Do You Really Need Baby Dish Soap? (Pros, Cons, Alternatives)

Most expectant parents know that they should use a different detergent to wash their baby’s clothes. But what about dish soaps used for washing bottle parts and such? Do you really need baby dish soap?

Parents do not need a special dish soap for their baby’s dishes, although you may want to consider switching soaps if your regular one includes phosphates, sulfates, or fragrances. If you are concerned about any soap residue being left on your baby’s dishes, rinse the dishes thoroughly and then sanitize them in boiling water or in your dishwasher.

Read on to find out more about dish soaps, baby soaps, and more!

Is baby dish soap necessary?

Is having a specific dish soap for your baby items absolutely necessary?

Some of the biggest concerns in regards to dish soap relate to fragrance, skin irritation, and residue. As long as you rinse your dishes thoroughly or are planning to sterilize them after wash, it is not necessary to switch dish soaps. 

Regular dish soaps have a variety of ingredients that could potentially be harmful if used excessively. Typically though, the ingredients in the dish soap and the amount used will not cause any major issues, especially if you rinse your dishes off thoroughly or if you sterilize your baby items. The most common ingredients in regular dish soaps are water, surfactants, hydrotrope, salts, preservatives, fragrances, and dyes.

Some ingredients you want to avoid in your baby’s dish soap include:

  • Phosphates – can deplete oxygen levels in the water, which can lead to toxicity to humans
  • Triclosan – can disrupt certain systems in our bodies
  • Fragrance – contains many chemicals that could eventually enter our bodies
  • DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine)– can create nitrates in the human body
  • Chlorine – toxic to fish and chlorine can be released in the air when doing dishes
  • Formaldehyde – Known carcinogen and is toxic to the human body
  • Ammonia – can be toxic to eyes, lungs, and skin if even small traces are combined with bleach
  • SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) – can be absorbed through the skin and potentially lead to 1,4-dioxane contamination
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate – could potentially be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane during processing

Most of these are considered safe in trace amounts by the FDA, but it might be wise to avoid them when your babies are young. Finding soaps that have few of these ingredients can help minimize exposure.

Baby dish soaps tend to reduce or even leave out some of the more problematic ingredients, especially dyes. They will often use more natural fragrances for their scents. They will also use plant-based ingredients whenever possible, which makes them more appealing for parents.

When can you stop using baby dish soap?

If you decide to go ahead and use baby soap, your next question is probably when it’s okay to stop using it on your baby’s dishes.

Many parents stop using baby dish soaps after about a year. Your baby’s body is much stronger, his or her immune system more developed and you will most likely need fewer bottles as you transition to sippy cups or trainer cups. If you decide to use your regular dish soap for everyone you need to be sure to rinse everything well to ensure there is no remaining soap residue. 

Many parents find they like using baby soap even after that first year or may decide to look for soaps that contain safer ingredients but are not necessarily designed for a baby.

Is regular dish soap bad for babies?

What if you do not like or possibly find the dish soaps for babies too expensive? Is regular dish soap okay?

Most dish soaps contain ingredients that can leave a residue that could potentially cause stomach issues, but with a good rinse and when in doubt, sterilization, it is safe for you to use with your baby’s items. Since your baby won’t be in direct contact with it, you don’t have to worry about skin irritation as much as you would with laundry detergent.

One of the big concerns with regular dish soap such as Dawn or Palmolive is that they are often scented. Companies are not required to disclose their fragrance formulas nor do they have to disclose whether their formula is natural, synthetic, or a blend of the two. This could create issues such as skin irritation, respiratory irritation, and other health issues in the future so if you choose to go back to your regular dish soap, find one that is unscented and be sure to rinse everything thoroughly.

Can soap residue make baby sick?

What happens if there is residue on a baby’s bottle or on your pump parts? Parents wonder if their baby could get sick.

Your baby will not get sick from any dish soap residue left in his bottle. Dish soap is minimally toxic so the worst that is likely to happen is that your baby may end up with an upset stomach or loose stools. If you’re in doubt about how much residue is in your baby’s items, wash them again or run them through the dishwasher.

It is important to wash all your baby’s items thoroughly to ensure they are clean and all residue is removed from them. The sterilization process will also help get rid of any residue, making your dishes safer for everyone.

Can you clean baby bottles with just hot water?

Some babies are concerned about the potential for soap residue mixing with baby formula or milk and would rather avoid using soap altogether. Would using only hot water work to clean out bottles?

It is important to clean your baby bottles with hot, soapy water. While very hot water will kill any germs and bacteria, it is not effective at removing physical contaminants.

Always use hot, soapy water for a good cleaning.

The best baby dish soap for cleaning bottles, cups, bowls, and more

With the variety of dish soaps available, it can get daunting to see all the different brands. So what are some good options for dish soaps?

These three soaps can be spotted regularly on top favorite lists of baby dish soaps:

All of these are easy to order through Amazon, and most are available at the grocery store, Walmart, or Target. While there are many others, these three receive consistently high reviews.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Dapple Fragrance-Free Bottle & Dish Soap

Dapple is a popular soap brand that many families are familiar with. It is plant-derived and leaves no residue when used, making it ideal for washing your baby’s bottle.

Ingredients

There are no major ingredient concerns with this particular brand.

Here are the listed ingredients:

Purified water, alkyl polyglucoside (cleaner derived from tree oils and sugar), sodium lauroamphoacetate (cleaner derived from coconut), sodium hydroxide (pH control), baking soda, tetrasodium iminodisuccinate (complexing agent), citric acid, benzisothiazolinone. sweet lavender only: lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil, mango melon only: mango/melon fragrance (made from ingredients consistent with the guidelines of the Natural Products Association), apple pear only: apple/pear fragrance (made from ingredients consistent with the guidelines of the Natural Products Association)

Pricing and availability

You can find this detergent on Amazon and Target.

It is fairly inexpensive coming in at around $0.30 an ounce at both stores.

Special features

This plant-based soap does not contain any undesirable ingredients and is free of artificial fragrances and dyes. It is one of the cleanest soaps available, containing the least amount of dirty ingredients, helping to keep your family safe.

Babyganics Dish & Bottle Soap

Babyganics is a popular brand among parents. They have a line of sunscreen, detergents, and even non-alcohol hand sanitizer. This soap is also plant-based,  fragrance-free, and hypoallergenic.

Ingredients

Unlike the previous soap, this particular one does contain small amounts of sodium lauroyl sulfate and methylisothiazolinone. There are minor concerns with both these products but have generally been deemed safe in wash-off products such as hand soap. For sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, the main concern is that there can be possible cross-contamination with a carcinogen while being made, while methylisothiazolinone may cause minor respiratory and skin irritations.

Ingredient list: water, cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine (plant based foaming agent), lauramine oxide (plant based cleanser), decyl glucoside (plant based cleanser), sodium lauroyl sarcosinate (cleanser), glycerin (plant based foam stabilizer), methylisothiazolinone (preservative)

Pricing and availability

This is typically cheaper than Dapple coming in at $0.25 an ounce at Target but at $0.31 an ounce for a three-pack on Amazon. It does have a refill bottle that also costs $0.25 an ounce.

Special features

This is a foaming soap, which many families enjoy. It also comes with a pump making it easy to get soap onto your sponge. This soap is overall safe for your family and will clean your dishes just as well as Dapple dish soap.

Seventh Generation Free & Clear Dish Soap

While this soap is not specifically geared towards babies, it does often make top ten lists for the best baby soaps. It can be used for all the dishes in the household and is the least expensive of the three options.

Ingredients

Just like with the Babyganics soap, Seventh Generation dish soap contains sodium lauryl sulfate as well as methylisothiazolinone. The amount of sodium lauryl sulfate is small and, while it is not toxic, it can be an irritant for some people. The amount of methylisothiazolinone is also minimal and poses no major threat, but can cause skin irritation.

Ingredient list: Water, sodium lauryl sulfate (plant-derived cleaning agent), lauramine oxide (plant-based cleaning agent), glycerin (plant-derived foam stabilizer), decyl glucoside (plant-derived cleaning agent), magnesium chloride (mineral-based viscosity modifier), citric acid (plant-derived pH adjuster), benzisothiazolinone (synthetic preservative), methylisothiazolinone (synthetic preservative)

Pricing and availability

This is the most cost-effective at around $0.15 an ounce. It also has a refill bottle, meaning you can save money and help the planet by reducing waste. This can be bought at many retailers, including both Target and Amazon.

Special features

This is a plant-based soap that is hypoallergenic and contains no dyes and fragrances. Seventh Generation also tests their dish soap to ensure the levels of sodium lauryl sulfate remain basically untraceable.

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