I read, on another blog, recently about the hidden toxicities of fabric softener. I came away feeling a little proud of myself, because I don’t use fabric softeners, but it didn’t take me long to think of the following:
If this is okay to put into fabric softeners, and sell to the public, what’s okay to put in fabric detergent?
So I looked at the back of the bottle—no ingredient list. I checked the company websites—no ingredient list.
Perhaps I’m distrusting, but typically, when people hide things from me, I figure it’s because me knowing is not in their best interest.
I spent the day on-line. Sadly, I found a whole lot of nothing, and wikipedia turned out to be the most generally informative.
According to wikipedia, all laundry detergents are made up of three main components: builders, bleaches, and enzymes.
Builders are basically water softeners. They make up close to 50% of any powder, and their main purpose is to combat calcium in the water.
Bleach, well, we all know what bleach is.
Enzymes occur naturally in the body. For example: protease is a broad category that encompasses five types of proteases that are essential to the every-day functioning of your body. Protease is added to your detergents to break down protein based stains—as is the job of most enzymes that have been artificially added into a circumstance they don’t naturally occur in.
Now days, most detergents promise whiter whites. This is achieved with something called optical brighteners. Optical brighteners are dyes that collect, and re-emit ultraviolet light in the “blue” region of the light spectrum. Because dried body oils often look “yellow” on your clothing, adding blue balances it out for your optical nerves, leaving you with the sensation of a cleaner object, because blue-white appears purer than yellow-white, to humans.
Other ingredients include perfumes, and we’ve already discussed the dangers of natural perfumes.
Now… perfumes, alone, creep me out. The reasoning is quite simple: if it all rinses away, how is it supposed to leave that smell?
The truth is: if it all rinsed away, it wouldn’t.
Now that we’ve determined, with a little common sense, that these chemicals don’t completely rinse away, let me scare you some more… you wash your clothes in this. You wash your sheets in this. You wash your towels in this. You literally never go more than five minutes without the residues of these chemicals on your skin!
Are you scared yet?
Consider the following: if someone tells you they have a rash or they’re itchy or uncomfortable, everyone always thinks to ask if they’ve recently changed their laundry soap—so, essentially, we all know it. We think about it first when something’s wrong with our skin--our largest organ.
What can you do to combat the bioaccumulation of these chemicals and excess enzymes? Hopefully, by now, you’ve had time to try out the organic soap recipe I gave you, because we’re going to use a bar today. Unfortunately, going green will mean that some stains will just be more stubborn, but the average adult doesn’t accumulate a whole lot of stains to begin with (at least we should hope not).
Simple Laundry Soap
• 2 gallons Water (hot)
• 1 bar of Basic Vegetable Soap (grated)
• 2 cups Baking soda
Step 1 Melt grated soap in a saucepan with enough hot water to cover. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently until soap is melted.
Step 2 In a large pail, pour 2 gallons hot water. Add melted soap, stir well.
Step 3 Then add the baking soda, stir well again.
Use 1/2 cup per full load, 1 cup per very soiled load.
Optional: Since we’ve determined that no detergent will ever completely rinse out, you can add between 10 to 15 drops of essential oil (per 2 gallons) to your homemade laundry detergent if you really desire a fresh scent. Add once the soap has cooled to room temperature. Stir well and cover.
Essential oil ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil