What you will learn in this article
- Why the Seventh Generation detergent I’ve been using isn’t as clean as advertised
- What the problem ingredients are:
Sodium Alcohol Ethoxylate Sulfate
Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate
- What isn’t listed in laundry detergents that’s toxic
- Ingredient-to-ingredient comparison table of three products
- Safer alternatives
My own big fat surprise
It was a big surprise for me to learn that the laundry detergent I was personally using all this time (Ecover and 7th Generation) both contain hormone-disrupting chemicals – more on this below.
I thought: “I’ve spent years researching and doing due diligence on chemicals that impact our hormones. If I didn’t know what the very products I use contain, then I’m pretty sure most the Hormones Balance readers won’t know either.”
You may also be surprised to learn that 7th Generation is now owned by Unilever – the very company that also makes Comfort (fabric softener), Dove, Knorr, and Vaseline – products I would never recommend to anyone who wants to be healthy.
The story repeats itself – Companies such as Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, Pepsi, and Coke are known to buy small, clean companies with strong health-conscious fans and buyers and quietly reformulate the products over time, without consumers’ awareness. I’ve seen it happen first hand to Kiehl’s, Body Shop and now Seventh Generation.
What is the problem?
To my big disappointment, 7th Generation, which was my product of choice contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate – also known as SLS.
Even though EWG rates SLS as a “1” (which means not harmful), many toxicity experts disagree and see it as a “moderate hazard” that has been linked to skin irritation.
At this point, in spite of the internet buzz, SLS has not been linked to cancer (it doesn’t mean it’s safe). The problem occurs when it’s combined with dioxane, it stays in the body for a long time as the liver can’t metabolize it properly – this increases the overall toxic load on the body.
Bottom line: To balance hormones, minimize the synthetic compound load on your body.
SLS is a penetration enhancer, the molecules are so small that they are able to cross the membranes of your body’s cells to inflict damage. A study from the University of Georgia Medicine showed that SLS has the power to permeate the eyes, brain, heart, and liver.
SLS is also used as a pesticide and herbicide in organic farming and is a water pollutant. Sadly, when you wash your clothes, the water must go somewhere – affecting marine life.
This is not to mention the obvious – the darling of all TV commercials and prime shelf space is Tide – it contains a cocktail of chemicals that are scary to look at, let alone put on your clothes. Other mass-market brands I would advise you to stay away from are Spring Fresh, Mountain Breeze or any products containing the below chemical cocktails.
They include chemicals such as:
- Sodium Alcohol Ethoxylate Sulfate
- Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate
Sodium Alcohol Ethoxylate Sulfate is a surfactant, a cleaning agent that makes water wetter and makes suds, sudsier. Sodium Alcohol Ethoxylate Sulfate has been shown to be a skin irritant, may cause respiratory problems, and have potential cancer links. Sodium Alcohol Ethoxylate is even found listed in the ingredients in the leading conventional “baby safe” laundry detergents such as Dreft.
Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate (LAS) is a common surfactant used in detergents worldwide and is of concern to the impact on the environment. The European Union Ecolabel program data shows this substance has high chronic toxicity to aquatic life.
“Fragrance” is a cover-up name for phthalates – are a very well documented family of chemicals causing a number of hormone imbalances, including thyroid problems in both men and women as well as early puberty in girls.
Phthalates were dubbed “obesogen” in 2006 by Felix Grün and Bruce Blumberg of the University of California, Irvine who showed that they affect genes that uptake fat and grow fat cells. Phthalates are xenoestrogens (external estrogen-mimicking compounds) and have also been linked to endometriosis, reduced sperm concentration and motility in men, abnormal reproductive system development in baby boys.
A 2017 study found collected blood samples of pregnant women and found that as phthalate blood levels increased, leptin levels decreased. Leptin is a hormone that lets us know we are full, and decreased levels can result in overeating.
Department of Medical Endocrinology of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark found that phthalates can also severely disrupt the immune system.
Lastly, phthalates have been linked to skin issues, such as contact dermatitis, increased allergies and asthma and even changes in the brains and behaviors of infants and children.
NOTE: Because of a loophole in US Law, you won’t see ‘phthalates’ on product labels; you’ll instead see ‘fragrance’ or ‘perfume.’
What you won’t find listed in laundry detergents
What is also problematic is what is not listed on conventional laundry detergent labels such as Tide. You won’t find 1,4-dioxane in the list of ingredients because technically it is a by-product and is not required by law to be listed.
The EPA (Environment Protection Agency) lists 1,4-dioxane as a solvent that is a human carcinogen. Being exposed to high levels of inhalation has caused headaches, vertigo, drowsiness, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, skin, and lungs in people. Testing in laboratory rats, scientists have observed damage to liver and kidneys, as well as tumors in animals that have been exposed through their drinking water. In 2012, 1,4 dioxane, a petrochemical was found in Tide products: Tide Original Scent Liquid Laundry Detergent and Tide Free and Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent.
“Natural” doesn’t mean non-toxic
What I’m concluding from doing the research on laundry detergent is that “greenwashing” is happening here just as it is with skincare products. Even though plant-based ingredients don’t use petrochemicals, some of them can cause allergic reactions. Some chemicals used in “green” product lines have not been thoroughly tested and get low grades for lack of safety data.
I’m feeling angry and disappointed as I’m researching and writing on this topic. How can our governing bodies not protect us from such harmful chemicals?!
What are safer alternatives?
Given my disappointment with my current washing detergent, I went looking for cleaner laundry washing alternatives which I want to pass on to you.
I like to live as close to nature as possible and soap nuts offer this alternative. These Himalayan berries contain naturally occurring saponin which cleanses.
– Totally natural and non-toxic
– Can be re-used 7 times
– You can travel with them
– Inconvenient – Soap nuts need to be put to a linen sachet when used in the wash. They then need to be dried up or else they would go moldy.
– Efficacy – laundry needs to be double washed if clothes are heavily soiled.
– Unscented (if you want fragrance)
If you want to try soap nuts, these are the ones I used.
Another option I’ve found is MyGreenFills. I started using them for two main reasons. One, they contain no unsafe chemicals. Two, they can be refilled which means you can help cut down on the plastic waste.
– Plant-derived, non-toxic ingredients
– Washes well
– Uses real essential oils (no phthalates)
– Has an unscented option
– Creates no plastic waste of used bottles
– Gets delivered to your door
– Does not contain brighteners, artificial dyes, phosphates or petroleum-based surfactants
– Need to mix the solution yourself (if you consider that a chore)
I asked MyGreenFills to offer us something special – the following is the offer:
Just pay $9 for the refillable jug and get the first refill for free! Every month you will receive a refill for 50 Loads for $14. During checkout, there is a box where you agree to monthly shipments before you purchase. You can modify or cancel at any time as long as the items have not shipped yet. A courtesy email goes out 3 days before shipment allowing you the opportunity to modify or cancel. They have a chat feature on their website to make it even easier to a customer service team member. Support is not available 24 hours a day but it is available 7 days a week.
Comparing the products
Let’s compare labels – MyGreenFills Signature Scent Laundry Wash with Tide’s Original Scent and the popular “natural” brand, Seventh Generation (which I’m embarrassed to admit, I used until recently), with known harmful toxins highlighted in bold. I covered the ingredients above.
Does it clean well?
It does. I just had a few rounds of laundry done with the product and it works very well.
I’ve asked MyGreenFills to send the product to a few of our Hormone Balance fans and this is what they said:
“This is a company that cares about non-toxic solutions for our laundry” – Mara
“It cleaned my husband’s dirty work clothes” – Deanna
“I like that I am not contributing to the landfills with the refillable containers” – Annette
Less plastic in landfills and the ocean
I think we have all seen what the ocean looks like due to the plastic dumping pandemic and how it affects the marine life. Most of your plastic bottles don’t get recycled – so MyGreenFills’ motto is “Refill, Not Landfill.”
Their model of sending one plastic jug and then refills that can be modified to on-demand shipping dates.
MyGreenFills is available in a Signature Scent as well as unscented. The MyGreenFills Signature Scent has Cinnamal, Citral, Citronellol, Coumarin, Eugenol, Evernia furfuracea (Treemoss), Evernia prunastri (Oakmoss), Farnesol, Geraniol, Hexyl cinnamal, citronellall, Limonene, and Linalool.
They are plant-based oils that have been added to leave a short-term lingering scent. The refill is in a concentrated form and will smell stronger than after adding it to the jug with 50 ounces of warm water. If a person is sensitive to scent, they should choose the unscented version
If you want to try their offer for the Hormones Balance community, claim the offer here.
Note: When you accept this offer, you will become a monthly subscriber; however, you can cancel at any time.
Please note that this is a sponsored post, meaning I do receive a small percentage of sales, but all opinions are my own.
Human studies have reported that exposure to phthalates or bisphenol A (BPA) may affect thyroid signaling
Estrogen-like endocrine disrupting chemicals affecting puberty in humans
Phthalate metabolites related to infertile biomarkers and infertility
Mono-2-ethyhexyl phthalate (MEHP), an environmental xenoestrogen, on the development of cervical cancers
Phthalates and type 1 diabetes: is there any link?
Potential influence of the phthalates on normal liver function and cardiometabolic risk in males.
Consumer product exposures associated with urinary phthalate levels in pregnant women
Association between prenatal bisphenol A and phthalate exposures and fetal metabolic related biomarkers: The Hokkaido study on Environment and Children’s Health.
Dangers of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate