Did you know that many mainstream laundry products contain ingredients that are not safe for you?
Toxic chemicals may be lurking in your laundry detergent. Unfortunately, even high-end laundry cleaning products contain artificial fragrances and other chemical ingredients that can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions.
Read on to learn how to stay safe while keeping your clothes clean.
Unfolding the Laundry (Operation: Detergent Deep Dive)
My eyes opened to a new world when my first child was born. I was suddenly interested in knowing what ingredients were in everything inside the walls of our home—starting with our laundry detergent. I had been gifted a bottle of Dreft laundry detergent as a baby shower gift. It was high-end, smelled beautiful, and was supposedly made for my new little bundle of joy.
I was curious about what made it so special, though. Why couldn’t I wash my daughter’s clothes in the same detergent I had used for years: the least expensive brand on the shelf?
As I dug deeper, though, I learned things about our products industry and trade tricks that made me feel I was reading a deep six novel and stumbling upon the biggest conspiracy theory of the earth that was unfolding on the pages.
Only, it wasn’t a book. It was real life. And it wasn’t a conspiracy. It was simply the truth about the products’ ingredients I have used my entire life. For this leg of my journey, I credit that bottle of Dreft.
The Laundry Detergent Industry
As mentioned, I wanted the best for my daughter (like every mama), so I started learning about the ingredients in our laundry detergent. Beginning with that bargain bottle I used daily in my laundry room.
It shocked me sincerely how many ingredients were in my laundry soap. Even more so, how many terms I didn’t understand, much less could pronounce.
Laundry waiting for washing is a constant task. Especially with a newborn. But who wants clean clothes laced with unrecognizable ingredients, possibly dangerous chemicals, from their laundry detergent?
Research conducted by scientists at Washington University has shown that laundry and air-freshening detergents emit multiple chemicals. Many toxic ingredients have been found in leading store-bought brands of laundry detergents. This convenience comes at a high cost.
These ingredients are harmful to pets and humans. The chemicals will remove your skin’s oils, which can be very painful. Using traditional laundry detergent is especially difficult when someone has an allergy.
What makes it even worse is that many of these added components are unnecessary to enhance the detergent’s effectiveness or your clothes’ appearance.
Before we dive deep into the individual ingredients, I want to share a secondary negative side effect of using these ingredients.
I am referring to the environmental impact of conventional laundry detergents.
The Impact of Conventional Laundry Detergent on the Environment
The harmful impacts of trash debris on marine life have been widely reported. Yet many dangers of household items such as laundry detergent have been seldom discussed in detail. When these products are drained into the water after use, the water is absorbed into streams and oceans. For example, phosphates in laundry detergents can cause algae blooms that eat off oxygen in the water.
What’s going on after washing our clothes? While some water remains in our clothes and towels, the rest goes elsewhere. Laundry can be incredibly damaging to our health. When you wash your clothes, water goes down the drain and enters the sewage treatment plants. The water is filtered by various processes to be discharged or pumped into rivers or oceans for irrigation and industrial use. Unfortunately, these filters rarely strip the ingredients harming our oceans.
How Toxic Chemicals in Laundry Detergents Harm Humans
Not only can they cause harm to our earth and our clothing through the discoloration of fabrics over time, but some studies have also suggested that the chemicals in these detergents could lead to developmental and neurological problems in children.
Additionally, some people may experience respiratory problems, skin irritation, or other allergic reactions due to certain chemicals in their laundry detergent.
Research shows these chemicals may cause contact dermatitis, autoimmune diseases, and cancers.
When even small amounts of detergent are in children’s eyes or their mouths, they cause serious respiratory and stomach problems and may lead to death.
10 Chemicals in Laundry Detergent Ingredients to Avoid and Why
Here’s the scoop on ten laundry detergents’ most commonly used hazardous chemicals.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS/SLES)
SLS and SLE are chemicals commonly used to clean up dirt and stains on clothing. They cause irritates on the skin, eyes, and lung cells but also damage internal organs. These are commonly used surfactants that help create the foamy lather we associate with cleaning. In addition, they also contribute to environmental pollution.
Phosphates are used in some laundry detergents to help soften water and improve cleaning performance. However, they can also contribute to eutrophication, harming aquatic ecosystems by promoting excessive algae growth.
1,4-dioxane is a byproduct that can form while manufacturing certain ingredients in laundry detergents, such as SLES. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies it as a probable human carcinogen. The most dangerous chemical present in laundry detergent is 1,4-Dioxanoid. The EPA deemed this solvent to be carcino-causing in humans
Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs)
Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) are surfactants that mimic the hormone estrogen and have been shown to harm aquatic life. Some countries, such as Canada and the European Union, have banned using NPEs in certain products.
Brighteners are chemicals, such as chlorine bleach, added to laundry detergent to help make clothes appear brighter and whiter. However, they do not remove stains and may irritate some people.
You can smell it when you go to the washroom. Sometimes the nose must cover it. That perfume! You don’t need to suffer from an asthmatic condition to wear clean clothing. Fragrances and dyes are often added to laundry detergents to make them more appealing to consumers. However, they can also cause some people skin irritation or allergic reactions. The fragrance in washing machines contains over 400 chemicals, many from petroleum derivatives. We smell them when it evaporates in the air, where it emits dangerous VOC-like substances like terpenes that pollute indoor air.
Dyes are often added to laundry detergents to make them more appealing to consumers. However, they can also cause some people skin irritation or allergic reactions.
Formaldehyde is a preservative sometimes used in laundry detergents to prevent bacterial growth. Formaldehyde can cause carcinogens in laundry detergents.
It is a known human carcinogen, and exposure to formaldehyde can cause respiratory problems, skin irritation, and other health issues.
Ammonium sulfate is sometimes used as a thickener or stabilizer in laundry detergents. It is considered safe for human use but can harm aquatic life in high concentrations. If it’s not safe for the earth, it might not be safe for us in the long run.
Petroleum Dihydrate Napht
One of the most commonly found cleaning substances is petroleum dihydrate napht. Those chemicals come from crude and have caused various health issues, including inflammation, asthmatic disease, and lung inflammation.
It is important to note that not all laundry detergents contain every chemical; some brands may use alternative ingredients. Reading the label carefully and researching unfamiliar ingredients is always a good idea.
With all these potential health risks associated with laundry detergents, choosing safer and more environmentally friendly options is important whenever possible. Look for detergents that are free of harmful chemicals. You can also reduce the detergent you use by washing in cold water and only washing full loads. Remember, your choices regarding laundry can significantly impact your health and the environment. So choose wisely, and stay healthy!
And about that bottle of Dreft, it wasn’t safe after all.
Using less toxic substances is essential for improving your health.
You should not be required to do a chemical detox to wear clean clothes. Instead, be proactive and take the necessary steps to know your ingredients. Your body and the environment will thank you.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to change your laundry habits.
Washing soda is a natural ingredient for laundry detergent. You are likely dealing with a good product if listed on the label. But keep reading to be sure it is clear from the abovementioned chemicals.
Try Natural Brightening Solutions
The use of baking soda can brighten your skin without clogging your pores.
Use Natural Scents like Essential Oils
If you like your laundry to smell good and are ready to ditch artificial scents, essential oils are an excellent solution. I have found them to work best when added to wool dryer balls in the drying cycle of my laundry.
Line Dry Clothes When Possible
Line drying is the oldest drying method, and it’s the most environmentally friendly method for drying. Line drying eliminates needing electricity or gas dryers, which use significant energy and contribute significantly to our carbon footprint. Line drying also prolongs the clothes’ lifespan as it is less prone to wear. Those clotheslined will be soft and left with the scent of nature.
How We Choose the Safest Laundry Detergents
Through diligent trial and error, we searched for detergents with safe ingredients and eco-certified products, dermatology tested and free of harmful chemicals like fragrances, phthalates, phosphates, and more. I have listed a few of the best laundry detergent Brands we love below.
5 Best Laundry Detergent Brands Made in the USA with Safe Ingredients
Molly’s Suds Unscented Detergent Powder
Molly’s Suds is an eco-friendly laundry detergent brand that uses natural and safe ingredients. The company was founded in 2008 by a mother looking for a safe and effective laundry detergent for her family.
Molly’s Suds Laundry Detergent is made from natural ingredients, including sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, and natural surfactants. The company claims its laundry detergent is free from harmful chemicals such as sulfates, phosphates, chlorine, and artificial fragrances. It is also hypoallergenic, pH balanced, and biodegradable, making it safe for people and the environment.
Molly’s Suds Laundry Detergent is available in both liquid and powder forms, and they offer a wide range of scents, including unscented, lavender, and peppermint. They also offer a sports laundry detergent to remove tough stains and odors from athletic clothing.
Molly’s Suds Laundry Detergent is non-toxic and safe for children and pets. The detergent has been certified by third-party organizations such as the EPA Safer Choice program, USDA Organic program, and Leaping Bunny, which certifies that no animal testing was done during the product’s development.
The cost of Molly’s Suds Laundry Detergent varies depending on the size and type of detergent. For example, a 70-ounce bag of powder laundry detergent costs around $21, while a 32-ounce bottle of liquid laundry detergent costs around $15.
ECOS laundry detergent is an eco-friendly laundry detergent brand made by Earth Friendly Products. The company was founded in 1967 and is based in California, USA.
ECOS laundry detergent is made from plant-based ingredients, including coconut oil, natural essential oils, and enzymes. Its laundry detergent is free from harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, dyes, and artificial fragrances. It is also hypoallergenic, pH balanced, and biodegradable, making it safe for people and the environment.
ECOS laundry detergent is available in both liquid and powder forms, and they offer a wide range of scents, including lavender, lemon, magnolia, and lily. They also offer a baby laundry detergent specifically formulated for infants and children with sensitive skin.
According to the company, ECOS laundry detergent is non-toxic and safe for use around children and pets. The detergent has been certified by third-party organizations such as the EPA Safer Choice program and Leaping Bunny, which certifies that no animal testing was done during the product’s development.
Rockin’ Green Laundry Detergent is an eco-friendly laundry detergent known for being tough on stains and gentle on clothes. The company was founded in 2009 by a mother concerned about the harsh chemicals in traditional laundry detergents and wanted a safer alternative for her family.
Rockin’ Green laundry detergent is made with natural ingredients such as sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, and natural surfactants. It is free from harmful chemicals such as phosphates, bleach, optical brighteners, and artificial fragrances. It is also vegan, cruelty-free, and packaged in recyclable materials.
One of the unique features of Rockin’ Green laundry detergent is that it comes in different formulations to meet specific laundry needs. For example, the Classic Rock formulation is designed for regular washing, while the Hard Rock formulation is designed for households with hard water. They also offer a Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer, a natural laundry booster designed to remove stubborn odors and stains.
Prices range from $15-39, depending on the varietal of detergent and the package size.
BioKleen Laundry Detergent is an eco-friendly laundry detergent brand known for being gentle on clothes while tough on dirt and stains. The company was founded in 1989 and is based in Washington state, USA.
BioKleen Laundry Detergent is made from plant-based ingredients, including coconut-based surfactants and natural enzymes. Its laundry detergent is free from harmful chemicals such as phosphates, chlorine, and artificial fragrances. It is also hypoallergenic, pH balanced, and biodegradable, making it safe for people and the environment.
BioKleen Laundry Detergent is available in both liquid and powder forms, and they offer a wide range of scents, including lavender, citrus, and unscented. They also offer a sports laundry detergent to remove tough stains and odors from athletic clothing.
BioKleen Laundry Detergent is non-toxic and safe for children and pets. The detergent has been certified by third-party organizations such as the EPA Safer Choice program and Leaping Bunny, which certifies that no animal testing was done during the product’s development.
The cost of BioKleen Laundry Detergent varies depending on the size and type of detergent. For example, a 64-ounce bottle of liquid laundry detergent costs around $12, while a 5-pound bag of powder laundry detergent costs around $18.
Nood Clean Laundry Detergent is an eco-friendly laundry detergent brand known for being plant-based and free from harsh chemicals. The company was founded in 2016 and is based in California, USA.
Nood Clean Laundry Detergent is made from natural and renewable ingredients, including plant-based surfactants and enzymes.
Its laundry detergent is free from harmful chemicals such as sulfates, phosphates, chlorine, and artificial fragrances. It is also hypoallergenic, pH balanced, and biodegradable, making it safe for people and the environment.
Nood Clean Laundry Detergent is available in liquid and powder forms, and they offer a single scent option called “Fresh Cotton.” The company also offers refill pouches designed to reduce waste and save money.
Nood Clean Laundry Detergent is non-toxic and safe for children and pets. The detergent has been certified by third-party organizations such as the EPA Safer Choice program, USDA BioPreferred program, and Leaping Bunny, which certifies that no animal testing was done during the product’s development.
The cost of Nood Clean Laundry Detergent varies depending on the size and type of detergent. For example, a 64-ounce bottle of liquid laundry detergent costs around $16, while a 32-ounce bag of powder laundry detergent costs around $16.
How Can We Help?
While knowing and understanding the ingredients of our everyday products is the responsibility of the individual consumer, I know first-hand how difficult studying ingredients can be, especially if you have littles running around your feet.
ECO CRATES of America was established to help make this journey easier.
I provide resources that share all I have learned through research, trial, and error, and frankly, just living life trying to do my best to make our home safe for my children. I have learned how toxins can affect human health, and I am here for you, to share all that I have learned.
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