Dishwashing Liquid?
Amy Rothenberg, ND, AANP Board Member
Thursday, April 9, 2015
by: Amy Rothenberg, ND, AANP Board Member

Section: Pediatrics

About Amy Rothenberg, ND

Dr. Rothenberg practices in Connecticut. She blogs for the Huffington Post and enjoys writing and speaking on topics in natural medicine. Her book, The A Cappella Singer Who Lost Her Voice & Other Stories From Natural Medicine, was published in 2010 and can be found on Amazon or She is a founder and lead instructor at the New England School of Homeopathy. She sits on the Board of Directors of the AANP and is currently president of the Massachusetts Society of Naturopathic Doctors. She has raised three wonderful children with her husband, Paul Herscu ND, MPH, and spends much of her non-working hours in the garden, in her art studio and on the ballroom dance floor.

I remember this 1980s commercial promoting dishwashing liquid as a hand soak for rough and dry skin. When Madge, the manicurist, mentioned what the proffered hand was soaking in, the woman yanked her hand away and said incredulously, “DISHWASHING LIQUID!?” It was funny and offbeat and stuck with me. With my own hands plunged into soapy water doing dishes, I heard a terrific piece on NPR last month reporting on a study in a recent edition of the journal, Pediatrics, on the potential benefits of a family washing dishes by hand vs. using a dishwasher and how it might well decrease the incidence of allergy, asthma and eczema in children.

This idea is predicated on the hygiene theory, which postulates that early exposure to germs helps to develop immunological tolerance through stimulating the immune system. There have been other studies in recent times that elaborate on exposure to dirt, as in soil, dander, dust and germs and how they can reduce the tendency for allergy and asthma.
In my practice, I bring up the hygiene theory with the parents of my pediatric patients, to insure they know what the research is saying. There are other ways to build a good immune system too, such as eating cultured food and bone broths and avoiding refined sugars.
Many parents are obsessed about keeping things clean, using all kinds of products in the home and in the personal body care to keep their little ones “safe,” but research is pointing in the opposite direction. Having normal exposures to the environment may well be protective. What I liked about the dishwashing research was that it took up an overarching lifestyle activity that a family could decide to change. Of course, as kids get to be school-aged, it’s also a great place for water play, teaching about soap and water and having a time to connect while participating in a family chore together. It might just beat, “Hey, whose turn is it to empty the dishwasher?”

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