These days it seems like there is a detox for just about anything— we can detox our bodies with a juice cleanse, we can detox our closets with some Marie Kondo magic, and we can even detox our social media feeds with a “following” purge. And it’s all with good intention, right? Detoxing allows us to get rid of the bad, harmful or negative in our lives and replace it with the good, healthy and positive. So where does detoxing fit along the zero waste journey?

For us the answer is simple: everywhere. If you think about it, the entire commitment towards living zero waste is like one, giant cleanse. In implementing the 5R’s of zero waste, we not only rid ourselves of wasteful habits and excess stuff, but we also allow ourselves to reexamine what exactly we choose to bring back into our everyday lives, habits and products included.

When it comes to our products, there’s a lot to consider. Beyond the packaging, knowing what ingredients we should or shouldn’t be keeping in our homes and using on our bodies can be overwhelming and a tad bit confusing. We thought we’d make it easy for you to start detoxing your products with these three simple steps:

Step 1: Learn the “Dirty Dozen” Chemicals to Avoid

There are over 82,000 chemicals used in the creation of our everyday personal care and household products. Studies have shown that of these 82,000, one out eight are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins and hormone disruptors. Additionally, many products include plasticizers (chemicals that keep concrete soft), degreasers (used to get grime off auto parts) and surfactants (used to reduce surface tension in water, like paint and inks). Another study found that 80% of products contained at least one of these toxic chemicals. Can you imagine what ingredients like these do to our homes, our bodies and the environment?

Luckily, there are some great organizations doing the dirty work in uncovering which chemicals are the most important to avoid. Many environmentalists call these the “Dirty Dozen” harmful chemicals to avoid:

BHA and BHT: In moisturizer, makeup, etc. May cause cancer and interfere with hormone function. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.
Coal tar dyes: Look for P-PHENYL-ENEDIAMINE in hair dyes and colors identified as “C.I.” followed by five digitis in other products. Potential to cause cancer and can be contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain.
CYCLOMETHICONE and siloxanes: Widely used in moisturizer, makeup, hair products, etc. May interfere with hormone function and damage the liver. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.
DEA, MEA and TEA: In creamy and foaming products such as moisturizer and shampoo. Can react to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.
DIBUTYL PHTHALATE: In nail products. Toxic to reproduction and may interfere with hormone function. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.
Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives: Look for DMDM HYDANTOIN, DIAZOLIDINYL UREA, IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA, METHENAMINE, or QUARTERNIUM-15 Widely used in hair products, moisturizers, etc. Formaldehyde causes cancer. 
Parabens: Widely used in makeup, moisturizers, etc. May interfere with hormone function. Associated with breast cancer. 
PARFUM: Widely used even in some products marketed as “unscented” (often the last ingredient). Mixture of chemicals that can trigger allergies and asthma. Some linked to cancer and neurotoxicity. Some harmful to fish and other wildlife.
PEG: Widely used in conditioners, moisturizers, deodorants, etc. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. 
PETROLATUM: In hair products, lip balm/lipstick, skin care products. Petroleum product that can be contaminated with cancer-causing impurities. 
SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLES) and SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS): In products that foam such as shampoo, cleansers, bubble bath. SLES can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. SLS may damage liver. Harmful to fish and other wildlife. 
TRICLOSAN: In “anti-bacterial” products such as toothpaste, soaps, hand sanitizers. May interfere with hormone function and contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

Step 2: Do a product audit

Just like many of us do a trash audit at the beginning of our zero waste journeys, conducting a product audit can be a great way to understand what’s actually in the products we have at home. It’s also a great starting point in understanding which products to start transitioning away from. 

Doing one is rather simple, too. 

With the Dirty Dozen list in hand, cross-reference the ingredients list of your products. For those that contain harmful chemicals, make a plan to get rid of them immediately or, alternatively, use them up and plan to transition to a more natural product after.

Below is a list of starting points:

  • Kitchen:
    • Dish washing detergent
    • Hand soap
    • Air freshener
    • Cleaning sprays
    • Disinfectant wipes
  • Bathroom:
    • Shampoo & Conditioner
    • Body Wash & Bar Soap
    • Hand Soap
    • Makeup
    • Nail Polish
    • Hair styling products
    • Moisturizers
    • Shaving cream
    • Toothpaste
    • Mouthwash
    • Deodorant
    • Perfume
    • Toilet cleaning products
    • Shower cleaning products
  • Laundry:
    • Laundry detergent
    • Dryer sheets
    • Brightening products
    • Stain removal products
    • Fabric softener
    • Fabric freshener sprays

Step 3: Equip yourself with the tools to shop cleaner

When you’re ready to transition to a new product, there are some great tools you can use to help make decisions on what to bring back into your home. 

  • Shop Simply Zero: We exist to make it easy for you to find products that are good for you and the planet by vetting each and every brand we stock on our shelves. Not only do we curate products that meet our zero waste packaging standards, but we also make sure all product ingredients are toxin-free, safe for bodies and harmless to fish, wildlife and our environment. We also ensure that the brands we work with follow ethical and sustainable business practices themselves. We research and experiment first so you don’t have to. When you choose a product from our shop, you can already be sure it aligns with your new toxin-free, zero waste home values.

  • Utilize the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database: EWG's Skin Deep® cosmetic database gives people practical solutions to protect themselves and their families from everyday exposures to potentially toxic chemicals in personal care and beauty products. It lists easy-to-navigate hazard ratings for nearly 70,000 products and 9,000 ingredients on the market. 

  • Download the Think Dirty app: Think Dirty® app is the easiest way to learn ingredients in your beauty, personal care and household products. Just scan the product barcode and Think Dirty will give you easy-to-understand info on the product, its ingredients, and shop cleaner options!


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