Sneaky Toxin #3: “Gentle,” “Natural,” and “Free & Clear” Baby Products


I am always fascinated by how many of my clients—even the ones eating organic food, ditching plastic, and switching to natural skincare products—use Dreft to wash baby clothes. The reason is obvious: pediatricians still routinely recommend this brand, since the marketing genius that is Proctor & Gamble has successfully positioned Dreft as the safest detergent you can buy.

So What Makes Up the “Gentle” Clean of Dreft?

There is nothing gentle about Dreft detergent—it contains optical brighteners (which potentially contribute to developmental and reproductive disorders), synthetic fragrance (which contains hormone-disrupting phthalates), and dozens of other chemicals, most of which you can also find in Tide, All, and other “adult” detergents made by Proctor & Gamble.

“Natural” Brands Can Be Just As Bad

Dreft is not alone. In fact, most cleaning supplies that are marketed as baby brands contain nearly identical ingredients as the “adult” versions. Even some of the brands that advertise themselves as natural contain questionable ingredients.

For example, Babyganics sells a “mineral-based” sunscreen lotion that contains several chemical sun-blockers that are linked with infertility.

What’s extra sneaky are the brands that list euphemistic ingredient names—like “plant-based cleaning agent,” which is often code for sodium laureth sulfate, a surfactant that’s usually contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane.

So What Can You Do?

There is no way around it—you’ve got be a super informed consumer to avoid buying secretly toxic baby products. For one thing, you should seek brands that list their actual ingredients on the label—instead of vague terms “coconut-derived foaming agent” (which again could be sodium laureth sulfate).

Of course, once you know the ingredients in your favorite products, you’ll have to research them (Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database is a great place to start) to determine if they are toxic. My website,, provides free Safe Product Guides to simplify the process of sourcing truly nontoxic cleaning supplies, skincare, baby items, and more.

Please comment with questions about specific brands that you’re using–I am happy to weigh in on them and call out the sneaky stuff!

Published on: November 26, 2014
About the Author
Photo of Maia James

With a lifetime of experience in the world of natural living, Maia James is the founder and president of Gimme the Good Stuff, Inc., a free online resource that gives busy moms peace of mind by helping them easily navigate the confusing world of “natural” products.

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