Watch out: the worst ingredients in cleaning and laundry detergents

Surfactants, microplastics, preservatives: Unfortunately, our everyday detergents and cleaning products are anything but “clean”. Since the jungle of ingredients quickly becomes confusing here, I'll show you which ingredients are particularly questionable and which alternatives are better for cleaning and washing - not only for our own well-being, but also for the environment.

Petroleum surfactants

Surfactants, which are so-called detergent-active substances, combine fat and water and are therefore the most important ingredients in all cleaning products. They ensure that grease and dirt come off during washing and also remain in the water.

Synthetic surfactants are mostly used in conventional cleaning and detergents. These are made from the scarce but skin-unfriendly petroleum resource. Interestingly, all surfactants must be biodegradable according to EU regulations. However - and this is the best example of the industry's mendacity - a surfactant is already considered to be completely biodegraded if it is 60 percent degraded after 4 weeks.

Petroleum-based surfactants can still enter the environment via our wastewater and remain there for a very long time. Some of the substances can be dangerous for aquatic organisms. Surfactants are sometimes dangerous for our health because they can dry out or irritate the skin and mucous membranes, making them more susceptible to all sorts of allergies or skin irritations.

A little food for thought: Please think about the safety precautions with which oil is extracted, particularly on oil rigs. This petroleum, which is often hidden under the pleasant name “mineral oil”, is found not only in cleaning products, but in all kinds of cosmetics.

Palm oil surfactants

The alternative to petroleum-based surfactants are surfactants made from renewable raw materials. These are not necessarily more degradable, but at least they are based on plants instead of petroleum; palm oil is predominantly used for this. However, in order to meet the high demand for palm oil, huge amounts of rainforest are cut down and converted into oil palm monocultures.

Manufacturers of ecological cleaning and detergents usually ensure that the palm oil used is grown as sustainably as possible. Unfortunately, there are currently only a few palm oil-free cleaning products.

Certainly better for the body and skin, but of course not for the environment. When it comes to cosmetics, great care is now taken to be palm oil-free, but unfortunately this is not yet a given when it comes to cleaning products (including organic ones). See recommendations below.


In order to make cleaning and detergents last longer, synthetic preservatives are added to the majority of products. Many of these substances can cause skin irritation and allergies. According to EU regulations, preservatives must be declared on the packaging, but hardly anyone knows that they are preservatives without appropriate information.

A particularly toxic preservative is formaldehyde. This may be contained in a maximum concentration of 0.2 percent per product. From a concentration of 0.1 percent, an agent must be labeled “contains formaldehyde”. The substance can cause headaches, mucous membrane irritation, nausea, breathing problems as well as asthma and allergies and is also considered carcinogenic. Everything below 0.1 percent will be found in the INCI list, but logically you can overlook that very quickly.

Preservatives such as isothiazolinones, especially methylisothiazolinone, are also suspected of causing allergies. They may be problematic for allergy sufferers.

Last but not least: preservatives are difficult to degrade, toxic to aquatic organisms and accumulate in the environment.

Antibacterial/disinfectant hygiene agents

Cleaning products with antibacterial effects, so-called hygiene cleaners (also in cloth form) or disinfectants are usually not only completely unnecessary in the household, but also potentially dangerous. Both for health and the environment.

Disinfectants often contain chlorine compounds, which can severely irritate the respiratory tract. All these antibacterial agents are an absolute curse, especially for small children and babies. Ingredients such as triclosan are also repeatedly associated with hormonal effects and cancer. Other ingredients such as isopropanol, formaldehyde and ammonium compounds are also considered to be harmful to health.

And although a large proportion of the substances are filtered out of the wastewater in the sewage treatment plant, some of the disinfectants can end up in the environment and are difficult to break down there. Crazy, right?

In addition, I should actually talk about microplastics, bleach, chlorine and perfume in cleaning and detergents. But I'll leave it at this for now. Everything was bad enough.

Because: If you want to avoid ingredients that are harmful to your health and also want to do something good for the environment, you unfortunately won't get anywhere with conventional cleaning products. But there are now some brands that offer full-fledged alternatives with ecological cleaning and detergents.

Organic cleaning products predominantly contain raw materials from renewable sources that are easily degradable and have as little impact on the environment as possible. But here too you definitely need to take a look at the INCI list. The terms organic and natural are not protected in this category either. And unfortunately vegan doesn't mean anything.

So what did you use?

I used EcoCover many times until I really put all the products through their paces. The EcoCover brand is currently trying to avoid palm oil. However, at the moment it does not meet all of the above criteria. Now I only use the Sonett brand (for washing, rinsing and cleaning).

This is advertising from the heart and due to a lack of alternatives: The Sonett brand offers everything you need for your household and is my first choice in my household, especially since I buy it in all the usual organic stores where I go shopping. get. At Sonett I took the trouble to examine every single cleaning and detergent product; I didn't find anything on the INCI list that didn't belong there.

In my cleaning cupboard I have:

Dishwasher tabs
Rinse aid
Dishwasher salt

Detergent for wool and silk
Detergent Color

Bathroom cleaner
WC cleaner
Universal cleaner
Glass cleaner
Floor mopping care

dishwashing sponges

(Raccoon, Good Soaps and Memo are also supposed to meet all of the above requirements, but I don't know them personally and I haven't checked them all).

I hope this has helped you a little and my next post will probably be on the topic
Make your own cleaning supplies ...