11 Harmful Ingredients Found in Laundry Detergent

Did you know there could be harmful ingredients lurking in your laundry detergents? Did you know that it’s not required to list the ingredients on the packaging of laundry detergents?

Contains: Biodegradable surfactants (anionic and nonionic). This product may contain enzymes.

11 Harmful Ingredients In Laundry Detergents

This is an actual example from a mainstream detergent and the label only tells you the classification of the ingredients but not the actual ingredients. What surfactants are used? Why can’t they say if enzymes are used or not? Which enzymes?

At Molly’s Suds, we adhere to strict ingredient integrity, so you’ll NEVER find these harmful chemicals in our products.

  • Synthetic Fragrances
  • Harmful Dyes
  • Optical Brighteners
  • Chlorine
  • Formaldehyde
  • Synthetic Nonylphenol Ethoxylates
  • Phosphates
  • Phthalates
  • Methylisothiazolinone
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
  • 1,4-Dioxane

11 Harmful Ingredients In Laundry Detergents

But why are these ingredients harmful and why do you want to avoid them? 

11 Harmful Ingredients Found in Laundry Detergent

Synthetic Fragrances – Fragrances can be an allergen and toxicant to the human immune system, respiratory irritant, and known toxin for wildlife and the environment. They are found in almost all traditional skincare products, cleaning products, laundry products, and makeup. Not all fragrances are created equally though; at Molly’s Suds, we offer both scented and unscented products. Our scented products are natural plant-based essential oils and fragrances that are free of harmful ingredients. If you’d like to learn more about the safe fragrances that we use this article really dives into that topic. (What is a Natural Fragrance)

WARNING: Beware of products advertised as Free & Clear which may contain a musk like galaxolide to mask the smells left behind in the fibers of your clothes. It literally masks the odors the detergent leaves behind at the expense of our health.

Harmful Dyes – Dyes can cause developmental and reproductive toxicity. They can be an endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors are linked to risks involving fetal development, reproductive systems, brain, immune, and other problems. They can be found in cleaning products, food, cosmetics, and laundry detergent. Molly’s Suds does not add any harmful dyes or artificial colors to our products.

Optical Brighteners – These can cause skin irritations, accumulate in the environment, and are toxic to aquatic life. They are found in many conventional laundry detergents to make fabric only appear brighter. It uses the sun’s UV rays to reduce visibility to stains left behind. This chemical isn’t necessary but you may notice your clothing isn’t as bright and vivid once you stop using them. Molly’s Suds laundry products are free of optical brighteners. If you need to naturally brighten your dull whites you can use our Oxygen Whitener. Our Stain Spray will get out just about any stain you try!

Chlorine – Harmful if swallowed, can cause severe skin burns, eye damage, respiratory irritation, and very toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects. Most commonly in the form of chlorine bleach that many people use to clean our homes and brighten our whites. Chlorine can be found in oven cleaners, drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, household cleaners, and laundry products. Molly’s Suds Oxygen Whitener is a natural bleach alternative with just 4 simple ingredients that can whiten and brighten dull & dingy clothing. It can also be used for stain treating and assorted tasks around the home.

Formaldehyde – Another common preservative used in cosmetics, nail polish, and skincare products. Formaldehyde can also be found in laundry detergent as a chemical contaminant. It can cause respiratory and skin irritation and is a known carcinogen. Molly’s Suds does not formulate using ingredients containing formaldehyde.

Synthetic Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs) – NPEs break down in the environment and are extremely toxic to fish and wildlife, threaten the health of the developing fetus and young children. These are hormone (endocrine) disruptors. Non-ionic surfactants (detergent-like substances) were once very common in laundry detergents, personal hygiene, house paints, and lawn care products. These are banned in most products by EPA and being phased out in many industrial and textile industries. Molly’s Suds products are free from all synthetic nonylphenol ethoxylated. Some “natural” detergent companies use NPE’s.

Phosphates – These are naturally occurring minerals from the element phosphate that is typically used in agriculture and industry. They are known respiratory irritants, skin allergens, and known developmental and reproductive toxicants. They are found in a variety of household cleaners such as oven cleaners, drain cleaners, and toilet bowl cleaners. Molly’s Suds household cleaners and laundry products do not have any phosphates and are safe and effective at cleaning a variety of household surfaces!

Phthalates – These endocrine-disrupting “plasticizer” chemicals are everywhere in modern society. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) helped get several of these banned in children’s toys but they are still widely used chemicals that pollute almost everyone’s bodies. Phthalates are often used in soft plastics like PVC and a component in some fragrances. Our natural fragrances are always phthalate-free.

Methylisothiazolinone – This is widely used as a preservative in a variety of skincare products, makeup, hand sanitizers, hand soap, sunscreen, and cleaning products. It can be a neurotoxin, skin irritant, and harmful to the environment. Molly’s Suds does not use Methylisothiazolinone in any of our products.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) – This is a common surfactant and emulsifier that is used as a cleaning and foaming agent in household products, soaps, cleaners, toothpaste, creams, lotions, and some laundry detergents. SLES is derived from Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) through a process called ethoxylation. Depending on the manufacturing process used, it may be contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-Dioxane (both possible carcinogens). Molly’s Suds products do not contain SLES, ethoxylates, or 1,4-Dioxane.

1,4-Dioxane (or just dioxane on some labels) – This product can be found in personal care products, shower gels, dish soap, and laundry detergent. It’s a contaminant of a process called ethoxylation that creates Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). (See above). It is a known carcinogen and appears on California’s Prop 65 list of ingredients to avoid.

Safer Ingredients Powerful Clean

At Molly’s Suds, we know you want to be mindful of the ingredients you’re bringing into your home.

In a world where chemicals are not explained, it can be hard to find laundry and household cleaners made with truly safe ingredients which can make you worry about using harsh chemicals unknowingly.

You should feel confident the ingredients you bring into your home are safe for you, your family, and the planet.

We know how it feels to search for better alternatives but not find a product that meets your standards.

After the loss of our daughter, Molly, our founder began searching for a potential cause of this tragedy. She discovered our only protective barrier – our skin – cannot protect us from harmful chemicals found in laundry detergent.

As a mom and pediatric nurse, Monica decided we all deserved better. That’s why she created Molly’s Suds.

We adhere to strict ingredient integrity because your health and well-being are too important to settle for “good enough.”