My Toddler Drank Dishwashing Liquid – What Should I Do?

Would you know what to do if you discovered your toddler drank dishwashing liquid? Or if you found your child biting into a laundry pod?

While most parents think this will never happen to them, it’s more common than you think.

My toddler drank dishwashing liquid! What do I do?

Children are by nature very inquisitive and curious. Being vigilant around small children is important but accidents do happen. You might have bought environmentally friendly products, but then your toddler drank dishwashing liquid! Suddenly you’re wondering what to do.

It’s important you know exactly what to do if you suspect your child has been in contact with a poison or a potential poison. Being aware of the right way to deal with a suspected poisoning will reduce the chances of permanent damage or death.

Here’s what you should do if you think your child drank dishwashing liquid or came into contact with a poisonous substance.

What is a poison?

Poisons are substances that cause illness or death to living organisms when absorbed, ingested or inhaled. Various chemicals, medicines, animal and plant materials – even in small quantities – can be dangerous to people.

We all react differently when exposed to these things. Some people might have a huge reaction while others do not notice any effects at all.

Small children are likely to be more severely affected by poisoning than adults. Toddlers don’t stop and think before they touch or ingest something that could be dangerous. Something an adult knows should not be ingested can look interesting, or even tasty, to a small child.

And that’s why you might suspect your toddler drank dishwashing liquid from your kitchen sink cupboard.

Poisons to be aware of around the home

Every day, around your home or garden, you might use products that are potentially poisonous to your child.

Always make sure these products are out of the reach of children:

  • Cleaning, dishwasher and laundry products
  • Insect and weed killers
  • Button batteries
  • Essential oils – e.g. eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, lavender
  • Pool (chlorine) and car products, like oil and petrol
  • Prescription medicines, sleeping pills and over-the-counter medicines, like paracetamol or cough medicines
  • Herbal medicines and supplements, such as iron tablets.

Don’t assume keeping potentially dangerous products on a high shelf is safe. Many children have been known to climb shelves or onto counters and reach into high cupboards.

Always keep products that might be poisonous in a location your child can’t access at all. Child safety locks will prevent children from getting their hands on them.

Why is dishwashing liquid dangerous?

Dishwasher detergent in liquid or powder form is alkaline. Even if swallowed in only small amounts, it is caustic and will cause severe burns to the mouth, throat and airways. If you realise your toddler drank dishwashing liquid, it’s important to act quickly.

According to Kidsafe Australia (Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia), in 2014 and 2015 around 1500 children under the age of 15 years were admitted to emergency for poison-related injuries.

Has my child been poisoned?

It’s your worst nightmare. You find an open cupboard or see your toddler with an empty container. Your first thought is your toddler drank dishwashing liquid, or swallowed a dishwasher tablet.

First thing to remember is not to panic!

Don’t wait for symptoms to develop: immediately call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 (Australia) for advice.

If you’re in a different country, always have the number for your local Poisons Information Centre handy, in case of emergencies.

If you think your toddler drank dishwashing liquid or chewed on a laundry pod you might see signs such as:

  • Red lips
  • Blisters around the mouth or on the hands
  • Possible breathlessness and coughing
  • Swelling inside the mouth
  • Severe pain and discomfort
  • Possible vomiting or stomach pain.

What to do if your child has been poisoned?

Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 immediately.

Take the product with you to the phone so you have all the details at hand.

The Poisons Information Centre will advise you of the appropriate first aid, or advise you to call an ambulance to take your child to the nearest emergency department.

For peace of mind, it’s recommended all parents take a baby and child first aid course. This can give you the confidence to identify potential poisoning fast and to respond calmly.

If the poison is SWALLOWED

If your toddler drank dishwashing liquid, ate a laundry pod, or ingested anything you suspect is poisonous, this is what you should do:

  • DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING: this can cause further injury to your child
  • Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

If the poison enters the EYE

If your child has rubbed a poisonous substance into the eye, this is what you need to know:

  • Wash the eye out with cool water – from a running tap, an eye dropper, a syringe or a cup
  • Continue to wash the eye out for 15 minutes
  • Contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

If the poison contacts the SKIN

If your child’s skin has come in contact with a poison, this is what you need to do:

  • Remove all clothing that has been in contact with the poison. Be sure to avoid contact with the poison yourself
  • Wash the skin with cool running water
  • Contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

If the poison is INHALED

If your child has inhaled a poison, this is what you should do:

  • Immediately take the child out into the fresh air, if safe to do so
  • Avoid breathing in any fumes
  • Open doors and windows
  • Start resuscitation, if required, and call an ambulance on 000
  • Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

Dishwasher and laundry pod safety

Prevention is better than having to deal with a potential poisoning. To keep your children safe and avoid worrying whether your toddler drank dishwashing liquid, follow these tips:

  • Always ensure the container is sealed correctly
  • Keep laundry capsules out of reach of children – preferably in a cupboard or storage area they can’t reach
  • Keep cupboards securely locked with child safety locks
  • Don’t leave brightly coloured laundry pods in clear sight. Children often mistake them for lollies.


  • Call the Poisons Information Centre 13 11 26 or phone an ambulance if you’re really concerned.
  • DO NOT induce vomiting if poison is swallowed
  • Take note (or a photo) of the product details of the poison
  • Remove clothing if it has come into contact with poison
  • Rinse eyes for 15 minutes if poison has been in contact with the eyes
  • Wash skin if poison has been in contact with skin
  • Get fresh air if poison is inhaled.

Remember, if your toddler drank dishwashing liquid, or your expensive essential oils, don’t panic! Stay calm and seek help immediately.

Tracy Hardy

Tracy Hardy

Tracy has been working in the online world for 10 years and loves supporting fellow parents along their journey. She is a mum of two boys and enjoys spending time with family, and relaxing at the beach.

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