Commercial laundry detergents are generally cheap and easy to use. You have your choice of many different brands that offer various cleaning powers and scents. The problem is they are laden with harmful chemicals that produce these amazing qualities and lovely scents. The manufacturers of laundry products are not required to list all the ingredients in their products making it difficult for the consumer to make an informed decision when purchasing laundry products. Even without that information, so many of the ingredients that manufacturers do list are harmful. I would like to share with you a handful of the most common chemicals that are listed on laundry product labels and tell you why they are harmful to our bodies.
There are four top offenders when it comes to harmful ingredients in laundry products: 1,4 Dioxane, Sodium laurel sulfate, Nonyphenol ethoxylate(NPE), and phosphates. These chemicals can damage your health as well as contaminate waterways and harm the environment. Ingredients that are listed as optical brighteners, petrochemicals or as fragrance free, often contain other harmful chemicals that are not even listed. Very few of the chemicals in laundry products have been thoroughly tested especially in combination with each other. But, these top four have been proven to have harmful effects on humans and the environment.
1,4 Dioxane is a petrochemical used commonly in paints and varnishes and is in about two-thirds of all commercial laundry detergent. It is a known carcinogen and can also cause vertigo, drowsiness, headache, anorexia and irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Long term exposure can cause more damage.
Sodium laurel sulfate and Sodium laureth sulfate serve as surfactants and detergent emulsifiers. Surfactants are the chemicals used to dissolve the dirt and emulsifiers keeps the solution from separating. They are frequently used in shampoos, hair color, body washes, hand soap, toothpaste, lotions, cosmetics and laundry detergent. These commonly used chemicals can be very harmful to the body and all products containing them should be avoided. They can cause organ toxicity, irritation to the skin and eyes, developmental and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption and possibly cancer.
NPE is also a surfactant. It has been labeled the “gender bender” because of the endocrine disruption it causes. It is an estrogen mimicker and causes hormonal problems and cancer. One study found that when male fish are exposed to it they become feminized and began to develop eggs. NPEs are banned in Canada and Europe.
Phosphates are the main cleaning ingredient in many detergents. They breakdown dirt particles and remove stains. They can cause skin irritation, nausea and diarrhea and when they end up in the waterways they suffocate aquatic life.
These four chemicals are just a portion of the chemicals that laundry products are laden with. The list of all the chemicals is too long to go into here but I think you get the idea. When I started researching this topic I was stunned by what is being allowed in these products and the harmful effects to our health and environment. It is so important to read labels and to know what is coming in contact with your body. The chemicals in many of these products are designed to stay on your clothes to add scent and softness. But these lingering chemicals also absorb into your skin causing the ill effects that I listed above.
At Grandma’s Lavender we create products that are free of harmful chemicals and that are simple and natural. We believe it is important to be transparent so we list every ingredient used in our products. Our Lavender Laundry Soap is made completely of non toxic ingredients yet is very effective at cleaning, refreshing and deodorizing your laundry. You can link here to try our laundry soap and dryer pouches. You will be delighted with its effectiveness and the light fresh scent.
Kathie Kesterson, founder of Grandma’s Lavender