Detergent Dangers and How to Avoid ThemJanuary 5, 2023 · Monika Harah
Why Common Cleaning Products Stink
Detergents might help make your clothes clean, but what do they actually contain and what are the consequences for you and for the planet to use them?
Common laundry detergents often contain harmful chemicals that can be carcinogenic, toxic, and harmful to both your health and the environment. When you wash your clothes with these detergents, not only are you exposing your skin to the chemical residue left on the fabric, but the wastewater can pollute waterways and harm natural ecosystems. When detergents are washed down the drain, they can enter rivers, lakes, and oceans and have devastating effects on aquatic life. Some detergents can also release chemicals into the air when they are used, which can contribute to air pollution.
To make matter worse, many detergents come in massive plastic jugs, heavy with liquids, which means transportation requires much more fuel and the environmental footprint gets gigantic.
What types of chemicals can be found in detergents?
Many detergent manufacturers are not required to disclose all of their ingredients, and they may use vague language to obscure what their products actually contain. Complex wording can also make it difficult to understand the true effects of these ingredients. Even though you can’t find them on the label, these culprits are usually present:
These are chemicals that are often added to detergents to soften water and improve cleaning performance. However, phosphates can also contribute to the proliferation of harmful algal blooms in waterways, which can harm aquatic life. In some places, this chemical is even banned due to its negative effects on nature.
Phthalates, a common ingredient in detergents, have been linked to deformities in the reproductive system and a reduction in sperm count. These chemicals, which are found in about 75% of fragrances, have also been linked to obesity, diabetes, and hormone disruption, according to multiple studies. Since Phthalates are not listed on the label, it’s a good idea to avoid perfumes altogether.
This can be found in many detergents, and while it is effective at killing bacteria and removing stains, it can also release harmful fumes when mixed with other chemicals and can irritate the skin and eyes.
Many detergents contain fragrances that are intended to make them smell pleasant. However, these fragrances can contain chemicals (like Phthalates) that can cause skin irritation, allergies, and respiratory problems. In fact, fragrances are among the top five most common allergy triggers and can cause asthma attacks and inflammation. Even "natural" fragrances can harm the environment, as the production process often involves the use of solvents.
This chemical is often used in detergents to remove stains, but it can be harmful to skin and respiratory tissues and can release harmful fumes when mixed with other chemicals. It often irritates the eyes, nose, throat, and respiratory tract.
This chemical is sometimes used as a preservative in detergents, but it can be harmful when inhaled and can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.
This chemical is one of the worst ones, because it is considered carcinogenic. On top of skin irritation, respiratory issues, vertigo, and drowsiness, this chemical can also cause liver and kidney failure. It is very common in detergents and works as a solvent. The residue in the clothes can potentially penetrate your skin and cause you harm.
It's important to be aware of the ingredients in the detergents you use and to choose products that are made with natural, safe ingredients whenever possible. Or just avoid the classic detergents altogether. Choose detergent sheets (like ours) or other options, that put you and nature first, without compromising on the cleanliness of your clothes.