1 4 dioxane – A Hidden Dangerous Chemical

What has Agent Orange got to do with your Laundry Detergent?

1,4-dioxane is a dangerous toxic chemical hidden in 46% of all personal care products!

“But I can’t find it listed in the ingredients!”

No, and that’s the problem!  It’s the very thing that makes it so hard to find.  How are we supposed to avoid something if we don’t even know it’s there?

“Why is it not listed on the ingredients label?”

Because it’s a contaminant created through cheap processing and not an actual ingredient added by the manufacturer.

An example to imagine

“How many products contain 1,4-dioxane?”

Also known an “dioxane” and not to be confused with “dioxin” – a completely different compound.  Up to 46% of all personal care products contain 1,4-dioxane!  It’s because, like everyone else, manufacturers are looking to cut costs wherever they can, therefore they use a cheap method to create a product that’s less harsh, and at the same time, make it more “sudsy”.


“What is this cheap method?”

They use a process called ethoxylation where they add ethylene oxide to other chemicals with the intention of making those chemicals less harsh.  One common chemical is Sodium Laurel Sulfate.  This chemical is often used to create suds (think shampoo, bath & shower gel, laundry detergent, bubble bath etc. etc) but it’s very harsh on the skin. (Mind you, you’ll find it everywhere!)

If they add ethylene oxide, it creates a chemical known as Sodium Laureth Sulfate which is a little less harsh, but the ethylene oxide contaminates it with 1,4-dioxane in the process.  On the ingredients label you will find Sodium Laureth Sulfate but 1,4-dioxane will not be listed.


“So what will it do to me?”

1,4 dioxane in agent Orange

Local Vietnam War veterans still feeling effects of Agent Orange

1,4-dioxane is a synthetic petro chemical carcinogen which causes cancer and liver disease.  It’s one of the chemicals that was used in Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and appears to be blamed for the cancers received by those who came in contact with it.

  • Ethylene oxide is a known breast carcinogen which means cancer causing.
  • 1,4-dioxane, can be readily absorbed through the skin, the gastrointestinal tract and lungs.  This means using any product that contains it can be absorbed through the skin and breathed into the lungs causing you to cough, be nauseous, experience a sore throat, dizziness, headache, vomiting, drowsiness, and even unconsciousness. You may also experience abdominal pain.   Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Often the same products contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, are also contaminated with phthalates, nitrosamines and even formaldehyde.
  • It’s potency is considered to be equivalent to, or maybe worse than, dangerous pesticides.


“What does it do to the environment?”

Unfortunately, 1,4-dioxane binds with water and is very hard to remove.  Water filtering doesn’t do the job.  Once it’s released into the environment, it goes everywhere and it’s not biodegradable.  It never breaks down.  This is alarming news… really, we should all be totally alarmed and seriously consider safe alternatives.

On my 2.5 acre property, all the land slopes very gently towards one corner to a dam where our ducks swim.  The reason the dam was made in this position was because it was always naturally wet there.  This last winter we had an exceptional amount of rain owing to a long drought period previously.  We were very aware of how the water table was very close to the surface of the  land on the property as a time came and the water didn’t seem to be too bothered whether it flowed on to the dam or stayed where it was.

Ducks swimming on full dam at Spring Waters


Because of this, I’m always very conscious of what we use here as I know everything will end up in that water.  When our dam is full… it looks like a small lake… it overflows  into a creek which takes the water the next step of the way.  I’m not sure where it goes from there but all water flows from one place to another, to another.  If we were to use sprays and pesticides and other nasty chemicals on our property, it would mean that whatever lives in that water, besides our ducks, would be gradually poisoned. Visiting bird life, reptiles and animals coming for a drink could all be affected.

Does this mean we need to pay attention?  I really passionately believe so.  What with approximately 2/3rds of all laundry detergents alone containing 1,4-dioxane, imagine the harm to the environment! Remember, as it enters the sewerage system, it doesn’t break down… not there or wherever it ends up.  This contaminant is being found in underground water everywhere and the only way we can prevent it happening is to stop using any products containing it.  We must make the effort and send a message with our shopping dollar to the manufacturers who carelessly create all kinds of personal care products using methods that create 1,4-dioxane.

Please remember this is just one of a whole list of nasty, damaging chemicals that are let loose into our beautiful environment.


“So what can I do?”

We need to find safe, non-toxic laundry soap that is not harmful to us or our environment.  We can start by making sure you don’t buy any product that has the following listed in its ingredients:

  • Ceteareth
  • Anything ending in “eth”
  • Laureth
  • Myreth
  • Oleth
  • Oxynol
  • PEG
  • Polyethylene
  • Polyethytlene glycol
  • Polyoxyethylene
  • Sodium Laurel Sulfate
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Be aware that 1,4-dioxane is only one of a list of ingredients contained in laundry detergents which can cause much harm to both ourselves and the environment. We need also to steer clear of the use of Phosphates, Chlorine, Chlorinates to name a few.

So if you have any concern for the land in which you live, and the body in which you reside, you must begin to carefully read labels to find the best choices. See this Pretty Scary Laundry List I took from Dr Mercola’s website:

Long list of toxic chemicals contained in laundry detergents


When it comes to reading labels,  laundry detergent may not tell you exactly what’s in it, so you will have to become  more conscious of what they state it doesn’t contain.  It may state:

  • Biodegradable
  • No Bleach
  • NPE free
  • Phosphate free
  • SLS free

At least these would be better than regular detergents, but still open to contain many of the ingredients listed above.


Ever thought of making your own?

It is possible to make your own laundry detergent without all the harmful ingredients found in most store-bought varieties.  Claire Goodall has put together an e-book that contains hundreds of wonderful DIY ideas, which in most cases I’m sure would save you a whole host of money.  In her book “Everyday Roots” she gives three ideas on home made detergent:

  1. Liquid Laundry Detergent
  2. Lazy Liquid Laundry Detergent
  3. Powder Laundry Detergent

They are all made out of simple ingredients and it’s just a matter as to whether you want to take the time.

For busy Mums that don’t want to spend a lot of time reading labels or making up their own detergent, I recommend what I use myself: Vibrant Laundry Detergent by Sisel International!

Vibrant Laundry Detergent for busy people


Safe Sisel Products

Can you see the Sisel Safe Approved logo… maybe not.  This is what it looks like:

Sisel guarantee all their products to be both safe and effective.



What is it we all want in a Laundry Detergent?

  1. That it’s not harsh and doesn’t damage our clothes
  2. Concentrated and economical
  3. Dissolves easily in water
  4. Removes all the dirt and stains
  5. Removes the germs
  6. Detergent fully rinses out
  7. Smells nice but not from using harmful synthetic fragrances
  8. Say goodbye to dull greying
  9. Whites are truly white… colours are vibrant
  10. The dirty water is safe for our environment
  11. Dried wash smells good
  12. Safe to wear with no harmful chemicals to be absorbed into our skin
  13. No harmful ingredients that linger in the air
  14. Works well in hard water

Have I covered it all?  You can add some more if you think of them… I don’t mind.  That’s exactly what I want out of a humble laundry detergent, and I’m sure you do too.


So does Sisel stack up?  Let’s see:

  • Sisel promotes itself and its laundry detergent as being mild, safe, environmentally friendly, biodegradable and free from Phosphates, Chlorine, Chlorinates, SLS or any other potentially harmful ingredient.  Vibrant is totally scientifically based as Sisel has a whole team (over 20) of top scientists gathered from around the world.  They use only safe chemicals and botanicals.
  • This detergent contains enzymes that produce a cleaner and brighter wash, while being nice and gentle on your clothes, helping them to last longer. It provides concentration with safe and effective foaming agents that hold the soil in suspension and then rinses freely away.
  • It’s extremely economical too. Contained in a 1 litre (33oz) bottle where you only use half a cap full for a full wash. This gives you 66 full loads of washing from every bottle. You find you want to use more because you’re used to it, but there is absolutely no need.  You can save on buying stain remover as all you need to do is apply a little Vibrant directly onto a stain such as lipstick, or salad oil, or butter… rub it for a moment and then pop it into the wash.
  • It works well in hard water because of special agents that bind the minerals that inhibit the cleaning power in the water.
  • More importantly, it’s gentle on our biggest organ, our skin. Millions of people are wearing clothes containing the residuals of toxic chemicals from the wash.  This results in all sorts of skin disorders such as eczema.  Considering you are wrapped in clothing both day and night with harmful chemicals against your skin… even the sheets on your bed, who knows how many other disorders you’re experiencing in your body with no idea where they’re coming from.
  • Lastly, Vibrant neutralises odours and has the most wonderful natural fragrance called Mango Tango.


So there are two safe alternatives that I’ve presented to you here:

  1. One is that you can make your own and thereby can be assured of no nasty chemicals.  Recipes for laundry detergent, together with over 200 DIY products to use around the home, including cosmetics, please see Everyday Roots.
  2. For the busy Mum or Dad… you can purchase Vibrant Laundry Detergent here.  Once again you can be totally assured there are no potentially harmful ingredients.

Sisel International provide a whole range of products, all free from potentially harmful ingredients.  See the product range here.

I’d love to hear how you manage to avoid these chemicals.  Please leave a message below.  Got any questions?  Leave them below and I’ll be back in contact with you… or go through my Contact Form.

Learn how to avoid 1 4 dioxane – a hidden dangerous chemical from creeping into our lives.  Stand up and make a statement with your shopping dollar.  Manufacturers will soon get the message as many of us refuse to buy their products.  Testing for this contaminant was done from items bought from a regular supermarket, and from those purchased in health shops.  Most all of them contained 1,4-dioxane.

Warm regards,
Marilyn Williams shares her experience of the difference it made when she concentrated on building her health rather than trying to lose weight



Marilyn Williams

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  1. This is absolutely disgusting. The type of things that these companies will expose people to just to make a profit.

    I did a lot of research lately on the adverse effect of Corn Syrup which is basically in all foods these days. It seems very similar to this in that not many people know about it and are not looking out for it when they look at the labels.

    We NEED to get this crap banned!

    • Hi Mark! Yes you are right… it’s not good, and someone’s got to help bring awareness. Someone once said to me that he doesn’t believe in sharing anything negative… I remember saying… then who is going to tell people?! Fortunately I do have something that provides a positive answer if people are interested.

      It’s great you researched Corn Syrup… and you are perfectly right… it’s everywhere, and people are not thinking at all about it, in general. It’s almost frightening.

      Wouldn’t it be good if we could get a law passed that banned all ingredients that weren’t healthy to the human body! Haha… that would be something, wouldn’t it!

      Thanks for adding your thoughts to my post… I really appreciate it.


  2. Yikes, 1 4 Dioxane sounds super scary! I do read the ingredients in stuff I purchase but it’s mostly soap for the body and shampoo, and I avoid anything with SLS (partly because I have sensitive skin). I’ve never paid much attention to my laundry detergent though, I think I should!

    This product sounds great; I did use another brand of eco-friendly laundry detergent before, and I though it was great albeit expensive, but it’s worth checking this out too. Thanks for the review, I can tell you really care about the environment!

    • Thank you Chiqui! I’m ever so glad you’re avoiding SLS as the harm it brings is more than just to those with sensitive skins. Reading ingredient’s lists is not always fun is it? Many manufacturer’s will use alternative names as well which doesn’t help… and then with 1,4 Dioxane being a hidden ingredient and not even mentioned… it gets harder and harder.

      I guess that’s why I like to use products from Sisel myself as it takes all the hard work out of all the common products we all use each day.

      I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask me… I’d be glad to help.


  3. I was totally taken back by this article. I new that this stuff was bad, but I didn’t know how bad. It’s really got me thinking now what going into our bodies unnecessarily. I currently have Fairy and Lenor stocked in my cupboard, thing is I love the smell. Many years ago, I used non-toxic products and I found that my clothes felt like cardboard and had no nice smell to them.

    • Hi Sharon… oh dear, the cardboard clothes does sound awful. 🙁 Of-course the reason the nice smell was missing is that all that “nice” is really bad for us too if they use the wrong thing… synthetics I mean. I try to avoid synthetic perfumes generally. Fortunately Vibrant smells lovely and they use perfumes that do no harm.

      I think it’s a hard thing generally, living in this world where so many toxins surround us… but once you do make the decision to avoid as many as possible, you find that it can be done to some extent. I can see it’s in you as you’ve done it before, and if my article does anything to encourage you to think more seriously about it, my work is done.

      Thank you so much for your thoughts.


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