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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Lisa says:

**Edit to my last comment/question I also wanted mention we have hard water so using castile soap for cleaning isn’t an option for us. I do use it in the shower though. Just wanted some clarification on the safety and if rinsing is needed for Sal Suds with the little one and dog. Thanks again!

Lisa Bronner says:

Sal Suds sounds like a great option for you. It’s great on clothing stains as well, which are abundant with kids and pets!

Lizette says:

Do you recommend this product to clean the supermarket (no food) now in covid time??

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lizette – I’m not sure if you’re asking about cleaning packaging and such on purchases from the supermarket, or cleaning the supermarket itself. To help prevent the spread of germs on household surfaces, the CDC recommends a two-step process of cleaning then disinfecting. For cleaning, they are recommending a general household cleaner or detergent and water prior to the second step of disinfection. Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soaps and Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner can be made into a household cleaning spray by combining ¼ c. of the Castile OR 1 Tbsp. of the Sal Suds in 1 qt. of water in a spray bottle, with an optional 20 drops of Tea Tree essential oil. Detergents and soaps, including our Pure-Castile Soap and Sal Suds, work effectively by attaching to dirt, germs, and grime and rinsing them away, leaving clean surfaces behind. Dr. Bronner’s soap products are effective cleaners but are not disinfectants since they do not contain a pesticide and do not kill, but instead remove germs, dirt and grime from surfaces. Disinfectants are chemicals used on hard surfaces and are registered with the EPA. For more information on the CDC’s recommended disinfectants and more advice on household preparedness, please visit

Lisa says:

Hello Lisa, my name is Lisa as well. Good name! 🙂 I have a question regarding Sal Suds. You mentioned before that Sal Suds doesn’t need rinsing (such as on the floor / counter tops / kitchen table) but stated that Sal Suds works by rinsing germs and bacteria down the drain rather than killing them since it’s not antibacterial. If I don’t run a rinse cycle with only water on my floors and don’t rinse my counter tops / kitchen table and let them air dry as suggested .. will this not remove germs and/or leave residue of SLS/oils on my surfaces?

You mentioned to let them air dry in a previous post as well as stating germs are “washed/rinsed” away. We have a little one who likes to put everything in her mouth, including her hands of course and we have a dog as well. I want to make sure I am using the products correctly.

Also I can’t get my hands on any tea tree oil.. does Sal Suds remove germs/bacteria well enough on its own? Even cleaning up after handling raw meat?Coming from using antibacterial and disinfectants for such a long time.. it’s hard to feel comfortable. Please help, worried momma here! Thanks much.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lisa – I totally hear you! (And great name, by the way!) When you spray the Sal Suds All Purpose Spray and wipe with a damp cloth, the cloth is grabbing the Sal Suds, which is holding on to dirt and germs, and in effect, rinsing it away. This would be opposed to thinking you could just spray the surface and not wipe, which is not what any of us would do anyways. However, there are some housecleaning products on the market, I’m thinking of a tub cleaner, that advertise itself as spray and go – no wipe or rinse. Also, when it comes to hand cleaning, I get asked if you can spray the soap on your hands as a water-less hand sanitizer. In both those scenarios, the answer is no. It must be rinsed off. So, wiping the counters, mopping the floors, etc. is functionally rinsing/carrying away the Sal Suds with the dirt attached.

As far as the effectiveness without Tea Tree, yes, the Sal Suds on its own is effective. I don’t normally add the Tea Tree oil myself. Usually I do only when I need it psychologically. (That sounds weird, but as a mom, I think you know what I mean.) When I’m calm and rational, I know for sure that Sal Suds as a detergent effectively removes germs from surfaces. Even raw meat.

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Molly Madden says:

Hi Lisa,
I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE your products. I just started using Sal Suds for my laundry and am now hooked. My clothes are so much softer and so fresh. I am trying to order Sal Suds 1 gallon on your website but can’t seem to get a buy link. Are you sold out or having technical issues on buying Sal Suds directly from you?

Thank you!


Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Molly- I’m glad to hear Sal Suds is working for you! At this time we are experiencing an increased demand in several of our products and are have trouble keeping them in stock. Keep checking back on our website or check with your local natural grocery or health food store.

Karena says:

I don’t know where you live, but the health food store near me normally sells the Sal Suds only in the quart size, but they always order me in a full gallon upon request. Don’t know if it really helps with the supply problem, but you have any place near you, it may be worth asking.

Diane says:

I am just finding out that I’m highly allergic to anything that SLS and other stuff. Can I be guaranteed that this stuff won’t both my skin? Is there a chance I could get a sample before I commit to buying it?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Diane- Sal Suds, our household cleaner, does contain SLS. If you’ve found you’re allergic to it, this does not sound like the product for you. However, Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap is an excellent alternative and can be used for almost all the uses as the Sal Suds. Here are its ingredients: Water, Organic Coconut Oil, Potassium Hydroxide**, Organic Palm Kernel Oil, Organic Olive Oil, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol (**None remains after saponifying oils into soap & glycerin). Unfortunately, we do not send out samples.

Karena says:

I don’t know about the Sal Suds, but the health food store near me sells little 2oz bottles of all the different Dr Bronner castile soap varieties. I don’t remember exactly how much they are, but they’re reasonable. I have bought several for my daughter to take to school (you know, back when we still did that! 🙂 ) because her skin had a bad reaction to the school-supplied soap.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kathryn- I haven’t tackled making a GIY bubble bath myself (yet), but I know that glycerin is a common component in recipes. Add some Castile soap and ¼ cup of glycerin to the running water.

Lucas says:

SLS causes my mouth and hands to break out in a series of ulcers and rashes. Not ideal.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lucas – Absolutely. It should not be in personal care products, although it is extremely common in toothpastes, shampoos, and body washes. The connection between canker sores and SLS is documented.

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Cherie Krider says:

Hi Lisa! I have scanned thru all questions but don’t see the EWG current rating addressed. (
Text coped below…

“Known Ingredients
Ingredient Health, Environment,
and Disclosure Concerns Score:
SPRUCE OIL Some Concern: acute aquatic toxicity, skin irritation/allergies/damage, respiratory effects, developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects, damage to vision
Rated a D
SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE Some Concern: chronic aquatic toxicity, general systemic/organ effects, acute aquatic toxicity, damage to vision
COCO-BETAINE Some Concern: chronic aquatic toxicity, acute aquatic toxicity, general systemic/organ effects
ABIES (FIR) NEEDLE OIL Some Concern: acute aquatic toxicity, skin irritation/allergies/damage, respiratory effects, developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects, damage to vision. Concerns from [FORMALDEHYDE]: Some Concern: cancer, general systemic/organ effects, respiratory effects, skin irritation/allergies/damage, acute aquatic toxicity
Rated C


I appreciate you covering the SLS, but I do not see the overall EWG rating addressed. Why the D’s and C’s for the Spruce and Fir Needle oils? Does SLS come in “unscented”- though I know oils are not fragrance, their source could still raise concern.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Cherie- Because essential oils are very potent, they have to be used carefully and with caution. This concern is likely why the EWG rates all EOs with a C. The concentration of essential oils in all of our products is low.

Amanda Hosler says:

SLS always makes my scalp itch and I get dandruff! I can’t buy any shampoo/ conditioner with it in there , nor can I use Sodium coco sulfate. The Sal suds is a great product and doesn’t give me a head ache like other cleaners. Thank you for addressing my concerns bout your SLS .

Bonnie Briesmeister says:

This is my only clothes soap. They come clean , and no left behind residu. Clothes have as nice smell to them. I dont use any fabric softner and they have as nice smell th o them. Give this product a 10. I’m sold.

D. Garbato says:

Does Sal’s kill odors as well as bleach, like if I clean my cat’s litter box or toilet w it? And does it kill germs/bacteria as well as bleach? Thank you.

Gina says:

Ok, agree, sls is not carcinogenic, but it helps to transfer other chemicals into your body, which might be carcinogenic. For more info about cancer factors you can read this book – net-bossorg/do-i-have-caner

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Gina- That’s right! Penetration enhancers like you’ve described are a real concern. However, I’ve not seen information that SLS is such. I’m not able to open the link you sent. Can you please provide information or resources so I can look into it?

Whitney says:

Just a question. I dont know all the chemistry. I did reada bit wherr it can help transfer other chemicals to the body but wasnt carcinogenic itself. My question then being if it is in sal suds and it doesnt have carcinogenic chemicals to be transferred does it matter in this particular product. Ive made dishsoap that works well. If it irritates my skin a bit ehh. If it carries harmful chemicals thats another issue. I could definitely see it in something like toothpaste being an issue, just dont know why it would be a carrier issue if it hasnt anything to carry. Also, we can always wear gloves. I mean we wouldnt be absorbing soap ingredients and it washes off the dishes.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Whitney- SLS isn’t a penetration enhancer, which is the industry term for what you’re describing. In addition, no other ingredients in Sal Suds would be a problem. Some more common penetration enhancers to keep an eye out for are polyethylene glycol (PEG) or propylene glycol.

Jean Z says:

I was able to bring up the book with a spelling correction: CANCER instead of CANER. We all do that every once in awhile ;>).

Tea Al says:

The majority of the research relating to SLS refers to it being a skin irritant, which has been substantiated and therefore requires all products that contain it to be tested to see the level of irritation caused by the product. This doesn’t mean that the product has been tested on people with naturally sensitive skin or people with skin conditions such as eczema that would increase the chances of irritation due to the skin allowing for more rapid absorption of the SLS.

Just because something isn’t carcinogenic doesn’t mean that you should start putting it in your products.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Tea- You’re absolutely right! Carcinogenicity isn’t the only factor to be concerned about. That’s why we don’t put SLS in our personal care products. Sal Suds is our household cleaner and not intended for body care.


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Lucy Parissi says:

Hi Lisa, Just ordered my first bottle of Sal Suds. Any advice on whether I can use a few drops in my dishwasher?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lucy- Sal Suds does an excellent job of hand washing dishes, but I don’t recommend it for the dishwasher. It is so bubbly that it can seep out of the seals on the door. The Environmental Working Group ( ranks products by ingredients, environmental impact and such. It’s a great resource for finding “greener” products. For your shiny new purchase, be sure to check out the Sal Suds Cheat at

Jeanmarie Toddd says:

Thank you, Lisa, for so patiently answering the same questions over and over about SLS and Sal Suds.
I personally love Sal Suds for cleaning. I keep a spray bottle of diluted solution (following the recommendations on the Sal Suds dilution cheat sheet) by the sink for cleaning countertops, etc. I also keep a separate spray bottle of diluted dish soap by the sink for tackling dishes. Sometimes I just spray dishes and let them sit if I can’t get to washing them immediately. I trust Sal Suds to provide some antibacterial benefit. (I feed my dog raw meat, so I have to be careful about hygiene.)
I’ve also used a diluted Sal Suds solution for mopping and other chores. I wouldn’t be without it!

Erin says:

Hi Lisa, I just wanted to say thank you so much for answering my question about Coco Betaine and Cocamidopropyl Betaine back in April. Besides the Sal Suds I’ve seen Coco Betaine in all sorts of natural shampoos and body washes and just needed to verify it was safe. You’ve cleared up my confusion and I’ll probably try the Sal Suds soon 🙂
Ps Sorry for the late reply, thought I bookmarked this page but apparently I didn’t!

Thanks again

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Erin- You are very welcome! Glad the information was helpful!

Angela says:

Hello Lisa!
As a new member of the Dr. Bronner consumer family and a very skeptical shopper, I’m excited about the ability to have our concerns addressed personally. I have been using the All One soaps for about 6 months now, having a long illness has made me extremely conscious about what I put in/on my body. I started with the Lavender, then the Peppermint and then the Almond. I’m really excited that I can use these soaps to clean everything in my home. Thank you for the chemistry lesson on sodium lauryl sulfate vs sodium laureth sulfate. As a newly certified aromatherapist, one of the areas of our studies included a strict understanding of chemo-types and variations in plant components (heavy chemistry). It has increased my ability to distinguish and discern much of the hype in all natural advertising when it comes to personal care and home care products. I appreciate the credibility you have obviously earned over the years. Thank you for a great product.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Angela- It’s always great to hear from someone who appreciates reading about chemistry, as I do enjoy writing about it. Welcome to the family!

Erin says:

Hi Lisa, thank you for this article and continueing to answer follow up questions/concerns. I knew SLS and SLES were different but everywhere online you basically hear that all sulfates are bad/toxic. Like everyone hear knows it’s so difficult to know who to trust! Trying to be healthier and ‘toxic free’ is how I discovered Dr. Bronner’s products; I have only used the Peppermint Castile Soap so far but am considering the Sal Suds as well. I do have a question though:

You mentioned a few times on here that Sal Suds contains “coco-betaine” . That is another ingredient i’m confused about. Everywhere online “coco-betaine’ is said to be shorthand for “cocamidopropyl betaine” which according to the EWG has impurtiy and enviornmental concerns.

I did find this blog/article supposedly by a chemsit that explains coco-betaine and cocomidopropyl betaine are ineed 2 seperate ingredients with different chemical structures and “cas” numbers, though I had trouble using the CAS lookup site they mentioned.

I’d really appeciate if you can clarify if they are 2 different ingredients and if so which one is actually used in Sal Suds? If it is cocomidoproly bentaine I’m not overly concered as I trust Dr. Bronner’s products to be free of impurties, however I am a little concerned about the possiblty of the ingredient being an “enviornmental toxin” according to the EWG. I know to take them with a grain of salt but still am a bit confused so any clarification would be much appreciated!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Erin- It’s great that you read labels and research ingredients! Coco Betaine and Cocamidopropyl Betaine are not the same ingredient. It is very often repeated online that Coco Betaine is merely a lazy person’s way of writing Cocoamidopropyl Betaine, but this is not the case. Cocoamidopropyl betaine is the problematic one, partially because the “amidopropyl” component indicates a compound in the middle in between the coco (from coconut) and the betaine (a nature-identical synthetic so named because it was first discovered in sugar beets). Coco Betaine is made using fairly simple chemistry and biodegrades very readily in the environment. Coco Betaine is a surfactant (cleaning agent) which boosts the foaming properties, as well as the mildness, of the Sal Suds. EWG ranks Coco Betaine (and Sal Suds) as a 1, its lowest/safest rank. Also, because Sal Suds is so concentrated, it is highly diluted when used as directed. If you still have concerns about Sal Suds, try our Castile soaps for household cleaning.

Melissa says:

Is Sal Suds safe for a vinyl luxury flooring? I know traditional cleaning products are too harsh and can dull the surface, leave soap residue, and lift the glue that adheres the vinyl to the floor.

Suzanne VanDusen says:

Hi Lisa,
I am wondering about SLS and it being a synthetic ingredient. I thought synthetic ingredients were not good for your body or in a cleaning product. Can you explain. Thank you for providing good information about your products.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Suzanne- It’s great to hear you pay attention to ingredients. Not everything synthetic is bad, in the way that not everything natural is good. The biggest risk from SLS is that for some people, it is a skin irritant because it can be so drying. SLS is so good at picking up oils that it pulls them right out of our skin. We countered this tendency by balancing it with Coco-Betaine. The Cosmetic Safety Database ( gives SLS a safety rating of 1-2, indicating that it is of very low risk. Studies have consistently shown that it is safe to use in low concentrations and in products that are meant to be rinsed off – both of which are true of Sal Suds. If you still have concerns, our Castile soaps, which do not contain SLS, can be used for both personal and household use.

Ronni Gilboa says:

? If I wash my floors, both wooden and other surfaces, with Sal suds,. is it safe for my cat? Considering she walks everywhere, including just mopped floors and is constantly grooming herself and licking her paws? Thank you?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Ronni – I haven’t had a problem using Sal Suds or any of the scented Castile soaps when cleaning at home. Our soaps have a small concentration of essential oils, which is further diluted when used in cleaning, and then wiped off. But if you have any concerns, the Unscented Castile soap can be used for cleaning.

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Mary Beth Sellers says:

Hi, I’ve also sent a message via the contact page before I saw this page that is directly for SALSUDS. After researching Sodium Laurel Sulfate, I found the following link to be concerning as it mentions “The substance is toxic to aquatic organisms. It is strongly advised not to let the chemical enter into the environment. ” as well as “Routes of exposure
The substance can be absorbed into the body through the skin and by ingestion.

Effects of short-term exposure
The substance is irritating to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. ”. Here is the link
Granted this is from April 2008, however my concern is the rinse off is going down the drain and how it can be effecting the environment.

If you can send me articles or links that will prove this incorrect it will be much appreciated.

Thank you!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Mary Beth – Thank you for reading labels and being conscientious with the products you use. As a company, Dr. Bronner’s is committed to environmental responsibility and sustainability. As one measure of this, many of our soap products, including Sal Suds, our household cleaner, have been tested for highest level of biodegradability by Eurofins, one of the world’s top-ranking environmental labs. The Environmental Working Groups (EWG) rates SLS as hazard score of “one” – that rank indicating very low toxicity to health and the environment ( You may also find this SLS research helpful: The SLS is diluted in the Sal Suds formula, and because Sal Suds is two times more concentrated than traditional detergents, it should always be highly diluted for use (about 1 ½ tsp. per gallon depending on use). I would consider Sal Suds a better alternative to many conventional cleaners. The EWG gives Sal Suds a hazard score of “one” ( SLS can be irritating to skin, which is why it should be avoided in personal care products. Our Castile soap products, which do not contain SLS, are a great alternative to Sal Suds. Castile soap can be used for personal care and household cleaning. See my blog post with its uses and dilutions.

Tammi says:

RE: “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.”

Dr. Mercola disagrees:

“SLS has also been linked to nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are potent carcinogens that cause your body to absorb nitrates, which are known to be carcinogenic as well. According to one article by Greenfeet,16 at least one study linked SLS to nitrate absorption. The Greenfeet article states:

‘A study cited in the Wall Street Journal (November 1, 1988) linked SLS to cataracts and nitrate absorption (nitrates are carcinogens—or cancer causing substances). Apparently, this absorption occurs when the SLS becomes contaminated with NDELA (N-nitrosodiethanolamine) during processing. This contamination comes about as a result of SLS coming into contact with any number of chemicals including TEA (triethanolamine), which is a commonly used ingredient in shampoos as a detergent.’

So, the SLS combines with the TEA, resulting in NDELA, which is a nitrosamine and a recognized carcinogen. The biochemistry is very complex due to the “chemical cocktail” that is your shampoo or hand wash. When these chemical ingredients come into contact with each other, all sorts of molecular bonds begin to form and new and unintended chemicals are produced. Unfortunately, some of these unintended chemicals are nitrosamines. As the above article points out, there is no way the FDA can possibly test all of the combinations of chemicals available, in every unique blend. So, while the individual ingredients may be considered safe, once you mix them up into a brew, all bets are off. Just because SLS doesn’t contain nitrogen, doesn’t mean it can’t GET a nitrogen from the chemical soup and bond with it to form deadly nitrosamine.”

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Tammi – Good on you for reading up and educating yourself on personal care products and ingredients. This particular article raises the issue on lack of oversight in cosmetics and highlights the prevalence of toxins and other carcinogens in cosmetics. Unfortunately, the article stumbles upon the common confusion between two different ingredients, SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate). You see this repeatedly throughout the article when it says “SLS/SLES”, as though they are the same thing. These two are not. SLES has gone through an additional process called ethoxylation SLS does not go through this process. The article indicates a lack of understanding about this distinction, as seen here, “The real problem with SLES/SLS is that the manufacturing process (ethoxylation) results in SLES/SLS being contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogenic by-product,5 which will be discussed in more detail later.” While it is very true that ethoxylation creates 1,4 Dioxane, it is not true that SLS is ethoxylated. Only SLES is. The article also mistakenly warns that mixing SLS with Triethanolamine (TEA) creates nitrosamines. The SLS has no part in the creation of nitrosamines. The TEA – as well as its close cousins Monoethanolamine (MEA) and Diethanolamine (DEA) – is the culprit. TEA/DEA/MEA contain an amino group (as seen in the ending “amine”) and when they get ahold of nitrogen, you get a nitrosamine. However, SLS does not contain a nitrogen atom. Because TEA, DEA, and MEA so readily create those carcinogenic nitrosamines, it is very important to avoid them in all body care. Again it is not the combination of SLS and TEA that is the problem, but the TEA that is the problem.
All that being said, I absolutely agree that SLS should not be in body care products because it is an irritant to skin and mucous membranes. It’s up to us as consumers to continue doing our research, read labels and not buy personal care products containing SLS.

Toni says:

In looking at better products to use on our bodies, I recently came across an article that says SLS is being replaced with Sodium Coco Sulfate and called safer/less drying, but that it is basically the same thing. Have you looked into this? Thank you!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Toni – Yes, and it feels very much like a marketing maneuver that manufacturers are using to make the claim their product is “SLS-free.” Sodium Coco Sulfate is an almost identical ingredient to SLS and as such, it can still be drying and irritating to some. For this reason, it’s a good idea to avoid it in your personal care products.

Ivy Tiong says:

Sorry, I do have some concerns on SLS that’s in the Sal Suds. Have been reading the thread and some other articles that others have brought up. Just bought a bottle of Sal Suds, was planning to use it for dishes as suggested in the Sal Suds cheat sheet. What’s the bottom line? Is the SLS in Sal Suds safe for dish soap? Understand that it’s not suppose to be for body. But if it is ‘bad’, isn’t it not so good for washing dishes too? As we may be eating the residuals of the SLS, directly, which is worse.. right? Or doesn’t this come down to, To Each Its Own? TIA!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Ivy- Sorry to not see your question sooner. The SLS in Sal Suds is completely safe for washing your dishes and just about any other nook and cranny of your house as well. As I covered in the article, the cancer concern is completely unfounded, as verified by the Environmental Working Group, International Agency Research on Cancer and the American Cancer Society. The biggest risk from SLS is that for some people, it is a skin irritant because it can be so drying. SLS is so good at picking up oils that it pulls them right out of our skin. We countered this tendency by balancing it with Coco-Betaine. If you are still concerned, our Castile soaps contain no SLS and can be used in place of Sal Suds. You can find the Castile soap dilutions cheat sheet here:

Sydney says:

I’ve been reading this blog for quite some time but this is my first comment! So I must begin with a huge THANK YOU to Lisa Bronner for sharing all this valuable information! I hate the mainstream marketing of toxic products, but also the fear-mongering/green-washing out there…Dr. Bronner’s is the voice of truth and logic!!!!!

So now to my question. I’ve used conventional shampoos and body washes with SLS for years and they work just fine for me. Would this mean that I could use Sal Suds in the shower for similar results? I have hard water so I don’t like to use soap in the shower in order to avoid soap scum.

Sydney says:

Thank you for the reply! A couple months ago I switched to more natural housecleaning methods – the only ingredients I now use (not all together) are Sal Suds, vodka, vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils – and I’m absolutely in love with the results!
Now I’m working on converting my personal care products, so I will take your advice and try Castile soap as my shampoo & body wash (with ACV rinse). Fingers crossed that it works as well as I hope! It feels so good to rid my life of toxic, synthetic, unnecessary ingredients 🙂

Nisan Natural Living ~ Cleaning | Beautiful Chaos says:

[…] Hand Dish Soap – use lemon instead of citric acid. If you are concerned about some of the ingredients, as I was, take a look at this article! […]

Anne says:

I notice somewhere you advocate the use of microfiber cleaning cloths, which are often touted for their cleaning properties even with plain water. However, these cloths shed fibers, particularly when they themselves are washed, that do not biodegrade and are contributing to water pollution. Old-fashioned cotton cloths are much better.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Anne – Thank you for alerting me to this issue. I am looking into it and will definitely circle back around with what to do next. Since it looks like the primary source of the pollution is through their washing, I’ll check out this Guppy Friend washing bag that has been developed for washing synthetic fabrics and catching shed fibers. Cotton does work well for cleaning but is also one of the most pesticide thirsty and genetically engineered conventional crops. An organic source for that would be key as well. There is always so much to keep on top of with these daily decisions we must make.

Anne says:

Absolutely true about the pesticides! As you said, there just isn’t a simple answer,

Leah says:

Thank you for breaking SLS down! I just wanted to add one thing… While SLS isn’t a carcinogen, it is an irritant, toxic to aquatic life, and used in some pesticides:

I still use Sal’s Suds for my down and dirty household cleaning but I won’t wash my dishes with it or use it for my laundry. I don’t like the idea of flushing any amount of this down my drain regularly. Unfortunately these days we have to account for more than just ourselves when we think about our household products and no one makes it easy.

Thanks for the super informative post!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Leah – It’s great that you look so closely at the ingredients you bring in to your house. Everyone should be doing that. I totally understand your concern with SLS, and our Castile soaps can do pretty much everything you might otherwise use Sal Suds for (just not for car washing). The issue of SLS being an irritant is the prime reason why it should not be in personal care products. It irritates because it is very drying. It is very drying because it readily grabs hold of passing oil molecules. This is what makes it a great cleaner, but we don’t want to lose that many oil molecules in our skin. While we don’t notice it as much on the tougher skin of our hands, it is particularly drying on more sensitive skin, such as our face and mouth, which makes it crazy that it is so very common in shampoos (which run on to our face) and toothpaste (with some correlation to canker sores). It is this dehydrating effect that has caused one company to get approval for its use as a pesticide – a maker of a pet shampoo to kill fleas and ticks called “Dr. Dogkatz Critter Chaser”. The odd thing is, although we will never seek EPA recognition for this as a pesticide, Castile soap also happens to kill fleas and ticks, as well as other insects. Here’s the EPA info The toxicity to aquatic life is when at unnaturally high concentrations that would never happen in normal usage and is counteracted by SLS’s exceedingly fast biodegradability. SLS breaks down so quickly in our drains long before it would reach aquatic life. We have biodegradibility certificates on the Sal Suds that I am happy to email out to whomever would like to see them. Email me at

Keep up your research and let me know if I can answer further questions!

Julie Farrow says:

I appreciate all your efforts in educating about these ingredients. I am new to all this and truly my head is spinning from all the research and differences in opinion – many of which could be based on false data. Your thorough explanations for this ingredient helps my decision making… and helps my head spinning slow down.

Ann Fennell says:

Interesting discussion, but I don’t really understand the overweening concerns, considering the miniscule amount of the product used in the cleaning recipes, compared to the copius amounts of water.

Terrance says:

Am I too late to this dogfight?

I could conduct research on endless ingredients in all the products I consume. Sorry, don’t have the time. Yes, I am interested but at a certain point, I either trust or distrust the product’s maker. And if it has Dr. Bronner’s stamp of approval (after copious research, I am sure), I will accept it’s safe.

Lisa Bronner says:

Thank you, Terrance. We value our customers’ trust very highly.

Janice Wendel says:

Your Sal Suds comes into contact with our hands so, while you do not use it in your body products, it still gets rubbed into the body during normal use. I suppose you want us to wear gloves, but I prefer a more natural product that does not require body shields during usage. Why not just change to a more benign suds-producing ingredient, as other natural products have already done?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Janice – Thank you for sharing your concern. We don’t necessarily recommend using gloves with the Sal Suds unless it is drying out your hands. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate really is one of the most benign synthetic ingredients available. The Cosmetics Safety Database gives it a 1-2 in their hazard rankings (, which is almost the lowest (i.e. least hazardous) ranking they have. SLS has been super targeted by false marketing. It’s only drawback is that it can be drying to skin, which is why it shouldn’t be in personal care products. There is no other risk of harm to our bodies from it. All that being said, it is a synthetic ingredient, which is why any product that contains it is actually a detergent, as is our Sal Suds. If you’re looking for a natural product, the Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap is made entirely from pure plant oils.

Jan says:

Lisa, I’m so happy that I found your website! I’ve used Dr. Bronner’s products for decades. To be honest, I trust these products so much that I don’t even look at the ingredients. Thank you for clearing up the discrepancy between sodium LAUREL sulfate (the good ingredient) and sodium LAURETH sulfate (the bad ingredient). I would never realized there was a difference. I color my hair, and I heard that sodium laurel sulfate would be a no-no on color-treated hair; thus, I’ve bought SLS-free shampoos and conditioners. Maybe I can go back to other products that I really like, if it’s okay that they’re made with sodium laurel sulfate.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jan – I apologize that I didn’t see you comment earlier. The only issue with SLS in personal care products is that it can be drying.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Diana – I apologize for not seeing your comment from March earlier. I appreciate your in depth look into this issue. The Dr. Mercola article continues to lump together SLS and SLES, which though related have significant differences. (From the article – “The real problem with SLES/SLS is that the manufacturing process (ethoxylation) results in SLES/SLS being contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogenic by-product”) SLES is the only one of the two that undergoes ethoxylation, which is the process that produces the carcinogenic byproduct 1,4 Dioxane. SLS does not contain a nitrosamine group and therefore cannot have the carcinogenic concern. Another error in the article is the reference to the rating given to SLS by the Skin Deep database. SLS earns a 1-2 hazard score, almost the lowest possible hazard. (See SLES is the one that gets the moderate hazard score (

I know this is enough chemistry to make the head spin, but I hope this helps clear up some of your concerns.

Lisa Bronner says:

Time for true confessions, folks. It is February 9, 2017, and I have missed several months of comments for the simple reasons that things went a little crazy around here. I very much apologize. I am tackling them now for the sake of those faithful and new readers who might actually read them all. I am going to start with the most recent. Bear with me.

Sharon M Mshooshian says:

Hi Lisa,

Why si Sal’s Suds so hard to find? has a few bottles fut want 46 – 98/ for 16 and 32 oz sizes. Even Dr. Bronners’s site is out of stock. When will it be available?




All-Purpose Cleaner Spray (with Grease-Cutting Power) - Live Simply says:

[…] the fuss about? Sal Suds receives an A on the Environmental Working Group’s website. You can also read more about the big SLS debate on Lisa Bronner’s blog. If you're trying to tackle tough grease (or dirt), Sal Suds is the way to go (in my opinion). Sal […]

bridgette says:

Hi Lisa, when you say “half cup”, may I know what is the actual amount? Thanks!


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.