The laundry room really isn't the first room on most people's list of places to seriously clean out chemicals in their homes and be more sustainable, but it should be!
Think about it: the clothes you wear touch your skin all day long making the products you use to wash your clothes a big area you can choose to lower your toxic exposure and “green” your closet. Laundry products commonly contain chemicals that can cause reproductive problems, trigger or worsen asthma, burn or irritate your skin (especially the new pods) and have even been linked to cancer. They also harm the environment.
CHEMICALS IMPACT YOU
Laundry detergent companies have one goal: to clean clothes. They do not usually have any goals to 1) keep you healthy or to 2) protect the environment. But their choices impact you and the environment as you wash your clothes over and over and OVER again, so a few thoughtful switches to your laundry products can have some major impact.
- Laundry detergents leave residues behind on your clothing that can potentially be absorbed by your skin or their chemicals will be evaporated into the air for you to breathe into your lungs.
- The air that vents from your dryer spreads any chemicals contained in your dryer sheets.
- Your laundry room is also another place that mysterious chemicals labeled “fragrance” hang out, both in laundry detergent and those “fresh”-smelling dryer sheets! Learn more how fragrance is a catch-all word for any chemicals a company chooses to put into its products in this blog.
CHEMICALS IMPACT THE ENVIRONMENT
The chemicals in your laundry products don’t just impact your body, they also can go into the air, down the drain and into water bodies, impacting the environment.
- Detergents can have poisonous effects in all types of aquatic life if they are present in sufficient quantities! They will destroy the external mucus layers that protect the fish from bacteria and parasites, kill fish eggs and decrease procreation, and lower the surface tension of the water so that chemicals such as pesticides and phenols are more easily absorbed by the fish.
- Many chemicals are "bioaccumulative," which means they clump together, creating even stronger negative results.
WHAT'S A GIRL TO DO?
Ok, real talk. When you start looking at labels on laundry detergents, you'll see a lot of words you don't recognize and have zero shot at pronouncing correctly. You may dive in to learning the worst offenders, BUT companies aren't required to list every ingredient, so even if you check the label, you probably still aren't seeing everything. Labels are designed to mislead you, be vague, and make you think a product is better than it seems.
It. is. overwhelming. So what's a girl to do?
The good news. It's already been done for you! There is a whole team of researchers over at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) who have your back. The easiest place to start is to check your laundry detergent and products into the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
That is ONE STEP to know you're adding a safe, chemical-free product that's good for you and the environment to your laundry room.
The EWG rates the products from an “A’ to and “F” based on the amount of toxic chemicals they include. If you need to replace your laundry detergent, you can also search for the listing of “A” rated detergents, bleach, fabric softeners, and wrinkle removers for suggestions.
We only suggest adding A- and B-rated products.
Just a little background to let you know the resource you're tapping into:
- EWG examined more than 1,000 package labels and found that the ingredient information for 48 percent of the package labels listed three or fewer ingredients on the label.
- EWG also visited almost 200 brand websites to supplement the sparse package label data.
- EWG tracked down the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) that OSHA requires for all workers to alert custodial staff to potentially harmful substances in the cleaning products they use in the workplace. Consumers don't get this information, even when they buy products identical to those used by custodial staff. EWG contacted companies to get copies or pulled them from their websites.
- Although hazardous ingredients are usually listed in a specific ingredients section on an MSDS sheet, they sometimes appear in a section titled “Regulatory Information” at the end of the document because of state regulations that apply to some specific chemicals and ingredients, typically byproducts or contaminants. In some cases, EWG found harmful chemicals listed in these sections that did not appear anywhere else.
Isn't it nice that you didn't have to do all that work? We just pull up http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners on our phone while standing in the store or while we're shopping for products on Amazon or Vitacost.
Side note: You can use this link to get $5 off your first order at Vitacost. We get $5 too, so you're supporting SHE! We love Vitacost because it has frequent 15% to 20% off sales that take prices way below Whole Foods / grocery store prices. Just sign up for its email list to be notified of the sales and keep sustainable, healthy, ethical products more affordable.)
The best choices as you switch out the products in your laundry room are to work with smaller companies that are making non-toxic, clean laundry products for the right reasons. Their labels are clear and free from greenwashing (tricky wording that sounds good and makes a product seem better than it is). Big companies have margins to worry about and stockholders. Look for companies whose mission is make the best, cleanest laundry detergent and you're miles ahead of anything Tide, Gain, and ALL will ever deliver.
We love the personal stories behind the two companies shown below. Both were founded by women on a mission to provide something better because they understand that unnecessary, unproven-to-be-safe chemicals have no business in our laundry products!
The Simply Co. follows its name and is all about keeping it simple! All ingredients are listed on the packaging.
We love that this detergent is packaged in a 100% recyclable glass jar with a 100% recyclable metal lid. It uses a vegetable-based soap that is also certified as ECOCERT, RSPO Certified Sustainable Palm Oil, Soil Association Organic, and Fair Trade.
Molly’s Suds products are made with earth and plant-derived ingredients. The Free & Clear, unscented formula is perfect for those with allergies and sensitive skin, plus it is baby laundry safe. You can count the number of ingredients on both hands – it does not contain the long list of harsh chemicals found in conventional brands. We love the bag option, which has a lower carbon footprint.
Do you have a favorite laundry detergent that you love? Let us know about it! We're always looking for good tips and new things to check out.
The Key Takeaway:
For laundry, like every other sustainable, healthy, ethical change... keep it simple! Take it one product at a time... and use the resources already out there like the EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning and from there give yourself room for grace & growth.
- The SHE Team