There is no cancer risk from SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

I now duck as the tomatoes start to fly.

You might call it a brilliant stroke of marketing genius. You might call it a widespread hoax. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is surrounded by some of the greatest confusion and mis-information in the industry. In short, SLS has a very bad reputation, and it is such a phenomenon that I think somebody should write a book on it. It has become more vilified than any other chemical in bodycare, while those that are much more problematic pass freely beneath the radar.

The most damaging claim against SLS is that it is carcinogenic, because it supposedly creates nitrosamines. However, since it contains neither a nitrogen nor an amino group, this is chemically impossible.

SLS is in our Sal Suds all purpose cleaner, and here’s what we say about it on the bottle:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a surfactant that cuts grease and dirt, generates copious suds, and biodegrades quickly and completely. SLS is made by combining a sulfate group with lauryl alcohol from coconut oil, then attaching sodium. If improperly formulated, SLS can irritate skin, but our superb formula uses coco-betaine and lauryl glucoside to counter this.

Sal Suds is a mild, synthetic detergent, not a bodycare product. SLS does not, and never has, appeared in any of our soaps since the saponified vegetable oils in our castile soaps are much, much better for our skin, and can be certified organic. SLS is synthesized (read “man made” or “processed”) even though it does have a coconut base.

Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds cleaner

I think this article has a good overview of the rumors: This page is written by Ed Friedlander, a pathologist from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences I haven’t met him. He may or may not know about Dr. Bronner’s. (Take note that David Steinman, to whom Ed refers at the end, has done a great deal of excellent research and analysis on the topic of 1,4 Dioxane in bodycare products, among things.)

I don’t know who or what started all the fuss. There’s some idea that the initial claims were written by a company making a rival chemical to SLS. Or perhaps it’s that SLS is such an effective cleaner even in really greasy jobs, there must be something malignant about it. Or it could have been an understandable mix-up with sodium laureth sulfate, which is indeed linked to carcinogens (see my next blog on the “-eth’s”). Nevertheless, the rumor about its carcinogenic power spread like wildfire over the web, assisted by the general public’s accurate and growing suspicions that bodycare companies were lying to them.

Unfortunately, SLS became the scapegoat for these suspicions, and real culprits slipped by. Huge corporate bodycare companies took full advantage to extract as many dollars as they could out of this paranoia. Soon, the onslaught of “SLS-Free” products hit the shelves in Whole Foods, Wild Oats, and other natural stores. The thing is, many of the other ingredients in these products were petroleum based, and much more harmful to the body and the environment than SLS. However, with this artificial “SLS-Free” distinction, these green-washed products soon became best-sellers even within the super-green community.

That is why the whole SLS panic really bothers me. Aside from the fact that most of it is untrue, it is being exploited by the most unscrupulous companies. Frequently, chemical magazines contain articles about how to replace SLS in bodycare products with petroleum based water softeners. Trust me when I tell you that petroleum based water softeners are worse.

When SLS is not formulated properly, it can be an irritant to the skin. And since I can’t vouch for how it is formulated by each company that uses it, I avoid it across the board in all body care products. It should never show up in certified organic products. However, it appears in almost every conventional toothpaste and shampoo, and even in many that are sold by “natural” brands. Since there are tentative links to causing canker sores in the mouth, as well as acknowledged skin irritation when not balanced properly, I think it’s best to steer clear of it for bodycare. I can do without the bubbles.

So, this blog has gone on long enough. I haven’t addressed the whole SLES and 1,4 Dioxane issue (which is linked to Sodium Laureth Sulfate, among other things, but not Sodium Lauryl Sulfate). I will pick that topic up next time.

Note: My brother Mike Bronner had a hand in writing part of this.


Sal Suds Cleaner in a Spray Bottle

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

I just realized that I have never blogged about my Sal Suds spray bottle despite the fact that it is my most reached for house-cleaning weapon. In fact, I think I disappoint some people when they ask me what I use on various household surfaces, because the answer is mostly “Sal Suds in a spray bottle.” They seem to be looking for something more exciting.

This is the jack of all trades in my house. It’s great on my finished wood table, granite counters, tile floors, pleather high chair, plastic toys, painted walls, microsuede bar stools, metal grill… In fact, I haven’t found much house stuff I wouldn’t use it on.

So here’s my ratio:

Fill a quart spray bottle almost all the way with water. (This is the fancy trick, because if you put the Sal Suds in first, you’ll lose a lot in bubbles.) Then, add 1 Tbsp. of Sal Suds.

That’s all. If you put in more Sal Suds, you’ll have bubbles, bubbles everywhere.


Using a Sal Suds Spray to Clean Dishes

Friday, August 20th, 2010

One of the most basic uses of the Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds All Purpose Cleaner is for hand-washing dishes. However, the concentration of the soap is so strong that it is very easy to get more bubbles than I bargained for. If I am filling a sink, or a large pot for washing a number of dishes, a small squirt of the Suds works well. But I have found that for washing a single item – whether it’s a plate, a pot, a cutting board or a high chair tray – even a drop of pure Sal Suds is more than I need.

Washing Dishes With Sal Suds

Instead, I have found that spraying the item with my Sal Suds spray bottle gets just the right amount. This way I’m not wasting Sal Suds nor time in cleaning up excess bubbles. Also, as a mom I tend to move really fast. There’s always something else I need to do – right now. Even the bit of time it takes to wait for a single drop of Sal Suds to come out of the bottle gets me tapping my toe in impatience. The squirt bottle is much faster, and I just like it better. So I keep the bottle right under the sink – handy for counters, floors, and dishes.


Sal Suds in the Laundry

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Sal Suds makes a fabulous laundry detergent.  This video shows how simple it is.  Clothes are left clean, soft, and fragrance-free.  Sal Suds is gentle enough for any washable delicates (although it cannot be substituted for dry cleaning).  It works at any temperature, and rinses fully with hot or cold.

The baking soda and vinegar are optional.  I only use them on my whites, or if a load is really smelly.  Be sure to put the vinegar in the rinse cycle only.  If it mixes with the baking soda during the wash cycle, it will cancel out the cleaning capabilities.

I do not have a front loading, HE machine, so I have not tried this recipe out there.  Generally, we had been recommending cutting the ingredient quantities in half, but we’ve heard that there is also an issue with mold in the HE machines, and I don’t know how to counteract that without bleach.

So, here’s my recipe for a top loading washer:

·         2-3 Tbsp. Sal Suds for a large load


·         ½ c. baking soda added to the wash cycle;

·         1 c. vinegar added to the rinse cycle


My Favorites

Friday, June 18th, 2010

If you haven’t had a chance to test the full range of Dr. Bronner’s scents, you may be missing out on your favorite. I am well aware that I have the advantage of having the complete line of products at my fingertips, but in a sense, you do too. Our webstore is available and offers free shipping with a minimum order of $20. You can order the range of 2 oz. bottles to try them all out. I almost exclusively use the liquid, but that is only a matter of personal preference. My husband and son both like the bars for body and hair. For the ones I use the most, I keep a gallon on hand to refill my 8 oz. bottles.

So here’s all the fragrances and where you’d find them in my house:*

  • Almond: My shower. This is my all around favorite. I use this in the shower for my hair and body. It is also in my bathroom’s foaming pump dispensers.
  • Tea Tree: All bathrooms and Laundry room. I use this on my face since I have acne prone skin. Works fabulously to clear up problem skin. I also use it in my kids’ foaming pump dispensers for its extra antibacterial boost. It’s mostly what I use in my all purpose spray and bathroom cleaners.
  • Citrus: Kitchen and Laundry Room! This is my second favorite scent after the almond. I love this in my kitchen foaming pump dispenser. It also is great for cleaning my stainless steel kitchen sink. And if I ever ran out of the almond, I would use this in the shower. I use the citrus in the laundry when I run out of Sal Suds, and it’s my back up for the Tea Tree in my all purpose spray and bathroom cleaners.
  • Peppermint: Bathroom cabinet. It’s a little strong for my every day shower, but great after a hot day working in the yard. We use it on the dogs, too.
  • Eucalyptus: Bathroom cabinet. This is a back-up for the tea tree. Before we made the tea tree, this was the best soap for problem skin, and what I would use on my face if I ran out of tea tree. Also used on the dogs.
  • Lavender: Kid’s bathroom. It’s their primary bath soap because it smells great (it’s a spicy smell more than a floral smell) and is calming in the evenings before bedtime.
  • Rose: Guest bath. It’s a little sweet for me, but it makes a really welcoming guest soap.
  • Baby Mild: Kid’s bathroom. In the wintertime their skin gets super chapped. The extra olive oil in the Baby Mild is very soothing and healing. When my baby was a newborn, this is what I used for bathtime until I knew her skin was not sensitive to the lavender. I also use for my insecticidal soap spray since it doesn’t flavor the herbs and vegetables.

*Disclaimer: These are my preferences only! I know I’m in the vast minority with my Peppermint opinion since it’s our number one selling product by far! Feel free to share your preferences and what you use them for.


A Little Balm Here and There

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

I didn’t use the Baby Balm until my third little one was born.  Dr. Bronner’s wasn’t making it yet when Number 1 was born, and with Number 2, I just had no idea what was going on anywhere outside my nursery.  Rather gloomy days.   However, now I know!

All those adorable, kissable baby chubs come at a cost.  Those deep creases that never see the light of day get such an angry red.  Enter Baby Balm!  I apply the Baby Balm right after a bath and rub it in to those persistent streaks in the neck, behind the ears (where it gets a little crusty, too), under the arms, and of course on the  bottom.  This is a really good preventative measure that cuts back on the need for strong intervention after a raging rash breaks out.

Plus, since the Balm is completely unscented, nothing covers up that wonderful baby smell.  I’m enjoying the baby smell so much more this third time around than in the past.  I think one of the main reasons is that the smell was drowned previously by those heavily scented conventional baby products.  But there is simply nothing better for the heart than having my sleeping baby on my shoulder and getting to breathe her in.

I realize all this may be, well, obvious based on the name of the product, but so much of what I will write about is the versatility of the products.  While there are other uses for the Baby Balm (such as removing wedding rings before labor) the use for which it was originally intended is especially terrific.  I will also point out that the ingredients are completely understandable and if your little one ever does decide to taste test the products in your nursery (as my first born did), there’s no need to call Poison Control for this one.

Final note, you may notice that the Naked Balm and the Baby Balm are exactly the same.  So, pick your favorite color!