The large majority of us probably think we’re doing our family a favor each time we do the wash. All the gunk, grime, and dirt washes out of their clothes, and down the drain.
It might smell and look better, but each time you use that traditional, chemical-based detergent, you could be affecting your family’s health — not to mention our lakes, waterways, and streams.
A lot of laundry detergents contain ingredients like alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs). APEs are synthetic surfactants found in detergents, cleaning products, pesticides, and some personal care products. The most common APEs are nonylphenol ethoxylates.
Also known as NPE, these surfactants can disrupt hormones, alter reproduction, and have been found to cause breast cancer in labratory tests.
Phosphates, which were found back in the 1970’s to cause harmful algal blooms in waterways are mostly phased out by companies, but you need to read the label. Companies like Procter and Gamble (makers of Tide detergent and others) have promised to remove phosphates by the end of next year, but that doesn’t mean that what’s on the shelf is phosphate free.
Chlorine bleach does an amazing job getting your whites whiter, but it’s not so good for your health. The most obvious danger of bleach is that it’s heavily corrosive, and can cause damage through inhalation to the lungs, skin, eyes, and more. Unfortunately, many
The challenge we face when looking for a safe, green laundry detergent is this: most detergents don’t list ingredients in detail, because they’re not required by law. Instead, they use more vague terms like surfactants, optical brighteners, or washing sodas, many times making claims that are just shy of ‘green-washing’-saying a product is eco-friendly, but it isn’t.
So, we put out an all call, to see what kind of green laundry detergents were on the market today, and whether or not they would do that dirty job of cleaning up in the laundry.
After all, when you’re married to a man that owns three Jeeps, and takes pride in coming home covered in mud, getting things clean is ultimately still of high importance.
Le Savonnier Marseillais Olive Oil Soap, ($15) TOP PICK
Locally made in nearby Tampa, Florida, one of the great secrets of Le Savonnier Marseillais is that their 100% natural olive oil based soap is can be used in multiple applications around the house. This being said, we tested this soap with a bit of hesitation at first. It comes out of the bottle a rather dark, greyish green color, and at first look, would appear to leave your laundry less than white.
Boy, were we wrong! After first trying their multi-purpose soap on a load of dishes (now brilliantly clean!), we tried it on a the collar of a dirty dress shirt. Scrubbed in for a minute, then tossed into the wash, it came out good as new.
Made from a 600 year old French recipe, Le Savonnier Marseillais Olive Oil Soap is 100% natural, suitable for the most sensitive of skin, highly economical, and safe for use around babies and children. They add just a touch of essential oils-nice when you want a light scent. A great value, for an incredible product.
Shoosha Sensitive Skin Laundry Soap, ($19.99 )
Your baby’s skin is more susceptible than adult skin to many ingredients found in common detergents. Conventional laundry detergents are often made with damaging chemicals and perfumes that can harm the skin, aggravate allergies, cause eczema, and other skin and respiratory issues.
Shoosha Sensitive Skin Laundry Soap is a gentle and pure, and won’t cause issues if you’re washing cloth diapers or clothes for your little one. Containing no use harsh detergents, chemicals or foaming agents, this soap instead incorporates a special blend of Chamomile, Calendula and Aloe Vera to provide extra gentle care. Shoosha Truly Organic Sensitive Skin Laundry Soap is doctor recommended, hypoallergenic and a USDA certified food grade product.
Made with natural ash, clay, and coconut oil, it takes only 1-2 tablespoons of Celadon Road’s low-sudsing detergent to work its all-natural magic. For use in regular or high-efficiency washers, Celadon Road’s detergent is a family-friendly formula. The detergent recipe was originally created to ease the suffering of a child with eczema aggravated by commercial laundry products. It’s also safe for cloth diapers, with no added softeners needed.
In testing, Celadon Road didn’t remove strong odors quite as well as other products, but it did well with average laundry jobs, and left a pleasant scent. Celadon Road Laundry Detergent comes in a handful of mild, gentle scents including: Jasmine, Line, Lilac, Cedarwood, Lavender and Orange.
Eco Nuts Soap Berries, Oxygen Booster, and Dryer Balls (prices vary)
Made from odd looking Himalayan berries, Eco Nuts uses the power of Mother Nature to get your clothes clean and dirt free.
Eco Nuts soap nuts and detergent are both certified organic, which means they’re free of harmful optical brighteners and bleaches. If you have hard water, try using their powdered eco-friendly oxygen booster. The Eco Nuts Oxygen Booster is a color safe bleach that keeps things bright and white without damaging fabrics like chlorine bleach does. It’s also a stain remover, so add it to every load for stains, whites as well as colors.
Traditional dryer sheets, although they smell good, are less than good for the environment and your health. Artificial scents aren’t the only thing they leave on your clothes, as, according to Mike Adams of Natural News, dryer sheets also contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals that will leach their way into the body through its largest organ-your skin.
Dryer balls are a great option, and if you’re looking for a little scent, adding a few drops of essential oils to your dryer balls will freshen laundry, and help reduce static cling. Eco Nuts uses wool to create their dryer balls, as wool is healthier for both your family, and the planet. Although many popular dryer ball brands are made from plastic, when plastic is heated it can release VOCs, putting toxins right back onto your clothes. Not to mention, plastic eventually breaks down, and will stay in landfills forever. As a renewable resource, wool dryer balls can be used for years, and if you ever decide to throw them out, you won’t have to worry about harming the environment.
For luxuriously scented laundry, look no further than Formulary 55’s Ginger Blossom Laundry Soap. Not only does it work wonderfully on getting your clothes clean and fresh, the scent (reminiscent of your favorite Moscow Mule cocktail!) is a 100% essential oil blend that adds a bit of aromatherapy and romance to your laundry chores. The scent is seriously good enough to eat, but we recommend sticking with the other kind of Moscow Mule.
Formulary’s vegan detergent come in a 16oz. container, and will do 32-64 loads, depending on your machine. It’s handmade in small batches with absolutely no fillers, parabens, phosphates, chlorine, artificial colors or fragrances, making it the ideal choice for sensitive skin, pets, and children.
Formulary also makes organic face and body scrubs, like their Oatmeal Facial Scrub ($8), made with orange peel, oats, essential oils, and walnut powder. Toss a load in the wash, and give yourself a mini spa day while those sheets are drying!
No Sweat Laundry Detergent (prices vary)
Originally created for athletes, No Sweat is great for everything from those stinky basketball short he won’t take off, to that funky smell in your yoga wear. Specifically formulated to target the enzymes that sweat related stinks and stains can leave behind, their BioBlast™ technology uses enzymes to penetrate fabric surfaces eliminating odor causing bacteria, grime and body oils.
Like stomach enzymes break down food for digestion, enzymes in the No Sweat formula dissolve oil-based solubles (anything biological- sweat, blood, urine, etc.) No Sweat also maintains the quality and elasticity of fabrics, extending the overall lifespan of active-wear. We used it as a booster to regular detergent, and it definitely helped to remove stains and odors. Although their ingredient list is proprietary, the company states that all ingredients come from natural sources, and are safe for both your family and the environment.
No Sweat is available in 3 different scents: Fragrance-Free, Sweet Freesia, and Citrus Rush.
The Bottom Line
After testing, at the end of the day, although these green laundry detergents got out most dirt, oils, and stains, they were still slightly less effective than chemical based detergents.
Our recommendation? Stick to natural cleaning methods and products as much as possible, and if you’ve exhausted all other options, you’ll be fairly safe using a traditional cleaning product on that rare occasion that you need it.