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The Worst Ingredients in Laundry Detergent

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The phosphate war has even sparked a team of angry rebel dish detergent smugglers who, in vehement protest to the phosphate ban in Spokane, drove all the way to Idaho to buy phosphate-based detergents as a means of “sticking it to the environmentalists.”

But seriously, how clean do you really need to be? Are water spots on your glassware worth fouling the precious water filling them?

Get over the water spots. If they bother you, wipe them off with a towel. New products can butt heads with our old cultural concepts of cleanliness. As I see it, we all need to start making some concessions for the good of our planet and our health. Besides the chemicals I’ve already mentioned, are there other agents lurking in your laundry soap, for which you should be on the lookout? Unfortunately, yes.

Pretty Scary Laundry List

Besides surfactants and phosphates, the average detergent has a long list of other chemical ingredients—and most are not good for you or the Earth. Anything in those products can potentially be absorbed through your skin or breathed in through your nose, as well as passed down the drain to our waterways.

Typical chemicals include:

  • Linear alkyl sodium sulfonates (LAS), a.k.a. anionic surfactants
  • Petroleum distillates (a.k.a. naphthas), which have been linked to cancer
  • Phenols, which can cause toxicity throughout the entire body
  • Optical brighteners, which cause bacterial mutations and allergic reactions, and can be toxic to fish
  • Sodium hypochlorite (bleach)
  • EDTA (ethylene-diamino-tetra-acetate)
  • Artificial fragrances, which have been linked to various toxic effects on fish and animals, as well as allergic reactions in humans

And polysorbate 60 and polysorbate 80 are also often contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, according to Dr. Samuel Epstein. Over time, these toxins can build up in your body and cause a number of unknown, unpredictable effects.

Tips for Greener Laundering

Hopefully, public awareness about dioxane and surfactants will, in time, result in bans similar to those now being implemented for phosphates. The wheels of progress are slow, but at least they are turning.

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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.

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