Clean Clothes, Healthy Skin, Happy Family
Every day, more Canadians are turning to natural products and practices for their home and health care routines.
Green cleaning has become mainstream, and the rise of do-it-yourself culture, and increased availability of natural products have helped us all to detoxify our homes and bodies. But there is a domain that is sometimes looked over. The laundry hamper.
Laundry is where housework meets skincare. We wash our clothes routinely, just as we do with other areas in the home. But – unlike the kitchen counter and our dishes – our clothes are in direct contact with our body when worn. It’s important to remember that our skin is our largest organ, and absorbs what’s put on it, including the residues from detergents used in our laundry regimen.
Laundry Detergent’s Dirty Secrets
Advertisements for clothing care products can be very persuasive, touting their stain-lifting, whitening and brightening abilities – with staged montages of filthy grass-stained kids’ clothes emerging from the dryer looking brand new. While it’s true that these detergents can remove stains and dirt from our clothes, they can also leave traces on the fabric after the wash cycle.
Ingredients aren’t always fully listed on labels, and can be grouped together in umbrella terms, like “fragrance,” that make it tricky to know exactly what you’re using. Many laundry products contain “fresh” scents that double as chemical irritants with the potential to trigger allergies, migraines and respiratory issues. Dryers can amplify the hazards of these fragrances found in detergents and dryer sheets by emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air.
Choosing unscented products doesn’t sidestep all potential hazards. Other chemicals found in common laundry products include chlorine – a skin irritant, and phosphates, which contribute to algal blooms that damage aquatic life. Sulphates, synthetic dyes and preservatives are also ingredients with potential impacts to health and environment – and are in many popular laundry products!
Some ingredients are added intentionally to remain on the fabric of clothes after the spin cycle. Many conventional fabric softeners are formulated to adhere to the fibres of clothes – increasing their contact with the skin. Also, the heavily marketed “brightening” effects of some laundry products can be the result of optical brighteners – additives that cling to clothing and emit blue light for the appearance of super-clean clothes. While studies are not yet conclusive as to their effects on human heath, they are not readily biodegradable and remain intact in waterways and ecosystems.
Green your Clothing Care Routine
Fortunately, there are some simple steps to take to clean up your laundry routine. The easiest – and most effective – way to avoid using products with potentially harmful ingredients, is by choosing products that are fully transparent with their ingredient list.
There are many natural products available to choose from that suit all types of washing machines in a variety of strengths and natural scents. When choosing an eco-friendly product, the label should indicate that they are biodegradable, phosphate-free and derived from plant-based sources. Look for dye and fragrance-free formulas, or formulas gently scented with naturally derived and/or essential oils.
You can also DIY it! Assemble a few safe and simple ingredients for a homemade laundry soap (use ½ cup for a full load):
Natural laundry detergent
- 2 litres hot water
- 2 Tbsp coarse salt
- 6 Tbsp baking soda
- 6 Tbsp liquid castile soap
- Dissolve dry ingredients in hot water. Add soap and stir. Add your favorite natural, pure essential oils, if desired. Store in an airtight container.
Other ways to green your laundry routine:
- Conserve energy by line or rack-drying linens and clothing whenever possible, or consider investing in reusable dryer balls, that can cut down on machine time, making drying more efficient.
- Reuse one of your empty laundry soap bottles and seek out a bulk source of natural, eco-friendly laundry soap.
- Avoid dry cleaning, which uses perchloroethylene, a petroleum-based chemical which can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Often – you can research effective alternatives or specific hand-washing techniques. Or seek out a “green” dry cleaner that uses alternate methods, like silicon cleaning.
- Try to consciously purchase natural fibre clothing, that doesn’t shed micro-plastics into waterways when washing . Or consider investing in a washing bag that prevents microfibres from synthetic garments going down the drain.
When you need to stock up clean and green supplies for your laundry room, visit your local CHFA Member health food store.