Dishwasher Powders - A Corrosive Poison We Use Every Day

Many households have a dishwasher, which may use powder or tablets. These agents are often highly alkaline and can cause corrosive injuries. A few simple hints will help us lessen the risk of injury through prevention and appropriate first aid.

Product Identification
The correct identification of the dishwasher powder is very important. If you are calling your Poisons Centre it is a good idea to bring the product to the phone. A wide range of dishwasher powders are available, and some may be more corrosive than others. The exact name is important so that the most appropriate and accurate information can be given if a poisoning has occurred.

General Advice
Dishwasher powder may cause chemical burns if eaten, left on the skin or flicked into the eyes. Even the residue left after a dishwasher cycle can cause burns and must be treated with caution. Immediately call your Poisons Centre, to find out the most up to date first aid following any exposure to dishwasher products.

Dishwasher powders may cause burns to the mouth or throat and could cause damage to the stomach if appropriate first aid is not given. They will often make someone feel ill and possible vomit after an exposure. They are very dangerous to the eyes and can cause serious injuries. Immediate flushing and appropriate first aid is always required, even after only very minimal exposure to the eyes. Skin exposures to dishwasher powders may cause burns and long term damage if not treated appropriately.

General Prevention Advice for Dishwasher Powders

  • Dishwasher powders and tablets need to be stored out of reach in a locked, child resistant cupboard


  • Cupboard locks can be purchased from pharmacies to convert a cupboard into a secure cleaning cupboard


  • Extra caution must be taken when actually using dishwasher powders, as this is when most poisonings occur


  • Following a cycle the dispenser should be checked for residue and cleaned to reduce the chance of an exposure


  • The dishwasher should remain closed and locked as much as possible to limit any children having access to the residue


  • After every each and every use the dishwasher powder needs to be securely stored


  • Child resistant lids need to be used correctly to limit the chances of a poisoning. Always replace the child resistant caps correctly. Never leave a lid off to make it easier to use the product; this also makes it easier for a child to be poisoned


  • Always choose products with flow restrictors; in the unfortunate situation of an exposure, the amount taken will be greatly reduced

More advice on preventing poisoning can be found by clicking here

First Aid for Dishwasher Powders - What Should I Do?

If Swallowed
If Spilt on Skin
If Sprayed in Eyes

If Swallowed
Immediately rinse the mouth and remove any remaining powder and seek medical advice from your Poisons Centre or your Doctor.
If the person is having difficulty breathing:

  • Keep the person calm
  • Help the person into a position so that breathing is as easy as possible
  • Quickly ring the emergency services telephone number to call an ambulance

If on Skin
Immediately flush the exposed area with lots of water and seek medical advice from your Poisons Centre or your Doctor

Do not leave the powder on the skin, even for a few minutes. It is corrosive and causes burns to the skin

If in Eyes
Immediately flush the eye with room-temperature water for at least 30 minutes and seek medical advice from your Poisons Centre or your Doctor

Click here to find out how best to flush an eye

The eye will then need to be examined at your Medical Centre or Hospital.

Click here for further first aid advice