Discover Natural Laundry Detergents and Soaps
What to Look for In Organic Laundry Detergents
Natural laundry soaps are popping up all over the market, giving the impression that they’re better for the environment. But many supposed organic laundry detergents are not backed up by verifiable claims, making the hunt for good, eco-friendly laundry solutions a little difficult to discern from the competition. But there is a way to clean-up your wash routine without putting your money behind questionably-green products.
Knowing what laundry detergent ingredients to avoid
First, you’ll want to start by examining the ingredient list on your conventional laundry detergent products (hint: if your bottles or boxes laundry detergent doesn’t come with an ingredient list, it likely has ingredients you’ll want to avoid). This is the list of chemicals to avoid that you should take when you to the store when seeking out natural laundry detergents:
- Chlorine bleach: Sodium hypochlorite, commonly known as chlorine bleach, is a highly caustic substance that can cause poisoning, skin and eye irritation, and interfere with normal development of children and fetuses. And when it enters the environment, it creates organochlorines which are linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, immune system toxicity, and reproductive health problems.(1) Additionally, when chlorine enters our water systems and combines with organic material, it creates dioxins—highly toxic substances that have been linked to all kinds of human health problems, including cancer.(2)
- Petrochemical ingredients: Most laundry soaps you’ll find on the grocery shelf will be based on petrochemical formulations which are not only bad for the planet, they also leave residues that contain toxins bad for your health.(3)
- Surfactants: Chemicals like alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) and phosphates have many health impacts, including endocrine disruption, testicular cancer, reduced sperm counts, and so on.
- Synthetic fragrances: Conventional chemicals used to add scents to laundry detergent can pollute your indoor air (and as a result, health conditions like asthma). Synthetic musks are also harmful to the environment - they make it impossible for aquatic wildlife to eliminate toxins from their systems.(4) They are also environmentally persistent and bioaccumulate in the environment, so once they’re flushed into our water systems, they stay there for years or even decades to come. (5)
- Pesticides: Some laundry detergents contain pesticides, some of which are linked to cancer, skin and eye irritation, and endocrine disruption.
- Brighteners: Many conventional laundry soaps today are made with optical brighteners that coat the surface of fabrics to reflect light, but many are derived from benzene which is a carcinogenic toxin that harms humans and wildlife.
Finding natural, eco-friendly laundry detergent alternatives
In addition to looking for eco laundry detergents that are chlorine-free, phosphate-free, fragrance-free, petrochemical-free, and based on plant-based formulas, try to find those that are hypoallergenic and concentrated so that packaging and transport emissions are minimized. You can also seek out organic laundry detergent ingredients like these:
- Natural soaps: Liquid soaps such as castile soap offer great cleaning power without the problems of petroleum-based soaps. If you have hard water, add baking soda to the wash to minimize the dulling effect these soaps can have on fabrics.
- Surfactant alternatives: Look for products made with surfactants that are based on plant-formulations, such as coconut, soy, or corn which are better for the environment.
- Natural whiteners: Instead of reaching for chlorine bleach, choose hydrogen peroxide or sodium percarbonate which both break down into nontoxic ingredients in the environment but help to whiten as effectively as bleach.
- Eco fragrances: Natural laundry detergents are often made with essential oils which add that clean aroma without the health and environmental consequences.
- DIY: Check out ecolife's homemade natural laundry detergent recipe.
To get you started, here is a list of reliable eco detergent brands that you can trust for their natural ingredients and health benefits:
You may also want to learn how to make your own natural laundry detergents. Regardless, don’t forget to think about the animals when shopping for natural laundry detergents. Many of these products are tested on bunnies and cats for allergies and toxins, but this is a cruel, unnecessary practice. To find vegan products that haven’t been tested on animals, look for the Leaping Bunny Logo or the Certified Vegan Logo to be sure that you’ve got a cruelty-free product.
1 The Laundry Room. (2007, December 7). Retrieved June 14, 2010, from Healthy Child Healthy World: http://healthychild.org/blog/comments/the_laundry_room/
5 Environmental and human health concerns relating to synthetic musk compounds, commonly used as fragrance ingredients in consumer goods. (2005, July). Retrieved June 11, 2010, from Greenpeace Research Laboratories: http://www.greenpeace.to/publications/synthetic_musks_2005.pdf