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Clean n' Toxin-Free Laundry: Ditching Harmful Chemicals for Safer Alternatives

Most of us... Wear clothes everyday.

Most of us... Wash our clothes, regularly.

ALL of us... Are affected by the chemicals that we use to clean our clothes.

In the pursuit of clean, fresh-smelling laundry, many of us reach for conventional laundry detergents without giving much thought to what's actually in them. However, the truth is that most commercial laundry detergents contain a cocktail of harmful chemicals that can pose risks to our health and the environment. From synthetic fragrances to harsh surfactants and toxic additives, these ingredients can linger on our clothes and in our homes long after the rinse cycle is complete.

Not to worry!! There's a growing awareness of the potential dangers lurking in our laundry rooms, and a movement towards safer, greener alternatives is gaining momentum. In this blog post, we'll delve into the harmful ingredients commonly found in laundry detergents, explore their potential health effects, and offer practical tips for choosing safer alternatives that prioritize both cleanliness and well-being.

Harmful Ingredients in Laundry Detergents:

  1. Fragrances:

  • Health Effects: Synthetic fragrances can contain a cocktail of harmful chemicals, including phthalates and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which have been linked to respiratory issues, allergies, and skin irritation.

    • The same goes for fragrances that are in shampoos, lotions, other beauty products, air fresheners, etc! Keep an eye out.

  • Safer Alternatives: Look for fragrance-free or naturally scented detergents, or use essential oils for a natural scent boost.

  1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES):

  • Health Effects: These surfactants can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system, and may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a potential carcinogen.

    • Also in many beauty products!!

  • Safer Alternatives: Choose detergents that use milder surfactants like plant-based or coconut-derived alternatives.

  1. Phosphates:

  • Health Effects: Phosphates can contribute to water pollution and algal blooms, harming aquatic ecosystems. In high concentrations, they can also cause skin irritation and respiratory issues.

  • Safer Alternatives: Opt for phosphate-free detergents that use alternative builders like citrates or zeolites.

  1. Optical Brighteners:

  • Health Effects: Optical brighteners are chemicals that remain on clothes after washing, making them appear brighter. They can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions, and may be toxic to aquatic life.

  • Safer Alternatives: Choose detergents that are free from optical brighteners or use natural brightening agents like baking soda or sodium percarbonate.

  1. Artificial Dyes:

  • Health Effects: Synthetic dyes can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions, and may be derived from petrochemicals.

    • Also in many, many other products. Particularly harmful in when consumed!

  • Safer Alternatives: Look for detergents that are dye-free or use natural colorants like plant extracts.

  1. Chlorine Bleach:

  • Health Effects: Chlorine bleach is a strong oxidizing agent that can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. It can also react with other chemicals in wastewater to form toxic byproducts.

  • Safer Alternatives: Use oxygen bleach or hydrogen peroxide-based bleaching agents, which are gentler on the skin and safer for the environment.

Safer Alternatives or Ingredients to Look For:

  1. Plant-Based Surfactants:

  • Look for detergents that use surfactants derived from plants, such as coconut oil or palm oil, which are milder on the skin and less harmful to the environment.

  1. Biodegradable Formulations:

  • Choose detergents that are formulated with biodegradable ingredients, meaning they break down easily in the environment without causing harm.

  1. Certifications:

  • Look for certifications from reputable organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) or the USDA Organic seal, which indicate that the product meets certain standards for safety and environmental sustainability.

  1. Minimal Ingredients:

  • Opt for detergents with simple, transparent ingredient lists, avoiding unnecessary additives and fillers.

  1. DIY Options:

  • Consider making your own laundry detergent using natural ingredients like castile soap, baking soda, and washing soda, which are safe, effective, and budget-friendly.

By avoiding harmful ingredients and opting for safer alternatives, you can reduce your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals and minimize your impact on the environment. Check resources like for guidance on choosing safer laundry detergents and other household products.

DIY Toxin-Free Laundry Detergent


  • 1 cup washing soda

  • 1 cup baking soda

  • 1 cup grated castile soap (unscented or scented, depending on preference)

  • 20 drops of essential oils (such as lavender, tea tree, lemon, or eucalyptus)


  1. Grate the Castile Soap:

  • Using a cheese grater or food processor, grate the castile soap into fine shreds. This will help it dissolve more easily in the washing machine.

  1. Mix the Ingredients:

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the washing soda, baking soda, and grated castile soap. Use a spoon or whisk to thoroughly mix the ingredients together until well combined.

  1. Add Essential Oils:

  • Add 20 drops of your preferred essential oils to the mixture. Essential oils not only add a pleasant scent to your laundry but also offer antimicrobial properties to help freshen and disinfect your clothes naturally. Feel free to mix and match oils based on your preferences.

  1. Store the Detergent:

  • Transfer the homemade laundry detergent to an airtight container for storage. A glass jar with a tight-sealing lid works well for this purpose. Make sure to label the container with the contents and date of preparation.

  1. Usage Instructions:

  • Use 1-2 tablespoons of the homemade detergent per load of laundry, depending on the size and soil level of the load. Add the detergent directly to the drum of the washing machine before adding the clothes.

  1. Optional: Boosting Power

  • For extra cleaning power, especially for heavily soiled items or tough stains, you can add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of oxygen bleach (such as sodium percarbonate) to each load of laundry along with the homemade detergent.


  • This homemade laundry detergent is free from synthetic fragrances, dyes, and harsh chemicals commonly found in commercial detergents, making it suitable for individuals with sensitive skin or allergies.

  • The washing soda and baking soda work together to help lift dirt and stains, while the castile soap provides gentle cleansing action.

  • Essential oils not only add fragrance but also offer natural antimicrobial properties to help freshen and disinfect your laundry.

  • This recipe is customizable, so feel free to adjust the essential oil blends or quantities to suit your preferences.

-> I personally like to dump at least a 1/2 cup of vinegar in with my laundry :) Particularly with my gym clothes...


Get rid of those toxic dryer sheets!

Dryer sheets often contain a variety of harmful chemicals that can pose risks to both human health and the environment. Some common harmful ingredients found in dryer sheets include:

  1. Synthetic Fragrances:

  • Many dryer sheets contain synthetic fragrances, which can contain phthalates and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These chemicals can contribute to indoor air pollution and may trigger respiratory issues and allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

  1. Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (Quats):

  • Quats are antimicrobial agents commonly found in dryer sheets, used to impart softness and reduce static cling. However, they can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions, and some studies suggest they may contribute to antibiotic resistance.

  1. Petroleum-Based Chemicals:

  • Some dryer sheets contain petroleum-derived chemicals, such as petroleum distillates and synthetic polymers, which can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when heated in the dryer. These VOCs can contribute to indoor air pollution and may be harmful to respiratory health.

  1. Artificial Dyes and Preservatives:

  • Many dryer sheets contain artificial dyes and preservatives, which can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions, especially in individuals with sensitive skin.

  1. Chlorine-Based Bleaching Agents:

  • Certain dryer sheets may contain chlorine-based bleaching agents, such as chloroform or dichlorobenzene, which can release toxic fumes when heated in the dryer and may be harmful to respiratory health.

Healthier Alternatives to Dryer Sheets:

  1. Wool Dryer Balls:

  • Wool dryer balls are a natural alternative to dryer sheets that help soften fabrics, reduce static cling, and decrease drying time. They are reusable and can last for hundreds of loads of laundry. Additionally, you can add a few drops of essential oils to the dryer balls to impart a natural scent to your laundry.

  1. Aluminum Foil Balls:

  • Aluminum foil balls can also be used as an alternative to dryer sheets to reduce static cling. Simply crumple up a sheet of aluminum foil into a ball and toss it in the dryer with your laundry. The aluminum foil helps dissipate static electricity without the need for harmful chemicals.

  1. Vinegar:

  • White vinegar can be added to the fabric softener dispenser of your washing machine or sprayed directly onto clothes before placing them in the dryer. Vinegar helps soften fabrics, reduce static cling, and eliminate odors naturally, without leaving behind any residue or harmful chemicals.

  1. DIY Dryer Sheets:

  • You can make your own dryer sheets using natural ingredients like white vinegar, essential oils, and fabric squares or washcloths. Simply soak the fabric squares in a mixture of vinegar and essential oils, then wring out the excess liquid and allow them to dry completely before using them in the dryer.

  1. Natural Fabric Softeners:

  • Look for natural fabric softeners that are free from synthetic fragrances, dyes, and harsh chemicals. Some options include plant-based fabric softeners made from ingredients like coconut oil or vegetable glycerin.

By opting for healthier alternatives to dryer sheets, you can reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals and create a safer, more eco-friendly laundry routine.


References and Resources

  1. Fragrances:

  • Steinemann, A. (2016). "Fragranced consumer products: exposures and effects from emissions." Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, 9(8), 861-866. PubMed

  • Environmental Working Group (EWG). "Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance." EWG

  1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES):

  • National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). "Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: Effects on Skin and Other Tissues." NCBI

  • Environmental Working Group (EWG). "Sodium Lauryl Sulfate." EWG

  1. Phosphates:

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "Phosphorus and Water Quality." EPA

  • Environmental Working Group (EWG). "Phosphate Compounds." EWG

  1. Optical Brighteners:

  • Environmental Working Group (EWG). "Optical Brighteners." EWG

  • Klaschka, U. (2000). "Skin irritation potential of detergents determined with a non-invasive method." Contact Dermatitis, 43(3), 136-141. PubMed

  1. Artificial Dyes:

  • Langan, S. (2006). "Artificial food color and hyperactivity symptoms in children." Current Opinion in Pediatrics, 18(5), 568-573. PubMed

  • Environmental Working Group (EWG). "Dyes." EWG

  1. Chlorine Bleach:

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "Sodium Hypochlorite." EPA

  • Environmental Working Group (EWG). "Bleach." EWG

  1. Plant-Based Surfactants:

  • Environmental Working Group (EWG). "Surfactants." EWG

  • Chen, Z., & Rosen, J. (2016). "Surfactants: Their critical role in enhancing drug delivery to the lungs." Therapeutic Delivery, 7(9), 547-564. PubMed

  1. Biodegradable Formulations:

  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO). "ISO 17556:2019. Determination of the ultimate aerobic biodegradability of plastic materials in soil." ISO

  • Environmental Working Group (EWG). "Biodegradable." EWG

  1. Certifications:

  • Environmental Working Group (EWG). "EWG Verified™." EWG

  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). "USDA Organic Certification." USDA

  1. Minimal Ingredients:

  • Environmental Working Group (EWG). "How to Read a Label." EWG

  • United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "Cosmetic Labeling Guide." FDA

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