How clean are your clothes? Well, that would depend on your detergent. And if you’re using one of those “leading brands,” your clothes might look clean, but they’re actually infested with chemicals harmful to both you and the environment. The majority of laundry supplies – detergent, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets – are a prime example of how many chemicals the FDA allows into our homes.
As with any household cleaning product, it’s so important to read and understand the ingredients on any bottle. Anything we put on our clothes gets leached from the fabric by the moisture that our skin produces, which then in turn gets absorbed into our bodies. That – along with the fact that anything we add to our water directly affects the environment – is why using safe laundry supplies is a must. Most laundry detergents contain a dangerous mix of the following chemicals:
-Petroleum distillates (aka napthas): Petroleum products are never good for the skin. They clog your pores and block your body’s ability to excrete toxins through sweat, causing acne and other more harmful conditions. Petroleum products also contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been linked to various cancers, including scrotal, gastrointestinal, sinonasal, bladder and lung cancer. (The Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database gives it a 7 out of 10 for its toxicity rating.)
-artificial fragrances: Shown to have many toxic effects on fish and humans.
-phosphates: Stimulate the growth of certain algaes when they’re released into the environment, causing huge algae blooms and unbalanced ecosystems.
-optical brighteners: Can be toxic to fish and can cause bacterial mutations and allergic reactions in humans.
(How Toxic Is Your Average Laundry Detergent?)
I like to use Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soaps for just about everything – dish soap, laundry detergent, body wash… There are a bunch of different scents, and an unscented baby wash that is perfect for sensitive skin. There are also a bunch of other natural products out there. I just picked up a bottle of Ecos (Ecos Free & Clear) because the ingredients are 100% natural anionic coconut kernel oil based surfactant, purified water. That’s it. Simply fabulous.
Fabric softeners and dryer sheets can be nasty too. They can include such things as:
-camphor: In large doses, camphor can cause seizures, confusion, and other neurological problems. Even topical application of camphor may cause liver damage due to toxicity.
-benzyl acetate: Has been linked to cancer.
-limonene: A skin and lung irritant.
-ethyl acetate: Used to asphyxiate test animals in labs.
-benzyl alcohol: Another skin and lung irritant. Can also cause convulsions and paralysis.
-chloroform: Yep, you read it right. The stuff famous for knocking out kidnapping victims is in your dryer sheets. EWG gives it a 10 out of 10 on its toxicity rating.
-formaldehyde: Another 10 out of 10. Most commonly known as embalming fluid, formaldehyde causes cancer and full-body toxicity.
(Eco-Friendly Fabric Softeners and Dryer Sheets)
I don’t bother with fabric softeners, but I’ve heard that soaking your clothes in water with 1/2 cup of baking soda before washing helps soften clothes, as does adding 1/2 cup white vinegar to the wash (Stinky though?). And to reduce static cling, soak a cloth in hair conditioner, let it dry, then throw it in the dryer with your clothes.
Here’s my Sunday afternoon wash routine: I use either Dr. B’s Castile Soaps or an eco-friendly, free & clear brand. I’m currently using Ecos Free & Clear, which I surprisingly found at Walmart. I always wash in cold water to save energy – your clothes still get just as clean. Then I take an old sock that I’ve tied into a knot (just so I can recognize it) and drop about 20 drops of essential oil on it, then throw it in the dryer with my clothes. My current flavor is orange, a good compromise when you’re washing a guy and a girl’s clothes together. I work on a farm and my boyfriend drives a delivery truck, so adding some kind of scent is necessary.
Now that I have my pup to watch out for, I’m extra careful about what chemicals come into my home. There is no way my little man’s blanket is getting washed in formaldehyde. He’s better than that – we all are.