Laundry detergent is toxic for your health and the environment. Plain and simple.
Your laundry room is said to be the most toxic room in your home, and for good reason. Laundry detergent contains many toxins and carcinogens that can be absorbed into your skin just by wearing your clothes, or breathing in the “fresh” laundry air. Just listing the ingredients in commercial detergents, and the effect that they have on your body and the environment, says it all! Here are some of the ingredients you are washing your clothes with.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – Chemical foaming agent known as a surfactant. Studies have linked use of this chemical to a variety of health issues from skin irritation to organ toxicity to even cancer.
- Dioxane (1,4-dioxane) – Found in two-thirds of laundry detergent brands contain this synthetic petrochemical known as a carcinogen (read this!). This is a by-product contaminant of the manufacturing process and is not required to be listed on product labels.
- Linear Alky Benzene Sulfonates (LAS) – Synthetic petrochemicals that biodegrade slowly making them an environmental hazard. Benzene may cause cancer in humans and animals.
- Nonylphenol Ethoxylate (NPE) – Petrochemical surfactant banned in the EU and Canada. May cause liver and kidney damage. Biodegradable, but biodegrades into more toxic substances. Can also be found in rivers, lakes and ground water.
- Petroleum distillates (aka napthas) – Derived from synthetic crude oil, linked to cancer, lung and mucous membrane damage.
- Phenols – Can cause toxicity throughout the entire body.
- Optical brighteners – Can be toxic to fish and cause allergic reactions in humans.
- Artificial fragrances – Linked to various toxic effects on fish and mammals, and can cause allergies, skin and eye irritation to humans.
- Phosphates – Used to prevent dirt from settling back into clothes after being washed. Can stimulate growth of marine plants that trigger unbalanced ecosystems
- Ethylene Diamine Tetraacetic acid (EDTA) – Group of compounds used as an alternative to phosphates. Found to cause reproductive and developmental effects in lab animals and does not readily biodegrade.
- Sodium Hypochlorite (household bleach) –A chemical precursor to chlorine, which is extremely toxic. Skin contact can produce caustic irritation or burns. Mixing with other cleaning products can create hazardous and sometimes carcinogenic fumes.
So as you can see, not only are we putting our own health at risk by using detergents, we are also doing irreversible damage to the environment. To name a few, artificial fragrances, EDTA, and phosphates, have been found in lakes, streams and ground water, altering ecosystems and the ability of marine species to reproduce. For more information on the effects of detergents and aquatic life, read this article.
I find it odd how I was urged to buy special, ‘baby formulated’ detergents to wash my newborn’s clothes with, because it contained less fragrance, and promised to be more gentle my baby’s sensitive skin. So with this being said, are these detergent company’s admitting that their regular, ‘adult’ version can be harsh on skin? Harsh enough to irritate a baby’s skin? And contain such a strong fragrance, that we are advised not to wash our baby’s clothes in it? What the hell is this stuff? Oh ya, and FYI, after a bit of reaseach, I found out that the leading baby-detergent brand contains exactly the same ingredients as the ‘adult’ brand.
Okay, well enough with all of the depressing facts. Good news: there IS a solution. Below is a recipe for environmentally friendly, inexpensive laundry soap that works better than the commercial brands. It sounds too good to be true, right? Well believe it. Best part is, is that it takes all of 15 minutes to make.
This laundry soap also doubles as an impressive stain remover. Thanks to my best-friend’s boyfriend, who got chocolate on her white couch, we were able to put this to the test. Even commercial brands (rhymes with pray-n-bosh) weren’t able to get the stain out!
Lastly, a pre-warning: unlike commercial laundry detergents, your clothes won’t come out smellinglike ‘a field of spring flowers on the Swiss Alps.’ This took a couple loads to get used to because I was brain-washed to believe that the strong, chemical scent of the flowers signified cleanliness. But, in fact, my clothes come out cleaner now than they ever did. They’re actually clean, not just smelling clean.
Note: this recipe a Laundry Soap, NOT a Detergent. Detergents are a chemically-derived, synthetic version of soap that contain a slew of toxins, and are used in most commercial brands because they are cheaper alternative to soap.
Homemade, Eco-friendly, Liquid Laundry Soap
1 Cup Borax, Mule 20 Team, found in the laundry detergent setion (Disinfects, fights mold and mildew, and whitens)
1 1/2 Cup Washing Soda, found in laundry aisle (Cuts grease, softens water, and whitens)
1 Bar of Soap, finely grated, Dr. Bronners or Homemade (Cuts grease and lifts dirt)
½ cup Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap (Cuts grease, and lifts dirt)
5 Gallon Bucket
Empty jugs to store laundry soap. (e.g. old milk jugs, vinegar jugs, old laundry detergent containers)
How It’s Made:
- Bring a pot of water, with a couple litres of water, to a boil of the stove.
Turn off heat and stir
in grated soap.
- Once it has dissolved, pour mixture into 5 gallon bucket, add Washing Soda and Borax, and stir again until dissolved.
- Fill the remainder of bucket with warm water (I just use tap water for this), leaving a few inches of room at the top.
- Cover the bucket and let it sit over night.In the morning, it will look slightly coagulated–give it a good stir.
- Add it slowly to clean jugs for storing (a funnel makes this process much less messy.)
- Before adding it to the washing machine, give the jug a small shake/swirl, and add about half a cup to each load (a little more for extra grimmey loads.)
– OxiClean is basically just washing soda and peroxide, so for “whiter whites, and brighter brights,” add half a cup of peroxide to the rinse cycle (there’s already washing soda in the Laundry Soap.)
– If you find your clothes are not coming out clean, it is most likely because you have hard water. To soften the water, add half a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle. Vinegar Dissolves mineral deposits in hard water, and removes any soap residue. This is why vinegar is also doubles as a great fabric softener.
– If you’d like your clothes to come out more fragrant, then make a homemade dryer sheet. To do this, cut an old T-Shirt into small squares, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to one and toss it in the dryer along with your washed load. (Commercial Dryer sheets are just as toxic as laundry detergent, so avoid using these too.)
– For tough stains, keep some homemade laundry soap in a pump bottle, and squirt directly on the stain. Let it sit for a day, then scrub it out. I use an old tooth brush to scrub out small, stained areas.