Oh hey. Do laundry this weekend? Yeah, same. I’m of the mind that the only thing worse than doing laundry is the stuff we actually pour into the machine (and down the drain) when we’re doing it. If you’re like us, you maybe use Seventh Generation or Ecover or something. But that was probably not always the case—and it’s certainly not the norm. There are a couple of reasons why we think this is bad news:
1. It’s bad for your skin.
Allergens abound in traditional laundry detergent, and many of us react badly to the dyes, fragrance and other synthetics without even realizing it. Then we end up showering in salicylic acid to get rid of stubborn bacne, or we slather on cortisone to get rid of our eczema-like rashes in a cycle that just repeats and repeats and repeats but never ends.
2. It’s bad for the planet.
Traditional laundry detergents are loaded with persistent toxic chemicals which, once introduced into the natural world, don’t leave. They can also acidify the water (fish looooove this) and are packed with petrochemicals, which, health implications aside, come from an obviously nonrenewable resource. They also used to contain phosphates, which have thankfully been removed from laundry detergents and are in the process of being phased out of dishwashing soaps—but not before they were poisoning aquatic life for many decades. Americans do a ton of laundry every week, and whatever we choose to use is being flushed down the drain with the dirt it wrestles from our clothes.
In the book we encourage people to swap out beauty products as things run out, while prioritizing replacing things you use regularly over a large surface area. Consider this your largest surface area, and get rid of your [whatever you use] ASAP. If you drop off your laundry at a wash-and-fold, leave a bottle of good stuff with the laundromat. They’ll be happy—it saves them money because they aren’t using their own detergent—and you’ll be happy because you aren’t poisoning fish or giving yourself rashes. Plus, you’ll be setting a good example. Just be sure to remind them every time you drop off that they have your soap.
As for picking a new detergent: Unless there’s an ingredient declaration on the bottle—which unlike cosmetics, is not mandatory for house cleaners (though New York has been leading a move to change that)—and unless it is readily biodegradable (the readily part is important), we’d say: Don’t use it.
And here’s a practical reason to make the switch:
Procter & Gamble announced it will be raising the price of its detergents (Tide and Cheer et al) starting in June, owing to rising commodity costs. A 4.5% increase may sound like pocket change to you, but it will offset $500 million in costs for them—a reminder of just how big this business is.
Related (and pictured): A company called Ecologic has figured out how to make packaging out of old newspaper and postconsumer cardboard, which reduces plastic and is compostable. Inside the cardboard is a plastic lining that you can remove and recycle with your other plastics. Seventh Generation’s 4X Laundry Detergent will be packaged in it (I like the Free & Clear one), and available on shelves this week. One bottle = 66 loads of laundry.
I also like BioKleen Home (which unfortunately does not have complete ingredient lists on their site), and Ecover’s stain remover is bananas. It works on everything, even olive oil stains on dainty silks.
So what about you? What kind of laundry detergent do you use?