Dr. Bronner's Products

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

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 body care, 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 body care 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.

I think this article has a good overview of the rumors. It 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 body care companies were lying to them.

Unfortunately, SLS became the scapegoat for these suspicions, and real culprits slipped by. Huge corporate body care 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 body care 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 body care. 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.

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Vicki says:


I am wondering about the effect of SLS on the environment. According to the EWG, it is
“Suspected to be an environmental toxin- Environment Canada Domestic Substance List”.

Diana Schuler says:

Hi Lisa. Is it ok to use Sal Suds in high efficiency (HE) front-loading washing machines?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Diana – I’m going to have to rely on customer feedback on this one because I do not have an HE machine, but word on the street is “yes”. You’ll only need 1-2 Tbsp. of the Sal Suds for an HE machine.

Karena says:

Absolutely yes! I use 1 Tbs for a normal load. It works great!

Laundry Hack: How to Remove Grease Stains - Live Simply says:

[…] Sal Suds is Dr. Bronner’s tougher version of soap, although its chemical makeup makes it a detergent, not a soap, which is why I believe it works so well to remove tough grease stains. Sal Suds is formulated to conquer tough cleaning projects: unforgiving grease and stubborn dirt.  Sal Suds is a hot topic in the natural community, so it remains a product that some use and others stay away from. What’s all the fuss about? Sal Suds receives an A on the Environmental Working Group’s website. You can read more about the big SLS debate and Sal Suds on Lisa Bronner’s blog. […]

Sylvie says:

Lisa, Please publicly address my confusion over your statement in your January 11, 2013 comment:
“I absolutely wouldn’t use any product containing SLS on a newborn, or anyone with sensitive skin. It isn’t great for any skin and is classified as a skin irritant. It ( … )shouldn’t be in bodycare.” Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds for laundry contains SLS. Wouldn’t that be considered a “body” product of sorts? Our clothes, bedding and towels all come in contact with our bodies. Thank you for addressing this.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Sylvie – Thank you for bringing this up. Bodycare products are ones that come in direct contact with our bodies. The Sal Suds is intended to be used on everything except the body. Because it is so clean rinsing, a normal laundry rinse cycle carries all of it away. This super-rinseability of the Sal Suds is why it works so well particularly on laundry items that need to be completely residue free in order to maintain their absorbency and breathability, in items such as towels and bedding, and even reusable diapers and menstrual pads.

Van says:

@Lisa: “…carries all of it away.” Okay, but what happens to it in the environment? Does it, and in what ways, contaminate the water?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Van – Thanks for bringing this up! Our soaps and Sal Suds are certified biodegradable, so the soap breaks down quickly in the environment. This is something we emphasize with the full name of the Sal Suds, which is “Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner”. I have these certifications in a document if anyone would like to see them. Shoot me an email at

Jan says:

Great info. Bottom line – you need suds when doing dishes. It rates an A on EWG – that’s good enough for me.

Super Easy DIY Dish Soap: 3 Ingredients - Live Simply says:

[…] Sal Suds:  Sal Suds is Dr. Bronner’s tougher version of soap, although its chemical makeup makes it a detergent, not a soap (which is why it works so well to cut grease). Sal Suds is formulated to conquer tough cleaning projects, like sticky grease and stubborn dirt. Sal Suds is a hot topic in the natural community, so it remains a product that some people use and others stay away from. What’s all the fuss about? Sal Suds receives an A grade on the Environmental Working Group’s website. You can also read more about the big SLS debate on Lisa Bronner’s blog. […]

Pushti says:

Hi Lisa! If even your (Dr Bronner’s) sodium lauryl sulfate in the Sal Suds is not meant for personal care, how do I wash my dishes (without gloves)? My hands will still be exposed to it & it will also be absorbed into my bloodstream. Please address my concern: I have been using Dr Bronner’s bar & liquid soap for years for personal care, but have never used Sal Suds. It sounds like a good alternative otherwise. Thank You

jay says:

Both SLS and SLES are bad if they’re contaminated with 1,4 dioxane! Dont say SLS is gud!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jay – I’m so glad you brought up this issue. Many people are unaware of the 1,4 Dioxane contamination that is very, very common with ethoxylated ingredients. For other readers, let me mention that any product that contains an ethoxylated ingredient has the potential for also containing 1,4-Dioxane which is “Reasonably Anticipated to be a Human Carcinogen” by the CDC. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database has a good overview of 1,4 Dioxane. This contaminant will never be listed in an ingredient list because it is a byproduct created during the synthesis of another ingredient, but a study that was done in 2008 of many conventional and “natural” products (even some uncertified but labeled as “organic” products) tested positive for the presence of 1,4 Dioxane. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released an excellent pamphlet covering this issue, “No More Toxic Tub“. Now, this was 8 years ago, and as a result, some of these companies have reformulated their products.

Ethoxylated Ingredients to Look For: Sodium laureth sulfate, as well as any ingredients that include “PEG”, “xynol”, “ceteareth” and “oleth”

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is not ethoxylated, and so doesn’t carry this potential contamination. It is still not an ingredient that should be found in personal care products, although it often is.

I hope that helps!

All the best,

Jean says:

After reading all of this blog and posting the article on my FB page. I decided to try the Sal Suds as a shampoo. I’ve been looking for a more reasonable priced, and still effective shampoo. Well, I am convinced that Sal Suds is the new shampoo for me! It works great and leaves my hair so soft that I don’t even need a hair conditioner! when I rinsed it out which is easy by the way, I found that I could comb my very long hair so easily that I didn’t need to use a hair conditioner. After my hair dried, it was still soo very soft! Hey it did not irritate my scalp I believe because it is such a mild detergent. My other shampoo may not have had SLS in it but it striped all the oils from my hair causing me to NEED a conditioner. not so here. Oh well just had to share! Gonna save more $$$$

Sylvie says:

Lisa, Please address my confusion over your statement in your January 11, 2013 comment:
“I absolutely wouldn’t use any product containing SLS on a newborn, or anyone with sensitive skin. It isn’t great for any skin and is classified as a skin irritant. It ( … )shouldn’t be in bodycare.” Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds for laundry contains SLS. Wouldn’t that be considered a “body” product of sorts? Our clothes, bedding and towels all come in contact with our bodies. Thank you for addressing this.

Joanne Robinson says:

I just purchased a fruit fly trap . I planned to put it in my kitchen, but wondered if sodium lauryl sulfate fumes could be risky as I have challenges with
ashma (breathing issues). Would appreciate your advice!

Thank You!

Stacy says:

I appreciate the advice and feedback from everyone. I have been using Dr. Bronner’s castile bar soap for quite some time and can not say enough good things about it. It’s creamy and my skin feels refreshed after each use. I have not tried it as a shampoo, in part because my experience with pricier organic brands has been poor. Their formulas leave my hair feeling greasy and unclean. Based on what I’ve read from prior posts, I will definitely have to try the Dr. Bronner’s castile bar soap as a shampoo soon.
I did want to note, there are toothpastes out there that are SLS-free. I stumbled upon one during an EWG search last year. My daughter was under two at that time, and I was looking for toothpaste that didn’t cause concern if she accidentally ingested any. Jack n’ Jill (kids) toothpaste is Australian based, and their ingredients are incredible (here’s an example from one of their toothpaste flavors: Rich in Xylitol, Organic Calendula to soothe gums, Organic Natural Banana Flavor, Fluoride Free, Sugar Free, Color Free, SLS Free, No Preservatives, Safety Seal, Easy Open Flip Top Cap, BPA Free, Minimal Recyclable Packaging, Made in Australia….plus they have a ‘zero’ safety rating on EWG’s skin deep database). It’s safe to swallow without worrying about adverse reactions. I emailed the company asking if they are coming out with an adult toothpaste, and the response I got was from one of the owners, Rachel, who said regrettably not at this time, but possibly in the future. I try every product I use on my daughter on myself so I know the texture, smell, possible reaction, etc. I tried her toothpaste, and my teeth felt extremely clean. If those of you searching for an SLS-free toothpaste don’t mind toothpaste that isn’t minty flavored, I suggest giving this brand a try. You can buy direct from their website, but amazon also carries it.
Sorry to use this forum to promote another brand; that was not my intent. Just noticed there were multiple posts regarding SLS-free toothpaste and wanted to interject.
Back to Dr. Bronner’s products…absolutely love the soap. I can’t wait to try Sal Suds as a safe and trustworthy home cleaning product. It should beat the “natural” product I’m using now, soon to reformulate to incorporate the use of GMO content in its ingredients. Finding Sal Suds couldn’t have come at a more opportune time!

Emily says:

If Dr. Bronner’s doesn’t work as a shampoo, I recommend “Everyday Coconut” by Alaffia. Works great and a great company, too. I LOVE Dr. Bronner’s, but unfortunately we have the HARDEST water (we can’t even use tap water in our coffee maker because it will break it in a few months from the lime scale,) and the Dr. Bronner’s in hard water caused build-up on my scalp. 🙁 I was sad, I love Dr. Bronner’s for everything else.

JULIA says:

does it have any adverse effects on cultivated plants in the field

JULIA says:

want to know if any adverse effects of SLS on cultivated foods in the field.

iHerb: Discussion + share your hoots here! - Page 168 - says:

[…] The American Cancer Society said it Shampoo so it must be true Dr Bronner also said so There is no cancer risk from SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) Quote: Unfortunately, SLS became the scapegoat for these suspicions, and real culprits slipped […]

Karena says:

Thanks, Sue!

My first stop was Ace – no luck. 🙁 Though, we do live in a fairly small town – I have a couple of ideas for some other stores I can check when we go back to Denver. Or, I may just give in and order it online! Thanks for the great idea.

Sue says:

Hi Karena,
I bought my gallon pump dispenser from a store near me called “Mills Fleet Farm” here in Wisconsin. However, I couldn’t find it on their website but did find several similar to mine on Just type in the search window gallon pump ~or~ gallon jug dispenser. Stick with the “standard” type as they fit pretty much all gallon sized plastic bottles. You may also want to check an Ace Hardware Store near you a they have a well stocked laundry/cleaning supplies department. I hope this helps. 🙂

Karena says:

Sue – you’re a genius! Which hardware store did you find this in? I’m not having much luck – I know I could order one online, but I am a little concerned about matching the threads. Does anyone know a specific product/part number that will fit the Dr. Bronner’s 32 oz bottles, or can anyone provide the neck finish specifications for them?

Karena says:

What I wound up doing was this: I keep a quart-size bottle of Sal-Suds in my laundry room – the pump dispenser from a bottle of Shikakai soap fits perfectly, and dispenses an even tsp. – so, it is easy to measure for any cleaning application (laundry, spray bottle, etc.). The tube doesn’t quite reach to the bottom of the bottle, but I refill the quart from my gallon jug as needed, and I don’t have to lift a whole gallon jug up to my washing machine dispenser.

marula says:

Thank you for clearing up the difference between sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate.

Francis Olsen says:

Sal Suds is the most effective cleaner I’ve ever used. Thanks to Lisa Bronner for addressing the SLS rumor mill. Hooray for Dr. Bronner and family.

Sue says:

I’ve been using Sal Suds for about a year and a half and love it! Since it’s so concentrated, a little goes a long way. One gallon easily lasts a year. Love this stuff for dishes and diluted down with water it makes a great floor cleaner, especially in the kitchen. I have a household full of pets and am glad to have found a cleaner that does so many things well, and is safe. I can’t imagine ever going back to using commercial detergents and soaps.

Leon says:

Great amounts of information, and thank you for your expert advice. Just bought my first bottle of Sal Suds and I’m loving it. It’s amazing for dishes, and you need the tiniest amount, so I’m going to do the pre-mixed that you recommend, otherwise you end up with a bubble bath in the sink. The two best cleaning products on the market, your Castile, and Sal Suds.

Lisa Bronner says:

Oh, wow. I am so sorry for missing these comments all year. I hope my responses are still helpful.

Jeff – It’s great to see your initiative in pursuing this! The 1,4 Dioxane issue arises with SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) rather than SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate). SLES really raises red flags for the contaminant.

Mike – I am very glad to hear that the Sal Suds is working so well for you. Not only is the SLS in this product derived from coconuts, but there is no synthetic fragrance and no colorants, which can often be the most irritating of all.

Chi – The ingredients in Physiogel have very low hazard ratings (that’s good) from the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Safety Database. I’ve never tried it, but I don’t see any red flags.

Patti – Wonderful! I’m glad to hear that you’re in sync with all that we’re doing here! I’ll check out your dishwasher detergent recipe, too.

Sue – Did you see a more recent post I put up about washing produce with the Sal Suds?

Mrs. Jimenez – What a terrible time you have been through! SLS definitely is irritating to some, and it sounds like very much to you! I’m glad you discovered the source of your irritation. The best approach with all cosmetic ingredients, whether natural or synthetic, is to understand them and know which ones to avoid and which ones to embrace. I can’t say that all natural ingredients are harmless and all synthetic ingredients are harmful because there are certainly exceptions in both categories. Read, read, read and you’ll be doing great.

Marguerite – Basic rundown – the Castile soap is primarily a body soap but is exceedingly versatile in washing anything that might need to be washed. The Sal Suds is not for the body and was forumalated for hard surfaces, but also works fabulously on laundry and carpets. Since you have both, you can experiment and see which you like where. If the surface is shiny, you may prefer the Sal Suds as it is more clean rinsing. You have the ratios correct for each.

Sue – Sounds like you’re doing great with the Sal Suds! Great idea with the pump.

Let me know if I can be of further help!

All the best,

Sue says:

I love Sal Suds but I ONLY use it as a household cleaner, mainly for hand washing dishes. I never use it as a body or hair wash, not even in a pinch. It’s not meant for that type of use and it’s not surprising that it’s very drying to the skin and hair. I also never use the Sal Suds full strength, always diluted with water. I bought a large all-purpose pump for large laundry detergent bottles, at my local hardware store for $3.00 and it gives me a perfect measured amount of my Sal Suds without having to pour from the heavy gallon container. I love all of my Dr. Bronner’s soaps both liquid and bar for many skincare uses but my Sal Suds is restricted to the kitchen and laundry room. Oh, and I did try the homemade dishwasher detergent recipe mentioned above but it did not work for me. Everything was coated with a film of baking soda that did not rinse off. I had to run the entire cycle again with commercial detergent to get them clean. Oh well.

Marguerite says:

Hi, I have purchased both the Castile and the Sals Suds and am very confused as to where I want to start with each. Just take the plung I guess. My real question is from what I am seeing for your “All Purpose Sprays”, I am seeing 1/4 cup to a quart of water with the Castile and 1tbl to a quart of water with the Sals Suds. Is this correct?

Mrs. Jimenez says:

I am researching hair product and chemicals because I went from a full head of hair to a very thing stringy hair and a severely damaged scalp where the dandruff was not dandruff but scabs that injured, hurt, and was appalling. I have learned that this product was damaging my hair in all hair products and caused an adverse reaction to my scalp. I also feel Bronner’s products are great; however, I have not only seen a change in my scalp and hair, but I have seen a change in skin. I have great skin and am 38 and look like I am in my early 20s. I have noticed how my arms in 90 degree weather appear with blotches. I am not a tanner as I have a naturally tanned complexion of caramel. It is just not common at all in my family to suffer from the UV Rays and have a reaction to the sun in this manner. We have good skin and can handle the sun pretty well, but recently I noticed a drastic change since using products with SLS or any derivatives of it. I have stopped all SLS chemicals in hair and beauty products and have used more natural products. The result has been that all is reversed, and my skin is clearing, my scalp is taking a change for the better, my dental care is amazing and no more canker sores, etc. I cannot agree that this is not a carcinogen when I am a living testimony of how harmful and how difficult it has made my life by diminishing my health. We lead our lives through scientific studies and blind studies and twin studies and so forth, but we are the true judges of these products because they affect our lives and we live it day after day.

I think Bronner’s products should consider this concept: any combination of chemicals that are processed synthetically will bring about a chemical change: some for the better and others for the worst. Is this a fair statement? You are solely the judge of it.

Sue says:

Thanks for the dishwasher recipe using Sal Suds. I make a lot of my own homemade detergents & cleaners around the house and I use Sal Suds for hand washing dishes. I’ve not had good luck finding a recipe for a homemade dishwasher detergent that not only works well but doesn’t leave a heavy film/residue on my glassware. I’d love to be able to stop buying expensive “natural” commercial brands. Will definitely give this a try!
I’m also going to try Sal Suds for washing produce, I was using a homemade concoction of vinegar, baking soda & essential oils. The Sal Suds sound much easier & quicker.

Patti says:

By far the best product out there! I have asthma ( steroid user) and eczema extremely bad. To top it off I own a cleaning company that deals with people and pets who have extreme allergies. I use nothing but Dr. Bronner’s products in my client’s and my own home. Not only do they clean beyond any other product I have tried, they’re upfront with ingredients and made here in the USA which says a lot. Cruelty free is very important to me and not many companies can make this claim.

Lisa, Your family is going above and beyond what most do these days. For that you will always have my business and that of my clients. Great company, great products keep doing what you’re doing! God Bless for doing the right thing!

I do use salsuds in the dishwasher and for me it’s 1/2 tsp ss to 1 cup baking soda. It all goes in together and my dishes come out sparkling clean! They key is to have hot enough water. (run the hot water in the kitchen sink to drain your water line of cold water)

Chi says:

Hi, when I travel I us e Physiogel Cleanseron my skin. What do you think about it? Thank you.

MikeK says:

I am very sensitive to most SLS. I say most because only Dr Bronner’s Sal Suds don’t cause me to have a negative reaction. I tried the so called non toxic products but the SLS made me feel like my skin was burning. It can take up to a week to for reaction to wear off. Even simple dish washing was brutal for me until I found Sal Suds. It is the only cleaner I will ever use to clean my place.

Jeff says:

Thanks for the response Lisa. To add some evidence to this thread, here’s a response I got regarding another company’s (leaving out the name as they are somewhat of a competitor with Dr. Bronner) product which contains SLS:

“Thank you for your e-mail, and for your patience. I heard back from our research team, and they let me know that we have analyzed some of our raw materials for 1,4-dioxane by GC-MS with a detection limit of < 100 ng/g. SLS was not included in the screen due to the fact that the none of the steps in the manufacturing process for our SLS has the possibility for producing any 1,4-dioxane.

We have also tested some of our toothpastes in the "contaminant screen", which is a screen where we look for any kind of unwanted products, not only 1,4-dioxane. This contaminant test uses a technique called SPME-GC/MS (solid phase microextraction – gas chromatography coupled to a mass spectrometer) and identifies compounds by comparison with a MS library.

None of our tested products (including those with SLS as an ingredient) contained 1,4-dioxane."

I informed them of the cross-contamination issues mentioned in the Seventh Generation blurb and suggested they start testing their SLS for that reason alone.

It's good to see that their end products have tested negative for 1,4-Dioxane and is one small bit of evidence that SLS producers may have cleaned that up to some extent.

That makes 3 companies, Dr. Bronner first a foremost, from which I can now safely use products containing SLS! Any other company with an SLS product will need to give me similar confirmation that they test for unwanted chemicals in the raw materials and/or finished product!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Canem – Sorry about that. Definitely go with the castile soaps for laundry, then. Especially the unscented Baby Mild. I don’t have a good dishwasher formulation yet.

Hi Jeff – I just searched for an updated study (more recent than 2009) and haven’t found one yet. If I do find one, I’ll share it here. You are right to be careful.

Hi stephanie – Yes, I also avoid the sulphates in body care products as well. It is very drying, as you say.

All the best,

Stephanie says:

sodium laurel sulfate is very drying to my hair.. no matter if it is used in accordance with other chemicals or not. I prefer to use sulfate free shampoo.Not only because of cancer causing apprehension, but it’s just it’s a drying element

Jeff says:

This was a very insightful blog – and the comments were even more so.

Unfortunately, I still have to be concerned with any products containing SLS because of the contamination problem. Unless other companies are as upfront and careful with their ingredients as Dr. Bronner’s, their SLS might be contaminated.

I’d be interested in seeing an updated study showing if the 1,4-Dioxane contamination of SLS is still a common problem or if suppliers have cleaned up their act to keep SLS safe. Unfortunately, I assume most of them are still concerned only with profits and cutting corners will continue.

Canem says:

Thanks Lisa. I meant just as washing machine detergent, not on his skin. For now we are using your soap and vinegar in the rinse cycle and it seems to be working ok. I’m at a loss as to what non detergent product to use in the dishwasher. I’m trying to rid my house of all potential irritants out of desperation.
If you have any non SLS dishwasher fluid solutions please let me know.
Thanks so much,

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Canem – I absolutely wouldn’t use any product containing SLS on a newborn, or anyone with sensitive skin. It isn’t great for any skin and is classified as a skin irritant. Definitely read those baby product labels, because it is found everywhere, unfortunately. It’s also extremely common in toothpaste and you really have to search hard to find one without it. Two of my kids get cankersores when they use toothpaste with SLS.

Bear in mind, that my point here is that it won’t cause cancer. It still shouldn’t be in bodycare. Hope that helps!

All the best,

Canem says:

Hi Lisa, my newborn has developed severe eczema and I’ve been reading that detergents containing SLS maybe a big contributor. Despite your SLS being derived from plants, I think they all are deemed risky. Have you come across this issue before?
Signed, a desperate new mom

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Shannon – Yes, a lot of companies have jumped on the green bandwagon, but don’t have a worthwhile product to contribute. They just try to take advantage of the upswing, I guess. That is a very helpful guide from the EWG regarding the safety of products. I wish someone would do a ranking of the effectiveness of products, though. Some sort of Consumer Reports, independent evaluation. Perhaps some day!

I was very interested in their findings on dishwasher products. I’m going to look into them, also.

All the best,

Shannon says:

Good afternoon!

Lisa, thank you so much for this entry. I was having a hard time sorting through all of the information and contradictions with SLS. What you are saying makes sense. Body care vs home care. The new Cleaning Guide is up on the Environmental Working Group’s Web site: It’s very interesting, and disappointing. A lot of my “green cleaners” who shall remain nameless were a huge disappointment. I have determined the only “safe” thing to do is use my Dr. Bronner’s for everything! We just need to figure out how to use it in the dishwasher! 😉

mhmoore says:

I have used my sal suds spray in dishwasher, I spay the dishes , silverware, pots…etc then put vinegar in the rinse compartment, seems to work really well ( used at my grand daughters, I handwash)

Lisa Bronner says:

Hey, everyone! Somehow I’ve missed the comments on this post – so I’ll address even the ones from over a year ago!

Sal Suds as Shampoo – I, too, have used Sal Suds as shampoo. Regularly, I use the castile soap, but recently I used way too much coconut oil as a hair mask, and I needed the Sal Suds to get it all out. (I’m still working on the amount to use for a hair mask – I’ll let you know. It won’t be much, that’s for sure!) Afterwards, my hair did look and feel great. If you do compare the ingredients in Sal Suds to conventional shampoos, there is a lot of overlap. Conventional shampoos and Sal Suds are both detergents, and if for some reason my only two options for hair washing were Sal Suds and conventional shampoo, I’d choose the Sal Suds every day.

Hi Ilias – The presence of 1,4 Dioxane in Seventh Generation products was revealed via a third party test of most, if not all supposedly organic and natural products – both body care and house cleaning. Sal Suds was included in that study, as well. Seventh Generation, as well as other popular cleaning brands, turned up positive for 1,4 Dioxane. Sal Suds did not. We also do our own quality control of raw materials and finished products to make sure that what they say they contain is all that they contain – no more, no less.

Here is the original study:
Here is the follow up study a year later:
You can also search the Organic Consumer’s Association ( for “1,4 Dioxane” to find other studies of available products.

All the best,

Kim says:

Hi, i.just rediscovered dr bronner soap as well. I used it to wash my hair and was amazed that my curls were soft and bouncy with no conditioner, not dry and frizzy like they usually are after I shampoo. I wish I had tried it years ago.

Also, in reply to the post regarding natural moisturizer and makeup…I see it had been two years since your post, but if you are still looking I have completely natural moisturizers and cosmetics. Boost my web page if you like.

Thanks for a wonderful soap!


dianna says:

hi – i just wanted to point out that we have very hard water here and that i have found that sal suds HIGHLY diluted (1 drop in a liter of water!) works great for my hair. When i tried using any of the liquid soap and even the bar soap they dried out my hair even with a vinegar rinse. The sal suds (if very diluted) works great! I am allergic to almost everything and haven’t used SLS shampoo or anything else with SLS for years because I was afraid of it. But after finding sal suds I am amazed to find my clothing finally residue free again after years of trying soap nuts and also home-made laundry soap even with borax added and a vinegar rinse. Now my clothing is actually clean and my hair is shiny!!!

We love sal suds!

ilais says:

hi lisa,

while there is likely no cancer risk from SLS itself, please read this small blurb i just came across on the SEVENTH GENERATION brand website, discussing a change from using SLES in their dishwashing liquid to SLS, in order to protect against carcinogenic byproducts from SLES. after they switched, they found the SLS (from numerous sources) to be contaminated due to processing issues in factories they relied upon. check it out:


“For the past two years, we’ve been on a mission to reformulate our hand dishwashing liquid to remove the small amounts of 1,4-dioxane that had been present as a byproduct of a reaction called ethoxylation. Our previous hand dishwashing formula used a surfactant system based on sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES), which can be a source of 1,4-dioxane contamination. Even though we made sure the levels of this contaminant were extremely low (less than 5 ppm), we were committed to providing our consumers a product without any 1,4-dioxane, a possible human carcinogen.

Our search led us to a surfactant system based on Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) which does not cause 1,4-dioxane formation. This switch from SLES, which is a plant-derived surfactant that is modified with petroleum, to the plant-derived SLS increased the renewable carbon content of the dish liquid by 27%. Patting ourselves on the back, we eagerly awaited the test results that would confirm our success. To our dismay, 1,4-dioxane was detected — despite the fact that none of the chemicals associated with it are present in the new formula. Even worse, the levels we were finding with SLS were almost as high as the levels we had found with SLES. We tested just the SLS; we used different suppliers. The results were always the same.

Diving into this further, we discovered that SLS is often formed on the same equipment used to make SLES. If chemical suppliers don’t clean their reactors properly between batches, there can be cross-contamination with 1,4-dioxane.

We took these findings to our own supplier as well as others in the industry interested in addressing this. Fortunately, there are solutions. Suppliers can change their methods of working with SLES to eliminate some of the 1,4-dioxane, and they can employ better production, cleaning, and wash-out procedures to reduce the likelihood of cross-contamination. Now our hand dishwashing liquid tests do not detect any 1,4-dioxane. And we’ve gone way beyond improving the small amount of SLS we purchase every year; the research has the potential to improve all of the SLS used across the entire industry.”


i’m wondering — does DR. BRONNER’S conduct tests to make sure there is no similar contamination issue with the manufacturing/processing/sourcing of SLS for Sal-Suds?

thanks for considering my question. :>) …i really appreciate your willingness to discuss the DR. B’s products with us directly in a public forum; it’s an awesome testament to how amazing your company is (and has been) in its care for consumers.

by the way, i grew up in the late 70s and the 80s, with my family using Dr. B’s from way back then! i still use DR.B products everyday today. i’m SO grateful you guys exist.

thanks again,

Stephanie says:

While I recognize that SLS should not be in body care products, and that Dr. Bronner’s would never market its Sal Suds for body care, all of the active ingredients in Sal Suds (SLS, Coco-Betaine, Lauryl Glucoside) are the same as in almost every shampoo on the market. However, since Sal Suds doesn’t contain any preservatives, silicones or other nasty stuff, and is formulated in such a way as to not irritate the skin, I must admit that I have used it as shampoo in a pinch (not regularly, of course), and it worked just like a conventional shampoo (e.g., stripping it of all of its natural oils and leaving it squeaky clean). I felt reasonably good about using it since it didn’t contain any of the junky stuff that coats the hair or causes cancer. I still prefer (and recommend) using Dr. Bronner’s castile bar soap as shampoo, but I just thought I would mention this other use for Sal Suds!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Everyone,

The EWG site is a great starting place. It definitely points people in the right direction. Two things to keep in mind, though. First, it is a site dedicated to body care. So they are evaluating ingredients with that in mind. Any ingredient that produces irritation to the skin is going to get a red flag from them, as it should. SLS should not be in body care products. Secondly, the scope of EWG is limited. When an ingredient is listed, they are evaluating it across the board, not taking into consideration how various companies might use it. They are letting you know that there might be a problem, and you need to look into it further. Hope that helps!

Thanks for writing!

Rachel says:

My (perhaps imperfect) understanding is that SLS irritates some people’s skin and especially scalp. Sal Suds isn’t intended for anyone’s face or hair.

I check the EWG’s website a lot and I take it seriously, but I don’t accept their ratings as the gospel truth. I’ve seen ingredients labeled “0” because it wasn’t in their database and citric acid gets a “2/3”.

Karen says:

I have a violent reaction to SLS. Some people do. Nonstop sneezing, burning mouth, body aches, blisters on roof of mouth from breathing powdered carpet cleaner used in office. This chemical can build up in your system after years of exposure. Then BOOM. That’s what happened to me. I’ve never considered my self “one of THOSE allergy people”. Unfortunately, I AM NOW!!! Arrrgh. Trying to find products without SLS,Soy,Gluten or other chemicals is difficult and confusing. SLS goes by many other names too! I use and LOVE Dr. Bonners Castile soap for clothes and body and hair but need makeup and moisturizer. Any suggestions?

Pamela says:

Make your own. Go to Pinterest and you’ll find a recipe you like.

David says:

SlS is NOT safe, there r comments below and studies that prove it is not. They r just trying to promote their products which r NOT 100% organic. Bonner products r only 70% organic which makes it unsafe, it’s just ‘the lesser of 2 evils”……… Do ur own due diligence.

…SLS may not cause cancer although the EWG says it is linked to cancer, SLS is still toxic.

“According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, SLS is a “moderate hazard” that has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption.”

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi David – Thanks so much for weighing in here. I hope you don’t mind that I combined both your comments so I could address them together. It’s great to see your interest in ingredients. Everyone should be the same. You are exactly right that Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap are not certified fully organic, which requires an organic content of over 95%. This is because in the processes necessary to make soap, some minerals must be used. Minerals, since they are not grown, can never be classified as organic. Some common minerals are water and salt. In the case of soapmaking, a hydroxide mineral must be used in order to convert the oils (coconut/olive/hemp/jojoba in our case) into soap molecules. We use sodium hydroxide for the bar soaps and potassium hydroxide for the liquid. There is no other way to make true soap. Any other method results in a detergent. The percentage of mineral content needed for this reaction drops our organic content to between 90-95% organic. This range still certifies us to use the statement “Made with Organic Oils”, which you will see on the front of our packaging. Please read more about all this on the Dr. Bronners website.

Regarding the Environmental Working Group’s comments on Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), I’m not sure where you are quoting from. They give it a hazard rating of 1-2, which is “low hazard” according to their rating system, and do not list any evidence whatsoever of cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, or endocrine disruption. The few reasons it gets docked for “toxic or harmful” is because it is very drying to the skin, which can result in irritation. Perhaps this is a confusion with SLS’s cousin SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate). They have such similar names, but SLES undergoes an additional chemical reaction that can result in carcinogenic contaminants such as 1,4 Dioxane. I wrote about that in my post “Beware the -Eths”. SLS and SLES are very often confused.

David Robinson says:

Great article. I just recently rediscovered Dr Bronner’s soaps after many years. While checking out the company website, I found this blog and it is awesome. I’ll point people to it from my blog “Live Well – Live Prosperous – Live Green”. Good stuff here. Thanks for sharing.

David says:

No it is NOT a good article, total buckpucks propaganda.
Even if SLS does not promote cancer it is still toxic.
“According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, SLS is a “moderate hazard” that has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption.”

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi David – Please see my response to your concerns on your other comment. Thanks so much for reading.


Lisa Bronner

Green means life. “Going Green” is living in such a way to promote vitality and vibrancy in every sphere of life. Grab an idea to make your days healthier, simpler, and more beautiful at their core.