What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?
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Learn to read ingredient labels.

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Short of lifting an image of some toxic blue, green, pink, or red dish detergent, that doesn't foam very well, one squirt on a sponge will only wash 1 or 2 dishes, fill your house with toxic "perfume" fumes, give you a headache, and leave your hands dry at best, I decided to use a photo of how nicely our Instant Liquid Soap sudses up, on the left.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), also known as Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate (SDS), also known as Sodium Laurilsulfate, is classified as an organic compound. This is a foaming agent otherwise known as a surfactant, which comes in the form of a white powder. When mixed with water and perfumes, it acts as soap, but is detergent.

SLS is known as skin irritant, when left on the skin for too long. When you hand wash dishes with an SLS dish detergent, and your skin feels dry and irritated afterwards, it is from touching the SLS. It is possible to hand wash dishes, and not irritate your skin, by using actual soap and water.

Lauryl Glucoside is a surfactant produced from lauryl alcohol and glucose.

Sodium Coco Sulfate is a surfactant produced from coconut or palm oil

Beard and Body Soap

Saponified oil

What is soap

Soap is a slippery, sudsy cleaning fluid made by mixing an alkali solution with an oil solution, and letting it cure for a period of time.

The resulting soap, bar or liquid, is used for personal hygiene, household, farm, and industrial cleaning, essentially cleaning anything that needs to be cleaned. Soap is made from natural ingredients, meaning that there are no derivatives, synthetic or natural, in the ingredients list.

Technically, when a soap ingredients include ingredients that are derived from…the resultant cleaner is no longer in the soap category.

What is Soap Made From

Organic has 2 different definitions


When you see the word “organic”, it makes you feel as if you’ve purchased something safe and good for you. It gives the impression that you are purchasing something natural and approved by agencies, with impressive certifications, that look out for your health.

Generally, the word organic is associated with natural farming and gardening practices. It’s a label worthy term, with designated stickers to be easily spotted in a sea of products across grocery store shelves. This word litters the internet in the form of comforting advertising.

This word, organic, has a perceived aura of, “This is safe for me to use on my body and for me to eat.” But what is an organic compound?

Fruit and Vegetable Wash

Ingredients matter

Understand your soap

An organic compound, is a word in the language of chemistry. It has to do with molecule structure. An organic compound can be any compound that has a carbon-hydrogen or carbon-carbon bond.

The word organic in chemistry terms means something very different than the advertised word organic meaning safe and natural for you.

A natural compound in any form of high concentrations, that are derived (extracted and isolated) from its natural form, is not found in nature. It is derived from natural ingredients, and therefore may not be“safe”for you to eat or put on your skin.

How to Use Bar Soap

What is an ingredient derivative?

The Sugar Example

The best example I can think of is comparing sugarcane to its derivative, white sugar.

In its natural form, sugarcane is full of sweet delicious nutrition. It is loaded with antioxidants to enhance immunity, is high in calcium, magnesium, iron and other electrolytes. It contains vitamins B2, B1, C, and B6. I remember buying a piece of sugarcane in the grocery store and chewing on it.

Compare the natural form of sugarcane to its derivative, white sugar. The sucrose is extracted and refined into concentrated white granules, known as white sugar. We all know that eating a lot of white sugar is not good, and can lead to health problems.

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the difference between soap and detergent

Soap chemistry terms

Inorganic compounds lack the carbon-hydrogen and / or carbon-carbon bonds. Instead, they are either bonded with nitrogen and/or oxygen.

Carbon has an ability to “grow” and form chains with other carbon atoms. This is organic chemistry, in a simple description, so you can get a glimpse of what all of these words listed in ingredients labels actually mean.

Our Ingredients labels, include the Latin, which is a worldwide standard.

Ithaca soap Ingredients

Everything comes from the earth


Synthetic organic compounds, which can seems like an oxymoron, are derived from petrochemicals, consisting of hydrocarbons.

These are formed under pressure and high temperatures deep under the earth’s surface, like a very old compost pile. They are still naturally occurring, but not necessarily something you want to eat or wash anything with. Yet, millions of people do wash with them, and unfortunately eat them. In short, all organic and inorganic compounds are the root of all life on earth.

minimally processed is better

Does this mean it's good for you?

Andy says, “Our secret is our simplicity”.

Simple ingredients and minimal processing usually mean higher quality, in function, form, nutritional value - topically and internally.

Understanding how to read ingredient labels, will inform your purchasing decisions, ultimately increasing the quality of your life.

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