Laundry Chemicals to Avoid

Learn which laundry chemicals could put your health at risk. 

By Sarah Lozanova 

The chart below will help you identify and avoid harmful ingredients found in many laundry products. Learn more about keeping your laundry room healthy in "Toxic Laundry Detergent Ingredients to Avoid."

Ingredient to Avoid  Found In  Potential Health Risks 
Benzaldehyde  Laundry bleach, perfumes Irritation to mouth, throat, eyes and skin
Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid  Fabric softener Reproductive and developmental effects in animal studies
Artificial fragrances  Laundry detergent, dryer sheets, fabric softener Irritation to skin and eyes; many are toxic and are
suspected carcinogens
Diethanolamine  Detergent Irritation to skin and eyes; linked to liver and kidney tumors
and developmental and reproductive toxicity in animal studies
Quaternium-15  Detergent Releases formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that causes
rashes and skin inflammation
2-Butoxyethanol  Dry cleaning chemical, stain removers Birth defects and reproductive and developmental effects
in animal studies; carcinogen
Chlorine  Laundry bleach Potent irritant to eyes, upper respiratory tract and lungs
Perchlorethylene (Perc)  Dry cleaning chemical Liver and kidney damage; irritant; possible carcinogen
Ethyl acetate  Fabric softener Neurotoxin; irritant
Nonylphenol ethoxylate  Laundry detergent, dry cleaning aids Hormone disruptor
ER, KSN, OB, OB-1  Common trade names for optical brighteners Possible developmental and reproductive effects
Linear alkyl sodium sulfonates
Detergent Skin and eye irritant; can be toxic to aquatic life; can
produce toxic fumes during production
Petroleum distillates
(also called naphthas)
Detergent Chemicals linked to cancer and lung damage


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