Laundry detergent and dryer sheets may be harming your health.
Does that surprise you? Care2 has some excellent information on the hazards of dryer sheets and fabric softener, including the potential effects on the nervous system. From skin irritation to severe headaches, the side effects can be numerous. We ditched the dryer sheets and switched to natural laundry detergents years ago in an effort to green our lifestyle and reduce our exposure to chemicals.
Toxins in Laundry Soaps
On top of health effects, the numerous chemicals in many detergents are affecting our waterways and messing with the natural environment and all water creatures, including fish. Not to mention this stuff eventually ends up in our drinking and bath water. No, thanks.
Wait, what chemicals exactly am I talking about? There are four major ones:
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)/sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Reviews, studies on SLS have shown many side effects, like skin and eye irritation, organ toxicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity and cancer. And even if you have an amazing water filter, SLS unfortunately cannot be removed with water filters. Not surprisingly, it also isn’t biodegradable.
Dioxane is a chemical that NEVER breaks down. So when you use a laundry detergent that contains this harmful chemical, it’s going everywhere and never leaving the environment.
NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate)
NPE really affects our reproductive systems. When we absorb this chemical, our body is unable to tell the different between NPE and estrogen. Not so good, is it? Plus, any organisms exposed to NPE have been shown to have kidney and liver damage, decreased testicular growth and sperm count, disrupted growth and metabolism, and increased mortality. Studies with rainbow trout show that when they are exposed to NPEs, they become part male and part female…Yikes!
You may have heard about phosphates before. This chemical is known to cause things like nausea, diarrhea and skin irruption. But on top of it, phosphates are HUGE environmental concerns. They’re super tough to remove from wastewater, so they normally end up in our amazing lakes and rivers. In turn, they increase the growth of algae which cuts off waterways and suffocates aquatic life. They basically release toxins that remove oxygen from our waterways. Very bad, indeed.
Natural Laundry Tips
There are some wonderful companies out there helping the environment (and us) by creating natural laundry alternatives. One great company is Eco Nuts. They manufacture detergent made out of nuts from the dried fruit of the Sapindus mukorossi (Soap Berry) tree, found in the Himalayas. The soap in these berries, saponin, is a natural cleaner. Eco Nuts soap nuts are also gentle on the skin, which makes them perfect for those with sensitive skin, eczema, allergies and psoriasis. Because they are so mild, they are also good for baby clothes and even cloth diapers. Eco Nuts Soap Nuts work well in septic and grey water systems, too.
Eco Nuts Soap Nuts
We recently tried soap nuts and admittedly, I wasn’t sure how the soap nuts would work (it’s a new concept for me!), but we really like them. Having two children, including one newborn who spits up A LOT, our laundry situation seems to be never-ending. I love that the nuts not only work well, but also that they are compostable. You just put 4-5 in one of the reusable sacks and throw them in with your washing. Once the load is done, the nuts will have dried up and you discard of them; they then break right back down, making them truly sustainable. We also have a lot of skin sensitivities in our home, which is a big reason we use natural laundry soap in the first place. I like that I have a safe, natural laundry soap that works well on our clothes as well as baby/kid clothes AND cloth diapers.
We also tried out Eco Nuts liquid laundry soap, which is a certificated organic detergent made with organic soapberry extract. Although soap nuts can be used on anything, including cloth diapers, we’ve found that the liquid soap helps penetrate the tough stains on our cloth diapers even more. This is likely because we don’t have soft water. The liquid tends to work better for those with hard water, as well as HE (frontloading) machines, or those who like to wash primarily on cold.
Wool Dryer Balls
I’ve been wanting to try out wool dryer balls for a while as I love the natural fibers of wool and have heard great things about Eco Nuts wool dryer balls in particular. Wool is naturally anti-bacterial so it’s an awesome item to have in your laundry routine. How do dryer balls work? What happens is the balls lift and separate clothes, allowing air to circulate. They can reduce drying time by 10-25% and they fluff and soften the laundry through gentle friction. I was SO impressed with Eco Nuts wool dryer balls. We can rarely ever get a big load of laundry dry in just one cycle in our dryer, but when we used the 4 wool balls, the huge load we had in there was dry even before the cycle was up. My hubby Adam, the main launderer in our house (yep, I’m lucky), can’t stop raving about how great of a job the balls are doing. You can also easily add essential oils to your wool dryer balls, and Nell over at Rhythms of Play has more information on adding oils to balls in her post on dryer sheet alternatives
Here are some more natural laundry tips:
- Wear it more than once
- Forget dry cleaning – Most dry cleaning companies use carcinogenic chemicals, so either ditch the cleaner or find an eco-friendly one
- Use cold water – a huge amount of energy is used in heating the water, so try to wash with cold as much as possible
- Find a natural laundry detergent or alternative – like Eco Nuts
- Use wool dryer balls
- Hang to dry – hanging clothes up can help save a lot of energy used by the dryer, plus the fresh outside small on sheets is wonderful!
To help you out, I’m giving away one package of Eco Nuts soap nuts to help you go green in the laundry room. Just enter by telling me one other thing you do to help live a green lifestyle.
*Contest is open to both US and Canadian residents.
Melissa Greco says
I’m helping the planet a day at a time by walking to school instead of driving
Theresa C. says
I am raising our children to be aware of the importance of nature and preserving it.
Heather Robertson says
I make sure to always use the city compost and recycling programs.
Lorna Webster says
I’m going to switch to using vinegar instead of fabric softener and hang clothes when it’s warm out!
Both of those are great!
Cathy Oppedisano says
I am using natural laundry soaps without added fragrances because the harsher products have fragrances added and even if they are unscented, they leave a harsh smell of the synthetic cleansers behind in the washed laundry so I am sensitive and also buy all natural personal care products too. I am sensitive to perfumes and colognes but many people seem to like to be constantly surrounded by a cloud of chemicals in the air.
Those are great things.
Holly Hauck says
I really need to switch over and be more green in the laundry room.
Joanne Saunders says
I grow my own veggies in the summer and use my own compost as fertilizer.
That’s wonderful. We do the same:)
Wow! I didn’t realize there was a way to do laundry more eco friendly. I’ll really have to try some of these things.
I create my own cleansers with vinegar and lemon.
We love using vinegar and lemon too:)
gene d says
Rain barrels are great!
Brian W says
I’ve tried eco nuts before… they are nuttily amazing! I also teach people to use activated charcoal to whiten their teeth.
Amanda Bush says
Last month I sewed several t-shirt bags to use instead of disposable plastic bags, and I started recycling. This month I started using the Diva Cup and reusable feminine pads – so awesome!
That’s such a great idea. I’m going to do the same with some old t-shirts. The Diva Cup and reusable pads are also awesome.
Samantha Mills says
One thing we’re doing right now to be more eco-friendly is using cloth diapers with our little man. It saves tons and tons of disposables from being thrown away, and someone else can use our cloth diapers and accessories when we’re through with them.
Oh I agree, we are big cloth diaper fans too.
Bo Simms says
To live more eco-friendly,I use baking soda for cleaning, along with vinger, and use organic castille soap to replace all my other products (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand soap).
Those are all awesome, good work!
Line dry your clothes!
Ours are hanging outside right now:)
Jamie Hammel says
We use cloth diapers!
We recycle as often as we can.
Jessica Hill says
I switched to cloth diapering with my second child!
Jennifer Scheldberg says
I always try to bring a reusable bag to the grocery store.
I always use reusable grocery bags.
Melissa C. says
We use cloth instead of a lot of paper products (except tp…haven’t been brave enough for that). I also use vinegar instead of most cleaning products.
Karen Nadeau says
I recycle everything here and use recycled grocery bags. I try to get my girls to bike more and we grow fresh veggies when possible.
Brandee H says
We are going back to school in an Eco friendly way. Glass reusable bottle, metal lunch boxes, and reusable snack bags. Nothing disposable. We also don’t buy food with excessive packaging trying to limit our waste. I’ve never tried soap nuts. They look really cool!
That all sounds great, good for you:)
Melinda Jana (@Sukki24) says
Hang the laundry out to dry in the summer time
I hang most everything up to dry! More eco-friendly and nicer on the energy bill 😉
I have used dryer balls for years and love them.