toxic chemicals in detergent

The TOXIC Ingredients hiding in your Detergent

If you’re using a traditional laundry detergent, such as liquid tabs or powder you might believe you’re getting a fresh clean wash and on the face of it you’re probably right. But do you know that many well-known detergents are packed full of hidden nasties that can be harmful to both your skin and the environment? They can even damage your machine leaving you with costly repair bills.

We wanted to uncover the main toxins that are hiding in plain sight. Here’s our top 5 worst offenders.


1. 2-Butoxyethanol 

Also known as 2-BE this roll-off-the-tongue chemical is actually a colourless, flammable solvent. Few people are aware that solvent is used in laundry detergent, but it’s there as it actually works as a cleaning agent as it lifts dirty with little scrubbing effort. 

Do I want this in my detergent?

Well, the answer from us would be a resounding NO. The people at the Centre for Disease Control claim that 2-BE can “harm the eyes, skin, kidneys, and blood.” Workers who have frequent contact with 2-BE are advised to wear protective equipment and follow the hierarchy of controls to limit injury or long term health complications.

Names to look for on the label: Butyl Cellosolve; Ethylene Glycol, 2-BE

2. MEA (monoethanolamine), DEA (diethanolamine), TEA(triethanolamine)

Catchy names, aren’t they?! This terrible trio exists in a wide range of well-known laundry detergents? Why? Well, they are known for their emulsifying ability. They help to force two liquids together, such as oil and water, to form a liquid suspension.


Are they harmful?

Breathing Monoethanolamine can irritate the nose, throat and lungs - far from ideal for asthmatics or people with breathing difficulties. Diethanolamine can irritate the skin and eyes.


3. Coal tar dyes

Take a look at your liquid laundry detergent. Is it bright pink? Green? Pearlescent purple maybe…? That’s all down to the coal tar dyes which can change the colour of your detergent to make it look more visually appealing. These synthetic dyes don’t add to the cleaning power and they can pose a health risk. They really do not need to be in laundry detergent. They bioaccumulate, which means they build up over time and this build up can play havoc with waterways and aquatic life. 

coal tar dyes in detergent

What to look for on the label: P-phenylenediamine, coal tar solutions, naphtha, estar and benzin B70.


4. Fragrance or Parfum

We’ve all been there, browsing the supermarket shelves for detergent and softener, opening the bottles to check the fragrance and let’s be honest, nothing smells better than freshly washed clothes. But how do manufacturers achieve this fragrance? Quite often it’s by mixing an assortment of chemicals to both fragrance the washing and mask odours. 

mixed chemicals in laundry detergent

Check the label:

Phthalates are commonly found in fragranced products, including detergent and fabric softener. Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in hundreds of products and it may be difficult to pinpoint which chemicals are needed to produce the fragrance in your cleaning products. 

Be on the lookout for: dibutyl phthalate (DBP) - The EU classifies DBP as very toxic to aquatic organisms. 


5. Animal fats

If we told you most of the fabric conditioner for sale right now contained animal fats would you be surprised? Labelling regulations mean that animal fats are often listed as “Tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride”. What this actually is, is ammonia mixed with the rendered fat of cows, sheep, and horses.

Whilst you may enjoy the soft feel resulting from using softener, do you really want animal fats adding to your machine and clothing? 

What's the alternative?

If you’re looking for a kinder, greener way to get your clothes clean and smelling fresh there are alternatives to the chemical laden supermarket favourites. It was a personal family health issue that led us to seek out and ultimately develop our own detergent brand, and fast-forward to today where we are proud to be selling our UK-made sheets throughout the country and beyond.

How are Simple Living Eco detergent sheets different? 

Our sheets contain an incredibly simple, all-natural formulation. We don’t need to emulsify liquids (our sheets are dry, until you dissolve them in water), we don’t need to dye them into pretty colours (white works for us) and we fragrance only with essential oils.

And did you know that coconuts deliver excellent cleaning power?

They really are a tropical wonder! The coconut oil we use in our sheets is plant derived and not formulated from a mix of synthetic chemicals. We have had our sheets tested in an independent lab on sensitive skin and they passed with flying colours. We are transparent with our formulation and our essential oils are all delegate skin safe.

So why not banish the chemicals from your cleaning cupboard and switch to a more simple, cleaner, kinder way to wash. You can try our laundry sheets for just £4 and take the hassle out of shopping for detergent when you join our regular subscription plan today! 




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