Is Laundry Detergent Toxic?

by | Mar 2, 2020 | Laundry Odors


Doing your laundry is a seemingly easy household chore, you place the dirty clothes in the wash basin, add detergent and then let the washing machine do its job. However, are you aware of what the laundry detergent is, the chemicals that form this detergent, and the potential risks that you may face from exposure to the amalgamation of chemicals present in the specific laundry detergent you use on a regular basis?

Laundry detergent will work in various ways to clean and de-funk your clothing and fabric materials, many times with the help of floral scents and chemical cleaning agents. The laundry detergent that you picked up from the store that described certain pleasant smells, may, however, be anything but pleasant – particularly for those individuals who have severe sensitivities and allergies to chemicals and odors they are exposed to in the environment.

In this article we are going to learn more about the potential dangers that loom in laundry detergent ingredients, understand why these chemicals are used, and discuss the best alternatives to chemical-filled laundry detergents in the home.

What is laundry detergent?

Laundry detergent is a pretty self-explanatory household item that most people are familiar with due to their heavy use of this cleaning agent on their clothing, linens, and other fabrics inside their home. Also known as washing powder, laundry detergent is a type of cleaning agent that is used specifically for cleaning laundry, and this detergent can be formed into both liquid and powder form.

When it comes to the popularity of the different types of laundry detergent; powder and liquid, according to 2018 sales report powder detergent sales measured at 14 million metric tons – which is double than that of liquid laundry detergent.

is laundry detergent toxic

What is in laundry detergent?

The make-up of laundry detergent and the chemicals that are used within this cleaning agent will all work in specific ways to properly provide cleaning power to your clothing fibers. One of the main chemical components to laundry detergent are surfactants.

When the laundry detergent is applied to the washing machine load it will mix with the water-immersed clothing, the surfactant tail will attach to the grease and soils that are attached to the various clothing/linen material. Next, the surfactant head will attract water to the clothing to rinse away the grease & soils in the clothing and be drained from the water. This process will provide the cleaning ability on the clothing and fabric fibers to give the person a clean piece(s) of fabrics.

Ingredients in Laundry Detergent


Builders that are used inside of laundry detergent are water softeners, that work to remove the hard water ions through precipitation, chelation, or ion exchange. However, most importantly these builders will work to remove soil by dispersion. The earliest use of builders in laundry detergent was sodium carbonate (washing soda) and sodium silicate (waterglass). These builders will work together with the surfactants used in laundry detergent to achieve optimal soil removal and provide the washing with an effective cleaning and soil removing ability.


As we have discussed previously, surfactants are the chemical ingredients that are responsible for the cleaning performance of the laundry detergent when used in a washing machine load. These chemicals provide their cleaning ability through absorption and emulsification of soil into the water and also by minimizing the water’s surface tension allowing the material to get wet.


The main target of bleach, when used in laundry detergent, is to remove organic stains from the fibers. Contrary to the name, bleaching agents do not include household bleach within their construction, instead, they use stable adducts of hydrogen peroxide, such as sodium perborate and sodium percarbonate.


Enzymes are used in laundry detergent to aid in the removal of stubborn stains from fabric fibers. This chemical component of laundry detergent was first used in 1913 and was initiated by Otto Rohm.

Types of Laundry Detergent

When it comes to the different types of laundry detergents that are commonly used today it will vary per household which specific type of laundry detergent is best for this environment. Some laundry detergents will be DIY detergents that are made at home using various household ingredients, others will consist of conventional laundry detergent that comes in both liquid and powder form, and others will be non-toxic laundry detergent alternatives that will work to clean the fabrics of your clothes/linens without harsh chemical ingredients. Each of these laundry detergents will all work through different mechanisms depending on its ingredients and the form (liquid or powder) that it is used in your washing machine.

laundry detergent alternatives
DIY Laundry Detergent

DIY laundry detergent is a homemade form of detergent that is constructed to be both safer and more cost-effective. These detergents usually consist of a variety of household products such as baking soda, borax, vinegar, etc. However, when it comes to using this type of detergent it is a less effective and efficient detergent for cleaning and removing stains/debris from the fibers of the clothing, compared to other types of detergent.

Conventional Detergent

The normal, everyday detergent that is used in most households that will contain various chemical agents within its ingredients that give it its ability to clean the garments. The classified “conventional detergents” will use chemicals to provide fragrances, cleaning capabilities, stabilizers to increase shelf life, and even bleach and brighteners to make the material color shine. These conventional detergents come in either liquid or powder form; powder laundry detergent will have a longer shelf life than liquid detergent, however, it cannot dissolve well into the liquid on the clothes then the liquid detergent will in the wash.

Non-toxic Detergent

These non-toxic laundry detergents will be free of harsh and potentially dangerous chemicals within their make-up, proving households with a safer alternative when washing clothes and other fabrics. These cleaning agents will use alternative ingredients that will provide the same cleaning capabilities with a chemical-free ingredient.

Natural Laundry Detergent vs Regular

Natural laundry detergent vs. regular detergent will have various dissimilarities that will make these two laundry options differ. Natural laundry detergent is classified as a safer, non-toxic cleaning option that will not contain the harsh chemical ingredients like regular laundry detergent contains to provide it with its cleaning capabilities. Whereas regular laundry detergent that is in most homes will contain chemicals such as surfactants, dyes, masking agents, etc. These laundry detergents will be hazardous, particularly when it comes to exposure of these chemicals on a person’s skin that can lead to a laundry detergent rash and other skin irritation.

When it comes to selecting the ideal detergent for you and your family, there are several options to consider such as whether or not you have sensitive skin, allergies, chemical sensitives, etc.

Chemical Free Laundry Detergent Additives

The EnviroKlenz Laundry Enhancer is a safe and effective laundry enhancer that was designed for the purpose of removing stubborn laundry odors such as fragrances and chemicals from other detergents and fabric softeners. This laundry enhancer works alongside your normal detergent in your washing machine to provide the wash with an odor neutralizing component. This product has simple instructions that include; add ¼ cup to ½ cup of EnviroKlenz Laundry Enhancer to your washing machine along with your detergent, set washing machine to a high agitation – warm water cycle, and start your washing machine, allowing for odors and chemical odors to be removed thoroughly.

EnviroKlenz Logo White Transparent Background

Laundry Enhancer Liquid 

$14.99 – $24.99
natural laundry additive

Patented earth mineral technology works to attack VOCs and break them down on a compound level

No chemicals or masking agents

Works to remove chemical & malodors from all machine safe fabrics

Easy and effective application, used in conjunction with a non-scented laundry detergent

Article Sources:

  1. Cleaning Institute (ACI): Soaps & Detergents History (link)
  2. Wikipedia: Laundry Detergent (link)
  3. Healthline: How to Identify and Treat a Laundry Detergent Rash (link)

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