Sustainable Saturday - What's in Your Laundry Detergent?

I recently overheard a co-worker talking about preferences when it comes to laundry detergent scents.  This conversation went so in-depth as to combination of Laundry Detergent 'A' combined with Laundry Softener 'A' was much different than Fabric Softener 'B'.

It immediately made me think of all the chemicals or scents that we expose ourselves to on a daily basis.  Laundry Detergent releases chemicals into your home when you are actually doing the laundry, contaminates the environment by places those chemicals into our waterways, but then also "off gases" after the laundry is done while residing in a closet or drawer and then "off gases" the entire time you are wearing that clothing.

An excerpt from ehow:  Harmful Chemicals in Laundry Detergent outlining the chemicals, effects, considerations and suggestions for how to make your own Laundry Detergent:


  1. Napthas, phenols, phosphates, chlorine bleach, chemical fragrance, dioxane and sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate are examples of chemicals found in laundry detergents.
  2. Environmental Effects

  3. These chemicals can kill or otherwise harm fish, are toxic to wildlife and pollute water, according to They also can stimulate algae and other marine plant growth, causing imbalance in ecosystems.
  4. Effects on Humans

  5. The chemicals in laundry detergents can irritate skin, eyes and the respiratory system; disrupt hormones; and cause allergies, according to Some, such as naphthas, have been linked to cancer.
  6. Considerations

  7. Chemicals are diluted when used to make detergent and diluted further when used in the washing machine, making the concentrations low and generally considered safe for use.
  8. Chemical-Free Detergent & Fabric Softener

  9. You can create your own, chemical-free laundry detergent at home by combining 1 grated bar of soap, 1/2 cup borax and 1/2 cup washing soda.  the simple dollar:  Making Your Own Laundry Detergent:  A Detailed Visual Guide  
  10. Add a quarter cup of baking soda to wash cycle to soften fabric
  11. Add a quarter cup of white vinegar to rinse to soften fabric and eliminate cling
We have used Environmentally-Friendly or 'Green' Laundry Detergents for many years including Seventh Generation, Method and Sun & Earth.  Not only are they 'Green', but I have always used 'Free & Clear' versions due to highly sensitive skin that both my husband and son have.  My son actually broke out into a rash once when we were visiting someone because of the laundry detergent that was used to wash the pillowcase on which he slept.

Looking for a 'Green' Laundry Detergent alternative?  

You can check out the EPA's (Environmental Protection Agency) list of safe products through its DfE Safer Product Labeling Program.  EPA allows safer products to carry the Design for the Environment (DfE) label. This mark enables consumers to quickly identify and choose products that can help protect the environment and are safer for families.  Be aware that not all companies have sought the certification.  DfE Laundry Detergents

Another good source for learning about Green Laundry Detergents and reading reviews of green detergents is ConsumerSearch.  You'll find both liquid and powder detergents from companies like Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, Arm & Hammer, Country Save, Method and Dropps including ratings as well as information on specialty detergents for babies, delicate clothing and athletic wear.

Sources:  ehow:  Harmful Chemicals in Laundry Detergent, the simple dollar:  Making Your Own Laundry Detergent:  A Detailed Visual Guide, EPA's DfE Safer Product Labeling:  Laundry Detergent and Consumer Search:  Green Laundry Detergents.

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