What’s in your favourite eco laundry detergent? - Lavender & Lemon

What’s in your favourite eco laundry detergent?

In 2021, Ecover issued a recall 1 for its Zero % Non-Bio Laundry Detergent. The product had been incorrectly formulated, and, as a result, some batches contained hazardous levels of the chemical potassium hydroxide, which could result in skin burns and eye damage.

Interestingly, in their apology 2 they noted that this potentially hazardous ingredient is blended with other ingredients to form a "different molecule", so they don't list potassium hydroxide on their bottles.

Lavender & Lemon

When I read this apology, I thought, "What other potentially hazardous ingredients have they not disclosed?" I was also reminded that there is a boycott campaign 3 against them (and Method 4).

Traditional laundry detergent is one of the most hazardous cleaners in your cupboard. In fact, New York State recently banned laundry detergents containing a probable carcinogen 5.

Yes, traditional laundry detergents work extremely well, but that's because they usually include a list of harsh petroleum-based chemicals that may or may not be on the label, including:

🚩Ethoxylated surfactants such as SLS & SLES
🚩Synthetic fragrance that contains phthalates
🚩Artificial Dyes
🚩1, 4-dioxane

It's easy to think these chemicals get rinsed away, but you'd be wrong. Thanks to the inclusion of phthalates, detergent chemicals are designed to stick to your clothes (and therefore your skin), so you can enjoy that "ocean breeze" scent long after the wash cycle has finished. The same goes for dryer sheets which is why so many people itch, sneeze and develop rashes with conventional detergent - the chemicals are literally designed to stick to you. It's not surprising that there are reported cases of chemical burns 6 associated with traditional laundry detergent. 

Unfortunately, the issues with synthetic fragrances also apply to products marketed as "green". A 2015 study7 concluded that: "Emissions of carcinogenic hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from green fragranced products were not significantly different from regular fragranced products….Of the volatile ingredients emitted, fewer than 3% were disclosed on any product label or material safety data sheet."

Traditional laundry detergents also contain allergens, particularly from synthetic fragrance blends. However, because individual chemicals in fragrance blends are not disclosed, it's virtually impossible8 to identify which chemical is causing an allergy. 

Detergents that use essential oils also contain naturally occurring allergens, but these must be listed on the label, and they usually don't contain phthalates, so the allergens should not stick to your clothes and skin and will be rinsed away. Having said that, if you have sensitive, reactive skin, it's important to be mindful that you may find issue with both synthetic fragrances and essential oils. Essential oils are not necessarily better for sensitive skin simply because they are natural. Everyone is different, so please always read the label to see what allergens are listed. If none are listed, that should be an immediate red flag to avoid that product.

And then, of course, there's the environmental impact of laundry detergent chemicals.

Water from your washing machine goes down the drain, and many chemicals in traditional detergents do not degrade, so they pollute our waterways and harm delicate ecosystems. When choosing a laundry detergent, it's important to ensure the ingredients are biodegradable and leave little trace on the environment.

Next time you reach for your favourite laundry detergent, take a moment to think about what's important. Of course, we want our laundry to smell fresh and clean, but it shouldn't be at the cost of our health or the planet. 

✪ Elevate Laundry Day The Pure & Powerful Way
✪ Zero Harsh Chemicals, 100% Clean
✪ Gentle on Fabric, Tough on Dirt

  1. Office for Product Safety and Standards (UK Gov), Product Recall: Ecover Sensitive Detergent Non Bio Laundry Zero% (2101-0193), 2022
  2. Ecover Zero, Hands Up. We Messed Up. An Apology, 2021
  3. Ethical Consumer, How ethical is Ecover?, 2019
  4. Ethical Consumer, Ecover and Method Boycott, 2021
  5. AP News, NY State Bans Laundry Detergent Containing Possible Carcinogen, 2023
  6. Springer Journal of Medical Toxicology, Significant Chemical Burns Associated with Dermal Exposure to Laundry Pod Detergent, 2014
  7. The University Of Melbourne, Volatile Emissions from Common Consumer Products, 2015
  8. Healthline, How to Identify and Treat a Laundry Detergent Rash, Updated 2023
Content Disclaimer: The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article is not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Lavender & Lemon Ltd. disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.