Dish Wash Liquid Additives: Fear Not

Some dish wash liquids additives include: stearic acid, titanium oxide, sodium laureth sulfate, lecithin, and so on.

The more of these hard to pronounce names we see on the label, the stronger the urge to pass up on that bar of dish wash liquids.

The names of the dish wash liquids additives are really foreign to us. They sound like chemicals, don’t they?

Chemicals are bad for you, aren’t they?

Chemicals will give you cancer, won’t they?

Run away from that product!!!!

WAIT, don’t toss that dish wash liquids yet!

Instead, come along for an informal visit to the chemistry department. Do you remember our little history lesson on the origins of dish wash liquids? Was that heavy? Tedious? Right, it was not, and I promise the chemistry lesson on soap additives will be just as light.

Eons ago I was a university chemistry tutor. Part of my success was due to the ability to make the subject matter less intimidating. Whenever possible, I tried to keep the language of chemistry plain and simple, using a lot of everyday examples. I took the same approach while building this page, and I think I succeeded. If you disagree, let me know.

Ready? Good. Let’s look at some of the most common dish wash liquids additives.

ALLANTOIN: If you want to sound like a chemistry geek, just call it “5-ureidohydantoin”. You’ll either impress your friends or make them run. Allantoin can be chemically synthesized. It is present in the botanical extract of the comfrey plant (more about this plant later). Allantoin has moisturizing properties. It increases the water content and helps in the removal of dead skin cells. As a soap additive, it is used to help your skin feel smoother.

LINOLEIC ACID: This acid is found in the lipids of cell membranes. It is a colorless liquid. Researchers have discovered that linoleic acid is beneficial to the skin because of its moisture-retention and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also been found to reduce acne. Linoleic acid is especially abundant in vegetable oils, especially sunflower oil.

PARABENS: These can be found in most shampoos, toothpaste, and cleansing gels. Parabens are preservatives. Some parabens are found in plants. An example is methylparaben, which is present in the fruit of the blueberry bush; it acts as an anti-microbial agent. A small percentage of people are sensitive to parabens. However, NO link between cancer and the use of parabens has been found. So go ahead and use that paraben-containing deodorant; the risk of developing some dreadful cancer is practically non-existent.

PROPYLENE: This little clear, oily guy has several uses. It can be found in sexual lubricants and hand sanitizers. Propylene is a major ingredient in baby wipes, shampoos, bubble baths. It’s also used as a carrier in fragrance oils.

SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE: Let me assure you that the link between SLS and cancer is only a legend. However, it can have a drying effect on the skin. This is the reason why I do not recommend sodium laureth sufate-containing products to customers who are prone to eczema.


STEARIC ACID: This is a waxy solid prepared by treating animal fats with water at high pressures. It is used to make soap harder. So you can see how useful it is in the making of vegetable oil soaps. Without stearic acid these soaps would last a very, very short time!

TITANIUM OXIDE: It is very often used as white food dye. You will also find it in styptic pencils, toothpaste, and sunscreen lotions (because of its UV blocker abilities). You are perfectly safe using products containing titanium oxide. In fact, it is the preferred ingredient in sunscreens especially formulated for sensitive skin because it is far less likely to cause irritation than other UV blockers (such as avobenzene).

Well, we’re done with the soap additives chemistry page. Not bad, was it? If you have questions about some other mysterious-sounding ingredient on your soap, get in touch with me. I’ll do whatever I can to help you.