Jul 14, 2021 by Plastika Skaza

Which ingredients should I avoid in detergents?

Eco-friendly tips & tricks

Finding a truly sustainable detergent can be much harder than one can imagine. Sure, we can look for catchy labels like “Environmentally Friendly”, “Natural”, “Nontoxic” or “Biodegradable”, but we should still be careful, since they can be misleading. You should verify all the ingredients before buying a product you believe is eco-friendly.

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Let us help you with that by listing some of the chemicals you should definitely avoid if you want to buy sustainable detergent.

Normal vs sustainable detergent


Most consumers are unaware that ammonia is present in numerous dishwashing detergents, even if only in trace amounts. However, this chemical can be toxic and should be avoided especially when it is combined with bleach to create a cleaning solution. Both chemicals release fumes that can harm your eyes, respiratory system, and skin.

Ammonia is very effective when draining a sink, but luckily there are more natural ways of doing it. Our recommendation is using bokashi liquid, which is produced during the fermentation process in your composter bin. Besides managing your bio-waste in an eco-friendly way, you can also produce a completely sustainable detergent at the same time. Bokashi liquid which you need to drain from the composter bin every few days is an excellent natural cleaner for your sink drain. When diluted with water it can also be used for fertilizing flowers, plants and crops.

You can produce a natural drain cleaner using your composter


Phosphates are often used as water softening minerals and act as fertilizers in the water. They can present a hazard not just to us, but also to fish and other marine life when they end up in the environment in high concentrations. They are known to significantly stimulate the growth of algae which start to die soon after. When bacteria start to break them down, they use a lot of oxygen, which significantly reduces oxygen levels in water, causing fish and other animals to die.
To keep the water on our planet clean, we recommend you switch to a more sustainable detergent that is phosphate-free.


Despite being a known carcinogen, formaldehyde is often added to laundry detergents along with preservatives to be slowly released over time and thus prevent bacterial contamination. However, higher concentrations of this chemical can be very toxic to the human body and we recommend avoiding it whenever possible. When buying laundry detergent, check the label for names like methyl aldehyde or methylene oxide, which are just different names for formaldehyde.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many great sustainable detergent alternatives to formaldehyde at this moment. But as the sustainable lifestyle is becoming a trend all over the planet, we can expect new eco-friendlier solutions will be developed in the near future.

Some chemicals in detergents can be very toxic


This synthetic chemical is quite often added to dishwashing detergents because of its antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. While it may kill all the bad stuff, this chemical can also disrupt the body's natural thyroid and endocrine systems. In other words, it messes up with our hormones. Furthermore, triclosan can also increase the growth of "superbugs" (strains of bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi that are resistant to most antibiotics) in our bodies.

Ironically, triclosan is often found in these so-called antibacterial soaps, although its effectiveness is very questionable. You are much better off if you stick to regular soap. Although it doesn’t have any active antibacterial chemicals, that doesn’t mean that it’s less effective. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, there is no evidence that soaps marketed as “antibacterial” actually work any better than just plain old soap.

The chemical responsible for that foamy look should be avoided

Sodium lauryl sulfate

SLS is responsible for the foamy look of your detergents, soaps and shampoos. It is very effective in cleaning greasy stains, but it also dries your skin and can cause an allergic reaction. While the bubbles are certainly nice to look at, they are not nice to absorb and can cause a 1,4-dioxane contamination.

One of the best sodium lauryl sulfate alternatives is the so-called castile soap. This vegetable oil-based hard soap is made in a style similar to that originating in Spain in the 11th century. There are many other cosmetic products based on castile soap and can be a great idea for a sustainable gift.


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