Preserving the Environment

Which Common Product Should You Wash Out of Your Laundry Room?

November 7, 2014
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Which Common Product Should You Wash Out of Your Laundry Room?
The Environmental Protection Agency found that gases from certain ingredients in bleach could be a threat to human health. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
There's no way to know what ingredients are in that bottle of detergent.

Go down the laundry aisle at your local supermarket and bottle after bottle of detergent will evoke images of open fields, spring flowers or even a tropical fruit fiesta. Despite the lovely pictures, we all know there’s really nothing natural about these chemically-ridden liquids and powders.

The scary part is that cleaning products are not legally required to list their ingredients, so there’s no exact way to find out what’s being used on our clothing or what’s being washed into the waterways. However, we do know that there are a slew of chemicals in detergent that are as toxic as they are difficult to pronounce.

The Environmental Protection Agency found that ingredients in bleach, such as sodium hypochlorite, dichloro-isocyanurate and nitrogen-trichloride, “can form hazardous gases” and “may form toxic gas” and is “a threat to human health,” respectively. The agency also found that alkylphenol ethoxylates, the chemical found in fabric softener, has “high toxicity to aquatic organisms, and may be endocrine disruptors (compounds that adversely affect the endocrine system that controls metabolism, reproduction, and growth).”

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It’s completely unnecessary for these harmful chemicals to be a part of our laundry routine, especially since there are plenty of eco-friendly detergents on the market.

And if you have the time, you can even make it yourself. DIY laundry detergent only requires three ingredients: washing soda, borax and bar soap. This blog post from The Simple Dollar breaks down the process step by step; it explains that the homemade soap removes stains just as effectively as name-brand detergents and saves money as well.

“Using my homemade stuff, I spend $8.15 for the detergent over the course of the year,” the author explains. “Using Tide with Bleach Alternative, I spend $73.23 over the course of a year. Using my homemade detergent instead saves me $65.08 a year. Plus, it was fun to make.”

TreeHugger recently featured zero-waste blogger Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers, who just started her own company, The Simply Co. and a Kickstarter campaign to make her three-ingredient, handmade, organic and vegan laundry powder available to the masses.

“There are over 85,000 industrial chemicals out there and the majority of ones that are in use today have never even been tested for safety,” Singer says in the video below. “In fact, cleaning product manufacturers aren’t even legally required to list their ingredients on their packaging, so we really have no clue what’s in them.”

So while it’s important to have clean clothes, for the sake of our health and the planet’s health, let’s all try to wash them more responsibly.

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