What’s In a Fragrance? Are Fragrances Harmful?

By: The Cleancult Team

November 07, 2018

FRAGRANCES! Can’t live with them...but you can certainly live without them! You can smell it when you walk down the laundry aisle or the detergent aisle of the grocery store. They are in air fresheners, laundry detergent (liquid, pods, or otherwise), candles, dish soaps, dryer sheets, fabric softener. Some might trigger allergies, other make your eyes water, others are...pleasant. But sometimes it’s so bad that you have to cover your nose or walk away, fast! All those perfumes!

It’s not just your imagination or that you’re too sensitive, however. In 2008, scientists reported on the toxic chemicals that are found in many laundry detergents and other laundry products, especially those filled to the brim with synthetic fragrances that linger for days after washing your clothes. This probably comes as no surprise to you—most of us know that synthetic fragrances come with chemicals that our body doesn’t care for.


Since 2008, more chemicals found in common grocery store detergents have surfaced. In fact, we found seven more, and have listed them for you here, along with some healthier alternatives. You shouldn’t have to suffer asthma or dermatitis just to have clean clothes.

Researchers, after studying many top-selling laundry and air-freshening products, found that they actually emitted dozens of different chemicals (at least one of those chemicals was identified as toxic or hazardous under federal laws!). What’s worse—none of these chemicals were listed on the label.

Some of the chemicals found in the air in the exhaust of dryer vents and in the used water after washing clothes were benzene and acetaldehyde! These products can affect not only personal health, but also public and environmental health. The chemicals can go into the air, down the drain and into water bodies.

Companies that make laundry detergent and other soaps typically use proprietary “blends” of fragrances or chemicals, making it difficult for consumers to know what exactly is in their detergent bottles.


What’s the alternative?

Well, we hate to sound like a broken record, but natural detergents are a great alternative to chemical-heavy, harsh, dangerous, and harmful cleaners. Many laundry detergents are now available in unscented or fragrance-free variations. In fact, most natural laundry detergents and liquid laundry detergents use no fragrances whatsoever in their formulas.

However, if you’re like most of the population, you will probably want surface cleaners, dish soaps, body soaps, bar soaps and many other cleaners with some form of fragrance. Your first alternative here would be to create your own. There are many options of homemade laundry detergent, homemade bar of soaps, and homemade cleaner recipes available. With just a drop of natural essential oils, you can achieve a gentle but pleasant fragrance and enjoy a non toxic cleaning experience.

On the other hand, you can enjoy great options (like cleancult) that use natural fragrances obtained from essential oils and plant extracts. Even though many essential oils in their raw form could harm the skin and cause rashes, a few drops diluted in water or combined with other natural products are 100% safe! The key here is to look for the ingredients and the company’s transparency when dealing with their ingredients and labels.

Even though the Federal Government has imposed newer restrictions on the chemicals and the disclosure of these chemicals, some of the chemicals used for fragrances still fall under proprietary secrets. Thus, if you are unsure about which detergent to buy on the grocery store and see that one of them does not disclose their ingredients (especially how they obtain their fragrance), buy at your own risk! We recommend always reading ingredients and choosing the most natural alternative (which almost surely includes essential oils or some combination of oils). This is true for all cleaners, including laundry detergents, fabric softener, dryer sheets, dishwasher detergent, liquid dish soap, air fresheners, candles, etc. Always remember to buy smart!