Got Allergic Reactions? Check Your Detergent Labels

Got Allergic Reactions? Check Your Detergent Labels

Jason de Plater / ReCo

Got Allergic Reactions? Check Your Detergent Labels

Got Allergic Reactions? Check Your Detergent Labels

This interview is part of ReCo Circular CityTM 2023 edition, Circular Sydney. For more information,  please visit

Fragrance smells glamorous. Plant-derived means natural. Bacteria needs to die — a bit of biocides won't kill us. After all, what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger.

So why do some people slowly develop allergic reactions?

Some ingredients in most conventional cleaning detergents are harsh chemicals disguised in fancy and scientific names. These are the top 5 ingredients to avoid in detergents, suggested by our product partner SimplyClean.

1. Fragrances (unspecified / parfum)

Artificial fragrances are dirty cheap trade secrets. Feeling good smelling the cool ocean breeze from your laundry detergent? Your laundry ocean breeze is mostly made from hundreds of synthetic and petroleum-based chemicals, to cover the smell of other even nastier chemicals.

Why is it bad for you?

They are classified as allergens, hormone disruptors and neurotoxins. They cause skin and eye irritation, trigger asthma attacks and allergies.

If you find fragrances lingering on your washed clothes, phthalates are likely to be. Phthalates help scents last longer, but are linked to cancer, reproductive harm and respiratory toxicity. (source: Breast Cancer Prevention Partners)


Sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) are in most products that make bubbles — shampoo, soaps, toothpastes, you name it. They also act as surfactants (surface-active agents) to dissolve grease and dirt.

Why is it bad for you?

1,4-dioxane, which is often found in SLES compounds, is considered a potential human carcinogen by the U.S. EPA. This harmful substance is not easily degradable and can contaminate waterways.

While it is not established that SLS compounds are carcinogenic, they have shown various toxicities and can cause skin and eye irritation.

3. MIT and BIT

Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and Benzisothiazolinone (BIT) are biocides, period. They control microbial growth in water-containing solutions, and they are widely used as preservatives in household cleaning products. Note, those products contain MIT and BIT, still can claim to be 'natural'.

Why is it bad for you?

MIT has been partially banned in the European Union since 2017, due to its toxicity, allergic skin reactions, skin sensitisation and potentially neurotoxicity. (source: Chemical & Engineering News)

Although BIT is not banned, it's classified as an irritant for skin and eyes and only a very limited dose is allowed. It was also established to be toxic to aquatic life in the EPA's 2015 review.

4. PEGs

Polyethylene glycols (PEGs) are made from the by-products of petroleum refining, or derived from natural gas and coal. They are used as thickeners, softeners, moisture-carrying agents, penetration enhancers and surfactants.

Why is it bad for you?

Carcinogenic contaminants are the primary concern for PEGs. Like SLES, PEGs may be contaminated with measurable amounts of 1,4-dioxane. The ethoxylation process of making PEGs could also contaminate ethylene oxide, another carcinogen.

According to David Suzuki's Dirty Dozen list, PEGs show evidence of genotoxicity and are unsafe to be used on damaged skin. Its function as a 'penetration enhancer' could increase the absorption of toxins in the skin.

5. Fillers

Ingredients in fillers are also not disclosed. Fillers are cheap bulking agents, added to most laundry powder to make the volume appear bigger. So how do brands make concentrated laundry powder? Simply take out the fillers.

Why is it bad for you?

If you've found any white residue in your laundry, that's it — they're the fillers. These particles are trapped in your clothes and bed sheets, and could trigger allergic reactions and develop allergy in the long term.

A high quality cleaning detergent can perform perfectly without any harmful chemicals.

Always check the labels. Or simply, get our refillable cleaning products, proudly made by SimplyClean from Lismore, NSW. SimplyClean has been perfecting their eco-friendly products for more than a decade. Many Aussie customers, particularly families with young children, love their products.

Shop here

This Interview is part of Circular Sydney.

Read the full book now. eBook and printed book are available for pre-order with 20% off.

Circular Sydney shares the stories of visionary individuals and organisations who are pioneering change, overcoming challenges and reshaping Sydney’s sustainable future. Circular Sydney is proudly supported by the City of Sydney Knowledge Exchange Grant.

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Get our refillable laundry powder and dishwasher powder, proudly made by SimplyClean from Lismore, NSW. We collect your empty glass jar and deliver your refill to help reduce plastic waste and carbon emissions.


Danling Xiao

Co-Founder, ReCo.

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