Is Your Dishwasher Making You Sick?

Dishwasher powder is toxic. Would you eat it? |

Did you know that dishwasher powder (or tablets) is likely one of the most toxic items in your house?

In America, in a two year period, 14,000 children were admitted to emergency after eating dishwasher tablets. They are incredibly caustic and burn mouth and throat as they go down.

In Australia, over 2000 kids each year are admitted to hospital for poisoning, most of them from household chemicals.

If those stats concern you, think about this:

While eating dishwasher powder is not something most of us make a habit of, some of those chemicals are left on your dishes each time you take them from the dishwasher and put them in the cupboard.

You know that freshly clean smell you get when you open the dishwasher and the steam streams out? That steam is also settling on your dishes, and if you use a standard dishwasher powder or tablets, that smell is chlorine bleach and other chemicals you don’t want to be eating.

So what can you do instead? Do you have to wash dishes by hand??


I found all this out recently, when researching the Norwex Superjet dishwasher powder, because it’s the Norwex product of the month for May, and is 15% off, making it $14 for a tub (in Australia).

I’ve been using it since March, and I am still going with the same tub. And we use the dishwasher at least once a day.

Superjet is fragrance, phosphate and chlorine free. It is safe for aquatic organisms and septic systems, is biodegradable, and not tested on animals.

And unlike tablets, which clog up your dishwasher with the glue that holds them together, it will keep your dishwasher as clean as your dishes.

It’s also incredibly cost effective.

I just measured out a full tub, and got 102 tsp.*

How much do you need for a full, dirty load?

Water type Amount Cost per load at full price ($16.50) Cost per load on sale ($14.00)
Hard water up to 3 tsp (15ml) 48.5c 43c
Canberra water (moderate)  1-2 tsp 23.5c
(on average)
(on average)
With magnet ball (OR 1 draw) ½ – 1.5 tsp 16c
(on average)
(on average)

Compare that to the dishwasher tablets you buy in the store.  A quick perusal of the Woolies online shopping site shows tablets they range from 36c each for the largest packs, to 90s each for the most expensive. 90c per load!!

Tip - if your glasses are spotty, you may need less powder not more | SustainableSuburbia.netKeep in mind, in hard water the detergent binds with the minerals in the water – that’s why you need more washing powders of all kinds in hard water areas.

How much exactly you need depends on a combination of your water type, how much water your dishwasher uses, and how dirty your dishes are. Of course, tablets don’t allow us to make those adjustments.

What’s the magnet ball? It is a water conditioner, in the form of a rubber ball with heavy duty magnets, that effectively softens the water as it passes through the middle of it. It actually keeps the minerals rotating in the water, rather than binding to the detergent as they usually would.

You can also use the magnet ball in a top loading washing machine (not in front loaders as not enough water passes through it to be effective, and besides, it might crack your glass!). So although it retails at $48, you can make that money back in detergent savings in a matter of months. The ball has a 5 year warranty, but looked after, should be something you can pass down to your kids!

But does it work?

It sure does!

Will you love Superjet? I honestly don’t know. It seems to depend a bit on your machine.

It will certainly clean your dishes beautifully.

But if you are used to a tablet which contains rinse aid, you might find your dishes don’t dry as well without the rinse aid.

Of course, you can add that separately, but I take the view that if I’m not using nasty chemicals to clean my dishes, I don’t really want nasty chemicals sitting on them to help them dry either!

What is rinse aid, and what can you use instead? Is there a DIY version?

Have you ever wondered what rinse aid does?

It actually helps with the drying not the rinsing, by coating your dishes with a substance that breaks the water down into smaller droplets so that it drips off more quickly. This in turn means that you don’t get minerals from the water leaving your glasses cloudy or spotty.

If, like me, you would prefer not to have a chemical coating your dishes, you can try using white vinegar – but don’t put it in the rinse aid dispenser, as apparently this can cause the rubber lining to break down. Instead, try putting it in an upturned cup on the top level. Because it is upturned, not all the vinegar will rinse out on the first wash.

Am I saying that without vinegar or rinse aid your glasses will be spotty?

Not at all. It depends as much on your dishwasher as anything.

Mine has a very high energy efficiency rating. Which actually just means it doesn’t dry the dishes at all! It’s better though if I remember to open the door just after it finishes, so the steam can escape.

I know people with different dishwashers who use no rinse aid or vinegar (and do use the Superjet), whose glasses come out sparkling.

Mine don’t, but that’s a price I am prepared to pay for a) no nasty chemicals on my dishes or down my drain and b) not having to wash or dry them by hand (I just leave them overnight to drip dry in the washer!). Sometimes, I even remember to add the vinegar…

Money back guarantee

Just remember, with all Norwex products there is a 60 day, no questions asked, money back satisfaction guarantee. So you can try it, and if you hate it give me a call and I will give you your money back (and Norwex will give me my money back too, so no worries on that score!).

But I suspect you will love it. And like me, you will be happier knowing you and your family are not ingesting nasty chemicals along with your glass of water or bowl of cereal.

Over to you: What do you use in your Dishwasher? Or do you do it the old fashioned way and wash by hand (as we had done for the past three years while saving for our overseas trip)? Have you tried vinegar for rinse aid before? What did you think?

*There is some margin of error here, one of my colleagues got 105 tsp when she measured her tub, but I think it’s safe to say, there is quite a lot there!


If you buy the Norwex Superjet or the Magnet ball through the links on this post, I will make a commission. This will help me continue to work in a field that I love – helping people get the toxic chemicals out of their homes – and help keep this website going. But I would NEVER recommend them if I didn’t love them. Thank you. And enjoy living less toxically. 🙂


Shared, of course, over at the Tuesday morning Link up at Essentially Jess.

  19 comments for “Is Your Dishwasher Making You Sick?

  1. Sarah
    May 28, 2015 at 10:34 am

    I used to use a homemade one with bicarb soda + vinegar in the rinse aid, but I found it didn’t clean the really grimey dishes very well and I’m not sure the vinegar did much for the glasses either. So I went back to using tablets. I will try this though next. I guess every if I used it with rinse aid, it’s better than toxic tablets…

    • May 28, 2015 at 10:44 am

      I am sure you are right Sarah. 🙂

      • Kirsten
        June 2, 2015 at 10:19 am

        Though you could maybe try it with vinegar and see how it goes?

  2. June 2, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Can I ask what the active ingredients are in the powder?

    • Kirsten
      June 2, 2015 at 10:13 am

      You sure can Amy. Hang on…

    • Kirsten
      June 2, 2015 at 10:34 am

      The ingredients listed are: Sodium carbonate, sodium metasilicate, sodium percarbonate, sodium silicate, and a biodegradable surfactant.
      It is free of SLES/SLS, phosphates, chlorine or fragrances, and fully biodegradable.

  3. June 2, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    Wow, I can’t say I’ve ever thought about what’s in those dishwasher tablets but you’re right, I’m sure there’s all sorts of residue left behind!

    • June 4, 2015 at 11:21 pm

      I actually read that somewhere around 70% of Australians take their dishes out of the dishwasher and re-rinse them, not liking the chemical smell left on them. I reckon that has to be inflated though.

  4. June 2, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    I cannot believe that I had never stopped to think about this before but it is so obvious. Thanks for the enlightenment.

    • June 4, 2015 at 11:18 pm

      No worries, thanks for stopping by Malinda 🙂

  5. June 2, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    I would have never have thought about this before, but you’re right. It’s not healthy at all. We have hard water here, so are you saying we would need to use more of the Superjet? I’m interested in getting some and testing it out. #teamIBOT

    • June 4, 2015 at 11:15 pm

      Yes Renee, I expect you would I would experiment – probably between 1 and 2 tsp, but of course it also depends a bit on the *amount* of water your dishwasher uses.

      The superjet does also have a water softener in it, but I think you would still need more than I do.

    • June 4, 2015 at 11:19 pm

      I mean, probably between 2 and 3 tsp. Clearly it is too late at night for me to function 🙂

  6. June 3, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    Really interesting post Kirsten. I was expecting it was going to be about the gunky stuff that gets caught in the dishwasher that no one remembers to clean out. I hadn’t thought of the detergent and rinse aid as what could be making us sick, but you are spot on. I wash by hand now because I don’t have a dishwasher in my current place, but I probably should think more about my dishwashing liquid too. Hmmm… definitely food for thought.

    • June 4, 2015 at 11:17 pm

      Thanks for commenting Glenda. There are definitely dishwashing liquids that i would be more and less compfortable with too, but at least you can rinse them off as you go, potentially!

  7. June 4, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    We don’t have a dishwasher. 🙁
    I’ve tried making my own dishwashing liquid, but it’s not very effective sadly. 🙁

    • June 4, 2015 at 11:17 pm

      I’m the same Jess – I tried a bunch of different dishwashing liquid recipes – I never found one I liked enough to use!

  8. June 9, 2015 at 10:25 am

    We hand wash and rarely use the dishwasher. I hate putting the dishes away the most, so the dishwasher just doesn’t work for me!! x

    • June 9, 2015 at 10:59 am

      Fair enough! And yes, I relate. It’s the putting away I hate too. But I get my 13 yo to do it most days 🙂

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