How to Choose a Non-toxic Dishwasher

How to Choose a Non-toxic Dishwasher
How in the world do you know if you have a non-toxic dishwasher? Let’s take a walk down the aisles of the home appliance store to find out!

UPDATED 11/1/17

We go to a LOT of trouble to use only the safest dishes and dishwashing detergents for our family.  So it stands to reason that we should be careful not to load them up with chemicals as they're running through the cleaning cycle.

How in the world do you know if you have a non-toxic dishwasher?  Let's take a walk down the aisles of the home appliance store to find out!

The Most Common Dishwasher Tub Materials

We honestly had a minor panic attack when we first started our research on plastic dishwasher tubs.  It just seemed like they would surely be made of a dangerous plastic, you know?

Well, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that most plastic dishwasher tubs are actually made from reinforced polypropylene.  This means that a compound like calcium carbonate or fiber has been added to make it stronger and more heat resistant.  We regularly recommend polypropylene because it has never required the addition of BPA, BPS, lead, or phthalates.  It won't rust, is generally durable, and we'd consider it on the safer side as far as plastics go. Keep in mind though that plastic tubs are more likely to stain, absorb smells over time, and eventually break down under repeated exposure to heat and harsh detergents.

The next most common material is stainless steel.  This would definitely be our first choice because it's more durable, naturally bacteria resistant, holds on to fewer odors, won't crack or melt, and typically reduces the noise level during a wash cycle.  The only downside with stainless steel tubs is that they're more expensive.

How to Choose Non-toxic Dishwasher Racks

Something to be aware of is that even stainless steel dishwashers may have PVC (#3) coated wire racks. PVC (vinyl) is a toxic plastic used in flooring, electric wire casing, inflatable pools/toys, bath toys, baby teethers, Christmas trees, and electronics. It's often made with cancer-causing and endocrine disrupting chemicals like phthalates, dioxins and lead.

We were relieved to find out that many dishwashers now come with nylon coated racks.  PVC coated racks, though commonly used in the past, are usually only found in low-end dishwasher models.  Nylon is considered safer, doesn't chip or scratch as easily, and is more durable than PVC in general because it resists heat and harsh detergents.

What About Spray Arms and Silverware Trays?

Most silverware trays and spray arms are also made from polypropylene plastic without a coating, and we're comfortable with that.

Stainless Steel Dishwashers with Non-PVC Racks

There are quite a few non-toxic dishwasher options out there, so we've rounded up a few to get you started.

Be sure to let us know if we've missed any that you've confirmed with the manufacturer!

  1. You say that the spray arms and silverware trays are made from polypropylene plastic without a coating. Isn’t there no such thing a any plastic being safe?

    1. We’ve researched and written about safer plastic options extensively over the years, so we’ve has occasion to learn that it is possible to create a plastic product without Estrogenic Activity because there are at least two plastic baby product manufacturers that have verified it via independent EA testing. Glass, stainless steel and wood are always best choices, but we still have to live in the real world, so it’s important to know the next best option when those materials aren’t a possibility (as in dishwashers, breast pumps, car seats, dishware that doesn’t shatter for safety’s sake, etc.). You can read much more detailed information about our findings on this topic HERE and HERE. ~Alicia

  2. Unfortunately, I have recently learned that the dishwashers with stainless are not at all healthier for us than the ones with plastic tubs. We recently had a new stainless tub and door bosch dw installed, only to smell a horrible tar like smell when we used it. My asthmatic daughter had major wheezing and I got a bad sore throat both nights. After much research I learned that virtually all stainless tub dishwashers are now coated with an asphalt substance called bitumen. It s nearly the same as the toxic stuff they put on our roads. And every time it heats up it releases fumes that are toxic! They say they use it because it is so good at sound insulation. But I would prefer a loud, healthy dishwasher ANY day. SO frustrating. If anyone has a newer model dishwasher that did not outgas horribly when first used, please let me know as we are on a search!

  3. I was very interested to read this…. but I found a Specifications sheet for my Maytag (Mdb4800aww) and it say the tub is copolymer and the racks are vinyl. Is that bad? Which ones are polypro and nylon?

  4. hi and thank you for all your information extremely helpful! What do you recommend for drying dishes on? Dish rack for drying non toxic?

  5. What I’ve been reading about Bitumen use is that it is wrapped around the outside of the stainless steel tub for sound dampening. The Bosch website has a diagram of this. Even though it is outside the tub, my concern is that it must be getting hot enough to off-gas or people wouldn’t notice such a strong smell. I have started trying to contact various dishwasher manufacturers. So far only one has written me back. GE confirms they use Bitumen in their dishwashers.

    1. Do they say the smell will go in a few washings?

      I think Bitumen is what Noah coated the ark with!! ; D

      1. i have not asked about the smell. from what I’ve read about other chemicals, just because the smell goes away doesn’t mean the chemical isn’t off-gassing. Bitumen is some nasty stuff, too!

          1. So far, Maytag has told me they don’t use it. I haven’t tried asking again to make sure I got the same response. But that is the one I am going with. I better get one soon before they decide to start using it! Of course, when you go to the stores to look at the machines, the employees have no clue which has it and which doesn’t. : /

  6. We just had a new Amana dishwasher installed. It had great online reviews and looked to have baskets in common sense places like our last dishwasher. Now it didn’t occur to me before ordering it online based on photos and reviews that it would be lined with plastic of some sort?

    And I am a smell person. Like the princess and the pea I can smell anything. NASA should hire me
    to smell things for them. I’m running it for the third time now on a one hour cycle to see if I can get rid of the new smell. : 1 Is the plastic in this dishwasher unsafe??

    I should tell others we use more natural dish soaps and white vinegar in our dishwashers
    usually. You don’t need those fancy chemicals. White vinegar in the rinse compartment
    will make your glasses shine. You can buy it cheap by the gallon.
    And I am not one to worry about a few drips of clean water on the bottom of a cup or glass.

    I never put pots or plastic or silver in dishwashers which does leave a bit of regular
    dish washing to do.

  7. Unhappy with my tar smelling kitchen aid dishwasher. The older Whirlpool plastic one did not smell like that, but it was loud and during the wash it leaked smell of the soap. Can I remove the bitumen? Its been 10 days and still smells but less.

  8. i too am suffering from chemical sensitivities in my home due to a new stainless steel GE dishwasher, the gassing is horrible and the air burns to breathe. my lips and tongue burn from the gassing off from the dishwasher and it’s been 3 months and the air just stinks. it’s horrible. need help

    1. As we mentioned in reply to your same comment on other posts, that article is from 2008 and we’ve been watching research for many years since then and haven’t come across anything that would lead us to believe polypropylene isn’t safe when used properly (washed on the top rack of the dishwasher, not sterilized and not microwaved). All plastics have additives and some are much, much worse than others. Polypropylene and polyethylene are by far the best options. It’s up to you, of course, whether you choose to use plastic or not.

  9. Please check your information. Stainless steel is not naturally bacteria resistant; in fact bacteria loves stainless steel.

  10. Do you think a dishwasher tub would be safe to use as a garden container? I’d like to recycle one and grow potatoes in it.

  11. We have the same question to Chris above: What is your recommendation for the best non stainless option if they use bitumen on the steel ones?

  12. We are looking for a new dishwasher and need recommendations that are up to date for 2017. Is a plastic tub really safer than stainless steel? I am very concerned about bitumen in stainless steel. But I thought plastic is also a toxic brew because of BPA and phlalates? It seems it’s a no-win situation! Another problem is that dishwashers use the same water and run for too many hours, and I because that can cause bacteria from the water to stay on the dishes. Our Whirlpool Gold Series ran for almost 4 hours on an average load and reused the same water, which I think is hazardous. It broke down and now we are doing all our dishes by hand. None of the news out there is good. Does anyone know of a non-toxic safe built-in dishwasher without bitumen and that runs quickly?

  13. I see this thread is over 6 years old now but I’m curious, has anyone found a non-toxic dishwasher that doesn’t use Bitumen to line the tub yet? I need to buy a new dishwasher and was going to buy a Bosch until I read all the reviews complaining of the toxic tar smell from the Bitumen lining. I’m extremely chemically sensitive so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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