What is the most harmful cleaning detergent?

Our homes are filled with products and chemicals that can cause serious health problems if they’re not used in the right way. While most household detergents are safe enough to use without needing gloves, masks or any other PPE, there are a few detergents that shouldn’t be used without first taking the right precautions.

In this blog, we’re going to take a look at one of the most harmful cleaning detergents that features in many households around South Africa. It may come as a surprise to you, but laundry detergent may be the most toxic detergent in your home – let’s find out why.

Why laundry detergent is the most harmful cleaning detergent

Even though your clothes may smell as fresh as a summer afternoon, leading laundry detergent brands often contain harmful chemicals which can cause undesirable and unforeseen health issues, starting from the skin and throat irritation to carcinogenicity – they also have negative effects on the environment. 

One of the most harmful chemicals found in laundry detergents is 1,4-Dioxane. This chemical, which is found in paints and varnishes, is present in leading brands of detergent and is considered as a carcinogenic by the EPA, which states:

“1,4-Dioxane is used as a solvent. Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure to high levels of 1,4-dioxane has caused vertigo, drowsiness, headache, anorexia and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs in humans. It may also irritate the skin. Damage to the liver and kidneys has been observed in rats chronically (long-term) exposed in their drinking water. 

“In three epidemiologic studies on workers exposed to 1,4-dioxane, the observed number of cancer cases did not differ from the expected cancer deaths. Tumors have been observed in orally exposed animals. EPA has classified 1,4-dioxane as a Group B2, probable human carcinogen.”


Other harmful substances found in laundry detergents

Other dangerous substances like sodium laurel sulphate (SLS), ammonia, nonylphenol ethoxylate, phenols, and phosphates can cause severe health problems once they come into contact with your skin. Because leading brands aren’t required to list all the ingredients in their laundry detergents, most consumers will never know what substances they’re exposing themselves to.


Not only do these chemicals remain on your clothes after a wash cycle, they also have the potential of penetrating your skin, especially when your clothes become damp or wet. For instance, whenever you sweat (especially near your groin or armpits), your body absorbs the residue of detergents within your fabrics. 

Optical brighteners, which are additives that emit blue light and make whites appear whiter by tricking the eye, are also present in many leading laundry detergents. These brighteners remain in clothes long after washing and can cause skin irritation. They also decompose relatively slowly and may be toxic to marine life.



Even though many laundry detergents aren’t seemingly harmful, especially those trusted we’ve been using for a long time, the truth is that there are substances in those detergents that could have severe health implications for some people. The next time you’re out shopping for a laundry detergent, be sure to do a little research before choosing one.

If you’d like to get your hands on cleaning detergents that you can trust, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today – we look forward to hearing from you!