Greener cleaners for your dishes?

Consumer Reports News: December 03, 2007 04:19 PM

As part of our latest report on dishwashing liquids, we tested four products that make green claims: Earth Friendly Dishmate Ultra, Ecover Ecological Dishwashing, Seventh Generation Free & Clear, and Trader Joe’s Dish Soap. All of these cleaners did at least a very good job cleaning dishes, but are they as green as they appear?

You might think so, since their packaging features words like “biodegradable,” “natural,” “environmentally friendly,” and “nontoxic.” But, as they say, never assume anything. For instance, “biodegradable” means little unless the claim is specific, such as “biodegradable in three days” or “certified biodegradable.”

If you want to buy a cleaner that’s somewhat gentler on the environment—say one that contains a renewable, plant-based cleaning agent instead of a petroleum-based one—be sure the green claim is real. “Certified biodegradable,” for example, is independently verified. Visit our Eco-labels Web site for information on environmental labels on a range of consumer goods, including household cleaners, food, and personal-hygiene products.

Perhaps your concerns are more about how humane a product is than how green it is. To find out whether a dishwashing liquid was tested on animals, look for the Leaping Bunny logo (shown). That independently verified seal of approval indicates a product wasn’t tested on animals during any stage of its development. The Earth Friendly and Seventh Generation liquids we tested both meet the Leaping Bunny standard.

Finally, if you want to avoid the cloying, potentially allergy-inducing scents of some cleaners, look for specific claims, such as “contains no artificial dyes or fragrances,” then check the ingredients list.

Essential information: See which dishwashing liquids topped our Ratings in the January 2008 issue of Consumer Reports or on If you’re in the market for a new sink or faucet to wash your dishes with, read “Money down the drain?” If you’d prefer to let a machine do the work, read our buying advice for dishwashers and see our Ratings (available to subscribers).

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