Does Your Laundry Detergent Contain These 5 Common Carcinogens?

You may be getting more than you bargained for when you wash your clothes. That’s because many commercial laundry detergents contain toxic carcinogens. And, you may be exposing yourself to these cancer-causing chemicals every time you do the laundry or wear the clothes you’ve washed. That’s a disturbing and counter-intuitive thought.

Here are some of the most common carcinogens in in everyday laundry detergents:

1, 4-Dioxane

This toxic chemical is heavily used in many detergents. Multiple studies link the ingredient to cancer.

Nonylphenol Ethoxylate

This is a common surfactant (detergent) found in laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners. It bioaccumulates in the environment and has widespread effects on marine life. Additionally, it is an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen, making it harmful to anyone but especially those who are vulnerable to breast cancer or other estrogen-linked cancers. It is already banned in Europe.


Many commercial laundry detergents contain artificial colors, which the Environmental Working Group has identified as a cancer risk. Some of these colors include: 4-methylimidazole, imidazole, 2-methylimidazole and FURAN, all of which the organization indicates are “known to cause cancer” or “may cause cancer.”


Many laundry detergents contain chemicals that are used to stabilize the products; however, they have been linked to a low to moderate cancer risk, depending on the specific types and quantities used.

Alcohol Ethoxylates

Depending on the concentration of this chemical, the EWG lists it as causing “some concern” for cancer risk.

If you’re not sure whether the laundry products you use contain carcinogens, be sure to check out the EWG’s database of thousands of common products.

I’ve listed some of the most common laundry products along with the letter grade they received using the EWG’s grading system for their overall health (including carcinogenic effects) and environmental effects. You may notice that the many of the so-called “scent-free,” “free & clear,” or “gentle” options actually rated just as poorly (and sometimes worse) as their counterparts. Here are some of the most common products and their ratings:

Cheer brightCLEAN Powdered Laundry Detergent—Free & Gentle: D

Downy Ultra Concentrated Fabric Softener: D

Downy Ultra with Febreze Liquid Fabric Softener—Spring & Renewal: D

Gain Liquid Detergent with Freshlock, Lavender: D

Gain Ultra Powder Detergent with Febreze Freshness—Original: D

Tide Liquid Detergent plus Downy HE—April Fresh: D

Tide plus Bleach Alternative—Original: D

Tide Pods—Free & Gentle: D

Cheer brightCLEAN HE Liquid Laundry Detergent—Free & Gentle: F

Downy Ultra Concentrated Fabric Softener—Free & Sensitive: F


Here are some products that received an “A:”

Attitude Sensitive Skin Natural Baby Laundry Detergent: A

Biokleen Free & Clear Laundry Liquid: A

Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap, Baby Unscented: A (Dr. Bronner’s Rose or Almond products received a B)

Ecover ZERO Laundry Liquid Concentrate: A or B (there are 2 different versions of this product)


Here are some products that are marketed as natural and received Bs or Cs:

Ecover Laundry Powder ZERO: B

Green Works Naturally Derived Oxi Stain Remover: B

Nellie’s All-Natural Laundry Soda: B

Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent Packs—Mandarin & Sandalwood: B

Ultra Purex Powder Detergent with Renuzit, Mountain Breeze—B

Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Laundry Detergent Pods—Unscented: B

Arm & Hammer Essentials 2X Concentrated Liquid Laundry Detergent—Free of Perfume & Dye: C

Arm & Hammer Powder Laundry Detergent, Free of Perfume & Dye: C

Citra Solve Citra-Solve Citra Suds Liquid Laundry Detergetn—Valencia Orange: C

Nature Clean Liquid Laundry, Unscented: C

Purex Classic Powder, Original Fresh: C

Seventh Generation Natural 4X Laundry Detergent, Free & Clear: C

As you may have noticed, even many of the so-called “natural” laundry detergents are less than impressive. Fortunately, the David Suzuki Foundation shares a free, downloadable guide to making natural cleaning products, including laundry detergent.

To be honest, I thought I was using extremely natural, healthy laundry detergents but after researching and writing this article, I’m switching to David Suzuki’s homemade actually-natural option instead.

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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-news World’s Healthiest News, president of PureFood BC, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include:  The Life Force Diet: 3 Weeks to Supercharge Your Health and Get Slim with Enzyme-Rich Foods.


Chrissie R
Chrissie R2 months ago

...and are too expensive for us average joes.

heather g
heather g2 months ago

Most of those highly rated aren't available locally

Ruth S
Ruth S2 months ago


Mike R
Mike R2 months ago


Mike R
Mike R2 months ago


Sonia Minwer Barakat Requ

Thanks for sharing

Sarah Hill
Sarah H8 months ago


Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine Andersen9 months ago

Thanks for letting us know. It is hard to find anything that doesn't cause cancer these days!

Amanda M
Amanda M9 months ago

Another reason to be glad I've been making our own laundry soap for years! Just three simple ingredients (four if you count the water involved), and I've got enough soap for several months. The total cost comes out to roughly a nickel per load compared to 13 cents and up depending on what kind of commercial detergent you buy, and I only have to replace the ingredients once a year at minimum. A win-win all around, I'd say.

Marie P
Marie P10 months ago

TYFS. Awesome list and worth keeping.