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  • Melissa Willis

The Dirty on Laundry Detergents

Updated: Aug 4, 2021

How safe are our everyday washing soaps and detergents?


Ever wondered why your sinuses turn on or a headache starts to form when walking down the cleaning aisle in a store? The majority of cleaning products today are filled with toxic chemicals that contribute to indoor air pollution and have been linked to allergies, headaches, cancer and autoimmunity, not to mention the harmful effects on ecosystems and waterways when flushed out of our homes.



Detergents in general, are hardly naturally occurring as most are manufactured with chemical compounds. Since laundry detergents are not applied directly to the skin, there are fewer regulations governing their ingredients and use.


Did you know that detergent manufacturers are not required to list their ingredients?


Instead, their packaging is plastered with images of perfectly folded sheets, energetic families, tropical oasis', and the nostalgia of springtime with marketing phrases that have become associated with cleanliness: “fresh smell”; “removes stains”; “for the whole family”. These alluring phrases don’t typically signal alarm bells that heavy chemicals are being utilised to clean our everyday clothes and dishes.


Greenwashing

Many detergents tout themselves as eco-friendly and non-toxic. These Greenwashing claims help a busy modern shopper make a quick decision, without taking the extra time to sieve through the detail (which is often undisclosed).


Here are some greenwashing eco-claims documented by Otter.org.au[i]:

Claim: “No Sodium Chloride”

> Found: Product contained three other types of sodium.

Claim: “Sodium lauryl sulphate-free”

> Found: Product contained Sodium coco sulphate, which is basically the same thing.

Claim: “Plant-based”

> Found: Product contained one plant-based essential oil. All other ingredients were minerals.

Claim: “Free of harsh detergents”

> Found: Contained Sodium coco sulphate – basically an SLS

Claim: No negative environmental effects

> Found: Ingredients listed vaguely with words like ‘degreasers’ and ‘surfactants’, making this claim impossible to assess.



Another infamously good greenwashing find is PERSIL’s ProClean “Sensitive Skin” by blogger: Seriously Sensitive To Pollution.


Source: https://seriouslysensitivetopollution.org/2019/11/06/persil-just-stop/

It appears the brand has made some changes recently to their formation by removing fragrances from their ingredient list, but they do still contain Borax, a toxic chemical.



The reality is there is a cocktail of chemicals in our everyday laundry detergents, softeners and dishwash liquids[ii].



How to switch to a new, affordable, and reliable brand?

A good place to start is looking out for the following key phrases and then checking how your brand ranks on the EWG laundry guide[iii]:

  • Plant-based surfactant

  • Phosphate-free

  • Fragrance-Free

  • READ THE LABEL

Need a clean fabric softener?

Adding baking soda in the wash and vinegar in the rinse is ideal for many clothes.

If the water in your region is “hard”, adding a water softener eliminates the need for fabric softener, however, many people say that washing laundry with saponin plants requires no fabric softener.


Common kitchen ingredients you can use today:

  • Boiling water kills pathogens and bacteria

  • A vinegar rinse or soak to combat odour and stains

  • Spray a diluted mix of essential oils if you like you like a scent on your laundry

  • Baking soda is perfect for gentle and basic washing needs, and ideal for baby clothes


Top Tips for more eco-friendly washing:

  • Wash full loads: this saves water and detergent

  • Low Temperature Washes: equally efficient and save as much as 40% on energy costs

  • Dose correctly: adding more detergent than required wont enhance the wash performance

  • Presoak: oil-stained clothing and pans, this will save extra water and detergent use

  • Purchasing concentrates: saves time and money, saves distribution cost, utilises less packaging


Top Tips for more eco-friendly washing:

  • Wash full loads: this saves water and detergent

  • Low Temperature Washes: equally efficient and save as much as 40% on energy costs

  • Dose correctly: adding more detergent than required wont enhance the wash performance

  • Presoak: oil-stained clothing and pans, this will save extra water and detergent use

  • Purchasing concentrates: saves time and money, saves distribution cost, utilises less packaging

Brands we can trust have...:

  1. improved their packaging materials to avoid the hazard of compounding microplastics in landfills;

  2. switched to sustainable usage requirements (i.e. concentrates and refills),

  3. communicate reliable and transparent information regarding ingredients,

  4. have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of both planet and people.


Check out these inspiring brands:

Why I love IDOCARE:

  • All plastic packaging from IDOCARE is made from recycled materials and are recyclable.

  • Purchasing concentrates means we use less packaging and reduce our waste.

  • Their products are 100% non-toxic, formulated from fully biodegradable ingredients, and therefore absolutely safe for family, pets and the environment.

  • Their products actually work!

  • How to order: All products can be purchased directly from their website and their bestsellers are available on Redmart!


With more brands being exposed for misleading information, formulations and recipes are constantly forced to be changed and improved. Providing the best laundry option for your family comes down to budget, convenience and performance and so the onus rests on the consumer to investigate and share our planet-and-body-friendly wins!


If you would like help in choosing a new detergent for your family, please get in touch and I can help source something for your budget and in your country!



References: [i] http://otter.org.au/green-washing-greenwashing-laundry-chemicals-microscope/ [ii] https://naturallivingfamily.com/chemicals-laundry-detergent-ingredients-dangers/ [iii] https://www.ewg.org/guides/categories/9-Laundry/?page=104

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