The Environmental Impact Of Washing The Dishes

The Environmental Impact Of Washing The Dishes

My husband will tell you there is plenty wrong with doing the dishes. If he had his way, he would never hand wash another dish ever again. In fact he is trying to convince me to put three, yes three!, dishwashers in our home when we build soon. I’m not converted on the idea yet. Aside from my husband’s aversion to washing dishes, there are actual environmental costs every time we fill the sink and squirt in the dish wash liquid. If you are interested in the environmental impact of washing the dishes, even if it is just to justify three dishwashers, then read on. 

Washing the dishes is something that most of us will do at least once every single day. Have you ever wondered what happens to the soapy water once you pull the plug? I certainly hadn’t. Most of us are blissfully unaware of the impact the simple act of washing a dish can have on the environment.

Dishwashing liquid contains a plethora of chemicals. Many of these chemicals are derived or manufactured by petrochemicals which is a limited and non renewable natural resource. The manufacture of the individual chemicals and the end product requires huge amounts of water and energy. It is then packaged in a container that is not biodegradable, requires more chemicals in its manufacture and is often tossed into landfill once empty. Often it is then shipped or trucked over distance to stores all over the country or world adding to its environmental footprint along the way. By the time it arrives at its final destination in your kitchen it already is on the environmental back-foot. And unfortunately it just gets worse from here.

Many dishwashing liquids contain phosphates.Phosphate is added to reduce spotting and film on dishes, as well as help remove food and grease, suspending them so that they are not redistributed back onto dishes. Phosphate is a naturally occurring mineral and is essential to plant growth. It is used as a fertilizer in the agricultural sector.  The problem with phosphate comes when there is too much of it entering the water ways. It causes an over growth of algae and plant life. This excess growth starves the river or lake of oxygen once that algae dies off. It reduces the availability of nutrients to fish and other plant life. This can lead to great loss of fish life. Some algae release toxins during the decaying process which also can cause death in fish and animals that drink from the affected water. A large part of the problem is caused from agriculture, however phosphates found in many of our cleaning and personal care products are certainly a contributing factor.

It is not just fresh water that is effected. One study found high levels of perfluorinated compounds, which are found in items such as the non stick coating in food packaging and in carpet stain repellants, in loggerhead sea turtles. The same properties that make them tough at resisting stains and spills, also makes them remain in the environment. These chemicals then get filtered through creatures such as mussels and clams which then get eaten by the turtles. Triclosin which is a chemical found in dishwashing liquids and antibacterial handwash has been discovered in dolphins at levels that can disrupt hormones, growth and development. Triclosin is stored in the fatty tissues of mammals. Even scarier is that Triclosin has also been detected in breast milk. Triclosin has also been causing trouble in municipal wastewater treatment plants by disrupting the microbes that are involved in the ‘sludge processing’.

Surfactants are the agents  that  give dishwashing liquid its wetting, dispersing and foaming ability. However the common surfactants found in traditionally used detergents can wreck havoc for aquatic life. According to Lennitech, a company specialising in water treatment, detergents are poisonous to all forms of aqautic life. The detergent “destroy the external mucus layers that protect the fish from bacteria and parasites; plus they can cause severe damage to the gills.” The other problem identified by Lennitech caused by surfactants in freshwater systems is that they reduce the surface tension of the water allowing other chemicals and pesticides present in the water to be more easily absorbed by fish.

Next week I will look at how washing the dishes effects us and our health. However I wanted to cover the environmental effects first because at the end of the day, we have a choice about what we expose ourselves to. The aquatic, marine and plant life do not. They rely on us to keep them healthy and safe. At the end of the day, one must at some stage stack the plates, fill the sink and wash the dishes. The reality is we simply cannot just stop cleaning. However, I ask you to rethink how you do the dishes and maybe you might consider trying an alternative, natural and more environmentally friendly option in the future.

Have you tried any natural dishwashing products? If so, i would love to hear what you have used and how it has worked for you. Just leave a comment below.




Essential Oils, The Benefits and the Risks

Essential Oils, The Benefits and the Risks

Let me start off by saying that I love Essential Oils and I use them daily in my home. They are a fantastic addition to any natural cleaning regime and are great added to many personal care products. I have also utilized their healing properties in various ways on myself and my family. However, Essential Oils are incredibly potent and need to be handled and used with care, responsibility and caution. If you want to know more about Essential Oil safety then read on. 

Use of herbs and plants has been around for thousands of years. Every indigenous culture world wide has their own ways of using plants to treat a myriad of problems. The use of the oils Frankincense and Myrrh is even mentioned in the bible. However it really has only been recently that Essential Oils have become popular in western society. Many Multilevel Marketing companies have sprung up and the internet is now full of people selling and giving recommendations for Essential Oil use. My issues lie in the lack of training and education a lot of these people have who are making recommendations. Most of them are not trained in aromatherapy and are giving recommendations that could be potentially dangerous.

Think about what an Essential Oil is. For example it takes 3000 lemons to make 1 kg of lemon oil. Or 68 kgs of lavender flowers to make 450 gms of lavender oil. These oils are incredibly concentrated. One drop of oil is the equivalent to approximately 10 -15 cups of herbal tea or 20 herbal tinctures. I do not know anyone who would say it would be wise to drink 15 cups of herbal tea in a sitting and yet I have seen recommendations for ‘health’ recipes that have multiple drops of Essential Oil in the mixture. Extreme caution should always be taken when ingesting Essential Oils and it should only ever be done with a health professionals guidance.

There are some Essential Oils that are safe to be used undiluted on the skin. Most however need to be diluted in a carrier oil. For adults that dilution can be 3-5%, or 3-5 drops per teaspoon of carrier oil. In infants the ratio is even greater with a recommended dilution of 0.05% and up to 1% in older children and the elderly. There was one case I heard of where a mother, going on advice she found on the internet, applied an undiluted Essential Oil to the bottom of her child’s feet which resulted in a seizure and a 2 week stay in hospital. It is important to remember that just because something is ‘natural’ it does not mean it is safe. Just take arsenic, lead and mercury as examples, all natural substances.

The quality of your oil and the type of oil you buy are all important considerations for safety. I recommend buying only therapeutic grade oils. You do get what you pay for and if the price seems too good, then it probably is. But in saying that I do think that there are some great companies out there who are selling fantastic quality oils and that many of the Multilevel Essential Oil companies are very pricey. One of the reasons buying therapeutic grade oils is important is that you want to ensure that you are getting the proper properties from your oil. If you buy one that is ‘cheaper’ there is good reason to believe that it may have been cut or diluted with something else. Therefore you are not necessarily going to get the benefits you want but you will be getting the properties of whatever substance the oil has been diluted with. If you are wanting the full benefits of an Essential Oil make sure it is pure and has been processed correctly. For example, if you are wanting an oil just for its perfume then buy a cheap one. It may have only been processed for 15 minutes which will deliver on smell but not health benefits. Alternatively the same oil that is Therapeutic Grade may have been processed up to 1 1/2 hours.

Extreme care needs to be taken when using Essential Oils around children, the elderly and pregnant women. That does not mean that you need to avoid them completely. Just that you need to exercise caution and educate yourself on safe practices. I have three preschool age children and use Essential Oils in my home regularly. I make sure that I check out any new Essential Oil before I use it and educate myself on whether that oil can be used around my children. This only takes me a few minutes and could save my children from experiencing a potentially dangerous side effect. If you do not think that Essential Oils can be that dangerous, think again. Sage oil has been reported to have been the cause of seizures in infants and children. (source). Even common Eucalyptus oil,which appears in many homes, can be dangerous if you do not buy the right type. Buy the wrong variety and the outcome could be disastrous. Here is what one aromatherapist had to say about use of this oil.

‘Eucalyptus, for example, has over 900 species, with about 20 being used in the essential oil realm.  E.globulus is your common Eucalyptus species but should not be used around anyone with Epilepsy.  E.radiata is good for long term use with chronic respiratory infection and works well on viral or bacterial infections.  E.smitthi is child safe where E.globulus is not. So the actual species is the type of essential oil you want to buy, don’t just go by the English name – you may not know what you’re buying. (Side Note: Some experts say Eucalyptus Globulus can cause choking or even death in infants and any Eucalyptus should not be used on a child under 2 years of age. E. globulus is a very strong Eucalyptus. Eucalyptus Smithii is the mildest of all and safe for children and the elderly. E. radiata is another good choice recommended by some well known aromatherapists.)’ (source)

I cannot stress enough, you need to inform and educate yourself! Do not simply take the word of any thing you read on the internet. Including from me! I am not an expert on Essential Oils. I am not a qualified aromatherapist. Essential Oils when used correctly and responsibly are an amazing resource that can add huge value to your home. Just do your homework first.

How do i use oils in my home?

I mainly use oils in my natural cleaning regime. Many Essential Oils not only have health promoting properties but cleaning ones as well. For example, I like to use Lemon oil when cleaning my kitchen because it has great grease cutting properties. I also use Lemon oil to help me deter spiders in the home. Eucalyptus is added to my toilet cleaner and in my laundry for its antibacterial properties. Peppermint Oil is used to help keep the mice out of my cupboards and Rosemary to keep the moths and silverfish at bay. Clove oil is used to kill mould, (do not do this if pregnant as clove oil is a uterine stimulant), and diffused to purify the air. When I want to add an Essential Oil to a product that I know will come into contact with with my kids either topically, like in a hand wash or bath products, or inhaled, I make sure I only use oils that are safe for them.

Below is a list of Essential Oils complete with warnings and advice for use on children. It is complied by Lea Harris a certified aromatherapist from the book Essential Oil Safety: A Guide For Healthcare Professionals. 

  • Anise/Aniseed Pimpinella anisum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 5
  • Anise (Star) Illicium verum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 5
  • Basil (lemon) Ocimum x citriodorum – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Benzoin Styrax benzoin, Styrax paralleloneurus and Styrax tonkinensis – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Birch (sweet) Betula lenta – avoid using (all routes) on children
  • Black Seed Nigella sativa – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Cajuput Melaleuca cajuputi, Melaleuca leucadendron – avoid using on children under 6
  • *Cardamon Elettaria cardamomum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Cassia Cinnamomum cassia, Cinnamomum aromaticum – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Chaste Tree Vitex agnus castus – avoid using (all routes) on prepubertal children
  • Clove Bud, Clove Leaf, Clove Stem Syzygium aromaticum, Eugenia caryophyllata, Eugenia aromatica – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Cornmint Mentha arvensis, Mentha canadensis – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • *Eucalyptus Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus maidenii, Eucalyptus plenissima, Eucalyptus kochii, Eucalyptus polybractea, Eucalyptus radiata, Eucalyptus Autraliana,Eucalyptus phellandra, Eucalyptus smithii – avoid using (all routes) on children under 10
  • Fennel (bitter), Fennel (sweet) Foeniculum vulgare – avoid using (all routes) on children under 5
  • *Galangal (lesser) Alpinia officinarum, Languas officinarum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Garlic Allium sativum – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Ginger Lily Hedychium coronarium – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Ho Leaf/Ravintsara Cinnamomum camphora (cineole chemotype)  – avoid using on children under 6
  • Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis (pinocamphone chemptype) – avoid using (all routes) on children under 2
  • *Laurel Leaf/Bay Laurel Laurus nobilis– avoid topical use on children under 2; avoid all routes for children under age 6
  • Lemon Leaf/Lemon Petitgrain Citrus x limon, Citrus limonum – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Lemongrass Cymbopogon flexuosus, Andropogon flexuosus, Cymbopogon citratus, Andropogon citratus – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Marjoram (Spanish) Thymus mastichina – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Massoia Cryptocarya massoy, Cryptocaria massoia, Massoia aromatica – avoid using (all routes) on children under 2
  • May Chang Litsea cubeba, Litsea citrata, Laura cubeba – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Melissa/Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Myrtle (red) Myrtus communis – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Myrtle (aniseed) Backhousia anisata – avoid using (all routes) on children under 5
  • Myrtle (honey) Melaleuca teretifolia – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Myrtle (lemon)/Sweet Verbena Backhousia citriodora – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Niaouli (cineole chemotype) Melaleuca quinquinervia – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Oakmoss Evernia prunastri – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Opopanax Commiphora guidottii – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Oregano Origanum onites, Origanum smyrnaeum, Origanum vulgare, Origanum compactum, Origanum hirtum, Thymbra capitata, Thymus capitatus, Coridothymus capitatus, Satureeja capitata– avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Peppermint Mentha x Piperita – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Peru Balsam Myroxylon balsamum, Myroxylon pereiraw, Myroxylon peruiferum, Myrospermum pereirae, Toluifera pereirae – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Rambiazana  Helichrysum gymnocephalum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • *Rosemary (1,8-cineole chemotype) Rosmarinus officinalis  – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Saffron Crocus sativus – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Sage (Greek), Salvia fruiticosa, Salvia triloba Sage (White) – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • *Sage (White) Salvia apiana – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Sage (Wild Mountain) Hemizygia petiolata – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Sanna Hedychium spicatum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • *Saro Cinnamosma fragrans – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Savory Satureia hortensis, Satureia montana – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Styrax Liquidambar orientalis, Liquidambar styraciflua – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Tea Leaf/Black Tea Camellia sinensis, Thea sinensis – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Tea Tree (lemon-scented) Leptospermum petersonii, Leptospermum citratum, Leptospermum liversidgei,– avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Treemoss Pseudevernia furfuracea – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Tuberose Polianthes tuberosa – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Turpentine Pinus ayacahuite, Pinus caribaea, Pinus contorta, Pinus elliottii, Pinus halepensis, Pinus insularis, Pinus kesiya, Pinus merkusii, Pinus palustris, Pinus pinaster, Pinus radiata, Pinus roxburghii, Pinus tabulaeformis, Pinus teocote, Pinus yunnanensis– avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Verbena (Lemon) Aloysia triphylla, Aloysia citriodora, Lippa citriodora, Lippa triphylla – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Wintergreen Gaultheria fragrantissima, Gaultheria procumbens – avoid (all routes) on children due to methyl salicylate content
  • Ylang-Ylang Cananga odorata – avoid topical use on children under 2


The first time I read this I was wondering, what CAN I use around my children? The beauty is that there are so many different Essential Oils that there are actually plenty that you can use. Below is a chart, again by Lea Harris, which shows some of the oils that are safe to use around children.




The other time in your life you need to be particularly careful about Essential Oil usage is during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Below is a list of Essential Oils that should be avoided during this season. (source)


Aniseed Pimpinella anisum
Basil ct. estragole Ocimum basilicum
Birch Betula lenta
Camphor Cinnamomum camphora
Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis
Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris
Parsley seed or leaf Petroselinum sativum
Pennyroyal Mentha pulegium
Sage Salvia officinalis
Tansy Tanacetum vulgare
Tarragon Artemisia dracunculus
Thuja Thuja occidentalis
Wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens
Wormwood Artemisia absinthium


I hope that you take this information as intended,which is to help you make informed decisions in your home. Please do not let it put you off using Essential Oils in your home. As previously stated, when used responsibly and correctly, Essential Oils are a great addition to your home. In particular they are an integral part of my Natural Cleaning regime.

Do you use Essential Oils on your home? I would love to hear what you use and how you use them. Please share your experiences in the comments section below.