This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my affiliate policy.

Reduce the Toxic Load in Your Home - Laundry Room 1
  • Save
Reduce the toxic load coming from your laundry.

Reduce the Toxic Load in Your Environment

I discussed in a previous article the role that oxidative stress plays in worsening Pyrrole symptoms. While we can’t control a lot of the toxins we are exposed to ‘out in the world,’ we can actively reduce environmental toxins in our homes.  This is the first in a series of tips on how we can help reduce the toxic load in the home.  We will work from room to room and look at ways we can reduce chemicals and other toxins in the home which helps to reduce oxidative stress and subsequently Pyrrole symptoms.  Let’s get started!

The Laundry Room (A toxic hotbed)

Most conventional laundry products contain perfumes, dyes, and many many other toxins. Remember anything that touches your skin can be absorbed so being mindful of what you are washing your clothes in is really important!

The table below lists SOME of the ingredients found in conventional laundry supplies:

Ingredients to AvoidOften Found InThe Potential Health Risks
BenzaldehydeLaundry bleach, perfumesIrritation to mouth, throat, eyes and skin
Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acidFabric softenerReproductive and developmental effects in animal studies
Artificial fragrances – Manufacturers combine a number of chemicals to produce a fragrance—so you’ll believe your clothes are clean because they smell clean—and they don’t have to list those chemicals on the label because of trade protectionLaundry detergent, dryer sheets, fabric softenerIrritation to skin and eyes; many are toxic and are
suspected carcinogens
DiethanolamineDetergentIrritation to skin and eyes; linked to liver and kidney tumors
and developmental and reproductive toxicity in animal studies






nonlphenol ethoxylate or NPE ),


Detergent/Surfactant – These are included in the formula to help the product clean better.Releases formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that causes
rashes and skin inflammationlinked with skin and eye irritation and possibly liver problemstoxic to nerves, irritating to skin, potential hormone disruptor, toxic to aquatic life
2-ButoxyethanolDry cleaning chemical, stain removersBirth defects and reproductive and developmental effects
in animal studies; carcinogen
ChlorineLaundry bleachPotent irritant to eyes, upper respiratory tract and lungs
Perchlorethylene (Perc)Dry cleaning chemicalLiver and kidney damage; irritant; possible carcinogen
Ethyl acetateFabric softenerNeurotoxin; irritant
Nonylphenol ethoxylateLaundry detergent, dry cleaning aidsHormone disruptor
ER, KSN, OB, OB-1Common trade names for optical brightenersPossible developmental and reproductive effects
Linear alkyl sodium sulfonates
DetergentSkin and eye irritant; can be toxic to aquatic life; can
produce toxic fumes during production
Petroleum distillates
(also called naphthas)
DetergentChemicals linked to cancer and lung damage
polyalkylene oxide or ethylene oxide Stabilizers – These chemicals help stabilize the formula, so that it lasts longer on the shelf.Linked with eye and lung irritation, and even dermatitis.






diaminostilbene disulfonate

Brighteners – Chemicals that actually remain on the clothes to absorb UV light and help clothes ‘appear’ brighter.linked with developmental and reproductive effects


Need help decoding labels then check out the Environmental Working Groups (EWG) Guide to Decoding Labels (Healthy Cleaning Guide)

If you want to get really nerdy you can check out the NIOSH (from the CDC) Chemical Hazards Guide – they even have an app you can download for checking chemicals on the run.

The Search for a More Natural Alternative

The obvious answer is going to be to make your own detergents but that’s not always practical or even desirable (hey I have 5 kids, mixing together laundry detergent isn’t always high on my priority list!) but a quick Google search for ‘homemade laundry detergent’ will give you tons of options.   The next best thing is to seek out more natural commercially available alternatives.  Luckily, as more consumers have started demanding healthier alternatives, more brands have stepped up to the plate and there are lots of choices.
reduce the toxic load in your laundry
  • Save
Check out these options:
Soap Nuts: You can’t get much more natural than soap nuts – they are berries that grow on trees in India and Nepal.  They contain a large amount of saponin in their shells which acts as a natural, gentle detergent when it comes in contact with water. (Please be aware that some people have had allergic reactions so it’s not a perfect solution for everyone).

Research laundering supplies in the EWG database, which rates just about everything under the sun for toxicity. The database has over 800 entries in the laundry section alone!

Other Laundry Products

I personally have a pretty basic laundry routine, most of the time you’ll only find detergent and stain soaker in my laundry. (Come on 5 kids? I should own stock in stain soak!). Luckily I’ve found a terrific natural product here in Australia from Kin Kin Naturals.

That said the number one stain remover (and it’s completely free) is the sun. If you can hang the stained clothing in the sun while it’s still wet you’ll find the sun can bleach out most stains in a few hours.  You can help it along with a little vinegar or lemon water or a diluted mix of hydrogen peroxide or oxygen bleach.

Please ditch the fabric softeners

 These are loaded with artificial scents. Toxic nightmare.
Accidentally leave the clothes in the washer too long? Add a 1/4 to half a cup of white vinegar to a rinse cycle and you’ll be set.

Dryer Sheets

Again, artificial scents galore not to mention the myriad of other toxins.  My solution which as a bonus saves you a ton in electricity because they cut drying time – Dryer Balls. Seriously, they are the best thing ever! Most of the time I line dry our clothes, but during rainy season and  winter, the dryer does get a workout. I have 12 dryer balls and it more than halves the normal dry time and the impact is definitely seen on our power bill.  Wool is also antibacterial and also reduce static.  They are a little bit of an upfront investment but mine have more than paid for themselves and they last for years!

You can easily make your own dryer balls or purchase them online. You can even add a few drops of essential oils to the balls and scent your laundry naturally.

Summary and more Tips to reduce toxic load in the laundry

Choose Safer Products

• Read the ingredient list on laundry products.

• If you are in the U.S. look for the EPA’s Design for Environment logo, which indicates a product was formulated from the safest possible chemicals in each chemical class and the use of “chemicals of concern” was reduced; search for products at the EPA’s Labeled Products database.

• Make your own laundry products.

• Avoid products with labels that say “warning,” “danger” or “poison.”

• Eliminate the use of fabric softeners by using 1/2 cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle instead.

• Ditch dryer sheets. For fragrance, add a few drops of essential oil to a damp rag and throw it in the dryer with laundry. Use dryer balls to reduce drying time, wrinkles and static.

• Add baking soda to detergent to naturally brighten colors and eliminate odors.

• Pre-treat stains with a combination of water,  washing soda, and baking soda.

Avoid Conventional Dry Cleaning

• Try to Purchase clothes that don’t require dry cleaning, or handwash clothing marked “dry-clean only.”

• If you must dry clean. Ask your dry cleaner to use the alternative wet cleaning or CO2 cleaning processes, which are free from perc.

• You can reduce dry-cleaning needs by filling a spray bottle with cheap vodka and spritzing dry-clean-only clothing (do a spot test first). The alcohol kills bacteria that cause odor, then dries quickly.

Ensure Safety and Efficiency

• Make sure your dryer vents outdoors and clean out the vent periodically.

• Rid the washer of bacteria, soap scum and grease by running a cleaning cycle with white vinegar and hot water.

• Never combine bleach with vinegar or ammonia, as it produces a toxic chlorine vapor.

Even making just a few changes in your laundry habits can make a big difference in reducing the toxic load coming from your laundry room – these small changes can make a big difference in some of the Pyrrole symptoms some people face.


University of Washington, “Toxic Chemicals Found in Common Scented Laundry Products, Air Fresheners,” Science Daily, July 24, 2008,

Anne C. Steinemann, Lisa G. Gallagher, Amy L. Davis, Ian C. MacGregor, “Chemical emissions from residential dryer vents during use of fragranced laundry products,” Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, 2011;


  • Save

Tammy Rose-Townsend

2 comments on “Reduce the Toxic Load in Your Home – Laundry Room”

  1. Thank you so much for all this information!! Though our reasons for reducing toxic load may be slightly different, I appreciate the tips and educational information on chemicals. Now to go clean out my laundry room!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *