicals, and non-biodegradable ingredients.

As a result, it’s hard for me to see how they can say Dawn soap is safe for septic tanks when it contains ingredients everyone knows are NOT good for septic tanks.

Non-Toxic Alternatives to Dawn Dish Soap

Now that you know more about the toxicity of Dawn soap, you’re probably wondering if there are eco-friendly alternatives that work just as well and are safer for the environment. The good news is you have plenty of options available!

Glass spray bottle of Dropps Power Dish Spray

If you’re interested in a sustainable dish soap, this Dropps power dish spray is a fantastic option and what I personally use in my house. I love how quickly and easily it powers through grease and stuck-on food even though it uses vegan, biodegradable, plant-based ingredients.

If you’re looking for even more options, be sure to check out this post on the best eco-friendly dish soap. You’ll discover everything from liquid dish soaps to bar soaps, which means you’ll have no problems finding something that suits your needs.

Related: Is Bar Soap Sanitary or Covered in Bacteria?

Biodegradable Castile soap is another outstanding alternative to Dawn. Castile soap is a gentle cleanser made from vegetable oil.

In addition to being vegan and cruelty-free, Castile soap is also amazingly versatile. Not only can you use it to make an effective dish soap, but you can also use it as a body wash, for hand soap, as a dog shampoo, to clean around your house, and more!

Plus, you can choose one of the scented varieties or use essential oils to create your own fragrance.

Best of all, since these sustainable options don’t contain any petroleum-based ingredients and are often labeled a Safer Choice by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you know they’re also safe to use with septic systems.

Related: Easy Steps You Can Follow to Have a Zero Waste Kitchen

Everything You Need to Know About Dawn Dish Soap and Toxic Ingredients

Dawn dish soap likes to advertise itself as an eco-friendly soap that helps animals and is good for the environment. Unfortunately, as we’ve discovered from a look at its most common ingredients, the truth is Dawn dish soap is toxic.

However, the good news is there are plenty of sustainable dish soaps made with natural ingredients that work just as well as Dawn. When you make the switch to an eco-friendly dish soap, you can protect your skin and help wildlife at the same time.

More Helpful Tips on Eco-Friendly Living

Did you find this post on Dawn dish soap toxic ingredients helpful? Are you looking for additional information that can help you live a more sustainable life? Then please be sure to take a look at some of our other popular posts:

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