When a friend recommended scattering dryer sheets inside our boat to ward off rats, a major red flag went up. If the rats were avoiding them like the plaque, how good can they be for our families, especially our babies?! While these dryer sheets leave clothes smelling fresh and clean, studies have shown the fresh scent coming out of our dryer vent emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Needless to say I have stopped using dryer sheets! It made me question my laundry detergent as well.
With the average family washing approximately 80 pounds of laundry per week, 17.5 billion cups of laundry detergent are being used every year in the U.S. That’s a lot of laundry detergent! One might ask what the environmental impact and health affect of so much detergent would be.
Many of the ingredients in our laundry detergents have no real purpose in cleaning our clothes. They’re merely there to make our clothes smell fresh and appear whiter or brighter.
Most of us have never even considered reading the ingredients on a box of laundry detergent. Why would we? Unfortunately there are plenty of ingredients to avoid. It’s something to definitely consider with the arrival of a new baby. However knowing what ingredients are in question and looking for them can be a challenge. Some commercial brands do not even list the ingredients! It can be difficult for consumers to make informed choices when laundry care product manufacturers are not required to list all the ingredients on their packaging. This loophole in the system lowers the chance of even discovering what chemical ingredients are in the laundry care products. Some of the top 4 offenders are:
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)/sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)- This is a foaming/cleansing agent. It’s found in many products like shampoo, toothpaste, liquid hand soap, facial cleansers hair color to name a few. In children, SLS can be an eye irritant. Even at very low levels this product can be absorbed into the skin and effect eye health. A number of studies have indicated that SLS can remain in a person’s system for up to 5 days which means if you are using shampoos and soaps containing SLS every day, it will remain a constant in your body. One of the concerns of SLS, is that it can be contaminated with dioxane.
1,4-dioxane works along with SLS. It is a trace mineral that is a byproduct of the process that makes cleansers mild and nonirritating. 1,4-dioxane is considered by the State of California to be potentially toxic to your brain and central nervous system, kidneys, liver and respiratory system and to be cancer causing.
NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate) is a surfactant, a wetting agent that helps water penetrate into the fabric of your clothing. “Surfactants” are not a particular ingredient name. It is simply listed in reference to a number of different chemicals that might be used. NPE are estrogen mimickers, hormone disruptors. When rainbow trout are exposed to NPEs, they become part male and part female! Already banned in Canada and Europe even Wal-Mart has listed NPEs as one of three chemicals they’re asking suppliers to phase out.
Phosphates enable the cleaning components of the detergent to act by preventing interference of the “hardness” of water. It is an environmental hazard acting as fertilizers in rivers and lakes and affecting aquatic life. According to the Guardian, P&G eliminated phosphates from detergents sold in Europe several years ago.
While these might be the biggest offenders www.motherearthliving.com has an easy read “Laundry Chemicals to Avoid Chart” that can help identify and avoid additional harmful ingredients found in many laundry products. You can even make your own healthy detergent. I found this great recipe on healthyblenderrecipes.com the Love it! Laundry Powder. If you’ re not that ambitious, The Environmental Working Group’s “Guide To Healthy Cleaning” made it simple by ranking the top organic laundry detergents – Laundry Detergents General Purpose That Scored an A
We all want our clothes clean, but do we really want them chemical clean? It makes you think twice about wrapping that fresh laundered swaddling blanket around your little one. Best to look for an organic plant based laundry detergent for peace of mind.
And BTW, those dryer sheets, don’t throw them out, they do work great for keeping rats away!!! 😉
5 Phases is dedicated to helping families achieve a healthier and organic lifestyle. Starting with baby, we develop products keeping both the environment and health of your family in mind. Learn more @ www.5phases.com follow us on twitter @5_Phases and like our Facebook page to help spread the word about healthy starts for infants.