Look at the Label: Are These Toxic Ingredients in Your Laundry Detergent?

You may think your laundry is dirty, but it is nothing compared to the harmful chemicals and toxic additives found in popular name-brand detergents lining store shelves.

These detergents contain large laundry lists of unregulated, carcinogenic ingredients that cause permanent damage to our health and the environment. Laundry is meant to be a simple, if a little mundane, task. Our vote is to keep it that way! We shouldn’t have to worry about laundry being dangerous as well.

When it comes to popular detergents, we are going to air out their dirty laundry. Take a look at some of the most common chemical ingredients in laundry detergent and why you’ll want to avoid them.


Dyes have no real cleaning power in laundry detergents. Instead, dyes are added only to give the illusion of cleanliness, most often as a blue color. These blue tints also provide the illusion of whiter, brighter clothes. However, dyes most commonly cause allergies, rashes, and other irritations once they come in contact with our skin. Plus, many dyes are proven carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

Optical Brighteners

Optical brighteners are added to laundry detergents under the guise of “stain removers.” However, these brighteners do not remove stains. Instead, they cover them up with blue dye that brightens the appearance of yellowish marks. Essentially, they “hide” stains. Optical brighteners are known eye, skin, and lungs irritants, toxic to aquatic life, and they have the potential to spontaneously combust.

Chlorine Bleach

Given its noxious fumes, it shouldn’t be a surprise that chlorine is an equally powerful skin and lung irritant that can cause permanent tissue and vision damage. Bleach is used in laundry detergents to disinfect clothes, remove stains, and make white clothes appear brighter by converting UV light into visible light. However, bleach is incredibly toxic to marine organisms and humans alike. In fact, safety data sheets from major bleach manufacturers say personal protective equipment is required when using it. However, as consumers, we never receive these warnings in advertisements.


Does this toxic chemical sound familiar? That’s because formaldehyde is commonly used to preserve dead bodies—but what is it doing in your popular name-brand laundry detergent? Formaldehyde is commonly used in detergents as a low-cost preservative and as an anti-bacterial agent. It is a probable human carcinogen, and large exposure as well as constant exposure in small amounts can cause leukemia. Short-term side effects to formaldehyde may include skin irritation, watering eyes, a runny nose, and sudden headaches.

1,4 Dioxane

1,4 dioxane is a known human carcinogen, yet it is a common ingredient in laundry detergents used as a solvent and degreaser. Studies conducted to see the effects of dioxane exposure found the chemical can cause both benign and malignant tumors. Dioxane is easily exposed to us through inhalation and touch, and it also leaches and contaminates our soil and groundwater. If that isn’t enough to concern you, dioxane also contains formaldehyde, which will then accumulate on your clothes and lead to long-term exposure.


Phosphates are typically added to laundry detergents to soften the water and to remove oil or grease. Though they effectively strip clothes of dirt and grime, phosphates will remain in the water. As the water filters back to the environment, the phosphates build up and cause harmful algal blooms in lakes and rivers. These algal blooms deprive fish and other marine organisms of oxygen and consequently kill them. Repeated phosphate exposure is also linked to cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis in humans. Eco-friendly laundry detergents are phosphate-free in order to prevent the destruction of natural eco-systems and uphold human health.


Parabens inhibit microbial growth and, as a result, are often used as preservatives to extend shelf-life in laundry detergents and other cosmetic products. Numerous studies have found parabens to mimic estrogen in the human body. What does this mean? By mimicking estrogen, parabens disrupt normal hormone function and trigger an imbalance that results in the growth of tumors. Once parabens penetrate the skin, they remain within the tissue and even increase the skin’s sensitivity the sun, resulting in premature ageing.

Fawn Organics’ Laundry Detergent offers an eco-friendly and healthy solution. Our formula is free of all the harsh chemicals and provides an all-natural deep clean with plant-based ingredients. Our laundry detergent removes grime and stains without compromising your health or our planet.

Visit the Fawn Organics shop to explore more safe, eco-friendly cleaning options.

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