What Is Natural Dish Soap? Organic, Safety, Studies

Natural Pioneers What is natural dish soap

Is there such a thing as natural dish soap? We’ll show you the difference between soap and detergents, explain “natural” labeling, and tell you about toxins in our dish soap and how you can avoid them.

Dish detergents are manufactured in chemical plants. A detergent cannot be considered a natural product. With no FDA definition available, any soap manufacturer can print “natural” on their product. Safe & toxin-free detergents contain no antibacterial agents, surfactants, dyes, or phthalates.

Is natural dish soap made of real soap? Let’s find out.

1. Soap Vs. Detergent

Let’s start with soap. Soap is a combination of fats or oils with an alkali (lye). [1]

All natural soapliquid or bar soap – is made during the saponification process. Saponification means “soap making”, and is a chemical reaction that occurs when fats or oils come into contact with an alkali.

Natural soap is effective. When using plain soap and water, the presence of bacteria is reduced to 8%. [2]

Detergents, on the other side, are manufactured in chemical plants. Unlike soap, detergents don’t form soap scum and are free-rinsing, that means they don’t leave a residue. And there are a lot of things that are commonly added to detergents, such as thickening and stabilizing agents as well as surfactants, phosphates, triclosan, hydrotrope, salts, preservatives, fragrances, and dyes.

Are some ingredients harmful? Yes. And we will get to that soon.

Today there are very few true soaps on the market. So while we commonly call it dish soap, it really is dish detergent. Some of these detergent products are actually marketed as “soap” but are not true soap according to the regulatory definition of the word. 

Natural soap, for example natural bar soap, contains glycerin which is hydrating and moisturizing, hence, ideal for your hands and body. Detergent on the other side is a lot more harsh. It’s designed to clean dishes and leaves no scum. [3]

Curious about natural soap? Learn more in our article: Is Natural Soap Better?

Natural Pioneers What is natural dish soap soap vs. detergent

2. What Makes A Product Natural?

When thinking about “natural soap”, you might think of something non-toxic, organic, containing essential oils and herbs, that is produced without animal testing, perhaps locally made with a minimal carbon footprint and is fully recyclable.

Am I close?

You need to understand that the FDA has no definitions for “natural” or “organic” in soap. Unlike “organic spinach” which needs to grow on organic soil without the use of pesticides, and so on, dish detergent is made in chemical plants. Therefore, even if organic ingredients such as fats, butters, or essential oils are added, the FDA simply does not have definitions for this chemical that some might call “organic” soap. [4]

While we can’t change the fact that dish detergent is purely chemically made, we can take steps to find a product that is non-toxic for our health. Let’s look at that now.

Is Dead Sea mud? Learn more in our article: What Is Dead Sea Mud Soap Good For?

Natural Pioneers What is natural dish soap natural labeling

3. Toxins In Dish Soap

Many people have started to question whether the ingredients in their products are safe and non-toxic. Remember, the skin is our largest organ and many synthetic ingredients can be absorbed through our skin.

  • Studies show that chemicals found in cosmetics and personal care products may not only act as hormone disruptors but may also cause reproductive problems. Children are generally exposed to the same chemicals as their mothers. [5]
  • Another study done on pregnant women could find chemicals in urine samples and could trace them back to their use of liquid soap, sunscreen, lotion and cosmetics. [6]

As you can see, most commercially produced dish soaps contain significant amounts of toxins that are absorbed through our skin. They are known to cause cancer, may cause developmental & reproductive problems, allergies, and harm our immune system. [7]

When aiming to make better choices for you and your family, there are 4 things you should know. Let’s quickly go over the things to avoid.

Natural Pioneers What is natural dish soap toxins in dish soap

1. Antibacterial agents

Triclosan, a common antibacterial agent, acts as a hormone disruptor, can increase your waistline, causes the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria, and can reduce antibiotic efficacy 100-fold. [8], [9], [10], [11], [12]

→ Stay away from anything that says “antibacterial”

2. Bubbles

The surfactants sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) produce bubbles in your dish soap. During production 1,4-dioxane is formed which is known to cause cancer. It is banned from use in the European Union. Short-term exposure may cause eye, nose and throat irritation, long-term exposure may cause kidney and liver damage. [13], [14]

→ Avoid SLS & SLES and opt for coconut-derived surfactants with better safety profiles.

3. Coloring

There is evidence that dyes may cause behavioral issues, like ADHD, in kids. [15]

→ Stick with colorless dish detergent

4. Smells

Phthalates disrupt our hormones and can harm our reproductive system. In children, they can disturb normal development. [16], [17], [18]

→ Go fragrance free or choose essential oils

What Can We Do To Stay Safe?

If you find yourself super worried right now, breathe. You can take active steps towards minimizing the chemical load you expose yourself to. First, I invite you to check out EWG’s Skin Deep Database. Here, you can check the products you have at home and make safe choices when buying new ones each time. While you check your dish soap, I recommend you check your beauty and personal care products along with it.

As we’ve defined in the previous chapter, the FDA has no definition for “natural” soap. So, be aware that even if a product comes with natural looking packaging and the term “natural” printed on front, it might still not be safe.

Let’s now look at some brands that you can trust when it comes to your and your family’s health.

Curious about toxins in hand soap? Learn more: Is Natural Hand Soap Antibacterial?

4. Natural Dish Soap Brands

Natural Pioneers What is natural dish soap trusted brands

When we say “natural” dish soap, we mean non-toxic, safe soaps. When it comes to cleaning products, the name on the bottle matters. 76% of people stick with one dish soap brand in the long run. [19]

And that’s a good thing. That means, if we are looking for a natural, non-toxic dish soap, we only have to do the research once. In this case, we’ve done the work for you.

Here are Natural Pioneers Top 3 trusted brands:

1. Sonett Organic Dishwashing Liquid Calendula


  • With organic sweet orange and bergamot oil
  • 100% biodegradable, hypoallergenic, and vegan
  • This German product comes with a convenient pump dispenser

2. Natural Dishwashing Liquid Fragrance-free


  • Dermatologically tested, non-irritating and hypoallergenic
  • Certified by the National Eczema Association
  • Contains colloidal oatmeal with protective, soothing and hydrating properties.

3. Foaming Organic Baby Dish Soap by MADE OF – No Fragrance


  • EWG verified, NSF Organic, and vegan
  • Safe for Sensitive Skin and Eczema
  • Fragrance Free

5. Conclusion

Dish detergents are manufactured in chemical plants. Therefore, a detergent cannot be considered a natural product. Unlike soap, detergents don’t form soap scum and are free-rinsing, that means they don’t leave a residue.

Generally, the FDA has no definitions for “natural” or “organic” in soap. Any soap manufacturer can print “natural” on their product. Today there are very few true soaps on the market. So while we commonly call it dish soap, it really is dish detergent

When looking for a natural dish soap, most people are actually searching for something safe & toxin-free. Most commercially produced dish soaps contain antibacterial agents, surfactants, dyes and phthalates. These are known to cause antibiotic resistance, cancer, irritation, kidney & liver damage, behavioral issues in children, and disrupt our hormones.

Natural Pioneers has thoroughly researched dish detergents to find safe, toxin-free products. Attitude, MADE OF, and Sonett are brands with natural dish detergents you can trust.