Friday, June 13, 2008

Battle of Detergents

In our effort to rid our household of toxins, and use cleaners gentle on the Earth, we have started experimenting with more eco-friendly products. My first lesson was that just because a product says it's Earth friendly, doesn't always mean much. Consumers need to read the labels, learn the ingredients, and follow the printed instructions... but I'll save that rant for another post. Moving on to the comparison... The battle of the green automatic dishwasher detergents - Seventh Generation vs. Shaklee's Get Clean (as shown in the picture, click to enlarge). Just by looking at the packaging I'm more impressed with Get Clean because it is a refillable plastic container. The concentrated detergent is sold in a separate plastic pouch (ugh plastic), but in the end it's less packaging.

We first tried Seventh Generation (SG) Automatic Dishwashing Gel because it is a highly praised brand for being green, and it was available at our grocery store. We followed the directions closely, and experimented with various amounts of detergent by filling the dishwasher's detergent holder 1/2 full, then completely full, then 1/3 full, then 1/4 full. The results each time were disappointing and unacceptable. Even though we pre-rinsed and scrubbed all the dishes, they would come out of the dishwasher DIRTY, with little remains of food on them, and a film of detergent. Each time we ended up having to wash them by hand, or rewash the entire load... I felt like what was the point of using a green detergent if you have to waste so much water to get the job done?! In the defense of SG, I do think it may have to do with our water... I read several reviews from people who swore the product worked well. We have hard water, this may work better for people with softer water.

The second product we've tried is Shaklee Get Clean Dish Wash Automatic Concentrate. I first heard of this brand when Dr. Oz raved about it on Oprah (yeah, yeah), then I stumbled across it on the internet around Earth Day. It has to be ordered from a distributor (which I'm considering becoming one) and seems expensive, however all their products are highly concentrated so they last a long time (H2 seemingly forever), and the packaging is much less because you add the water. In the end the cost balances out and is comparable. OK, so to get back to the comparison... The instructions call for 2 scoops (it comes with a tiny scoop that holds less than 1 Tbsp), but 4 scoops for hard water. For the first load I tried 3 scoops. I was a little nervous that we would find dirty dishes again, but no, the dishes came out squeaky clean!! We were very impressed. The next load we used the recommended 2 scoops, and again they came out shiny and clean!

Now lets compare the ingredients. Both brands have no chlorine or phosphates (which are harmful to the environment) and are made of biodegradable ingredients. Here's the details taken right from the labels:
  • Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwashing Gel
    • Ingredients: Cleaning agents (non-toxic acrylic polymers and alkoxylated linear alcohol, a biodegradable, low sudsing surfactant for cleaning, dispersant action, and water spot prevention), Water softeners for enhanced performance (soda ash and sodium citrate), Dishwasher and china protection agent (sodium silicate), Viscosity control agent (xanthan gum), Fragrance (lemon), Preservative (less than 0.05%). [whew that is one wordy ingredient list]
    • CAUTION: Keep out of reach of children. In case of eye contact, flush with water for at least 15 minutes. If swallowed, drink a glassful of water.
  • Shaklee Get Clean Dish Wash Automatic Concentrate -
    • Patented phosphate-free formula (meaning not all ingredients are disclosed). Power enzyme-activated cleaner removes tough stains, leaving dishes and glasses sparkling clean.
    • CAUTION: Concentrate causes eye and skin irritation. Avoid eye and prolonged skin contact. Wash thoroughly after handling. Harmful if swallowed. Do not taste or swallow. Contains sodium percarbonate and sodium carbonate (also known as washing soda or soda ash). FIRST AID: EYES: Flush eyes with water for 10-15 minutes. If irritation persists, contact a physician. SKIN: Rinse with plenty of water. IF SWALLOWED: Give a cupful of water or milk and immediately call poison center or physician. Keep out of reach of children.
In conclusion - though the Seventh Generation detergent is non-toxic, I'll take the Shaklee Get Clean to have squeaky clean dishes and be careful to keep it out of the hands of children!


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