“If you change nothing, nothing will change”- Unknown
Are Your Cleaning Products Clean? Detox Your Laundry
American family launders about three hundred loads of clothes each year, according to a survey done by Proctor & Gamble, the laundry products we choose have a huge potential impact on our personal and collective well-being.
Cleaning products play an essential role in our daily lives. By safely and effectively removing soils, germs and other contaminants, they help us to stay healthy, care for our homes and possessions, and make our surroundings more pleasant, provided cleaning products are clean (safe) at first place.
Many years back when someone talked to me about toxic contaminants, I always thought about traffic pollution, outdoor fumes, industrial waste, garbage choked waterways. But then I learned, there is much more to it.
Majority of people spend most of their time indoors. In fact, the typical home in the US contains anywhere from 3 to 10 gallons of contaminants from glass and bathroom cleaners to garden pesticides and fertilizers. There lye many chemicals in your closets too. Wonder what? Read my articles to find out.
Doing our routine things, these days, can expose us and our families to potential dangers of toxic chemicals, like wearing toxic clothes and doing laundry with toxic detergents.
Whatever liquid or powder you’re pouring into your washing machine week after week, how do you know how safe any of these detergents are… or are not?
Laundry detergents usually contain chemicals that are dangerous to the health and irritating to the skin. A residue of these chemicals remains on clothing after it is washed. Clear evidence of this can be found in scented products, because chemical fragrances would be useless if they were simply washed out. Chemical fragrances are especially bad, and are known for aggravating asthma.
European Union has addressed this issue by enforcing legislative changes to protect sensitized consumers. 26 key fragrance allergens were identified, detergent and cosmetic products containing these chemicals above specific threshold concentrations (10 p.p.m. for leave on products; 100 p.p.m. for rinse off products) are now labelled with the relevant nomenclature. Clear product labeling would therefore allow fragrance-sensitive individuals to make an informed choice.
No such labeling requirements exist in the United States.
Listed below are a few out of twenty-four common fragrances that are added to detergents, based on a list published in July 2006 article in the journal “Contact Dermatitis”:
Amyl cinnamic aldehyde, benzyl salicylate, citral, farnesol, gamma methyl ionone and many more.
Detergent manufacturers in United States, by law, are not required to list the ingredients on labels. The information we see on the labels is just to give us a false sense of security by using commonly generic language like “Ingredients includes surfactants”.
Dr. Samuel Epstein, co-author of The Safe Shoppers Bible says, “Since 1965 more than 4 million distinct chemical compounds have been reported in the scientific literature; of these, 70,000 are in commercial production and have been completely untested or inadequately tested, which raises questions about their safety.”
Dr. Samuel Epstein is eminent toxicologist and founder of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, identified some of the new surfactants in laundry soap:
- Diethanolamine and triethanolamine are synthetic surfactants, designed to neutralize acid, are carcinogens. These are most dangerous chemicals as they are known to be hormone disruptors.
- ETDA (ethylenediaminetraacetic acid), used to reduce water hardness, can disrupt the hormones of human and wildlife.
- PEG (polyethylene glycol) made from ethylene oxide, is a potent carcinogen and slow to biodegrade in environment.
- Quaternium-15 is a surfactant and disinfectant that releases formaldehyde, a potent carcinogen.
Many of above mentioned compounds can also be found in shampoos and skin lotions.
It does not end here. Scented laundry products release toxins and many fabric softeners have harmful chemicals.
The information of “indoor chemicals” is mind boggling.
Dr. Samuel Epstein further state “There are many ways to ingest toxic household chemicals; even if we scrub the bath with the window open we would still inhale some of the fumes, and simply by holding a rag or sponge cloth doused with cleaner ensures absorption through the skin. The innocuous act of eating off plates washed with conventional detergents is potentially harmful due to detergent residues contaminating the food. Similarly, residues from washing detergents can be absorbed through the skin from clothes”.
Researcher Alfred Zam suggests “If you can’t eat it don’t breathe it.”
Many pre-war household cleaning items were made from foodstuffs e.g. vinegar, borax, lemon juice, beeswax
In fall 2011 Women’s Voices for Earth commissioned lab tests on 20 cleaning products and found that “problematic” levels of 1,4-dioxane were detected in original formula Tide detergent as well as fragrance-free Tide Free & Clear. Findings were provided to Procter & Gamble and action demanded. Company’s response was “There’s no reason to freak out. We are many, many levels of magnitude below the levels that are considered any level of safety risk,” Tim Long, a Procter & Gamble toxologist said.
If it is so, why is it so hard for the companies to label the ingredients. Is there anything to hide?
Safe Laundry Makes Home Safe. Below safe methods can be incorporated to save our skin:
- Use nontoxic laundry detergents created by green technology
- Use soap nuts (dried berries) like regular detergent. Available at health food stores, they come from a tree native to Asia. Use whole or grind them and throw them in the washing machine. They release saponin that gets in the water and helps to dissolve dirt and stains from clothes. A soap nut liquid detergent can also be made by boiling them in the water. They are 100% bio-degradable as well. Click here to see some recipes.
- Special magnates are available which can be thrown in the washing machine. When in laundry, they help to remove dirt from clothes. They don’t need to be replaced and can be used repeatedly. Learn more.
- Do it Yourself. Make your own laundry detergent. Take two cups of grated gentle soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s, mix it well with one cup of washing soda and one cup of borax. Add one fourth cup of the mixture to each load of laundry. Add white vinegar during the rinse cycle to brighten the appearance of clothes.
- If you want to make a natural detergent, borax free, learn here
- Check out this useful detergent determinant
- Check our Laundering supplies in EWG database
- Say good bye to fabric softener. Say hello to white vinegar. It softens clothes and remove sour smell from wet clothes that stay in the machine for long.
- Instead of dryer sheets, use wool dryer balls. Wool dryer balls are antibacterial, reduce drying time and reduce static cling.
- Avoid taking your clothes to a drycleaner (sorry drycleaners- welcome to organic world). Dry cleaning chemicals are heavy toxic. If you really want something to be dry cleaned, look for organic and natural dry cleaners. They are out there and deserve your business. Help them and help yourselves.
Good Riddance of Bad Chemicals
Note: We do not endorse any of the products listed above and we are not associated with them. This information is made available for health cautions readers as an alternate healthier choice. Further research is encouraged to find the best natural products.
- Killer Clothes written by Anna Maria Clement, PhD, NMD, LN and Brian R. Clement, PhD, NMD, LN