Choosing natural laundry detergent will reduce the amount of chlorine, phosphates, and petroleum-based chemicals that are released into the environment and onto your skin.
Find it! Natural laundry detergent
Before you buy
The terms "non-toxic," "environmentally friendly," or any other green reference are not regulated by any agency, but used at the discretion of the manufacturer. Look for independent third-party certifications, such as Green Seal, or read the ingredients carefully. Choose products with:
- Grain alcohol, NOT toxic butyl cellosolve
- Coconut or other plant oils, NOT petroleum-based ingredients
- Plant-oil disinfectants, NOT triclosan
Choosing natural laundry detergent helps you go green because…
- You can reduce the amount of chlorine, phosphates, and petroleum-based chemicals that are released into the environment.
Traditional laundry detergents contain non-renewable petroleum-derived ingredients, the extraction and production of which have caused major environmental damage and contribute to global warming. Detergents also contain synthetic fragrances and chemical whiteners. These chemicals drain out of the washing machine and into groundwater, where they can react with other chemicals and contaminate drinking water supplies. For example, when chlorine bleach reacts with carbon molecules, it creates dioxin, a known carcinogen. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found high levels of dioxin in the San Francisco Bay in 2000, largely contributed by municipal gray water that included laundry water containing fabric-bleaching chemicals.
When the chemical ingredients in detergents enter water supplies, they also negatively impact aquatic life. Phosphates, which are used to soften water, for example, act as fertilizer for algae and encourage algae growth, which then depletes the water's oxygen supply and kills off fish and other aquatic life.
The plastic bottles used to package laundry detergents contribute to the solid waste stream and are often made of PVC which is not often accepted for recycling; less than one percent of all PVC is recycled each year.
Related health issues
Laundry detergents may contain various ingredients and fragrances that can be skin or respiratory irritants, or allergens. Certain fragrances are a health risk because they contain phthalates, which have been linked to cancer and reproductive system risks. Some detergents may include chlorine bleach. Bleach can be dangerous when combined with other cleaning products, which can result in toxic gases. Additionally bleach itself is a highly caustic skin irritant. Many detergents with added fragrances can disguise this smell, making it more difficult for you to detect.