What's Really Swimming In Your "Gentle" Laundry Detergent? Dioxane-free Start-up Brand Ingredients Matter Exposes the Truth Behind Big Brand Laundry
Ethoxylated ingredients can leave behind a probable carcinogenic byproduct that's terrible for people and the planet
MINNEAPOLIS , May 26, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Ingredients Matter, a start-up household cleaning brand out of Minneapolis, has created a laundry care product line without 1,4-Dioxane, a probable carcinogenic byproduct found in many household cleaners and laundry detergents. The brand engaged Bureau Veritas, an international leader in third-party lab testing, to evaluate Dioxane levels in laundry detergents from Tide, Gain, Arm & Hammer, All, Method, Mrs. Meyers, and Seventh Generation. The study is the first of many from the brand and intends to help consumers understand how much 1,4-Dioxane they encounter unknowingly.
According to Ingredients Matter President Christiana Kippels, "Consumers are trying to make better choices for the health of their families and the planet. Because our founder's family has been in the laundry soap business since 1943, we could spot greenwashing terms like biobased and plant-powered, leading people to believe they're safer than other laundry products. But they're still using ethoxylated detergents, which we know may leave behind residual 1,4-Dioxane. So, we tested for it."
The chemical 1,4-Dioxane has come under fire in recent years after its detection in groundwater and drinking water supplies near chemical plants and waste sites. As a result of manufacturing with ethoxylated ingredients, home cleaning products can also contain varying amounts of 1,4-Dioxane, which led New York State to reduce allowable levels beyond federal minimums. New York law will require household cleaners to include no more than two parts per million (PPM) by the end of 2022. That limit will reduce to a maximum of 1 PPM by the end of 2023. Meanwhile, environmental groups are targeting 1,4-Dioxane's eradication in household cleaning products altogether.
How harsh is your laundry detergent?
A third-party study conducted by testing lab Bureau Veritas in the spring of 2022 detected 1,4-Dioxane in nearly all laundry detergents tested, from conventional brands like Tide and All to plant-based brands like Mrs. Meyers.
1,4-Dioxane Test Result (in parts per million)
Arm & Hammer Clean Burst
Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Free & Clear
Gain Original + Aroma Boost
Mrs. Meyers Clean Day
Tide Free & Gentle
All Stainlifters Free & Clear
Tide PurClean Plant-Based
Method Laundry Detergent
Seventh Generation Free & Clear
Ingredients Matter Laundry Soap
- 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 some amount of 1,4-Dioxane
- Although the product contains ethoxylated ingredients, 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.
The results don't come as a shock to insiders. According to Kippels, "We weren't surprised to find 1,4-Dioxane because we know it can be created during ethoxylation and remain in the final product. The Seventh Generation Free & Clear detergent we tested does have ethoxylated detergents but did not contain detectable 1,4-Dioxane, which means they're likely vacuum-stripping the product after ethoxylation. These results prove that unless consumers have chemistry lab equipment in their homes, they'll never know if 1,4-Dioxane is in their ethoxylated detergents. We're continuing to test and intend to produce more results."
What is 1,4-Dioxane?
The chemical is most prevalent in wastewater near chemical plants and the soil at biohazard sites, so how does it end up in laundry detergent? Most detergents are made through a process called ethoxylation, where Ethylene Oxide (EtO) reacts with a fatty alcohol. That process creates inexpensive, hard-working detergents like Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Polyethylene Glycol (PEG). Often, ethoxylation leaves behind a residual chemical called 1,4-Dioxane, which ends up in cleaners like laundry detergent, toothpaste, or shampoo. 1,4-Dioxane, just like its origin source EtO, is a likely carcinogen. Only chemical labs with special equipment can prove its presence in household products because it's not an intentional ingredient, and the naked eye can't see it.
How can you spot 1,4-Dioxane on an ingredient label?
"That's the big challenge for consumers. 1,4-Dioxane is only detectable by lab equipment; it's not visible to the naked eye. 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 that Dioxane can be left behind, and without chemistry equipment, we can't know just how much, we avoid it altogether."
These ethoxylates are commonly found in laundry detergents:
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate
- Laureth-6 & Laureth-7
- C12-16 Pareth
- Polyethelene Glycol (PEG)
About Ingredients Matter
Ingredients Matter is a Minneapolis-based start-up brand focused on making truly better household products. Starting with the unregulated world of laundry detergents, they've created a Laundry Soap made from coconut soap flakes and salts, rather than harsh detergents, so it's naturally free from ethoxylates and 1,4-Dioxane. In third-party testing, Ingredients Matter Laundry Soap was shown to clean better than natural and biobased detergents currently on the market. Beyond making better household and laundry cleaning products, the brand hopes to spur a shift in the category by working with third-party labs to continually test ethoxylated detergents for 1,4-Dioxane content.
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SOURCE Ingredients Matter