August 15th, 2018 | Posted By: Magdalena Wszelaki | Posted in Adrenals, Articles, Estrogen Dominance, Menopause

How Laundry Detergents are Making you Hormonal and Fat

How Laundry Detergents Are Making You Hormonal And Fat

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
         “Fragrance”
  • 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.

If you’re experiencing symptoms estrogen dominance, you can find out more by taking my Free Estrogen Quiz. The truth is estrogen dominance symptoms occur to 75% of women, but a whopping 90% of them don’t even realize they have it. I recommend taking this quiz to find out for yourself here.

 

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
  • “Fragrance”

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 an “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.

Soap Nuts

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.

Pros:

–  Totally natural and non-toxic
–  Can be re-used 7 times
–  You can travel with them

Cons:

–  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.

Soap nuts are just one natural alternative to harmful products in our daily lives. “One of our iconic programs—Herbs for Balance—shows you how to use everyday herbs and DIY skincare recipes to restore hormonal health. It’s a self-guided, 6-week program with live online community support.

Herbs for Balance was developed to help our community bring the power of common herbs (such as dandelions, nettles, red clover) into everyday life; whether it’s your laundry room, kitchen, bathroom, food, or topical applications. Our Herbs for Balance program is available for just $57. Get it here.

Branch Basics

Branch Basics cleaning products are highly effective, biodegradable, and they’re made with plants and minerals that actually smell good. Plus, you add the water yourself, so you don’t need to worry about preservatives. Instead, you get a whole bottle of the concentrated cleaner that can be used to clean basically everything you own (yes, including your hands and body).

Here’s what you get with the Home Cleaning Starter Kit:

  • 33 oz. bottle of soap concentrate
  • 32 oz. laundry bottle
  • 3 empty 24 oz. spray bottles
  • 10 oz. foaming wash bottle (for hand washing or dish soap)
  • 2 lbs. Oxygen Boost (helps whiten clothes and remove stains)

This bundle is so versatile. Here’s just a sample of the cleaning tasks it’s up for:

  • All-Purpose: Appliances, Dishes, Fruits & Vegetables, Granite, Grills, Highchairs, Jewelry, Marble, Natural Stone, Pacifiers, Pots & Pans, Stains, Stovetops, Sticky Spills, Yoga Mats
  • Bathroom: Tile, Grout, Countertops, Sinks, Showers, Tubs, Toilets, Fixtures, Shower Liners, Soap Scum
  • Streak-Free: Windows, Mirrors, Glass Surfaces, Computer Screens, Phones and Tablets, Fixtures, Aquariums, Shower Doors, Picture Frames
  • Foaming Wash: Hands, Face, Body, Baby, Hair, Pets, Removing Make-Up, Shaving, Dishes, Fruits & Vegetables
  • Laundry: Whites, Colors, Sheets and more!
  • Misc: Stainless Steel, Wood and Vinyl Floors, Carpet

The founder of Branch Basics understands firsthand how important it is to avoid exposure to unnatural chemicals. After a struggle with hormonal issues and a son who battled toxicity from pesticides, Marilee Nelson worked to remove chemicals from both their diet and household.

Now fully recovered from their illnesses, Marilee works as a Dietary and Environmental Consultant and Materials Specialist—so she knows what she’s talking about.

These cleaning products are made without fragrances or harmful chemicals, so you don’t need to grab your rubber gloves to scrub down your bathtub next time. The soap concentrate formula was designed with the most sensitive people in mind, so those with asthma, eczema, allergies and other issues can use it liberally without worrying about a reaction.

Branch Basics multipurpose concentrates makes cleaning simple, affordable and sustainable.

Because they’re refillable, they’re significantly less expensive than similar single-use products. Simply dilute the concentrate with water, and you’ll be ready to tackle any cleaning job around the house, even your dirty laundry.

I’m also a fan of their dryer balls, made of 100% American wool and are free of pesticides, dyes and fragrance.

You can check out Branch Basics here. Use the code “hormonesbalance” for 15% off all kits.


 

Resources:

Human studies have reported that exposure to phthalates or bisphenol A (BPA) may affect thyroid signaling
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21749963

Estrogen-like endocrine disrupting chemicals affecting puberty in humans
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19478717  

Toxic Load
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249606/#R7  

Phthalate metabolites related to infertile biomarkers and infertility
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28810198

Mono-2-ethyhexyl phthalate (MEHP), an environmental xenoestrogen, on the development of cervical cancers
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29382535  

Phthalates and type 1 diabetes: is there any link?
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29680886

Potential influence of the phthalates on normal liver function and cardiometabolic risk in males.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29234897  

Consumer product exposures associated with urinary phthalate levels in pregnant women
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3439834/  

Association between prenatal bisphenol A and phthalate exposures and fetal metabolic related biomarkers: The Hokkaido study on Environment and Children’s Health.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29223775

Dangers of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
https://www.livestrong.com/article/174367-dangers-of-sodium-lauryl-sulfate/

92 Comments to How Laundry Detergents are Making you Hormonal and Fat

  1. Thank you for this information! I have also successfully used Dr. Bronner’s unscented Castile soap in the laundry, with essential oils on wool balls in the dryer for scent. It’s usually available at my grocery store, which makes it easy.

    • If you are going through all the work of homemade, be sure your essential oils are good quality also. They can have some nasty stuff added to it.

  2. I’ve been using the Ecoegg for 2 years and have been very happy with its performance, even on my and my husband’s gym clothes. From what I found online, it’s a safe option. Has anyone heard anything negative about it?

    • I use Ecoegg which uses mineral beads and black tourmaline beads inside a slotted egg that you just toss on top of the clothes. I really love it. I had a bad reaction to some soap and I scratched my back so hard it would bleed from the itching. It stopped after I started wearing nothing but my clothes washed with the Eco egg. 12-15 dollars for 210 loads.

  3. Cathy, before I order-Could you please tell me if you used the scented or unscented My Greenn Refills? I’m super sensitive and have skin issues.
    Thanks,
    Jeannette at czechbookbluesATyahooDotCom

  4. I have made my own laundry soap for over 10 years. It’s easy, doesn’t take much time, is much cheaper and a big batch lasts a lot longer than a bottle of whatever. I would never go back to buying it. As for time, which everyone seems so worried about not having enough of – if you cook from scratch, this is no different. It takes a bit of time every other month or so and then you are set. When things become a habit you don’t fret about a few dedicated minutes.

  5. I’ve been using the laundry powderfrom Norwex, an in home party company like Tupperware, and I LOVE it.

    At first I balked at the price, but then I realized that I could do an entire load of stinky clothes with only one teaspoon of powder. Nice and clean and no smell.

    They also have clothes that will clean your home with just water.

    • I also use Norwex powder detergent and have for several years. Love the product. Their microfiber cloths are also excellent for cleaning without chemicals, just water. They are not your typical microfiber as they have embedded silver fibers which kill bacteria. You check out their various products at Norwex.com and select the USA.

  6. I have been making my own laundry soap for some time. The ingredients are: Borax, Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, Fels Naptha soap (grated up) and Baking Soda.
    Can someone tell me if these ingredients are safe?

  7. That is so good to know about 7th generation. This is the product I’ve been using so it’s very disappointing to hear about this. Soap nuts are the only other alternatives you have found? What about Evocer and Dr Bonner? This seems more of an advertisement and not so much an article on safer laundry detergent options.

    • Hi Linda,

      Magdalena knows this company and wanted to offer her readers more info about healthier options. Thank you for your feedback ~Deanna HB Team

    • Linda, it is disappointing and frustrating to realize so many supposedly “green” and “safe” products are anything but. I’ve been using Molly’s Suds and 1/3 c. of white vinegar (makes a great fabric softener and the clothes do not smell like vinegar) to wash and Molly’s wool dryer balls (with a few drops of essential oils) for about a month now. They’ve been working great, even on stinky gym clothes! Sometimes there can be a bit of static build-up on the clothes when drying them but I just learned that if I rub a bit of lotion on them every couple of months, it will solve that. I’ve also heard that if a large safety pin is attached to one of the dryer balls, it discharges the static – but I’m afraid it’ll pop open and stab me so I’m trying the lotion option first.

  8. Joyce Stotts, Intern Aromatherapist and Certified Natural Health Professional says:

    Thank you so much for this information, Magdalena! I have been using Seventh Generation Laundry Products for the last year or so, and have been very pleased…thinking I was using something safe! What a crock….THANKS A LOT UNILEVER!!! You guys are such a fake job, it’s disgusting and deceitful!!! I am switching laundry products right NOW! And believe me, I do hundreds of loads more laundry than the usual person, as I buy and wash all clothing I collect to go to destitute children in Uganda. NO MORE UNILEVER ANYTHING!!

      • Hi, thank you for your article, I found it very enlightening as I’ve been taking steps to make my own cleaners and make sustainable and healthy choices for my family. I do have one question; I’ve read that Tide powder detergent is the best for cleaning cloth diapers, we have very hard water and I struggled to keep my cloth diapers clean and not stink after being cleaned with “natural” laundry solutions. I’d love to read an article on laundry solutions for cleaning cloth diapers in hard water, because I currently feel that I either have to use biodegradable disposables or use harsh laundry detergent like Tide with a water conditioner on cloth diapers. Your educated input on this issue would be appreciated. Thanks for the great article!

  9. Yes, I use My Green Refills in my HE washer and it works well, it’s on the bottle label saying it is safe for HE machines.

  10. Hello Magdalena,

    I’ve been subscribed to these emails and I love them. They’re very informative.

    I purchased the seventh generation Sodium Laureth Sulfate and the label on it is incorrect. The product used on the bottle is sodium lauryl sulfate and is completely different from what you mentioned. I would like to point out that is incorrect.

    Thank you again and keep up the good work.

    Love the emails.

  11. Isn’t Coumarin the blood thinner chemical used for heart patients? Same as rat poison, I think. BETTER LIFE laundry detergent has plant and mineral derived cleaning agents. It’s unscented, has no bleach, fragrances, brighteners, SLS nor SLES. It’s 4X concentrated & cleans well, so you use less. 64 oz. costs me $17.99 at my Co-Op plus I get a 10%. Well worth it

      • I use Better Life as well and have been pleased with their products. Magdalena originally recommended the company a couple of years ago.

        • But, should share that I also use Branch Basics and have been very pleased with them as well. It is a good company. 🙂

  12. I live in Canada and have used Nellie’s washing soda. I put some white vinegar into the spot one would put in a rinse ingredient in my HD LG washer. It works very well and I’m pleased with the whites coming out white. I also alternate with soap nuts and like them as well. In the past years I have used Ecover products and like them for
    washing by hand delicates, wools, silks and others. They are imported from Europe, so cost more, but go a long way too.

  13. I use soap nuts and ECOS-someone analyzed their product (someone I trust) and called them and said it was good.

  14. For anyone in Canada (not sure if they ship to the U.S.), I use laundry soap from The Laundry Tarts, all-natural and it comes in bulk and a huge variety of natural scents. https://thelaundrytarts.com/ They often have free shipping specials.

  15. Is the SLS contained in the powdered version of the Seventh Generation laundry detergent as well?

    • You can check on their site for the most updated list, since they have changed companies, it is being changed. ~Deanna HB Team

      • HB team,
        Thank you for using the term ‘penetration enhancer’ in this article. It is hilarious and I will certainly use it in other contexts.
        ‘Penetration enhancer’ is so funny that it almost distracted me from the nonsense that this article presents. How many science degrees are represented by the author and the commenters?
        You should contact j&j and see if they want to use penetration enhancer to market KY jelly.

  16. I recently purchased Dropps brand laundry detergent pods. They come in a cardboard box, so no plastic waste. They have no colorant, and I think they don’t have fragrance, but not entirely sure. Their whole marketing of the product was based on it being better for the environment and for our health, but, we know that isn’t always the case. Have you heard or know anything about these? I am currently using them. So far, they seem to work just fine, however, our clothes aren’t ever heavily soiled. They seem economical….1 box last a good 3 months for our family of 3, 1 pod per load.

  17. No one has said much about soap nuts but I LOVE them! A huge pro is that they are very economical which is a huge plus for our family of 7 with working boys. They clean very well and do need an extra step to use them but that only takes 30 seconds! When cleaning really dirty work clothes, I make sure I’m using new ones and underfill the washing machine. There is no scent. Some people have said their laundry smells with using soap nits but most of the time, their laundry is absent of smell and they are not used to that, they are used to smelling a chemical scent.

    • Yes, good to hear. I understand my kids had wanted the chemical smell…no way. ~Deanna HB Team

  18. I use TSP- tri sodium phosphate which is free of xenoestrogenic effects. Recommended by Dr. Lee and the makers of progestelle. Also use conti Castile soap

  19. That’s odd. one of my kids is EXTREMELY sensitive to virtually everything. The Unscented MyGreenFills is the only thing that we can use so he won’t break out. Been using them for years.

    Other products are ok too like dr. bronners but MyGreenFills cleans 100 times better.

  20. I use Greenshield Organic Laundry detergent. It gets an A+ on the EWG website. It’s hard to find but you can order it from Walmart.com and pick up for free at the store or order several at a time and get free shipping. Here are the ingredients: Water, Sapindus Mukorossi (Organic Soap Berries), Cocos Nucifera & Potassium Hydroxide* (None remains in finished product) (Saponified Organic Coconut Oil), Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Xanthan Gum, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder (Organic Aloe Vera), Glycerin (Organic), Sea Salt, Cymopsis Tetragonoloba Gum (Organic Guar Gum), Acacia Senegal Gum (Organic Acacia Gum),

    • Hi Robin,
      That sounds very good. Thank you for sharing all of those helpful details! ~Deanna HB Team

  21. Hi Amy,
    My name is Amy too 🙂

    I use MyGreenFills and I asked your question in their Facebook group and they replied that MyGreenFills does not musk scent or synthetic musk scent. They said you can email them at [email protected] if you have any questions 🙂

    ~Amy

  22. Magdalena, you quote “…A study from the University of Georgia Medicine showed that SLS has the power to permeate the eyes, brain, heart, and liver…..” Do you have a link for this study that i may take? Thank you

  23. to avoid the bother of having to repeatedly read ingredients and research them, I make my own laundry detergent. There are plenty of recipes online but I tried to get mine as simple as possible and ended up only using two ingredients: soap and washing soda. I buy the simplest, purist soap I can find, just a bar of soap. You could use castile soap. I grate it in my food processor and mix it with the washing soda, One part soap and two parts washing soda by volume. You can buy soap flakes if you don’t have a food processor. To my knowledge both these ingredients are safe. The washing soda can irritate your skin when you’re touching it on its own so you can wear gloves, but it’s absolutely fine when mixed with soap and dissolved in water, at least this is my experience. This works fine on cleaning my clothes, though I don’t often have very heavily soiled clothes but if you search online you can find plenty of recipes and ideas for alternatives to commercial laundry detergent. With no sent in my laundry, I like wearing perfume but I’m not bothered about scenting ing my clothes. If you want sent, you could add some essential oils when you put the detergent in the machine.

  24. Hi Jade,

    Thank you for sharing about what you have learned and the product quality 🙂 ~Deanna HB Team

  25. Hi Geri,

    We are sorry to hear you had this reaction but happy you have been pleased with the refund experience.

  26. Thanks for information! I use sometimes Nelie’s Soda detergent and Grab Green https://grabgreenhome.com/collections/best-sellers/products/classic-laundry-detergent-pods-vetiver Love this one ! But would like to hear your opinion about ingredients: INGREDIENT PURPOSE
    sodium carbonate
    sodium sesquicarbonate
    sodium bicarbonate
    sodium citrate
    sodium metasilicate
    c10-16 alkyl benzenesulfonic acid sodium salt
    fragrance contains a blend of essential oils pogostemon cablin (patchouli) leaf, citrus limon (lemon) peel + safer man-made ingredients
    c9-11 pareth-6
    citric acid
    hydrated silica
    subtilisin enzyme blend
    lipase enzyme blend
    amylase enzyme blend
    sodium sulfate
    polyvinyl alcohol(forms the pod)
    diamyl sodium sulfosuccinate

  27. I have used Ecomax for a long time. I believe it is safe.
    It has water ,decyl glucoside, food grade sodium citrate, food grade potassium sorbate, food grade citric acid, cellulose, xanthan gum, lavender oil and hydroxyerhylcellulose.

    • Try norwex! They test anything used in products and primarily focus on cleaning with their cloths which are embedded with silver got self purifying and antibacterial properties and you just add water!

      Indiaclanton.norwex.biz1

  28. ““Fragrance” is a cover-up name for phthalates” That is not always the case. There are many fragrances that are phthalate free. The term fragrance or perfume can also be used for any proprietary blend of scents used to fragrance a product.

  29. Ok, I feel you dropped a bomb by saying SLS is used in organic farming and then didn’t say anything else about it. I live in a big city and definitely wouldn’t be able to grow my own garden, so it seems we’re all eating carcinogens even when we try to do the right thing by buying organic? This feels really dismal.

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