Dishwasher detergent recommendations for the sensitive stomach
May 16, 2024 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Recently switched from a lifetime of handwashing to using a dishwasher. But even with sani rinse option I’m convinced there’s still some residue that’s irritating my stomach. What detergent isn’t going to kill my precious bodily gut biome ? Cascade platinum pods are dead to me now.

If you must know… I suspect detergent because I washed my coffee travel cup in the dishwasher every night and later on after drinking said coffee I got a foul detergent taste from the seal ring that tastes exactly like the detergent smell (cascade platinum pod) and immediately made my mouth and stomach feel terrible (which had been slow brewing for weeks; since I started using the dishwasher to be precise).

Anyways what detergent can I use that won’t irritate my delicate innards while being decent price / availability. Online seems to point to enzymes being the problem. Thank you fellow sensitive stomachs!
posted by St. Peepsburg to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Try using a liquid or granule detergent, and just using less, instead of the pod. I find the cascade platinum pods very overpowering, but a squeeze-my-own amount of the "same" cascade platinum liquid detergent is just fine, for me.
posted by phunniemee at 12:27 PM on May 16 [5 favorites]

Don't put travel mugs in the dishwasher. You'll never get the taste of the detergent out of there. Actually, if you look it up, you may find that your specific travel mug tells you not to put it in the dishwasher, or only to put the lid in. Do not put the lids in no matter what it says. I found this all out the hard way; don't be me. Handwash your travel mugs now and forever.

I also use the squeeze cascade, but possibly more important: I no longer wash anything plastic in the dishwasher. I am super sensitive to tastes and odors and plastic holds them more than ceramic, glass or metal. I double rinse metal a lot of the time, though, because it can hold too. There's also been some research showing that dishwashers can degrade plastic, which is bad, microplastics, etc., so I just flat stopped putting it in there.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:37 PM on May 16 [19 favorites]

I use the unscented Seventh Generation powder and just use way less than both the powder and machine manufacturers suggest.
posted by janell at 12:48 PM on May 16 [9 favorites]

Best answer: If you suspect there is still detergent on your dishes, you can actually test for that! There's a chemical that reps from Ecolab (the largest commercial dishwashing chemical company) use which is also sold online to indicate the presence of soap on dishes. It's called "Indicator P" and you can buy a dropper bottle of it for $5.49 here. It will make pink streaks where it lands if dishes have soap/detegrent still on them.

For what it's worth though, I used to be an Ecolab rep and I doubt it's detergent. Even the most listless, half-hearted rinsing of the length of time a home dishwasher does should remove all detergent.

What you're noticing is more likely rinse additive, a harmless food safe additive that is mixed into rinse water to help water sheet off better, so as to produce less spotting. A small but nonzero subset of people can taste rinse additive, even diluted and spread across dishware. It's got a weird taste that I would describe as "ear wax as a sports drink flavor."

Cascade pods definitely contain rinse additive and it may be that your newer dishwasher is using less water (making for a higher concentration) or otherwise rinsing differently, causing the rinse additive "flavor" to be more noticeable.

You might try using just a separate detergent without adding rinse additive (often a second compartment) and see if that helps eliminate the unwanted taste.

Using less detergent than is labeled on the fill line is a good idea, though, ironically, it's one the dishwasher manufacturers themselves often recommend, based on the hardness level of water in your area. (My GE I had before my newest one specified half full based on water hardness level in my area.) If you don't know how hard your water is, you can likely find out online or via a test kit from Home Depot. Water hardness is measured in "grains."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:48 PM on May 16 [37 favorites]

My experience is that lemon-scented products in particular are really noticeable in the smell and taste they give dishes, although my wife can't detect it. I've also found that the various multi-coloured 'pods' seem to contain perfume in direct proportion to their price. I use the cheap little two-tone tablet things from Lidl, and while they won't shift baked-on food quite as well as pods, I find I can't detect any smell or taste.
posted by pipeski at 2:02 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

Janell has it right - find something fragrance free* that you like and use much less than they recommend.

*I remember hearing somewhere that “unscented” things can somehow still be scented, and “fragrance free” is the term you're looking for
posted by wheatlets at 2:31 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My local low-to-zero waste refill shop as well as a few highly sensitive people in my extended family all swear by Nellie’s. I don’t have the same issues (just tons of other ones) so I can’t personally attest for Nellie’s but I was bemused to find it at my local shop and the owner was near evangelical about it and it turns out she has similar issues as my extended family members. I do like that it does not appear to have a single ingredient for scent or color or anything beyond efficient dish cleaning.
posted by Mizu at 2:57 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The one time I used a Cascade liquid detergent, the smell was so overpowering I felt like I could taste it in the air while the dishwasher was merely running. Using the dishes afterward was completely impossible; I don’t know if there was actually a residue I was tasting or if it was still just the smell, but regardless it was foul and untenable.

Now I use Seventh Generation Dishwasher Gel (and quite a lot of it, since I have very hard water), and even with a “fresh citrus scent” I don’t notice the smell much or taste anything off the clean dishes at all.

Also, seconding the suggestion to be careful and do your research/check your manuals about what to put in the dishwasher, where, and how. I was also raised handwashing, and my first year with one I destroyed many things—insulated cups, bottles with fiddly lids, a wooden cutting board, several pieces of glassware—before I learned what could go in and what couldn’t, on what shelf, and with what settings.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 3:06 PM on May 16

(I don't put anything with gaskets in the d/w--not because of flavors and residue, but because the gaskets get degraded.)

I use 7th generation unscented powder in both the pre-wash and the regular reservoir on dishes that are scraped but not rinsed.
posted by MagnificentVacuum at 5:40 PM on May 16

I can taste/ smell the scented dishwasher soaps (laundry detergent is awful, too). The brands I like are:
Drops - unscented
If you even care
posted by carrioncomfort at 2:22 AM on May 17

Mod note: [btw, this post and thread have been added to the sidebar and Best Of blog!]
posted by taz (staff) at 3:32 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

Best answer: >> stomach feel terrible (which had been slow brewing for weeks; since I started using the dishwasher to be precise).

> What you're noticing is more likely rinse additive, a harmless food safe additive that is mixed into rinse water to help water sheet off better, so as to produce less spotting

discussion of a study/experimental results
A new study has revealed an important link between gut health and inflammation and exposure to alcohol ethoxylate used in professional rinse aids, to alterations in gene activity in the epithelial barrier, including cell survival, signalling, and metabolism.  


The study found that professional rinse aid and detergents leave residues that can lead to disruption of the gut epithelial barrier that might cause immune and epithelial gut inflammation responses. 


The research arose against a background rise of many chronic inflammatory diseases being linked to gut epithelial barrier leakiness.  


The epithelial barrier protects the gastrointestinal system. Damage to this barrier can cause barrier “leakiness” which can lead to neurological, joint, and allergic and autoimmune system diseases. This prompted the research team to investigate the role of dishwasher detergents in gut health. They concluded that alcohol ethoxylate can be cytotoxic, or toxic to cultured epithelial cells. 
Study: "Gut epithelial barrier damage caused by dishwasher detergents and rinse aids"
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:21 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]

Seconding Nellie’s!
posted by delezzo at 11:04 PM on May 19

A note if you find filmy residue on your dishes after switching to something like Nellie's and ditching rinse aids: I have super hard water that tends to leave mineral residue on things and have found that adding about a tablespoon of powdered citric acid to my dishwasher (not in the dispenser, but dumped directly on the door so it mixes with the water right away) gives me the same crystal clear glass that rinse aid does without the weird rinse aid residue. The brand I use is Lemi Shine-- NOT their dish detergent booster, which has extra ingredients in it, but their pure food grade powdered citric acid. This can make your dishes and/or dishwasher smell slightly citrusy of course but not in a gross fake fragrance way.
posted by BlueJae at 6:29 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]

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