What is in laundry detergent? (And the natural kinds of laundry soaps)
These ads for a commercial laundry detergent claim to make your clothing fresh, clean, soft and safe, certainly safe enough for put on your baby. But for most laundry detergents, this is far from the truth.
Commercial laundry detergents, fabric softeners and other laundering products are made from a lot of synthetic and hazardous chemicals. Here are just some of them:
Phosphates – can build up in water supplies and kill marine life, causing algae growth and oxygen depletion in lakes and rivers. This could potentially destroy these ecosystems if not controlled.
Phenols – can damage lungs, heart and other major organs. The skin also absorbs phenols quickly.
Bleach – is the #1 cause of poisoning accidents in the home. It can cause a reaction when in contact with skin, and irritates eyes, nose and throat if inhaled.
Chemical brighteners – to brighten colors in clothing, is hazardous to fish when in water, can cause an allergic reaction in people.
Synthetic surfactants – gets rid of most stains, grime and dirt, natural surfactants are much safer then the synthetic versions.
Artificial Fragrances – most are irritants, especially in those who have asthma, allergies, or are sensitive. Can even affect thinking!
There have been many studies on the affects of laundry detergents, both environmentally and on human health. One study showed that when some commercial detergents are used, dangerous fumes are emitted from the dryer vents. Two of them, acetaldehyde and benzene, are carcinogenic (University of Washington). Another study showed that housewives (who commonly use household cleaning and laundry products) have a 55% higher risk for developing cancer than women who work outside the home (Hughes).
The average American uses about 30 pounds of laundry detergent each year, and at the US population at over 300,000,000 (30 x 300,000,000), that’s 9,000,000,000 billion pounds of laundry detergent used each year! And those chemicals can and will add up in our environment if we don’t make a simple change in our laundering practices. Instead of buying into the fantasy that commercial laundry products are safe, educate yourself, read the labels and use a natural alternative.
There are some great natural and safer laundry detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets on the market. Here are a few:
Made from plant based chemicals, is completely biodegradeable, hypoallergenic and non toxic. Has many different cleaning products available, including liquid and powdered laundry detergent and a natural fabric softener. Buy Here.
No petroleum is used in Mountain Green products. No harsh chemicals such as parabens, chlorine, benzenes or phosphates are used. Hypoallergenic and can be used in convnetional or high efficiency washers. Products include a detergent, fabric softener, and a biodegradable dryer sheet! Check out all products here.
Biodegradable, BPA free and it works just as well as other commerical soaps! It even comes in a large recycled container, so less plastics are used. Water soluble so less water is needed. Available in liquid and powdered form. Check it out here!
Nellie’s natural laundry products make natural cleaning very easy. Their detergents are in the form of super consentrated, biodegradable nuggets that you just throw in the wash. Hypoallergenic and chemical free. Has many other laundry and cleaning products as well. Check em’ out!
Also check out The soapberry as a natural detergent to learn about the soap nut or soapberry, a natural detergent that grows on trees!
Of course, you can always MAKE your own laundry cleaning products. Check out my next article How to make laundry detergent (and other homemade recipes).
For other ideas on green cleaning and green cleaning products check out my Environmentally Friendly Cleaners post.
Hughes, J. (2004). “The Hazards of Household Cleaning Products” Share Guide, http://www.shareguide.com/hazard.html
University of Washington. “Scented laundry products emit hazardous chemicals through dryer vents.” ScienceDaily, 24 Aug. 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2012.
Walling, E. (2010) “Your Laundry Detergent may be Hazardous to Your Health” http://www.naturalnews.com/029580_laundry_detergent_chemicals.html