Healthy Holistic Living

Toxic Laundry Detergents and an All Natural Alternative

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All too often we forget that being healthy involves not just the things we put into our bodies but those we put onto our bodies.

As we do with beauty care products, we should be taking stock of what chemicals are in our laundry detergents because like it or not we have all have to wear clothes and they come in direct contact with our pores.

Sure, fabric softeners and dryer sheets help make your clothes smell like mountain air or spring breeze, but the pleasure of scent pales in comparison to the damage these synthetic smells can do to our mind and body.

Did you know that your laundry room may be the most toxic room in your house?

Studies show that dryer vents release up to 25 volatile organic compounds – seven of which are classified as hazardous air pollutants. Whether properly vented or not, emitting these chemicals is doing irreparable damage to the environment and human health.


The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that air quality inside the typical American home is actually 2-5 times more polluted than the air directly outside – some extreme cases it can be up to 100 times more contaminated.

Just like with the cosmetic industry, the manufacturers of household cleaners are not obligated to disclose the chemicals they use in their products. The word “fragrance” is used as an all encompassing mask to hide the real toxic ingredients.

The top four most toxic chemicals can be found in most store brand laundry detergents. Remember these names (if you can even pronounce them):

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)/Sodium Laureth Sulfate(SLES)/Ammonium Laurel Sulfate (ALS)
  • 1,4-dioxane
  • Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE)
  • Phosphates

I won’t travel too far down the rabbit hole, but let me just lay out quickly why each of these chemicals is bad for you.

SLS is a surfactant that is not only used in detergents and household cleaning products, but is used in almost all manufactured beauty care products. Shampoos, body washes, cleansers, creams and even toothpaste all use this foaming agent.

Although at its foundation, SLS derives from coconuts, it is a far cry from anything natural.

SLES and ALS are also made through a process of adding sulfur trioxide or chlorosulfuric acid to create a powerful foaming powder.

Thousands of studies have been done to measure the effects of these chemicals on humans, resulting in a lost that ranges from irritated skin and eyes to genetic mutations leading to cancer.

None of which sound safe to me.

Although 1,4-dioxane is not added to products intentionally, its presence should not be welcome. A bi product of SLS, 1,4-dioxane is a known carcinogen and has contaminated a large part of groundwater in the United States.


NPE is a chemical known as the “gender bender” as it is a known endocrine disrupter and replicates estrogen in the body. There are so widely known as toxic that they are banned in Canada and Europe, yet not here at home.

How can you avoid exposure to these chemicals? By choosing all natural household and beauty care products or making your own.

Check out this simple laundry soap mixture that works better than any fragrant goo you buy in stores and is much more affordable. This recipe will yield enough to wash the clothes of a family of four for about a year.


  • 16 cups baking soda
  • 12 cups washing soda
  • 8 cups grated castile soap
  • 3 tablespoons lavender, lemon or grapefruit essential oil (optional)


Combine baking soda, washing soda and soap flakes. When using in the washer, simply add essential oil and mix with a wire whisk. Use 1/8 cup per load.

Looking to soften fabrics? Try this all natural alternative.


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