Washing powder: Few contain unwanted chemicals
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Washing powder: Few contain unwanted chemicals

A new test of colour washing powder shows that only a few contain chemicals detrimental for environment and health. Check out which chemicals to avoid.

Christel Søgaard Kirkeby · Foto: Getty Images · 25. april 2022
Washing powder in washing machine

9 out of 15 products contain no chemicals of concern and they all receive the A-rating, the best rating from The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals.

Only a few contain chemicals of concern.

A suspected endocrine disrupting chemical turned up in one product

One product received the lowest grade, C-rating. The washing powder from Omo contains Benzyl Salicylate, a chemical suspected of being endocrine disruptive

By itself, the chemical in Omo alone will not cause endocrine disruption; however, it adds to your total exposure of unwanted chemicals. This is known as the cocktail-effect.

Four washing powders contain chemicals detrimental to the environment

Washing powder from Neutral Storvask, Biotex, Omo and Maxitrat contain the problematic substances LAS.

LAS is short for Linear alkylbenzensulfonates, which are detergents that dissolve grease and dirt.

These substances are particularly problematic for the aquatic environment because they do not easily biodegrade in environments with low levels of oxygen. This has previously been a major environmental problem in Denmark.

In a report from 2020 the EU scientific committee SCHEER expresses concern about LAS’ effects in the aquatic environment based on research from 2009-2019.

Do you want to avoid LAS in your washing powder? Choose products labelled with the Nordic Swan (ecolabel) – LAS is banned in these products.

Is there a difference between the chemicals in washing powder and liquid detergent?

Previous tests have shown that liquid detergents compared to washing powder often contain more chemicals that are problematic.

A test of liquid detergents from 2021 revealed LAS and the allergenic preservatives - isothiazolinones – e.g. the Methylisothiazolinone (MI).

Washing powder does not contain allergenic preservatives, since the need for preservation is not required as in liquid detergents.

In the test of liquid detergents, we also found borates which are listed on the EU candidate list. The use of borates is permitted in washing powder, but we have not found them in this test.

Look for the Nordic Ecolabel, the Swan, and the allergy labels

It is easy to find the good choices if you want to find washing powder – or even liquid detergents.

If you want to avoid the unwanted chemicals, look for the Nordic Ecolabel, the Swan, and if possible in connection with the allergy label, The Blue Label or the label Allergy Certified. These labels require the products to be eco- and/or allergy friendly.

5 tips to avoid unwanted chemicals in washing powder

  • Choose washing powder labelled with the nordic ecolabel Swan, the EU Ecolabel, The Blue Label or Allergy Certified.
  • Choose washing powder without perfume. Perfume substances are added to provide a clean scent, but it has no effect on whether or not the clothes are cleaned.
  • Avoid Chlorine and Optical White that are problematic for the environment. Instead, choose washing powder with whitening effect for white clothes.
  • Be aware of the allergenic preservatives. Check the ingredient list for substances ending in: ’–thiazolinone’ like methylisothiazolinone or benzisothiazolinone.
  • Check the ingredient list of the product on the company’s website if you want to avoid sodium borate. The substance may damage fertility and may damage the unborn child.

About the test

  • We have tested for the unwanted substances:

    15 washing powder purchased on the Danish Market are included in the test.

    We have checked the list of ingredients either found on the packaging or online via the website mentioned on the packaging. We contacted the companies to verify the information and that the products are the newest available.

    The ingredient list is checked for substances of concern.

    It is a declaration test. We have not performed chemical analyses and therefore the test does not consider quantities.

  • The ratings:

    • A-rating: 9 products contain no substances of concern.
    • B-rating: 5 products contain perfume or substances problematic in the environment.
    • C-rating: 1 product contains a perfume substance suspected of being an endocrine disrupter.

    We found these problematic substances:

    • Benzyl salicylate, a perfume substance, suspected of being an endocrine disrupter. The chemical can be allergenic. Found in one product.
    • LAS, can be problematic in the environment. Found in four products under the names: Sodium Dodecylbenzenesulfonate, Sodium C10-13 alkyl benzenesulfonate.
    • Perfume in five products.