One of the most rewarding ways to go green is in the laundry room. As a person with allergies to fragrances and sensitives to dyes and chemical additives, I could not get a decent nights sleep or be able to wear my clothes without non toxic solutions. Many chemicals and additives in cleaning products do more than make your skin red or itch. Many of them are know for disrupting your central nervous system, altering brain function, irritating the sinuses and lungs as well as affecting mood. If you can’t sleep or find yourself nervous or cloudy a lot of the time with no discernible reason, the culprit may be chemicals in your clothing you have applied during washing.
As it is you are breathing this stuff all day long and it’s seeping into your pores with body fluids and sweat. If you aren’t allergic, chances are you have no idea how this stuff is affecting you. If you really want to change the foundations of your life and achieve a higher state of health and well being, you have to start at the bottom. Your clothing is a part of that foundation; in fact, it is something you cannot live without and are exposed to 24/7. So what is so bad about the chemicals in your laundry soap? And what are the reasons for making the switch? Hang on, I’m going to tell you all about it. And I’m also going to tell you how you can make the change.
Here’s the list. Click on any link over product name for more information on that item.
Problem #1: For me, it’s perfumes and dyes. I will spend every hour of every day, including my much needed sleep time, scratching my burning, red skin if I let my clothes get tainted with this stuff. Chemicals that are included in products to enhance or create scent include , acetate, alpha-Pinene, among others, according to a study by The Washington Toxics Coalition. You can also go to scorecard.org and look this stuff up. According to this site, 2-butanone, for instance, is a suspected kidney, reproductive, respiratory, skin, gastrointestinal, liver, cardiovascular, blood and neuro toxicant. The effects of it’s reproductive toxicity means that it can affect your hormones and cause fertility problems, including lowering sperm counts. The neurotoxicity of this chemical also means that the fumes can affect your central nervous system resulting in insomnia and an irritable mood. This horrible chemical can even cause hyperactivity in children. Studies have also been done on dyes and the results indicate that certain colorants may cause cancer or other adverse health effects in humans. This study was done by the EPA.
Solution #1: If you want to stop exposing yourself to this stuff, just switch to products that are marked “free and clear” or “dye free” or “clear”. If you go for “unscented” stuff be sure to check the label to make sure they are not just using masking fragrances that make it smell unscented. This stuff is just as bad as any other: loaded with chemicals, fragrances, dyes and fragrances to hide the other fragrances. Not quite a viable alternative.
Note: If you just can’t stand not adding scent to your clothes, then use essential oils or make sachet bags for your clothing drawers. You can add the oils directly to the wash.. but only use 1/2 tsp or less or you won’t be able to stand the result! If you make your own sachet bags you can change it up and scent your various clothes with various herbs and the good part about it is you can just wash it out if you don’t like it or want to change it up. And it’s chemical free!
Warning: Most commercially available “free and clear” products also contain Monoethanolamine (MEA). MEA has been linked to asthma and neurotoxicity. To avoid this, reject commercial detergents and purchase only green cleaning products that do not list chemicals on their ingredients list and are also fragrance and dye free.
Problem #2: Chemicals in detergents disrupt the hormones of animals, including domestic pets and wildlife. In particular, detergent with a surfactant called “Alkylphenol Ethoxylates” works as an endocrine disruptor in aquatic life. This happens when the runoff from detergents used in our homes ends up in the waterways. I’ve seen the results of some of this problem here in Florida where scores of dead, bloated fish end up on the beaches when there’s a lot of chemical run off. When you wash your clothes and the water runs into the storm water collection system, this is where it goes. Right into the rivers, streams and oceans.
Solution #2: Switch to green cleaning products that do not contain these chemicals.
Problem #3: Fabric softeners are among the worst! The fumes from these sheets is tantamount to environmental poisoning. Seriously. I don’t use them because they make my eyes water like crazy and then I get red eyes for a few days afterwards. But if you don’t know this already, then here is the black list of chemicals that can be found in these toxic products:
Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer
Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant
Ethanol: On the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders
Limonene: Known carcinogen
A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage
Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list
Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders
Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic
Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders
Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled
Solution #3: There is absolutely no reason at all to use these toxic sheets. You can soften your clothes cheaply and safely by adding 1/4 cup of vinegar to the final rinse. It gets out all detergent residues, too, and helps get your clothes really clean. Contrary to what you might imagine, it does not leave your clothes smelling like salad dressing. Another alternative, if you are alright with spending some money, is to buy dryer balls. They work great and leave nothing on your fabrics. And, of course, you can also buy green fabric softening liquid from several suppliers, including Sweet Grass Farms.
Problem #4: The scourge of all cleaning chemicals, bleach and optical lighteners. These are added to your laundry to make it white and “bright”! But there is no where on earth that bleach should be used and left to expose itself to your skin, your eyes, your lungs. I used to work in the cleaning business, in fact my roommate and myself had a successful cleaning service in 1980s. I saw more reactions to bleach than you can count; in fact, several women fainted, blacked out, threw up and one even had seizures. All because they were cleaning stuff with bleach. Now, imagine this stuff on your clothes all day, filling your nose and eyes, seeping in through your pores. Not pretty.
The most common negative side effects of chlorine use are irritation to eyes, skin, and the respiratory system. According to the CPC (Cancer Prevention Coalition), chlorine bleach is especially hazardous to people with heart conditions or asthma.
And as you already know, chlorine bleach is loaded with Dioxin, which is a super toxic chemical. The by products of bleach include trihalomethanes, which may cause cancer and have developmental effects, and organochlorines, which cause cancer in animals (and probably humans).
Solution #4: Use baking soda and hydrogen peroxide! It’s a simple solution. If you do not wish to mix this stuff yourself, you can buy a pre-made product called Sodium Percarbonate which works the same. It is non toxic and safe and it works just as good as bleach.
To avoid optical brighteners in your detergents, then again you should seek out green products.
Problem #5: Solvents and spot removers. These are often used in laundry to remove stains. Solvents are usually petroleum-based and toxic to humans and aquatic organisms. Propylene glycol ethers, which are often used in laundry products as solvents, are suspected of being neurotoxic as well as an organ and skin toxicant. Given the skin is exposed to clothing and sheets, finding solvent-free detergents and spot removers is a must.
C12-13 Pareth-15 is a common ingredient in commercial spot removers, and it is a mixture of petroleum and ethylene oxide, a recognized carcinogen, reproductive toxicant, and even worse. You should especially avoid spot removers and solvents that contain hexylene glycol, a chemical suspected of a number of things including being an immunotoxicant.
Solution #6: Refer to my previous post on Chemical Free Stain Removal for help in making or purchasing safer, greener alternatives.