If you had to guess what one of the most toxic products in your cupboard is right now, would you guess “laundry detergent”? Most people wouldn’t even give laundry detergent, a product that is supposed to clean the toxins out of clothing and linens, a second thought.
In 2008, researchers at the University of Washington discovered a potent concoction of toxic chemicals in six of the leading laundry detergents in use today.
In this post, learn about 11 of the most toxic ingredients in today’s commercial laundry detergents. Then learn how to make your own safe and non-toxic detergent using natural ingredients that are safe for you and your family.
11 Toxins Lurking in Your Laundry Detergent
These 11 toxins read like a “most wanted” list of ingredients to steer clear of at any cost!
Toxin 1: Scents.
Have you ever wondered why you can often sniff out the laundry aisle at the grocery store long before you actually navigate to it? This is because today’s commercial laundry detergents are loaded with scents and fresheners.
Toxin 2: Brighteners.
So many detergent commercials tout their product’s amazing brightening power. Shirts and sheets get whiter and stains magically disappear! Unfortunately, those chemical “optical brighteners” don’t wash out and they are known to cause skin irritation.
Toxin 3: Surfactants.
The toxic duo of stain removers in today’s laundry detergents include these culprits: phenol and naphthas (petroleum distillates). Together, these two may get the stains out, but they may leave behind lung, kidney, heart and central nervous system damage.
Toxin 4: Stabilizers.
Like preservatives for detergent, stabilizers give each bottle, box or bag of detergent a longer shelf life. In exchange, we can help ourselves to a heady list of side effects including eye irritation, lung issues and skin dermatitis.
Toxin 5: Bleach.
Not every detergent includes bleach, but if you have ever cleaned with bleach, you already know how toxic it is. It can burn your lungs and your skin and corrode your organs from the inside out, especially if allowed to mix with other cleaners.
Toxin 6: 1,4-dioxane.
This common detergent additive doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue (you may also see it listed as Dioxane or Diethylene Oxide), but its side effects sure are memorable. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state it can cause damage to liver, kidneys and eyes.
Toxin 7: Nonylphenol Ethoxylate (NPE).
Inexplicably, the USA has yet to ban NPEs, although Canada and the European Union have done so. NPEs can cause severe damage to unborn babies, which has given it the nickname of “gender bender.”
Toxin 8: EDTA & Phosphates.
EDTA stands for “ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid.” This tongue-twister can kill cells, harm DNA structure and cause algae blooms and damage to fish and animals when it gets into the public water supply.
Toxin 9: Linear Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate (LAS).
Linear Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate is a synthesized version of natural petrochemicals. A cheap and plentiful surfactant, the average detergent may include up to one-third LAS, which is slow to decompose and produces other toxins such as benzene during production.
Toxin 10: Fabric softeners.
While it can feel undeniably lovely to rub a soft, warm, freshly washed towel across your skin, Scientific American asserts it becomes slightly less lovely once you learn many of the ingredients are linked to cancer, respiratory diseases and nerve damage.
Toxin 11: Sodium laurel sulfate & derivatives.
Sodium laurel sulfate, Sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium laurel sulfate are all grouped together as “sulfates,” emulsifying agents found in many detergents. They can cause skin irritation, genetic mutations, cancer, organ damage and more.
How to Make Your Own Safe Laundry Detergent at Home
So now that you’ve reviewed all 11 toxins, you are probably ready to head to your washroom to get rid of all your commercial detergents. But wait – what about that pile of dirty laundry that needs to be cleaned?
Luckily, you can do both. You can get rid of all those toxic chemicals cleverly repackaged as “cleaning” products and still do your laundry too.
Here is a list of natural, safe, non-toxic ingredients you can use to make your own laundry detergent. (By the way, making your own nontoxic laundry detergent will not only get your laundry cleaner and keep you healthier, but it will likely save you a healthy pile of green as well!)
You won’t need to use all of these ingredients for every recipe you will find here. But with these main ingredients on hand, you can mix up different recipes as you need them for different laundry challenges. You can also make a little or a lot depending on how much wash you need to do each week.
– Washing soda (any brand is fine).
– Dr. Bronner’s castile soap (liquid, flake or bar form).
– White vinegar.
– Essential oil (only if desired for safe, natural fragrance).
– Baking soda.
Recipe 1: Natural powder detergent.
You will need:
– 3 cups washing soda.
– 4 cups baking soda.
– 2 cups soap flakes.
– (optional) a few drops essential oil.
– 1 grater.
– 1 bowl.
– Sealable container.
Grate the soap flakes into the bowl first, then add in the other ingredients in order, including the essential oil if desired and then pour the mixture into the sealed container. Use 2 tablespoons per load of laundry as needed.
Recipe 2: Natural liquid detergent.
You will need:
– 4 cups boiling water (tap water is fine).
– 2 cups soap flakes.
– 2 cups washing soda.
– 2 cups baking soda.
– 2 gallons tap water.
– (optional) A few drops essential oil.
– 1 grater.
– 1 bucket or pail.
– Sealable container.
Grate the soap into the boiling water to dissolve the soap completely (keep the water simmering for a bit longer if the soap doesn’t melt right at first). Allow to cool just slightly and then pour into the pail.
Add the washing and baking soda, including the essential oil if desired and stir just to mix. Finally, add the remaining 2 gallons of water and stir to mix. Store in the sealed container and scoop out one-quarter cup per load of laundry as needed.
Welcome to Your Cleaner, Safer Laundry Day!
You are now well informed about the potential hazards and dangers hidden right in plain view on your own washroom shelf. You might also be feeling a bit overwhelmed and scared about all the times you’ve used toxins in the name of getting your clothes really clean.
But there is no sense fretting about the past. The truth is, you can start making positive, healthy changes in how you do your laundry right now – today!
Even better, the changes you choose to make will benefit your health, your family’s wellbeing and the whole planet. Also, now that you know, you can alert your loved ones and friends and perhaps they will start using safer washing alternatives too, creating an even bigger circle of safety in your community.
So don’t try to tackle the entire problem right now. Just pick one recipe and try it out. Pick one you have all the ingredients for and mix it up. Wash a load of clothes. See how it goes.
Day by day, as you need to do your wash, you can begin to make a measurable impact to detoxify and clean your family’s clothes and linens, your household and the local environment. And we promise you this – it will feel really good!