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How Many Toxic Chemicals Are In Your Laundry Detergent?

There are many chemicals in laundry detergents. See our guides on what each one is and what it can do to your skin!

By Allen Tellis, Jan 23, 2023

Many domestic households commonly associate toxins with chemicals in our foods, cosmetics, and personal care products. That is why, when seeking a healthy, eco-friendly lifestyle, one of the first changes many make is switching to organic foods and non-toxic cosmetics. However, many of the poisons in our homes come from items that should protect us, such as detergents. It's tough to see these items as hazardous. After all, people have been using them daily for years and haven't left any visible indications of damage.

However, while detergents may leave clothes smelling fresh and clean, they often contain a mixture of toxic chemicals that harm our health. Besides the fact that they ruin clothes, leaving them faded and worn out, each time we wash our garments, these chemicals also enter our sewers and contaminate the water bodies around us.

Our skin is the most significant organ in our bodies, and the chemicals in our clothing and sheets come into contact with it daily. Experts have linked these chemicals to various adverse health effects, ranging from skin rashes to more severe disorders such as cancer, birth defects, and developmental problems. It's essential to get acquainted with these toxic chemicals and their effects. Read on as we take you through some of them.


1,4-dioxane, a known human carcinogen, is a frequent constituent in detergents and shampoos. It is a solvent and degreaser. Experiments on rats and other lab animals have revealed that dioxane exposure can produce malignant and benign tumors in many body areas, from the mouth to the liver.

Contact with detergent residues exposes individuals. 1,4-dioxane is readily absorbed through the skin and inhaled. It also rapidly leaches into the soil and groundwater, polluting municipal drinking water supplies and raising the risk of coming into contact through consumption.

Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLS)

SLS is a foaming ingredient found in detergents, soaps, and shampoos. SLS can be made from petroleum as well as coconut or palm oil. It increases the effectiveness of detergents by permitting water and oil, two insoluble substances, to emulsify and be readily taken off filthy garments.

SLS has common uses due to its low cost and effectiveness. SLS irritates human skin, and many frequently link it to eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. Those with sensitive or allergic skin should avoid it.


Bleach in detergents, sometimes hidden under the label phrase Sodium Hypochlorite or the umbrella term 'optical brighteners,' is intended to make garments, particularly white ones, appear whiter by converting UV radiation to visible light. Bleach can induce allergic reactions when it comes into contact with the skin. It irritates the eyes and lungs and is hazardous to aquatic life.


Formaldehyde is a cost-effective antibacterial and preservation ingredient in detergents and dishwashing liquids. It has become known to irritate the respiratory system, eyes, and lungs.

Contact with formaldehyde on an ongoing basis might result in allergic reactions such as eczema and contact dermatitis. Humans are regularly toxic to formaldehyde, and studies have connected it to cancer. Search for this component on your detergent label or the maker's website for extra details.


Phosphates improve the effectiveness of detergents by lowering the impact of calcium and magnesium while rendering water less hard. Sodium tripolyphosphate is the most commonly used phosphate in detergents. Despite their usefulness, phosphates have been outlawed in numerous American states and European countries due to their harmful effects on water bodies.

Phosphates cause algal blooms in lakes and rivers, depriving marine species of oxygen and killing them. An eco-friendly laundry detergent like Good Laundry does not include phosphates and does not harm natural ecosystems.

Nonylphenol Ethoxylate

Nonylphenol ethoxylated, a controversial chemically proven endocrine disruptor in people and animals, is prohibited in several European nations but not in India. In its region-based Assessment of Persistent Toxic Substances, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) listed it as an element of widespread concern.

It impairs hormonal activity by imitating estrogen so that our bodies can't detect the distinction between estrogen and nonylphenol ethoxylate after multiple exposures. The chemical is not compostable; you can find it for a long time in the soil, groundwater, and surface water bodies, which is very hazardous to aquatic creatures.


Alkylbenzene sulphonates (ABS) and linear alkylbenzene sulphonates (LAS) are the most commonly used benzene-based surfactants in laundry detergents. Surfactants reduce the surface tension between the liquid and spots on clothes, trap dirt particles in water, and render them simpler to break down and wash away.

Benzene levels in the air inside are high due to benzene emissions from domestic items such as detergents, paint, and furniture polish. It causes skin, nasal, and eye irritation and is hazardous to marine organisms.

Artificial scents

Laundry detergent fragrances comprise over 4,000 compounds, most of which are derived from petroleum. We smell them because they vaporize and discharge toxic Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), such as terpenes, into the air, polluting indoor air. Studies have shown that synthetic solid smells can trigger irritation in the respiratory system and induce asthma attacks. Choose a detergent that is fragrance-free or has a light aroma.


The amount of harmful compounds in laundry detergents varies according to brand and formulation. Some detergents may contain dangerous chemicals, whereas others prioritize using non-toxic and ecologically sound substances. Suppose you're worried about hazardous chemicals in your laundry detergent. In that case, reading the product labels and looking for them is critical. Choosing eco-friendly and chemical-free laundry detergents like Good Laundry can benefit the environment and your health.

Good Laundry products are made with non-toxic and natural ingredients. That’s why these environmentally friendly cleaning products are as effective, if not more effective, than most detergents. They are also free from any harmful chemicals or pollutants and are devoid of harmful toxins as well. Good Laundry products are phosphate-free, plastic-free, biodegradable, and packaged in recyclable containers. Next time you're at the supermarket, you'll know what detergent will benefit your clothes, your health, and the environment.