Why I Don’t Buy Kleenex

by Merissa on April 28, 2012

in Green Living

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I was at the grocery store a few years ago during the time when I started really looking into labels when I decided to check out the box of Kleenex I was buying. Actually I think the "ingredients" list just caught my eye while I was putting it into my cart.

Ingredients? On a Kleenex Box?

Yes, seriously.

Here is a list of the ingredients in the "anti-viral" Kleenex Brand tissues. Citric acid (derived from corn) I'm guessing comes from a nice harvest of GMO corn and even though isn't going to hurt you (unless you have a corn allergy!) it has no place in your facial tissue. The second ingredient on there (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) is known to:

It has been shown to irritate the skin of the face with prolonged and constant exposure (more than an hour) in young adults. SDS may worsen skin problems in individuals with chronic skin hypersensitivity, with some people being affected more than others. In animal studies SDS appears to cause skin and eye irritation. Wikipedia

Yeah, that's something you want in your facial tissue...

Here are the ingredients in the "regular Kleenex with Aloe". First ingredient is mineral oil, here's what that'll do to you:

Petrochemicals contain neurotoxins which damage the nervous system. Mineral oil forms a film on the surface of your skin that can not be absorbed, thereby blocking the pores and the skin’s natural respiration. It traps dirt and bacteria and blocks the absorption of vitamins/minerals/botanicals that may be in a product. John Hopkins University named mineral oil in cosmetics and moisturizers as the number two cause of aging (first being direct exposure to sun). It may also cause allergic reactions and dryness, as well as promote acne and other skin disorders. The Chalkboard Mag

Then we have Ceresin, Steryl Alcohol, Isoporpyl Palmitate:

Isopropyl palmitate can cause skin irritations. IPP use, especially in products that also contain synthetic alcohol and isopropyl alcohol, can cause a number of potential skin problems, including acne and dermatitis. EHow

Dimethicone, Tocopheryl Acetate, Cocoa Nucifera Oil, and Aloe Vera Extract. Those last 3 ingredients aren't nessecarily bad for you but the few few ingredients pretty much off set that don't you think? Personally, that's a few too many chemical ingredients in something I plan to use on my face.

So what do we buy instead? I'll either purchase Marcal, 7th Generation, or my personal favorite, Green Forest.

Green Forest Facial Tissues have no extra ingredients and are:

  • 100% Recycled Paper
  • Minimum 40% Post-Consumer Recycled Content
  • Soft & Absorbent
  • Economical to Buy
  • Whitened Without Chlorine
  • Hypo-Allergenic
  • Unscented

Now that's what you want in a tissue! Something that does not have all those extra chemicals to irritate your skin and face. All least that's what I prefer, instead of adding extra irritants to my face to like to be able to get them off!

What do you use for facial tissue? Have you even thought about ingredients in facial tissue before?

Learn more about thrifty and natural living!

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8:00 am

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michelle Reeves Burk April 28, 2012 at 8:23 am

Wow! I think I’ll switch too!


2 Rebecca Jolley April 28, 2012 at 8:31 am

How do you find the ingredient list? I normally buy store brand as most others our out of the budget. My box just says contains no powders, perfumes or lotions no idea what it might contain.


3 nancy carl April 28, 2012 at 8:31 am

So if all those nasty things are in facial tissues , what nasty chemicals are in toilet paper ?


4 Merissa April 28, 2012 at 8:36 am

I think I might have to investigate that next!


5 Sydra April 28, 2012 at 9:49 am

I was wondering about TP too. I rarely remember to by kleenyx so we typically blow on TP…


6 Little House on the Prairie Living April 28, 2012 at 8:38 am

I checked around on a few different drugstore websites like Drugstore.com. Not all of them list ingredients but a few do, they make it hard to find!


7 Chandra Faulkner April 28, 2012 at 8:47 am

my daughter and i both have super sensitive skin and regular tissue will practically take the skin off our noses during cold season. for that reason i’ve been buying the super soft ones with all the aloe and crap in them. not any more!! thank you!


8 Rebeca @ The Average Parent April 28, 2012 at 8:58 am

tissues with aloe have always bothered my skin….so we just buy plain old regular Kleenex without any of the fancy stuff. There’s no extra ingredients and nothing to worry about irritating your skin.


9 Susan McClellan Plotts April 28, 2012 at 9:05 am

wow. did not know that! used cloth diapers, and cloth napkins; guess it’t time to back to Handkerchiefs!


10 Mel Free April 29, 2012 at 9:39 am

Susan..I agree..I don’t use paper towels, paper napkins, but I do use toilet paper!..I am going to look into using cloth wipes & putting them into a baby used diaper container!I can remember reading an article about this & how she made the wipes out of old flannel, herself.You just wet them with warm water, before using… She had a family of 6 kids & their biggest cost was toilet paper & the buying & stocking of it..she said she loves the cloth wipes! Also..I think cloth hankies would do the trick, nicely! πŸ™‚


11 Tracy April 28, 2012 at 9:18 am

At what point would we consider returning to cloth tissues (i.e. handkerchief) and completely eliminating the problem? I understand it isn’t as “sanitary” as disposable anything, but it’s something to think about. Reduce, reuse, recycle, right?


12 Tanya April 28, 2012 at 10:16 am

My concern with recycled Kleenex (any recycled tissue) is that they are often made from used till receipts and contain BPA as a result. I’d like to know which recycled ones (if any) are BPA free. We use cotton handkerchiefs.


13 Merissa April 28, 2012 at 10:18 am

I’m currently in contact with Green Forest and I will make sure to ask them about that….


14 hello March 8, 2013 at 8:11 am

any updates?


15 Kellie April 28, 2012 at 10:48 am

Thank you so much. My husband gets a red irritation on his nose and cheeks. He has bad allergies on a regular basis and it just clicked that this is a contributor. I never thought to check the list of ingredients. You just can’t trust anything in the store. Thanks!


16 Justice Montgomery April 28, 2012 at 11:56 am

We use cloth tissues. I can’t justify buying a box of tissues just to throw it away…..I feel the same way about TP, but I’m not sure I could get our family to switch to cloth TP. We are spending (And flushing) about $144 a YEAR in TP, right down the drain, for a family of 7. As far as sanitation goes, if cloth diapering is sanitary enough, why shouldn’t cloth tissues or family cloth be….


17 Tabitha March 22, 2013 at 11:51 am

Hmm. I’ve never thought about ingredients in tissue or TP before, but I’m thinking the bidet attachment for the toilet is looking like a better idea.

Thanks for the “heads up.”


18 Allison April 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm

We don’t really use Kleenex. But now, I’m wondering what’s in our toilet paper because we use that instead, along with paper towels or our sleeves! πŸ™‚ My sister did just post an article earlier this week on her facebook page regarding family cloth…not sure if I’m ready for that yet.


19 Pat April 28, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I buy used flannel at yard sales, GW, or other thrift shops. I let others know when they’re going through the closets at change of seasons too.
I cut it up in small squares with pinking shears and fold them and place them into a basket for use on my nose.
They are soft and don’t make your skin chaff.
We also use these for personal wipes in the bathroom!



20 Jane April 29, 2012 at 8:39 am

That is so crazy! I never thought to look at the ingredient list on Kleenex!


21 Natalie April 29, 2012 at 10:45 am

Suddenly I like my stack of men’s handkerchiefs a lot more!!


22 charity May 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I never looked at tissue ingredients. This is insanity! I’m switching! Thanks, Merissa!


23 Audrey May 2, 2012 at 1:11 am

We always use the unscented tissues with no additives. I buy recycled ones whenever I can find them.


24 Cookie May 2, 2012 at 9:09 am

Handkerchiefs! I can’t remember the last time I used Kleenex.


25 Becky May 7, 2012 at 4:13 pm

What about regular “no frills” Kleenex? Do they have some of the same nasty stuff?


26 Merissa May 7, 2012 at 4:34 pm

I couldn’t find ingredients on regular Kleenex, the only concern I’d have with that is that it’s bleached with chlorine.


27 Beth H May 10, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Oh My GOSH. I can’t believe that there was anything harmful in Kleenex. Who Knew. Not I. Thanks so much for sharing this information.


28 Michelle June 30, 2012 at 12:23 pm

I find it kind of ironic that people refer to regular kleenex as being “sanitary” when really, aside from the bleaching/dying process, most of it is never sanitized at all. A handkerchief fresh out of the washing machine, dried in the sun, sounds cleaner and more appealing to me. I recently bought my first set of flannel handkerchiefs, and although I can’t see myself using them 24/7, they will certainly be cutting back on my consumption of tissues.


29 Merissa June 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Lol, excellent point!


30 Veronica July 2, 2012 at 4:39 am

This stuff is something I have never read.Awesome post, I really have learned by this post


31 Liz July 4, 2012 at 9:39 am

I stopped using paper tissues and paper towels a while ago. I now use only rags. I have so many old clothes, I just cut them up, wash in with the laundry and when they get used for a really gross clean up I just throw them away. Saves alot of money. I bought some special pretty little hankies to use in public.

For toilet paper, and I know this may gross some people out, and there are hygiene concerns too, I use a face cloth that is reserved for solely for that use and only for pee. I live alone so the potential to gross out a house-mate isn’t there. The cloth gets hung on a special little rack that touches nothing else and gets washed every second day. Leaving it any longer than a day and a half leads to smelliness. I live in a climate that is really dry – this may not work in humid climates. And let’s face it, men shake and drip after peeing without using T.P. and the world keeps turning.


32 Gabriella July 21, 2012 at 4:07 am

Hi,I’ve been a lurker around your blog for a few months. I love this article and your entire site! Looking forward to reading more!


33 Dala October 19, 2012 at 11:13 am

Recycled paper products can contain high levels of mineral oil. My daughter has an allergy to mineral oil that requires her to carry an epi pen. The mineral oil usually comes from the ink on the products that are recycled.


34 Brenda November 9, 2012 at 5:29 pm

thank you, thank you, thank you!
In our family and in our home, we use tissues when we have colds or allergies start acting up…either way I don’t think we need to add all these extra problems onto our other sickness.


35 Val Strande December 26, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I think good old fashioned hankie works pretty well too. πŸ™‚


36 Molly January 28, 2013 at 2:02 am

I’m in my 30’s. As a kid, all we ever had were handkerchiefs. I never thought anything of it. Somehow after starting my own family, I switched over to kleenex. As I search for ways to trim on our spending, I am thinking it is time to use some of that left over flannel to make some nice soft handkerchiefs. No cost to me, no chemicals, and less of a carbon footprint.


37 Brooke February 4, 2013 at 8:48 pm

I use tp or hankies. The tp doesn’t seem to have the tiny fuzz that irritates my nose and hankies don’t leave you nose raw by the end of you cold!


38 JasonMChicago February 25, 2013 at 11:31 am

Thanks for this. I was using regular Kleenex but still had a hunch that it is filled with junk. I just switched to cloth (cotton) and it is WAY WAY BETTER. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this years ago. The point is to get toxins out not in!


39 redacto April 13, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Now, the problem with Kleenex is that even their plain tissues are chemically treated. Since this article was written Kleenex has rolled out “Sneeze Shield”. Who knows what chemicals are in this additive to their tissues since they say it’s a “propitiatory” formula and haven’t disclosed what it’s made off. (I sent a message via their home page complaining about this (and quality issues mentioned below) and received no reply whatsoever.)

I have allergies and chemical sensitivities and am always having to blow my nose. Long ago I tried Puffs and store brand tissues and found that plain Kleenex were the least noxious to my sinuses, so I have been a loyal customer of Kleenex for decades.

Over the last several years I have become frustrated with the way the quality has declined and the tissues became thinner and thinner. Eventually I was needing two tissues for even a modest blow. I suspect that the Sneeze Shield chemical treatment of their tissues was necessary to compensate for how incredibly thin and leaky Kleenex have become.

Now, I refuse to use tissues treated with undisclosed chemicals and have tried Puffs and HEB (a grocery store chain in TX) brand. While the quality and thickness of both is way better than Kleenex I have been having trouble with unscented tissues having too much perfume in them (from scented products used in the factorys or grocery stores, I guess).

Now, I am using TP to blow my nose at home and carry folded up paper towels when I’m out. I have considered using handkerchiefs, but it really seems too messy and too much trouble.

I’d have considered trying some of the treehugger brands like those mentioned above except for the problems with recycled paper having toxins in them like some of the posts mention. What I don’t understand is how it is that I can’t seem to buy a box of unscented facial tissue without perfume in them but all the toilet tissue I have used doesn’t have any.


40 elaine May 2, 2013 at 10:03 pm

We buy these bulk kleenex
ok they are not the brand name but they serve the same purpose with out the added ingredients, and as cheap as I have found


41 Sarah W. May 4, 2013 at 4:55 pm

I think I’ll just keep blowing my nose in my old bandannas.


42 Michaelann Dahlman June 1, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Makes me glad I don’t use them! I had no idea that had “ingredients”, aside from paper. I have never tried an anti-viral one, nor one with added aloe vera or vitamin E. Like many skin lotions, they often add such a tiny amount that it is nearly useless anyway, simply because adding it to the products, makes it look & sound better, when they add it to the label.


43 Andrea June 1, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Yikes! I am usually really careful about what products I bring into my home, but I never thought twice about Kleenex! My daughter has pretty bad allergies and sensitive skin, and I wonder if Kleenex has been making it worse πŸ™ You can be sure I will be switching brands and reading labels from now on. Thanks for the info!!


44 Audrey June 1, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Lately, we’ve been using Scotties brand. I don’t see an ingredient list, the box states, hypoallergenic and no dyes or fragrance. They plant three trees for every one they use. I like this better than recycled, because of the BPA concern with recycled products. Maybe I’ll switch to cloth. I just switched to cloth napkins instead of paper towels, but so far, I’m the only one using them.


45 Wendy June 2, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Better yet, switch to cloth tissues. I cut squares of cotton flannel from fabric scraps, old flannel top sheets, hubby’s ripped flannel shirts, whatever. Trim the edges with pinking shears to reduce fraying. (ask at a fabric store or the fabric counter of a craft store if you aren’t familiar with these) They are so much softer than any paper tissues. And since you use them over and over, there’s no need to spend money buying more. Just throw them in the laundry with your weekly load of towels.


46 NativeAmerican November 6, 2013 at 10:00 am

I’m glad I don’t use Kleenex, my Grandson is allergic to corn. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll be sure to go over somemore labels.


47 Kay November 16, 2013 at 7:52 am

Great article thanks


48 Linda Haag January 10, 2014 at 6:18 am

I bought Kleenex with sneeze guard on 12/16, while visiting family out of state and began experiencing an allergic reaction, swollen, itchy eyes, I came home 12/30 and began using the tissues in the house, bought by my husband. The boxes look identical to the boxes with these chemicals. The eye swelling, itching and irratation has continued and did did not know why as I assumed I was using the older product. What a nightmare. I don’t respond well to Benadryl but have tried to use it for relief. I wrote them this morning and am awaiting a response, as i wheeze and itch and don’t want to leave the house.


49 Matilda November 25, 2014 at 9:32 am

Doesn’t anyone use hankies anymore?? I’m sure there are some, but it does save you money instead of buying tissues. πŸ˜‰


50 Dawn March 3, 2015 at 11:39 am

My 13 year old daughter has had hives on face for 2 mths. We went to several dermatologists, ER room, and for patch testing where 163 allergens were tested on her back. She came back allergic to Lanolin which has cross reactant to Stearyl Alcohol, and Cetyl Alcohol. These items are in every almost every item in some form. Her face cleared up immediately after stopping using conditioner and mascara that had these items without any medicine within days. Its been a few weeks and she got a cold. She was blowing nose and started getting hives again. I looked at product name with is a Facial Tissue brand from Great Value. It had both the Stearyl and Cetyl Alcohols. I went to the store to look at ingredients to find alternative brand/item, which I have been able to do for every product from food, to medicine, to cleaning products etc. But not ONE brand listed ingredients. I have been trying to call all the companies and they will NOT give me their ingredients. I have to just say what she is allergic to. Problem is there are 100s of other names those items fall into and I’m not going to spell 15 letters words to them with 100s of words. There are about 6-7 ingredients in facial tissue and no matter how much I argue, no one can tell me them. All I want is a safe tissue she won’t get hives with! I am going to check the 3 brands you listed, but where do you get them? I may just switch to handkerchiefs and know she is save. Like who the heck is gonna try to make facial tissue that items so secretive. Every other product has ingredients listed and I have been able to get alternatives. They just lost a good customer. We have a family of 4 with outdoor allergies and go through a ton of facial tissue a week. It’s their loss! But anyone know a facial tissue without Lanolin, Stearyl or Cetyl Alcohol in them?


51 Merissa March 3, 2015 at 12:03 pm

I usually buy my facial tissue on Amazon because that’s the only place I can find it. Although I’ve moved to using hankies for the kids because they simply like the softness better so that’s a good option too!


52 Jeanne Johnson April 17, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Citric acid is not derived from corn. Citric acid comes from oranges and lemons and such.


53 Merissa April 17, 2015 at 9:18 pm

From Wikipedia “In this production technique, which is still the major industrial route to citric acid used today, cultures of A. niger are fed on a sucrose or glucose-containing medium to produce citric acid. The source of sugar is corn steep liquor, molasses, hydrolyzed corn starch or other inexpensive sugary solutions.[10] After the mold is filtered out of the resulting solution, citric acid is isolated by precipitating it with calcium hydroxide to yield calcium citrate salt, from which citric acid is regenerated by treatment with sulfuric acid, as in the direct extraction from citrus fruit juice.”


54 aoi_neko_chan August 21, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Though I generally use tp because it’s on the wall, and the tissue box gets moved every time mom visits me, this does show that it pays to be informed. I really like chlorine bleach. I don’t mind at all if it’s used in my tp since ANYTHING THAT REMOVES COLOR IS A CHEMICAL REACTION!!!! I don’t have an allergy to this chemical and like that it’s very effective at killing stuff like HIV and AIDS. It’s why hospitals use it. After all, just because the paper was recycled doesn’t mean it was handled in a sanitary manner, so some variety of antimicrobial is just plain sensible.

As far as the other chemicals going into a daily use product? If I only have seasonal allergies, that’s really overkill. It’s over kill I have to pay for too, since each one of those chemicals cost more than plain paper, the testing needs to be paid for, the marketing for the ‘new and improved’ product needs to be paid for, and it all adds up into more than the store brand, penny by penny. So if I really wanted coco butter on my nose, why not just get coco butter and skip paying for all the other materials? And if it was a bad cold/flu? plain paper can be flushed right into a septic system as long as it’s well maintained, but all that extra stuff? Not so much. any oil will slow down the break down of paper in a septic tank, and the anti microbial agents will slow down the very thing that helps with decomposition. If it’s flushed immediately, that limits the time a harmful microbe has to become air born, but for products that have to sit in a waste bin till it’s full, the biohazard factor goes up.

And if I already have a stuffy nose, what exactly will perfume do for that? At best I won’t notice, at worst it may be the cause of the sneezing. I have truly never understood why there is perfume in a tissue to begin with. Does snot even have a noticeable smell? I mean tp and feminine products make a bit more sense since there is a possible funk one may wish to hide, but really, what does snot smell like? When we get sick, our sweat can smell bad, but snot? Has anyone ever complained with “Wow, you wreak of mucus, go shower!”?

As far as the cost of toilet paper? Did you know that many of us never learned how to use it correctly? When my niece comes over, she will use a massive pile for her tiny bottom, followed with more masses for any post wipe ickies. WE RATION HER PAPER! Seem harsh? Not when one 8 year old can go through half a roll on one poop. Till she learns self control, she can ask for paper before the bathroom trip. It saves a lot of money.

Realistically, unless you have diarrhea there is little chance of poop soaking through 3 squares, but all over America you will find toilets clogged with the masses people feel the need to use. Seriously try to tell me your last visit to a public john involved no toilets filled with nasty wet tp piles. Consider the money we could save by just feeling a bit less poop paranoid? Even with extremely cheep tp, by the time you can’t see your hand through the paper, you probably got enough.

And as far as sanitary issues: I get sick. The microbes that made me sick(or just happen to come out of my nose during hayfever season) are in the paper product or cloth I used to clean it up. While I am sick, I am likely not using soap and water and electricity to launder. All these things also cost money, and soap costs more if you pay for specialty eco friendly varieties because it’s a specialty product, but not necessarily because it costs more to make. It goes in a bin. Now I get well and can either handle all these microbe filled cloths while I sort my wash, or tie up a garbage bag, or flush. Maybe it was just allergies, maybe it was one of those microbes that dies quickly without body heat, or maybe it’s one of the extra nasty illnesses that you can reinfect yourself with repeatedly because your body doesn’t really develop a resistance to that strain. Since most of us don’t have the equipment to check, we can find out the hard way on laundry day. I think I’ll aim for paper that’s ONLY paper instead.


55 EricTN October 4, 2015 at 5:31 pm

I was worried about an ammonia-like odor in my nasal mucus. Went so far to make an appointment with my Dr. I just realized the odor was in the Kleenex tissues. I just opened another box and that same odor isn’t present, or at least not as obvious. Yechhh.


56 Liz January 26, 2016 at 8:25 pm

I am so glad I found this!!! I’ve been struggling with dermatitis around my nose and mouth on and off for YEARS! I had previously thought it was my makeup and while I’m sure that was some of it, it just dawned on me that it could be the Kleenex so I did some digging and sure enough it’s a thing. I’m hoping switching brands will clear this up quickly. Thanks for the helpful info!


57 Jennifer Shipley April 28, 2016 at 2:00 pm

I found your page when looking for information on whether some Kleenex contains latex and I’ve feeling a good ramble coming on. I have severe latex allergy, among other allergies. I didn’t even realize they listed their ingredients. Thank you for posting this because it is a real eye opener. As far as sodium laurel sulfate (and all the other ones: sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium….) is concerned, it’s in all of our shampoos, liquid soaps and toothpastes on the market. The only shampoo I have been able to find in typical drug store that doesn’t have any of the sulfates in it is a neutrogena one, and it’s really a bargain too when you compare it to something from the salon. Unfortunately the salon ones have fragrances that trigger me, but the Neurtrogena one works for me. πŸ™‚ There is no longer any toothpaste I can find at Walmart or Fred Meyer or Walgreens that doesn’t have it in it, except for a couple medicated ones that have lots of other additives. Even Tom’s of Mains has it. Actually, I just remembered that Jason has one, but the mint burned my mouth anyway, so I had the same problem. Rembrandt used to have one, but they stopped making it, which was a huge blessing in disguise for me. It led me to discover Auromere Ayurvedic Herbal Toothpaste, which scrubbed the stains off my teeth and turned them a really pretty white. No more artifical sweeteners to give me migraines. My dentist approved it. Since I’ve started using it, I’ve had the best dental cleanings EVER. My dentist even told me that my teeth are cleaner than his!!! Barely any tarter. So I’m not telling you this because I work for them. I actually am a little afraid that people might buy it all and I won’t be able to find it. Yikes. :O

But anyway. Sodium lauryl sulfate is something that we are exposed to in large quantities on a regular basis, so I hardly think a little in our kleenex is incredibly significant, unless you have a reaction to it, like me, and especially if you have already eliminated other sources of it. The mineral oil and sodium lauryl sulfate thing may explain my weird facial rash that appears out of nowhere and lasts forever and I just have not been able to figure out what caused. it. Thank you. Great Post!!!


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