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What’s Really Swimming In Your “Gentle” Laundry Detergent?

May 24, 2022

What’s Really Swimming In Your “Gentle” Laundry Detergent?
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When shopping for laundry detergent, many people look for products free of harsh synthetics or dyes or products that will be sensitive to skin. But even when they’re labeled “gentle,” most laundry detergent brands (even the green ones) use ethoxylated detergents that can contain the carcinogen 1,4-Dioxane. Not familiar with 1,4-Dioxane and why it's bad? Here's some detail.

If the naked eye can’t see it, how can consumers understand whether 1,4-Dioxane is present in their favorite detergent? That’s where we come in. We sent samples of some of the most popular laundry detergents to international testing lab Bureau Veritas. 

Results from 1,4-Dioxane Test


  • Test results show conventional laundry detergents from Arm & Hammer, Tide, and Gain contained more than 3 PPM 1,4-Dioxane.

  • Other products from Tide’s gentler lines (Tide Free & Gentle and Tide Pur Clean) and products from Mrs. Meyers, All, and Method tested between .18 and .4 PPM, making them acceptable under NY State guidelines but still containing the potential carcinogen, 1,4-Dioxane.

  • Although the product contains ethoxylated ingredients, 1,4-Dioxane was not detected in Seventh Generation Free & Clear.

  • Ingredients Matter Laundry Soap is made without ethoxylated detergents, so it cannot contain 1,4-Dioxane, and all three versions of the brand’s Laundry Soap tested at zero.

How can you spot 1,4-Dioxane on an ingredient label?

1,4-Dioxane isn’t visible to the naked eye; it’s only detectable by lab equipment. As we saw with these results, the detergent-making process can leave 1,4-Dioxane behind as a residual ingredient, and that chemical can end up on bath towels and baby blankets and flushed out into the groundwater. Because we know 1,4-Dioxane can be left behind, and without chemistry equipment, we can’t know just how much, we assume that any ethoxylated ingredient is leaving behind carcinogenic 1,4-Dioxane. So, we avoid it altogether.

These ethoxylates are commonly found in laundry detergents:

  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate

  • Laureth-6 & Laureth-7

  • C12-16 Pareth

  • Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)


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