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The Worst Ingredients in Laundry Detergent

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Although SLS originates from coconuts, the chemical is anything but natural.

SLS is mixed with sulfur trioxide or chlorosulfuric acid and then neutralized with aqueous sodium hydroxide (lye). SLS is the sodium salt of lauryl sulfate and is classified by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Cosmetics Database as a “denaturant, surfactant cleansing agent, emulsifier and foamer,” rated “moderate hazard.”

Similar to sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is sodium laureth sulfate (short for sodium lauryl ether sulfate, or SLES), a yellow detergent with higher foaming ability. SLES is considered to be slightly less irritating than SLS. SLS goes by other names, including:

  • Sodium dodecyl sulfate
  • Sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt
  • Sodium salt sulfuric acid
  • Monododecyl ester sodium salt sulfuric acid
  • A13-00356
  • Akyposal SDS
  • Aquarex ME
  • Aquarex methyl

Ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS) is another variation commonly put into cosmetics and cleansers to make them foam. ALS is similar to SLS, showing similar risks.

Sixteen Thousand Studies Document the Hazards of SLS

According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Reviews, research studies on SLS have shown links to:

  • Irritation of the skin and eyes
  • Organ toxicity
  • Developmental/reproductive toxicity
  • Neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, ecotoxicology, and biochemical or cellular changes
  • Possible mutations and cancer

If you visit the SLS page on EWG’s website, you will see a very long list of health concerns and associated research studies. In fact, you will also see mention of nearly 16,000 studies in the PubMed science library (as well as their link to that list) about the toxicity of this chemical.

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Dr. Mercola

Dr. Mercola has been passionate about health and technology for most of his life. As a doctor of osteopathic medicine, he treated many thousands of patients for over 20 years. In the mid 90’s he integrated his passion for natural health with modern technology via the internet and developed a website, to spread the word about natural ways to achieve optimal health.


+ add your own
12:50PM PDT on Jul 3, 2012

Thanks for the info.

6:10PM PDT on Jun 15, 2012

Thanx, for taking such chances and exposing these toxins. I appreciate your article.

5:24AM PDT on May 23, 2012

One ingredient not mentioned here may also be causing your father to have his rash...
methylisothiazolinone (several names for, check wikipedia) My wife and several others I know have developed alergic reactions (alergies) to this ingredient. AND it is in almost everything.
Laundry soap, dish soap, bar soap, cosmetics, baby wipes, toilet paper, et. al. It is used as a preservative but one web site I was on compared it to of all things... "Agent Orange" (not sure if this is true). But, anytime my wife uses anything with this indredient (methylisothiazolinone) she gets a rash. And it usually takes a couple of days for it to go away. Unfortunately, it is in 7th generation products as well.

8:52AM PDT on May 22, 2012

Scary. My father has rashes from laundry detergent so we have been very careful from what we buy. I have copied the recipe for making your own laundry detergent a few weeks back and will be trying it. My other recipe says to use Bonners soap, which I will. I also have 7th generation on my shelf. I'll have to see if it has any of these chemicals in it.

7:46AM PDT on May 22, 2012

It's great that people are becoming more aware about what is in their household cleaning products, this is something I have known for a while so I use an eco-friendly organic laundry liquid from Faith In Nature that is as good as any of the other detergents,Natural laundry detergent by Faith In Nature

4:24AM PDT on May 21, 2012

Thanks for the heads up about these awful ingredients.

Most states have now banned or severely curtailed phosphates in soaps.

4:39AM PDT on May 18, 2012

thanks for sharing

5:12PM PDT on May 17, 2012

Thanks for the info..

11:48AM PDT on May 17, 2012

I am wondering why governmental and health agencies allow toxic products to be manufactured and distributed.

7:58AM PDT on May 17, 2012

I have eliminated commercial toothpaste and deodorant (found great recipes for natural substitues that work), and now after reading this, the laundry soap and dish soap are next to kick to the curb. There are great homemade recipes that work for these as well. GOODBYE TIDE, GOODBYE GAIN, GOODBYE SURF, GOOD BYE SUNLIGHT.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

Thank you for sharing.

Look's like a fun game to play whether it actually works or not.

Respect to your creativity :)

I think I'll stick with Wagamama :)


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