I’m so excited about Natural Laundry month here at Live Renewed, and I have so much to talk about that I hardly even know where to start! And now it’s almost the middle of the month, so we better get going!
We talked about hanging our clothes out to dry last week, but one of the most important things about laundry is the detergent. I mean, that’s the main product that we use to clean our clothing, right?
I will admit that I have struggled with the detergent aspect of switching to green and natural laundry care over the past two years.
Photo used with permission from Brittany at The Painted Parsonage
I tried homemade detergent, and while I know others who use it with great success, it just didn’t end up working for me for some reason. It’s still a great green and frugal option for those who it works for though, so if you haven’t tried making your own detergent yet, I encourage you to give it a try.
So, I had to start searching elsewhere for a good, safe and natural detergent.
Why choose natural detergent?
To begin with, let’s talk about why we should choose a natural detergent.
Conventional detergents are loaded with all kinds of ingredients, including chemicals, that we should be very wary of washing our clothes in. Clothes we then wear against our skin, wich can absorb those chemicals into our bodies. It’s just like with personal care products, our skin is not a barrier to those things, but instead a permeable layer through which chemicals and toxins pass through into our bodies.
Detergents contain several different types of ingredients that can be of concern.
Cleaning Agents, or Surfactants
Many of the cleaning chemicals in conventional detergents are petroleum based – that should be a red flag right there! They cause environmental damage to rivers and lakes, and the aquatic life that lives there, and are endocrine disruptors that can affect our metabolisms, reproduction, and growth.
Here’s a scary thing that I just learned while researching for this post – remember cosmic bowling? You know, when you wear a white shirt and bowl under black lights and your shirt glows in the dark? It doesn’t glow just because it’s a white shirt and the light is “black”, it glows because of chemical fluorescents that are in conventional detergents and are used to make clothes seem whiter and brighter than they really are!
In fact it probably isn’t really as white as it looks even in regular light, it’s just an optical illusion because of the optical brighteners. Isn’t that crazy!?
Photo from Southern Living
The problem with fragrances is that we don’t really know what chemicals are actually in them. They are often made up of phthalates, which are endocrine and hormone disruptors, which can affect both normal reproductive development and infertility, and they are also air and water pollutants.
All I know is that one time, when we ran out of our regular laundry detergent, my hubs used some left over regular scented detergent to wash a load of clothes. When I put on a shirt from that load the next day, the scent absolutely overwhelmed me – it made me dizzy and gave me a headache and I had to eventually take the shirt off!
It just shows that so many of us have become so used to these chemicals that they don’t even have an effect on us. But once you stop using the chemicals and then are exposed to them again, your body will tell you that it doesn’t like being exposed to them!
I also learned that some products listed as “fragrance-free” aren’t actually completely fragrance free because it’s not a term that is regulated. Because fragrance often has to be added to cover up the smell of the chemicals, even “fragrance-free” products still contain small amounts of fragrance in them.
One of the other problems with conventional detergents is that they aren’t required to list all of the ingredients on the label, so you don’t actually know what is in the products that you are putting on your clothes and rinsing off into the environment!
The lack of labeling on household and cleaning products is very concerning to me. How can people make informed and good choices if they don’t know what the products they are buying are made of?!
Another thing that also really concerns me is our children’s exposure to all these chemicals. Even if you love the scent of your conventional detergent, or how soft it makes your clothing, think about the effect that all these chemicals are having our our little one’s bodies which are so small and vulnerable and sensitive.
It’s especially important to choose natural laundry for the little ones in our lives.
Choosing a Natural Detergent
There is not one natural detergent that will work best for everyone. I have tried several different types of natural detergents, and to be honest, some of them did not work well at all, others have been okay, and then I’ve found a select few that I really like and will continue to use for my natural laundry care.
Choose detergents with plant based, instead of petroleum based, surfactants, without optical brighteners, or with natural whiteners like sodium carbonate and sodium percarbonate, and that are fragrance free. Or at least make sure the fragrance is derived from essential oils.
Here is my review of the different natural laundry detergents that I’ve tried over the past two years to help you determine which detergent might work best for you! You may also want to check the Good Guide as a place to start for finding a safe and natural detergent.
What do you think about all the ingredients and chemicals used in conventional laundry detergent? Why do you choose to use natural laundry detergent?
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