Photo credit: Nicolas Raymond
It’s shocking how many artificial ingredients and chemicals are present in so-called “green” household cleaners. When is the last time you really read the label on your favorite “green” laundry detergent? Does that laundry detergent even list their ingredients on their bottle or are they hidden somewhere on their website? If your laundry detergent doesn’t list its ingredients on the bottle, there’s probably a good reason. That reason is likely because the manufacturers don’t want you to be able to label-compare while shopping.
Despite the many “green” and “natural” claims that some laundry detergent companies make, there are many not-so-green and not-so-natural ingredients in their products. And, often times, these ingredients can be harmful to you and your family.
For example, several “green” laundry detergent manufacturers use sodium lauryl sulfate in their product. This potentially harmful ingredient is also commonly found in soaps, mouthwash, makeup, shampoos, and toothpastes. According to the EWG, sodium lauryl sulfate has been linked to cancer as well as non-reproductive organ toxicity. There are also high levels of concern because this chemical is a known skin/eye/lung irritant.
Another commonly used ingredient in laundry detergents that you can readily find in many "green" detergents is boric acid. Boric acid is also known as Borax and is typically used in pest control, specifically the extermination of ants and cockroaches. Boric acid is a naturally-occurring element, but it is associated with endocrine disruption with long-term exposure.
Two common-place preservatives that you can find in so-called “green” and “natural” detergents are benzisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone. These two chemicals have received a lot of press in recent years because more and more people are discovering that they are highly allergic to these substances, breaking out into rashes with the slightest exposure. Methylisothiazolinone can be found in all varieties of lotions, sanitary wipes, shampoos, and sunscreens, and benzisothiazolinone is often found in agricultural pesticides, caulks, varnishes, adhesives, and the chemicals used in the preservation of leather goods and animal hides. Both of these chemicals have been declared a high concern for skin/eyes/lungs irritation, and benzisothiazolinone has been linked to non-reproductive organ toxicity.
When common ingredients have been linked to high concerns of irritation and toxicity, we certainly don’t want them washing the fabrics that come closest to our bodies. No matter how well your washing machine rinses your clothing, remnants of these chemicals linger on your fabrics and then come into direct contact with your delicate skin, skin that doesn’t want to be exposed to the same chemicals that are used to tan leather and kill cockroaches.
How can you avoid these sneaky chemicals?
- Do your research. Read labels and visit websites before you buy. If you can’t find the information you want and need, call the company. Don’t just assume that because a company touts a “green” or “natural” claim that they really are.
- Buy organic. Organic products by law cannot contain these products, so choosing an organic detergent will help set your mind at ease.
Keeping you and your family safe from harmful chemicals means being a smart consumer. It's your health and safety, so ask questions and be informed.