Updated: Jan 9
Consider Changing Your Laundry Detergent to Avoid Skin Irritants and Dangerous Chemicals
Not many people know about the harmful chemicals found in most laundry detergents, which are completely unregulated in the US and are not required to even list their ingredients.
Not only do these chemicals affect you if your skin comes in contact with them, but some retain poisonous effects in your laundry long after it is done.
Even more scary is that, according to the EWG, "Drinking water for more than 7 million Americans in 27 states are contaminated with an industrial chemical at levels higher than what federal scientists say poses a minimal lifetime risk of cancer."
1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate/ Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLS/ SLES).
Banned in Europe, SLS is the most common and main ingredient in laundry detergents (as well as dish and hand wash liquid and shampoo). Originally developed as a garage floor degreaser, it irritates your skin, eyes, and lungs, damages internal organs and harms the environment. SLS is so irritating, it is used in research it to induce severe skin and eye irritation, so the effectiveness of healing agents can be measured.
2. Formaldehyde. Breathing or smelling formaldehyde, even at low levels, increases your risk of cancer. The EPA calls it a class B1 probable carcinogen, and says it causes acute toxicity when in contact with skin. Not only do detergents (and personal care products) often contain formaldehyde, but they can also contain other ingredients that when combined, form more formaldehyde.
3. Chlorine Bleach. Chlorine Bleach in laundry products is more common than you might think, and also more dangerous. Bleach manufacturers require extensive personal protective equipment (including safety goggles and even air respirators) be worn by their
employees when working with bleach, but most home users do not take these precautions. They risk serious skin and lung irritation, respiratory failure, severe caustic burns to skin and eyes, and blindness.
4. Ammonium Sulfate. This laundry additive is so toxic, its manufacturers recommend that it not be used indoors. It is an oral, skin, and respiratory toxin and requires the use of impermeable gloves, and eye and lung protection, as well as never allowing the chemical or its empty containers to reach drains or waterways.
5. Dioxane (1,4 Dioxane/ Diethylene Dioxide/ Diethylene Ether/ Dioxan). This laundry additive is a known carcinogen, and is found at unsafe levels in the drinking water of a majority of states. Its liquid and fumes can also spontaneously combust! It also causes skin, eye, and lung inflammation (some irreversible), and should only be used with protective gear – including respirators. Once you are exposed (via inhalation, skin contact, or eye contact including fumes in your eyes), it can damage the kidneys, central nervous system, liver, respiratory system, eyes, and skin.
6. UV Brighteners / Optical Brighteners These are included in laundry detergents as stain treaters, but they do not remove stains at all; they simply mask them by coating clothes with a substance that reflects visible light. They are an eye, skin, and lung irritant, extremely toxic to aquatic life, may spontaneously combust, and cannot be in the presence of static electricity—such as that from your clothes dryer. Manufacturers advise that correct use includes safely discarding any clothing that comes in contact with it!
7. Ammonium Quaternary Sanitizers (Quats/ Synthesized Cationic Surfactants). This cleaning additive is known to be corrosive. It should not be in household cleaning products, as it causes eye, skin, and lung damage. There’s no reason to include it – or any of these chemicals – in laundry detergent.
8. Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (Nonoxynol, NPEs). In addition to many warnings of harm to eyes, skin, and lungs, this laundry detergent ingredient states that prolonged exposure to inhaled fumes or mist may be fatal.
9. Fragrance (Unspecified/ Parfum). Artificial fragrances are usually to blame in cases of chemical sensitivity, allergic reactions, and rashes. Many are also known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Fragrance does not aid in cleaning in any way, but unfortunately, we still tend to choose scented products because we like them.
Pulmonologists (lung specialists) recommend removing the artificial fragrance from commercial products unless specifically sold as perfuming agents, as our lungs are constantly inundated with harmful, unnecessary fumes.
10. Dyes. Dyes do not help laundry detergent perform, and they are often the cause of allergies or rashes. Many are proven carcinogens and almost all are endocrine disruptors.
11. Benzyl Acetate. This additive is harmful if inhaled or spilled on skin, and is a kidney and nervous system toxin.
12. Dichlorobenzene (P-Dichlorobenzene/ Benzene). Benzene has an immediate, highly toxic effect on aquatic life that can continue poisoning the watershed for years to come. The fumes cause optical damage, and comes with a carcinogen warning for humans.
13. Phosphates. Phosphates have been banned from laundry detergent since 1993, but are still a main ingredient in many dishwashing detergents. Phosphate exposure is linked to cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and death from all causes in a general, healthy population. It is crucial we ban phosphates in order to save our waterways from eutrophication—mineral poisoning that causes high die-off of native marine animal species.
The good news is that we have much safer choices, including Aspen Clean 100% Natural Laundry Detergent, in Lavender-Lemongrass and Unscented, the ONLY
laundry detergent safe enough to earn EWG certification. It's hypoallergenic, biodegradable, 100% natural, safe for septic systems, and both regular and HE machines.