Skip to main content

Dishwasher rinse aids – are they a common household poisoning problem?

Rinse aids are drying aids used in dishwashers and act by reducing the surface tension of water, thereby ensuring water runs off crockery more easily. They are found in approximately half of UK households and so can present a danger if people, especially children, are exposed to them. Recently, Dr John Thompson, a senior consultant at the Cardiff unit of the National Poisons Information Service (NPIS), was involved in a published review of exposures to rinse aids reported to the UK NPIS.

The review looked at 1012 cases of rinse aid exposures reported to the NPIS over a period of 11 years. Ingestion was the most common route of exposure (93% of cases), but the volumes ingested were generally low (typically <50 mL). In children, features that developed following ingestion included vomiting, coughing, and central nervous system depression. Ocular exposure was less common (3% of cases), and features included eye irritation, pain and corneal abrasions. Dermal exposure (3% of cases) resulted in rash, pruritus and burns in six patients. Overall, exposure to rinse aids amongst children resulted in features developing in 47% of cases. Whilst these exposures mainly resulted in only minor features developing, it remains important that such products are kept out of the reach of children to ensure their safety.

For more information about the published review of the effects of rinse aids, please click here.

Reference: Day R, Bradberry SM, Sandilandh EA, Thomas SHL, Thompson JP, Vale JA (2020) Features reported after exposure to automatic dishwashing rinse aids. Human and Experimental Toxicology, 39(6): 828-833.

Follow AWTTC: