Washing-up Liquid

In this guide we investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 23 washing-up liquid brands.

We also look at animal testing, toxic chemicals, shine a spotlight on the ethics of Procter & Gamble (P&G) and give our recommended buys.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

What to buy

What to look for when buying washing up liquid:

  • Is it organic? Looking for organic is a fail-safe way to avoid most of the nasty, artificial chemicals that are in so many household products. And thereby help the environment as well as yourself.

  • Is it Fairtrade? Lots of household products contain ingredients from agricultural products, which are often grown by overworked and underpaid labourers. Looking for Fairtrade ensures that the workers get fair conditions.

  • Is it homemade? Washing-up liquid can easily be made at home, and that way you can know exactly what has gone into them. 

Best Buys

Our Best Buys are a mixture of organic [O], Fairtrade [F] and cruelty-free products [A]:

Earth Friendly Products is a palm oil free company. Sodasan and Bentley Organics products are organic certified.

Recommended Buys

Dri Pak score well on the table if you want to make your own.

Ecover and Method are best of the widely available brands although since their takeover they have a boycott call against them for being owned by a non cruelty-free company, SC Johnson.

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying washing-up liquid:

  • Does it contain toxics? The long and complex ingredients lists of household products often include toxic chemicals. These are bad for the environment as well as health.

  • Is it animal tested? Although animal testing for finished household products has been banned in the UK, lots of companies still use ingredients that are tested on animals. Go for a company with a clear cruelty-free policy. 

  • Do they use palm oil? At its most unsustainable, palm oil is linked to massive deforestation and serious violations of human rights. Look for brands that commit to sourcing palm oil sustainably or avoid it completely.

Companies to avoid

Procter & Gamble (P&G) have been accused of allowing modern day slavery in its palm oil supply chain. Avoid its brands:

  • Gain
  • Fairy
  • Dawn

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20)

Greenscents washing-up liquid [A, O]

Company Profile: Greenscents Ltd
16.5

Bentley Organics cleaners [A, O]

Company Profile: Bentley Organic Trading Limited
16

Sodasan washing up liquid [O,A]

Company Profile: Sodasan Wasch- und Reinigungsmittel GmbH
16

Bio-D washing-up liquid [A]

Company Profile: Bio-D Company
15.5

Faith in Nature washing-up liquid [A]

Company Profile: Faith in Nature Ltd
15.5

Earth Friendly Products washing up liquid [A]

Company Profile: Earth Friendly Products
15

Ecozone washing-up liquid [A]

Company Profile: Ecozone (UK) Ltd
14.5

ecoleaf washing up liquid [A]

Company Profile: Triangle Wholefoods Collective Ltd
14.5

Sonett washing up liquid [A,S]

Company Profile: Sonett GmbH
13.5

Lilly's Eco Clean washing up liquid

Company Profile: Lilly's Eco Clean Ltd
13

Traidcraft Clean & Fair [F,A]

Company Profile: Traidcraft plc
13

ATTITUDE dishwashing liquid [A]

Company Profile: Bio Spectra
12.5

Astonish washing-up liquid [A]

Company Profile: The London Oil Refining Co Ltd
12

Morning Fresh washing-up liquid

Company Profile: PZ Cussons PLC
8.5

Easy washing-up liquid

Company Profile: Jeyes Group Plc
8

Method washing up liquid [A]

Company Profile: Method Products Ltd
8

Ecover washing-up liquid

Company Profile: Ecover NV
7.5

Surcare washing-up liquid

Company Profile: McBride plc
7.5

Dawn washing up liquid

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5

Fairy washing-up liquid

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5

Gain washing up

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5

Palmolive washing-up liquid

Company Profile: Colgate-Palmolive Co
3.5

Persil washing-up liquid

Company Profile: Unilever Home & Personal Care Division
2

What is most important to you?

Animals
Environment
People
Politics
Product sustainability

Our Analysis

Most of us in the UK do our washing up by hand with only about 44% of us owning a dishwasher. Far and away the leading brand in washing up liquid is Procter & Gamble’s Fairy brand, with 41% of the market.

Supermarket own brands (likely to have been manufactured by McBride plc) make up just under a third of the market. McBride also manufactures a washing up liquid under its own label, Surcare which you will find on the score table above.

Conventional brands do contain petrochemical surfactants and synthetic fragrances, not to mention the increasing number that claim to be antibacterial.

According to the Ecologist in 2009

using a dish detergent in hot water also creates another health hazard- chemical vapours. In hot water the chemicals vaporise and are inhaled as steam; and some ingredients can produce vapours that cause severe irritation to the eyes and respiratory tract.

Image: washing dishes liquid ethical guide

Organic and Fairtrade brands

Three companies in this guide, Greenscents, Bentley Organic, Sodasan, are certified as organic. Greenscents and Bentley Organic are certified by the UK’s Soil Association and Sodasan by EcoCert, a French organic label originally applied to food products but more recently certifying the ingredients of household products. 

There is only one Fairtrade certified brand – Traidcraft’s Clean & Fair.

Toxic chemicals

We have rated all the skincare companies for their toxic chemicals policies. The companies which received a best rating had a policy because they had banned the use of parabens, phthalates and triclosan (see our feature on toxic chemicals for why we have chosen these chemicals) were:

  • Greenscents
  • Bentley Organic
  • Bio-D
  • Faith in Nature
  • Earth Friendly
  • Ecozone
  • Lilly’s Eco Clean.

Animal testing

Although the testing of cosmetics on animals has been banned in the EU, this is not the case everywhere else in the world. The EU’s REACH legislation has also complicated the issue. 

Ethical Consumer rates all companies selling cosmetics on their animal testing policy. Companies will score a best rating if they have a policy not to test on animals, have a fixed cut-off date (a date after which none of their products or ingredients will have been tested on animals), and are not selling to markets, such as China, where animal testing of products is required by law.

Greenscents, Bio-D, Faith in Nature, Earth Friendly, Ecozone, Ecoleaf, Traidcraft Clean & Fair, Lilly’s Eco Clean, Astonish, Method and Ecover all received our best rating for animal testing.

Palm oil

Palm oil and palm oil derivatives have become an important component in many personal care products.

The new ‘PO’ column on our scoretables shows how all the companies rank on their palm oil policy and practice. You can see the expanded score table if you are a logged in subscriber by clicking on the orange ‘More Detail’ box. 

The only company which was palm oil free across all its products was Earth Friendly Products. Bentley Organics, Sodasan, Sonett, Traidcraft and Ecoleaf got our best rating for using sustainable palm oil.

Vegan washing-up liquid

All the following brands of washing-up liquid are vegan:  

  • Traidcraft
  • Greenscents
  • Bentley Organic
  • Sodasan
  • Bio-D
  • Faith in Nature
  • Earth Friendly
  • Ecozone
  • Sonett
  • Ecoleaf
  • Attitude
  • Astonish

Make your own

To avoid the long list of toxic chemicals that goes into many off-the-shelf detergents, you could make your own. See our feature on DIY cleaning kits for recipes for a whole range of household cleaning products. Dri Pak sell ingredients like washing soda and borax substitute if you want to make your own.

Company Profile

Procter & Gamble (P&G) is the focus of several consumer campaigns including one over its sourcing of palm oil from Felda Global Ventures, a Malaysian company that was said to be the world’s largest palm oil plantation operator.

Campaign organisation SumOfUs stated in March 2017: 

Felda deals in the human trafficking of its plantation workers, confiscating close to 30,000 passports, and still works with labour contractors and recruiters who charge enormous fees to trafficked foreign workers. Plantation workers are trapped in modern-day slavery, all to produce palm oil that ends up in P&G products. The multinational consumer goods company is well aware of the problem, and yet still buys conflict palm oil from its joint venture partner Felda.

P&G’s products have also been named and shamed in campaigns against the use of microbeads. The International Campaign Against Microbeads in Cosmetics lists Gillette on the orange list for containing polyethylene (PE).

P&G has stated, perhaps as a result of consumer pressure, that it will remove polyethylene microbeads from all toothpaste and cleansing products by 2017. However, in 2016, when Greenpeace East Asia (GEA) ranked companies on their commitment to tackling the issue of microbeads in their products, P&G’s commitment was found inadequate as it only applied to one type of plastic (polyethylene) in certain products (personal cleansing and oral care) rather than to all forms and in all products. It also only applied to microbeads used for specific purposes (scrubbing agents, colour, chewing gum base), rather than for all functions.

Want to know more?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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