When I began my business Flower Girl Naturals I was looking for a way to offer an alternative to the chemical cleansers that are available everywhere in the bath and body industry, because I knew putting the chemicals on your skin could not be good for you. Your skin is the largest organ you have, which means whatever chemicals you are washing your clothes with in the washer and drying in the dryer is what you are wearing day and night on your skin. My intention was not to venture into Laundry Detergent, but when looking into the ingredients (which are difficult to find) it occurred to me that there must be residue left in your clothing that you then wear all day as it slowly absorbs into your skin day after day. So why does it make sense to try and take the chemicals out of your bath and body products but still have them in your clothing? We go through a lot of trouble to make sure our clothes are fresh and clean, but the very detergents that we use to make our clothes "clean" may actually be leaving them worse off than they were before we threw them in the wash. That's because most commercial laundry detergents, the common brands you find at grocery stores, are loaded with potentially toxic chemicals that could harm you, your family and the environment.
Residues of these chemicals are left on your clothes that you wear all day and night and then they are possibly absorbed by your skin and evaporated into the air where they could be breathed in.
A Typical Laundry Detergent
If you take a look at a powder or bottle of laundry detergent, you'll find that the ingredients are rather vague or not listed at all. One popular brand listed these ingredients:
Cleaning agents (anionic and nonionic surfactants)
From this list, it's hard to tell what, exactly, is even in the detergent, so here are some of the more common laundry ingredients:
Linear alkyl sodium sulfonates (LAS): These synthetic surfactants are commonly listed as 'anionic surfactants' on labels, and are one of the most common surfactants in use. During their production process, carcinogenic and reproductive toxins such as benzene are released into the environment. They also biodegrade slowly, making them a hazard in the environment.
Petroleum distillates (aka napthas): These chemicals have been linked to cancer, lung damage, lung inflammation and damage to mucous membranes.
Phenols: According to the National Institutes of Health, phenol is toxic and people who are hypersensitive to it could experience death or serious side effects at very low exposures. Plus, it is rapidly absorbed and can cause toxicity throughout the entire body. Typically, death and severe toxicity result from phenol's effects on the central nervous system, heart, blood vessels, lungs and kidneys.
One common surfactant in U.S. laundry detergents is nonyl phenol ethoxylate (this chemical has been banned in Europe, and was found to slowly biodegrade into even more toxic compounds). Studies have found that this surfactant stimulates the growth of breast cancer cells and feminizes male fish.
Optical brighteners: These synthetic chemicals convert UV light wavelengths into visible light, which makes laundered clothes appear whiter (although does not actually affect the cleanliness of the clothing). They've been found to be toxic to fish and to cause bacterial mutations. Further, they can cause allergic reactions when exposed to skin that is later exposed to sunlight.
Phosphates: These chemicals are used to remove hard-water minerals to make detergents more effective, and to prevent dirt from settling back onto clothes during a wash. A major problem with them is that, when released into the environment, they stimulate the growth of certain marine plants, which contributes to unbalanced ecosystems. Many states have banned or restricted the use of phosphates for this reason, and you may see laundry detergents advertised as "low-phosphate" or "phosphate-free."
Sodium hypochlorite (household bleach): This is a chemical precursor to chlorine, which is highly toxic and involved in more household poisonings than any other chemical. When it reacts with organic materials in the environment, carcinogenic and toxic compounds are created than can cause reproductive, endocrine and immune system disorders.
EDTA (ethylene-diamino-tetra-acetate): EDTA is a class of compounds used as an alternative to phosphates to reduce mineral hardness in water, prevent bleaching agents from becoming active before they're put in water and as a foaming stabilizer. EDTA does not biodegrade readily and can re-dissolve toxic heavy metals in the environment, allowing them to re-enter the food chain. Artificial fragrances: Many of these can be made from petroleum (see petroleum distillates above), and do not degrade in the environment. They've been linked to various toxic effects on fish and mammals, and often cause allergies and skin and eye irritation. Have you noticed that everyone seems to have allergies nowadays?
Making the hard choices: Before you put that next bottle or box of laundry detergent into your shopping cart think hard about what is best for you and your family, the companies that make these so called “detergents” are not concerned about your health or the environment at all, so it is up to you to make the “wise” choice. Unfortunately even the laundry detergents that are fragrance free or green or whatever the popular word that is used to get your attention generally still contain these ingredients; they just no longer have to list them. Ironically I legally have to list the ingredients I put into my products which I am very proud to do! We have so many customers who love our Laundry Suds, if you combine them along with a white vinegar rinse you will have the cleanest freshest clothing. Because Laundry Suds are made with our own natural soap they are very gentle on the threads of your clothing, that means the threads stay new longer. And yes, Laundry Suds can go into the new HE washers without any problem.