TL;DR There is conflicting information from Canada & the EU about the risks of the main new active ingredient in Dawn Platinum Powerwash. And, why pay 2x the price for a premium product with some risks…when a rag and traditional Dawn work just as well?
Dawn has been spending quite a bit of cash on influencers and ads making sure that anyone and everyone who might be spending money on dish detergent knows about their new Dawn Platinum Powerwash.
I’ve learned from doing DIY projects and from running marketing campaigns that there’s not a ton of innovation in the consumer goods space. Consumer goods are mostly about repackaging, remarketing, and finding efficiencies.
Most “innovations” are too good to be true for everyone except the shareholders of Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and other consumer goods corporations.
So I figured that Dawn’s new dishwasher detergent was the same. But it turns out that…it’s not! They actually added a few new active ingredients to the mix.
And the active ingredients seem to do exactly what they claim to do…except there’s a twist.
Dipropylene Glycol Butyl Ether
Now, I am all for safe chemicals. The whole world is made of chemicals. Some are made by natural processes, some are made of human processes. The one thing about synthetic chemicals that is different from natural chemicals is that they haven’t been around for very long. To figure out if they are safe, you have to have a massive sample size or a long time period (or both, like has been shown for DEET, vaccines, antibiotics, most GMO products, etc).
Dipropylene Glycol Butyl Ether is the main new active ingredient in Dawn. It was invented by Dow Chemical. It’s a pretty amazing chemical. Here are all the benefits that they list –
- Favorable environmental profile, superior performance for end use applications, formulations may require less Performance solvent than P or E Series
- Vapor pressure that qualifies it as an exempt VOC (volatile organic compound) under the California Air Resources Board and U.S. EPA criteria for both consumer and commercial cleaning product applications
- Active and effective ether for solvent-based coatings and water-reducible coatings
- High polymer plasticizing efficiency
- A larger molecular size that allows for a greater polymer mobility contribution
- Strong partitioning to the polymer phase
- Relatively slow evaporation rate
- Good for the removal of soap scums and greasy soils in cleaning formulations
- Excellent surface tension-lowering ability and coalescing properties
Amazing! Dow even found in their own studies in 2005 that Gycol Ethers are totally fine and harmless.
Ok great! Except…3 years later a study was funded by the UK Health and Safety Executive found that “Glycol ether exposure was related to low motile sperm count in men attending fertility clinics. This suggests that, at the time of the study, glycol ethers continued to be a hazard for male fertility.”
And then, it turns out that the EU has found glycol ethers, as a class, to have some concerns to a whole range of human & wildlife health outcomes.
Glycol ethers have many uses; these include use as solvents and as an ingredient in cleaning compounds, liquid soaps, and cosmetics. Acute (short-term) exposure to high levels of the glycol ethers in humans results in narcosis, pulmonary edema, and severe liver and kidney damage. Chronic (long-term) exposure to the glycol ethers in humans may result in neurological and blood effects, including fatigue, nausea, tremor, and anemia. No information is available on the reproductive, developmental, or carcinogenic effects of the glycol ethers in humans. Animal studies have reported reproductive and developmental effects from inhalation and oral exposure to the glycol ethers. EPA has not classified the glycol ethers for carcinogenicity.EPA
And just to confirm that I’m looking at the right chemical, here’s what Dawn says on the back of the Platinum Powerwash bottle it does say – “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN. Eye irritant. In case of eye contact, flush thoroughly with water. If swallowed, drink a glass of water to dilute. NOT FOR USE IN DISHWASHERS.“
Hmm. Ok. I have a feeling this whole deal might end up like phosphates in detergent which were considered fairly bad, but not terrible…until after 50 years everyone was like “yeah…maybe we shouldn’t use these.”
*also – if I’m 100% completely, wrong about this, please let me know!
Now for the real reason the Dawn Platinum detergent is not worth it.
It’s $0.27/oz vs. $0.15/oz for traditional Dawn. It saves no time washing or pre-washing dishes. It just makes that wiping off discarded food mildly more convenient.
And for seriously stuck on food? Start deglazing when cooking. Add water to the pan when it’s still hot…not after it has cooled down. Just don’t waste money on detergent.