Active Ingredients in Dish-washing Detergent

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Triclosan is the active ingredient in dishwashing detergent.

Although some ingredients will change from brand to brand, all dish-washing detergent is made from the same active ingredient. It kills bacteria, mildew and fungi but typically accounts for less than 2 percent of the liquid product in the bottle.


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Types of Ingredients

The types of ingredients in dish-washing detergent can be broken down into two categories: active ingredients and inactive ingredients. Active ingredients are the ingredients that actually do the work that the product is intended to do. In dish-washing detergent, the active ingredient is what kills the bacteria on your grimy dishes. Inactive ingredients are all of the other ingredients. Some examples of these inactive ingredients in dish-washing soap are dyes to provide color, aroma-adding chemicals and texture-altering ingredients.

Active Ingredients

Triclosan is the active ingredient in dish-washing detergent (as well as anti-bacterial hand soaps). The primary purpose of triclosan is to stop the growth of bacteria, mildew and fungi. Triclosan is present in concentrations of up to 2 percent in dish-washing and hand soaps. Generally, however, significantly less triclosan is used in these products. Despite this relatively low percent of the overall composition of the detergent, triclosan is the only active ingredient in most common dish-washing detergents. No long-term health risks are associated with the use of triclosan in dish-washing detergents.


Inactive Ingredients

A wide range of inactive ingredients are used in dishwashing detergents. Water is the most common of these inactive ingredients. All liquid dishwashing detergents have a high percentage of water in their composition, regardless of brand. Other common ingredients include coloring dyes, fragrances, preservatives, sodium chloride (to help control the thickness of the detergent), lauramidopropylamine oxide (as a foaming agent) and SD alcohol 3-A (to help control thickness and clarity).

Other Uses of Triclosan

Triclosan has a plethora of uses beyond being the active ingredient in several kinds of soaps. It is used as the major active ingredient in toothpaste, as a minor ingredient in mouthwashes and as a minor ingredient in cosmetics and in a handful of other cleaning items. Triclosan is also used in the manufacture of textiles such as socks and sport clothing and plastics such as cutting boards and kitchen utensils.