Laundry Detergent: Why It's Bad

We use laundry detergent every day in our lives, but are there harmful chemicals in our favourite scented detergents? How safe is it and how often are we exposed to these chemicals. Below is a list of chemicals lurking in our detergents and how harmful they are. Bleach

This is used separately to your detergent or is present in the detergent itself. It can cause skin and eye irritation as well as damage to the lungs, and when it mixes with wastewater, it can form toxic organic compounds that have been linked with respiratory issues, liver, and kidney damage.


Detergents that offer “brightening” powers will have brighteners present in the detergent. The chemicals actually remain on the clothes to absorb UV light and help clothes “appear” brighter.

These are naphthotriazolystilbenes (linked with developmental and reproductive effects), benzoxazolyl, diaminostilbene disulfonate, and more. Since these remain on the clothes, they are likely to come into contact with skin.

Phosphates & edta

These are used to make the detergent effective in hard water and also help to prevent dirt from settling back on clothes when they’re washing. These chemicals have been known to cause environmental damage.


We love our detergent because of the gorgeous smells it leaves on our clothing, but fragrance isn’t all it seems to be. To create amazing smells, manufacturers combine a number of chemicals to produce a fragrance and they don’t have to list those chemicals on the label because of trade protection. Some of those chemicals can be very toxic.

Cleaning Agents (surfactants)

Chemicals include quaternium-15 (they release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen), diethanolamine (can cause skin and eye irritation ), nonlphenol ethoxylate or NPE (toxic to nerves, irritating to skin, potential hormone disruptor, toxic to aquatic life), linear alkyl benzene sulfonates or LAS (irritate skin and eyes and toxic to aquatic life; benzene on its own is a carcinogen), and petroleum distillates (linked to cancer and lung damage).


Stabilizers are made up of chemicals that stabilize the formula, so that it lasts longer on the shelf.