How to go Green with Silv: Laundry Detergent by Silvia Milanova, June 18 2014, 0 Comments

Photo courtesy of Peppysis via Flickr.

Summer is just around the corner! You may have barbeques, beach days, vacations and more daylight to look forward to, but with all the summer activities going on, you may also have more laundry to deal with. Bathing suits, beach towels and muddy, grassy clothing can really add up. So, if you find yourself doing extra loads of laundry during the summer months, read on for some green detergent options.

The thing is, traditional laundry detergent can be very toxic. And not only are you exposing yourself to these chemicals while doing laundry, but also after you put your "clean" clothes next to your skin—the body's biggest organ. And if you think the detergent you're using now is as "eco-friendly" as it claims, think again. I recently visited the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning and realized that my "safe" laundry detergent wasn't so safe after all. Even though the brand I was using is Green Certified and is sold in most grocery stores and some health food stores, the specific product I was using has an "F" on EWG's Web site. One ingredient is especially at fault: boric acid.

According to EWG, boric acid is of high concern for developmental and reproductive toxicity. But it's not the only harmful chemical found in typical, store-brand laundry detergents. Here are some other ingredients to watch out for:

  • Sodium borate
    • High Concern: developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects
    • Some Concern: skin irritation/allergies/damage, respiratory effects
  • Dimethicone
    • Moderate Concern: biodegradation
  • Fragrance (vague; could contain hundreds of harmful ingredients)
    • Some Concern: skin irritation/allergies/damage, acute aquatic toxicity, nervous system effects, respiratory effects, biodegradation
    • Disclosure Concern: non-specific ingredient
  • Formaldehyde
    • High Concern: cancer
    • Moderate Concern: general systemic/organ effects, respiratory effects
    • Some Concern: skin irritation/allergies/damage, acute aquatic toxicity
  • Colors and Preservatives (vague)
    • High Concern: general systemic/organ effects, damage to DNA, cancer
    • Moderate Concern: chronic aquatic toxicity, respiratory effects
    • Some Concern: acute aquatic toxicity, skin irritation/allergies/damage
    • Disclosure Concern: non-specific ingredient
  • Methanol
    • Moderate Concern: damage to vision
    • Some Concern: respiratory effects, skin irritation/allergies/damage
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
    • Some Concern: chronic aquatic toxicity, general systemic/organ effects, acute aquatic toxicity

These chemicals can be found in regular store brand products, as well as products that claim to be "eco-conscious", "eco-friendly", "all natural", "naturally derived", and the list goes on and on. So, watch out for these marketing gimmicks. Visit EWG's guide to see your laundry detergent's report card. Chances are, even if you think you're using a safe product from a reliable brand, the ingredients may reveal otherwise.

Here are 10 laundry detergents that have earned an overall "A" from EWG:

  • Molly's Suds Laundry Powder—I've tried this and it works great! Bonus: my sensitive skin isn't itchy after putting on clean clothes
  • Green Shield Organic Laundry Detergent, Free & Clear
  • Martha Stewart Clean Laundry Detergent
  • Seventh Generation Natural Powder Laundry Detergent, White Flower & Bergamot Citrus OR Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent Powder, Free & Clear
  • Planet Ultra Laundry Detergent, Hypo-Allergenic
  • Bronner's 18-in-1 Hemp Pure-Castile Soap, Peppermint
  • Ology 2X Laundry Liquid, Free & Clear
  • Eco-Me Laundry Soap, Emma
  • The Honest Co. Honest 4 in 1 Laundry Pods, Free & Clear
  • Berryplus Liquid Laundry Soap

As you can see, there are options out there! You can choose a safe laundry detergent from liquids, pods and powders. You can pick something with a fragrance, or if you're really sensitive to smells (or have to wash baby clothes), choose a detergent with no colors, preservatives or fragrances (aka, free & clear). You may have to try a few different things to find a product that you really like, but in the end, it's better for your and your family's health.