Shampoo, body wash, dishwashing liquid, laundry soap, and hand soap are all basically the same thing, at their core: Detergent, which is made from water and some combination of sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS, for the sake of brevity). It can be either plant or petroleum-based. And they’re not just putting it in the soap.
They’re putting it into toothpaste as well — go grab your toothpaste tube and take a look at the ingredients. Detergent is used in toothpaste to give it that nice foaminess, and the taste is masked by the minty flavorings. Whatever chemicals your toothpaste contains, the surfaces of the inside of your mouth absorb them. Below are some potential effects of sodium laureth and lauryl sulfate:
- Skin irritation contributing to canker sores and other oral problems
- Potential for contamination during manufacturing with Dioxane, a carcinogenic bi-product of the ethoxylation process
- Endocrine (hormonal) disruption, potentially affecting reproductive ability
- Enters the water supply, poisoning wildlife and ending up in municipal tap water
- Builds up in the organs
- Allergic reactions are common
Even “natural” brands like Tom’s of Maine (now owned by Colgate-Palmolive) generally contain SLS. But thanks to increased concerns from consumers about the effects, with a little searching, you can find a toothpaste that doesn’t have it. Same goes for other products, like laundry detergents and dish soaps.
For shampoo and body wash, you can replace your SLS-containing brands with your own blends of melt-and-pour soap and essential oils, making custom soap at home that would compete easily with luxury brands in terms of quality. Custom DIY soap bars also make great gifts.
Why not make it something fun to do with the kids? We’d recommend making soap from scratch, but it requires the use of caustic substances, and we don’t want your children getting chemical burns.