An obvious sign of a lousy laundry detergent is its inability to clean your clothes – no surprise there. But that’s not what really defines a detergent as the worst. Those that fall into the ‘worst laundry detergent’ category contain harsh and even toxic chemicals that have no business consistently coming near your clothes (or your skin) in the first place.

What Defines the Worst Laundry Detergent?

If we gave you a full list of every single potentially hazardous ingredient used in laundry detergents, we’d be here all day. So we’re going to stick with a few of the most common ingredients that can elevate a product to worst detergent fame.

Some of the worst offenders are creepy chemicals that are typically found in products designed for use in your car, on your lawn, or painting your house. Yep, you’ll find some of the same chemicals found latex paints in are also in detergents that you wash your kid’s clothing in. Are you shaking your head yet?

Another red-flag-raising chemical found in laundry detergents are solvents. Solvents pop up in many laundry detergents as well as a slew of other health and beauty products. Some well known chemical solvents include alcohol, ethanol and acetone. Needless today, you probably don’t want any item in this category rubbing on you or your kid’s skin all day.

Artificial fragrances may not be all that keen for good health, either. However, there’s no single ingredient, or even two, that can be pinpointed in this case. Reports from the International Fragrance Association show a total of 3,999 different substances have been used in fragrance compounds for laundry detergents and other products. And again, these are ingredients that don’t have to be listed on detergent packaging.

Laundry detergents with artificial colors and preservatives can also fall into the worst category for regular use, as can those with harsh bleach or whiteners. This is because these compounds find their way deep into fabrics, build up over time and create a layer of chemical gunk that cannot be rinsed away. Even freshly washed clothing items may house unseen chemical buildup.

What the Worst Laundry Detergent Can do to Clothes and Skin

Now that you know what constitutes laundry detergent offenders, it’s time to find out why they are the worst. It’s because those harsh chemicals can often do horrible things to your skin as well as your clothes over time. They can:

  • Cause skin allergies, as well as skin irritation, respiratory issues and asthma.
  • Cause itchy, red, blotchy, or otherwise highly irritated skin.
  • Cause eye and lung irritation.
  • Cause dermatitis or irritate pre-existing skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
  • Cause burning, pigmentation changes and damage the skin’s natural moisture barrier.

Additionally, bleaches and whiteners, when used too often can actually start to turn your bleach-safe clothing yellow instead of white. And it should go without saying that bleach used in any amount or frequency can totally ruin nylon, silk, wool and dyed fabrics.

Even though you’re not going to sit around pouring laundry detergent on your skin, the harsh chemicals are likely to end up there anyway. That’s because the chemicals remain in fabrics when the wash cycle is done. If you’re smelling soap or can still smell your laundry detergent once they’re out of the dryer, there’s still soap left in the fabrics. This gives them the chance to penetrate your skin, especially if your clothing gets wet from sweat, a sudden rainfall, or things like spilled milk or juice.

Since laundry product companies aren’t required to list every single detergent ingredient, you and your family could be exposed to these harsh chemicals without even knowing. Your safest bet is to go for a natural laundry detergent with a shortlist of safe ingredients that are gentle on your clothing as well as your skin. So if you haven’t done so yet, now’s the time to give Charlie’s Soap All-Natural Laundry Detergent a try.