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Ingredients To Avoid In Laundry Products For A Chemical-Free Lifestyle

Hey there! In our crazy, fast-paced world, living chemical-free is all the rage! We watch what we eat, care about our skincare, but uh-oh, what about our laundry stuff? Yep, those sneaky laundry products matter too! They touch our skin and mess with our planet, and that’s no bueno. So, let’s dig deep and uncover those nasty ingredients to avoid in laundry detergents. Sayonara to harsh chemicals, and hello to a fresh, eco-friendly laundry routine!

Harmful Chemicals in Laundry Detergents

Let’s embark on a journey to uncover these hidden culprits lurking in our laundry detergents. Are laundry detergents bad for skin? Can they harm our planet too? Let’s find out as we dive into the world of laundry product ingredients! 

1. Surfactants and Sulphates

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/ Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLS/ SLES): These surfactants are commonly used in laundry detergents to create lather and remove dirt. However, they can be harsh on the skin and may cause irritation, especially for individuals with sensitive skin. SLS based products definitely make it to the list of laundry detergents to avoid. 

| Suggest read: Chemical-Free Laundry Can Benefit

2. Environmental Pollutants

  • Phosphates: Used in laundry detergents to soften water and enhance cleaning power, phosphates can lead to excessive algal growth in water bodies, causing harm to aquatic life and ecosystems.
  • Dioxane (1,4 Dioxane/ Diethylene Dioxide/ Diethylene Ether/ Dioxane): Dioxane is not an intentional ingredient but a byproduct of the ethoxylation process used in some laundry products. It is considered a probable human carcinogen.
  • Chlorine Bleach: A powerful disinfectant and whitener widely used in laundry products, chlorine bleach can release harmful fumes and cause skin and respiratory irritation.

3. Synthetic Fragrances and Phthalates

  • Fragrance: Artificial fragrances in laundry products often contain phthalates, which are chemicals known to disrupt hormones and may cause respiratory issues and allergies, further adding to the laundry detergent toxicity.
  • Phthalates: Commonly used as solvents and plasticizers in laundry products, phthalates are endocrine disruptors and have been linked to adverse health effects.

| Suggest read: Harmful Effects Of Detergents

4. Optical Brighteners and Dyes

  • Optical Brighteners/ UV Brighteners: These chemicals create an illusion of brighter and whiter clothes by absorbing UV light and re-emitting it as visible light. They do not actually clean clothes but can cause skin irritation and have a negative impact on the environment.
  • Dyes: Synthetic dyes used to give laundry products a colourful appearance can contain harmful chemicals and may cause skin irritation.

5. Other Harmful Chemicals

  • Formaldehyde: Sometimes present in laundry products as a preservative, formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen and can cause skin irritation and respiratory issues.
  • Ammonium Sulphate: This chemical is used as a filler or thickener in some laundry products but has no cleaning properties. Its presence is unnecessary and may contribute to pollution.
  • Dichlorobenzene: A toxic chemical used in some laundry products as a solvent or deodorizer. It can harm the nervous system and is hazardous to aquatic life.
  • Nonylphenol ethoxylate: NPEs are surfactants often used in detergents, but they are persistent in the environment and can disrupt hormone systems in aquatic organisms.
  • Methylisothiazolinone: This chemical is used as a preservative in some laundry products but can cause skin allergies and irritation.

| Suggest read: Chemical-Free Laundry For Baby Clothes

Additional Concerns

  • Studies by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) have revealed that approximately 53 percent of cleaning products contain ingredients known to harm the lungs. Furthermore, about 22 percent of these products contain chemicals reported to cause asthma in otherwise healthy individuals. These lung irritants can lead to respiratory issues and worsen existing conditions.
  • Many products used in laundry detergents induce cancer such as 1,4-dioxane, a suspected human carcinogen, is a common contaminant found in widely-used detergent chemicals. This chemical is a byproduct of the ethoxylation process used to make certain surfactants milder. Despite being unintentional, its presence poses a potential health risk.
  • Chloroform, another suspected human carcinogen, can sometimes be released as fumes from products containing chlorine bleach. Prolonged exposure to chloroform fumes can be harmful to human health and should be avoided.
  • Sodium borate, commonly known as borax, and boric acid are added to many cleaning products, including laundry detergents, as cleaning agents and enzyme stabilisers. However, they have the potential to disrupt the hormone system, causing concerns for human health.

| Suggest read: Benefits Of Eco-Friendly Detergent Products

Safer Alternatives for a Chemical-Free Laundry Routine

To minimise exposure to harmful chemicals in laundry products, consider the following safer alternatives:

  • Choose laundry detergents and cleaning products with eco-friendly certifications and labels, indicating their commitment to chemical-free and non-toxic formulations.
  • Look for formaldehyde free laundry detergents and make sure to read the labels carefully. 
  • Opt for plant-based and biodegradable laundry products that do not contain harmful surfactants, phosphates, or dyes.
  • Look for fragrance-free or naturally scented laundry products that avoid synthetic fragrances and phthalates.
  • Use oxygen bleach or hydrogen peroxide as safer alternatives to chlorine bleach for stain removal and whitening.
  • Explore DIY laundry solutions using safe ingredients like baking soda, white vinegar, and essential oils.

| Suggest read: DIY Fabric Whitener Hacks

As we seek a chemical-free lifestyle, understanding the ingredients to avoid in laundry products is essential. Harmful chemicals such as lung irritants, carcinogens, and hormone disruptors have no place in products that come into direct contact with our skin and clothing. By making informed choices and opting for eco-friendly alternatives, we can protect both our health and the environment. 


Q. What are some certifications to look for in eco-friendly laundry products?

Ans. Look for certifications like USDA Organic, Ecocert, or the EPA’s Safer Choice label, which indicate environmentally friendly and non-toxic formulations.

Q. How can I find out if a laundry product contains harmful ingredients? 

Ans. Check product labels for listed ingredients, and research the product or brand online. The EWG’s website also provides valuable information on product safety.

Q. Are DIY laundry solutions effective in removing tough stains? 

Ans. Yes, many DIY solutions using baking soda, white vinegar, and essential oils are effective in removing tough stains without the use of harmful chemicals.

Q. Can chemical-free laundry products help with respiratory issues?

Ans.  Yes, using chemical-free laundry products can reduce exposure to lung irritants, which may help alleviate respiratory issues in some individuals.

Q. Are there any eco-friendly fabric softeners available? 

Ans. Yes, there are eco-friendly fabric softeners made from plant-based ingredients that are safe for both your clothes and the environment.


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