Test: These problematic chemicals are found in laundry detergent for white clothes

30. jan 2018

A test of laundry detergent for white clothes reveals many good choices, but some products contain problematic chemicals.

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Test: These chemicals are found in laundry detergent for white clothes
Photo: Anne Beck Christensen

Test: 21 laundry detergents for white clothes receive the best assessment

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has examined the ingredient lists on 38 laundry detergents for white clothing. 21 products did not contain problematic chemicals and received the best assessment.

Optical brightener, allergenic substances and perfume are some of the ingredients that you can avoid by choosing a product that has the best assessment in the test.

Products that are labelled with a Nordic ecolabel along with an allergy label (The Blue Label or Allergy Certified) ensure a choice without problematic chemicals.

Test: See the tested laundry detergents with assessments and pictures in the bottom of the test page (link to the test in Danish)

Problematic chemicals: One liquid detergent in test contains a Substance of Very High Concern

The liquid detergent from the brand Una (Aldi) contained a Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) - Sodium Borate. The substance, that is listed on the REACH Candidate list may damage fertility or the unborn child.

The detergents alone generally do not pose a risk to health. But the substances may contribute to the total exposure to unwanted chemicals and the “cocktail effect”.

Allergenic preservative in 4 liquid products

Only in the liquid detergents the test found allergenic preservatives. In 4 products we found the substance Benzisothiazolinone, a preservative similar to the very allergenic Methylisothiazolinone.

None of the detergent powders contained problematic preservatives.

Perfume was found in many products. Perfume can also cause allergy.

Not all problematic substances listed on packaging

Only some ingredients are required to be listed on the packaging of a detergent, such as perfume, Benzisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone and optical brightener. The problematic substance Sodium Borate is however not required to be listed.

The detergent regulation requires that information on all ingredients can be found on a website, that is listed on the package. The test showed that many producers have the information available, but also quite a few are missing or incorrect.

Some producers list all ingredients, and it would be a benefit for the consumers to have access to the full list without consulting a website, that might be incorrect.

Test: See the tested laundry detergents with assessments and pictures in the bottom of the test page (link to the test in Danish)

For further questions about the test contact project manager Christel Søgaard Kirkeby on csk@fbr.dk

What do the test scores - A, B and C - mean?

In tests we give the scores A, B and C. The scores have the following meaning in labelling tests:

‘A’ – The product is a good choice. It does not contain a number of problematic substances.

‘B’ – The product is free from a number of problematic substances, but it contains perfume or substances that may affect the environment. You may choose to avoid the B products if you want to minimize the risk of fragrance allergy and take maximum account of the environment.

‘C’ - The product contains problematic substances, eg substances suspected of being endocrine disrupting. The substances are usually permitted for use and each product is not harmful in itself, but they contribute to your overall exposure to problematic substances.