10 Dirty Facts about Laundry Detergents

January 21, 2013 at 4:43 am Leave a comment

10 dirty facts

Laundry Detergents are used to take away grease, grime, germs, stains, scum–but they also leave something behind.  We breathe their fumes and absorb their residues through our skin.  We send them down the drain and into the world where they affect the delicate chemistry of ecosystems. So what is the right balance?  When do cleaning agents become a greater contaminant than the dirt they are designed to clean?  And what about all those plastic bottles?!

Here are 10 dirty facts about laundry detergents that may surprise you and hopefully influence you to rethink the products you are using to clean your clothes.

1. Laundry Detergents are NOT soap. Their main ingredients are chemicals derived from petroleum. Popular laundry surfactants like nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) and linear alkylbenzene sulphonate (LAS) have been linked to disruptions in the endocrine system. Such disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and developmental disorders like ADD, sexual development problems; they can affect potentially anything hormone-related.

2. Manufacturers are not obligated by U.S. law to list all ingredients in consumer products.

3. According to studies by Clemson University show that detergents leave chemical residues on fabrics – as much as a FULL SCOOP of detergent after just 10 washings.

4. Petrochemicals and other toxins in laundry detergents are fat soluble – meaning they are easily absorbed by the skin, specially during perspiration.

5. Fragrance in detergents are made of pthalates – known to be particularly dangerous for children’s health, and has been known to cause testicular atrophy (shrinkage), infertility, ADHD, thyroid problems, diabetes and pre-diabetes.

6. Optical Brighteners do not clean. They add a film of chemical residue on clothing to make whites ‘appear’ brighter. These often contain benzene – a known carcinogen. They also irritate the skin because they are specifically designed to not rinse away.

7. Popular “eco-friendly” laundry detergents such as Seventh Generation and Ecover contain SLS and SLES – chemicals known to be toxic to humans and aquatic life. These companies list these toxic ingredients on their websites but not on their product labels.

8. In 2012, Women’s Voices for the Earth found high levels of cancer causing chemical 1,4 dioxane in Tide, Free & Gentle Detergent – a product marketed towards moms for their infant’s laundry.

9. In 1997, the FDA reported that APE’s (Ethoxylated Alcohol Surfactants) are contaminated with carcinogens. Tests conducted by the Washington Toxics Coalition found that supermarket or drugstore labels are more likely to contain APE’s.

10. The manufacturing process of these cleaners release carcinogens and toxins into the environment that are slow to biodegrade and toxic to aquatic life, damaging the gills of fish and killing their eggs. They change the surface tension of water, causing fish to absorb more pollutants like pesticides. They cause algae bloom which chokes waterways, depletes water of oxygen, and destroys aquatic habitats.

So what are you supposed to do with those mounds of dirty laundry? There are many different alternatives out there. Some use less soap. Others make their own laundry detergents with simple ingredients. Some use soap nuts. These are all better options for your health and our ecosystem. But after much trial and error over the years, our family decided that the SmartKlean laundry ball is the easiest to use and lasts for so long ( an entire year on average) that we don’t ever have to deal with making our own soap solutions or measuring. And there’s no chemistry involved. The ball simply helps the water clean.

But no matter which product you prefer to use, always inspect and research its ingredients. Find out if there is an MSDS available for the product (Material Safety Data Sheet) which normally contains a full disclosure of all the ingredients used. And also pay attention to the type of container it comes in. Of course the less plastic you use overtime, the better. We hope this article has been helpful for you.

Happy and safe cleanings! Your body and your planet will thank you.

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Entry filed under: Natural Cleaning, Smart Laundry Tips, Sustainability & Lifestyle. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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