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The Top 3 Ingredients to Avoid in Laundry Detergent

Posted on May 13 2022

Toxic chemicals may be hiding in your laundry detergent. Find out what you need to know to stay safe and healthy and get your laundry clean. 

Doing the Laundry is the Worst. Okay, so maybe a few people like one aspect of laundry. But most hate it. I like putting my laundry into the washer and starting it. But then that's when I wish the Laundry Fairy would finish the job for me! Who can relate? 

Unless you live in a nudist colony, your skin is touching fabric 24/7, so what you use to wash your laundry is important to your health. Conventional laundry detergent (and many greenwashed "natural" ones too!) contains many unhealthy ingredients that can severely impact your health. In fact, your laundry room products are some of the most toxic cleaning chemicals in your house! 

With so much to sort through on product labels (if your detergent lists the ingredients on the label at all), it can be hard to sort through the good, the bad and the greenwashed. We have some ingredients to steer clear of when you are looking at a safe and healthy detergent.

1. Fragrance

Fragrances in laundry products can lead to skin irritation (which can be the cause of rashes, eczema, and itching). A big problem with fragrance is that companies can list them as one ingredient without listing all the components. Why does this matter? Most fragrance is synthetic and contains both phthalates  and petrochemicals (which is bad for the environment) which do not have to be disclosed. These components can cause headaches, asthma attacks, and skin irritations that don't always show up right away. They build up in our system and cause a gradual overload.

“Fragrance is considered to be a trade secret, so brand formulas are proprietary and the individual ingredients are not required to be listed on the label,” explains Tonya Harris, an award-winning environmental toxin expert and the creator of the Slightly Greener Method. “Fragrances in detergent can be made up of dozens of ingredients, of which some may be allergenic [and] toxic to the brain and nervous or respiratory system.”

Bottom line: stick with essential oils (real ones!) or go unscented, and stay clear of the word FRAGRANCE and PARFUM. 

2. Ingredients that end in "-ETH"

Ethoxylated ingredients are treated with ethylene oxide (a known carcinogen) when it's processed. A by-product of this process is 1,4-dioxane (another carcinogen) which is absorbable through the skin. 1,4-dioxane won't be listed as an ingredient on your products so it's important to stay away from ingredients that when processed create 1,4-dioxane as a by-product. Companies use ethoxylated ingredients to stabilize their formula so the ingredients won't separate. 

Bottom line: steer clear of ingredients that end in "-eth", polysorbates, phenoxyethanol, and PEGs. 

3. Sulfates

We have been conditioned in the last 100 years to believe that soap/detergent must foam or lather in order to clean. Sulfates are found in so many everyday products; everything from shampoo to toothpaste, and laundry detergent. They are a skin irritant that doesn't always show up as an immediate reaction.

Bottom line: avoid sodium laurETH sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate.