This post contains affiliate links.
Except for the lucky few who have enough socks to last a lifetime – we’re all in the same boat of doing laundry once a week or more. It’s one of those annoying chores that just has to be done (although I must admit that there’s nothing better than crawling into a freshly-washed bed on Sunday nights.) Unfortunately, there’s a lot of nasty chemicals lurking within most store bought laundry soaps.
What’s Lurking in my Laundry Soap!?
There’s a slew of downright nasty chemicals within laundry soap, but the worst by far is fragrance. That’s right! The very thing we all know and love about that clean laundry scent is what can be causing us the most problems. If you suffer from allergies or asthma then fragranced laundry soap could be adding to your troubles. Oftentimes the very worst chemicals are hidden under the guise of “fragrance” like many other household cleaners and even beauty products, companies do not have to break down what is hidden within the fragrance ingredient.
In 2008, a study conducted by the University of Washington found that six common household products (dryer sheets, laundry soap, air fresheners and sprays) all had at least one chemical that has been labeled toxic or hazardous – and none were even written on the ingredient list.¹ In another study, the same researcher found that dryer vents were emitting more than twenty-five volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) including carcinogens acetaldehyde and benzene.²
But that’s not all…
Fragrance seems to be a large culprit, there’s no doubt about that. But there are a few other chemicals which aren’t particularly healthy for us to breathe in nor touch us every day.
Surfactants are used to help remove grease, dirt and grime from our clothes. Some of the most common surfactants in laundry soap include:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) – Can cause irritation to the skin + eyes and environmental toxin.
- PEG (Polyethylene Glycol), PEO (Polyethylene Oxide) and POE (Polyoxyethylene) – Could be contaminated with 1,4 Dioxane (carcinogen) and skin irritant.
- Phosphates – Environmental Toxin. Bioaccumulative in water systems.
- Alcohol Ethoxylates – Skin irritant, does not biodegrade in water systems.³
- Amine Oxide – Limited data on this ingredient. Could be a potential skin irritant and environmental toxin.
- Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate – Possible skin + eye irritant. Biodegradable in aerobic sewage treatment. ⁴
Luckily, most companies have realized that consumers care about what is going into their washer with their laundry each week and have made some amazing steps to use more eco-friendly and biodegradable ingredients. Tide even has a laundrypedia where they break down the what and why of each ingredient; that being said it’s always good to do your own research to ensure that you are getting the most reliable information.
Even with the steps being made by some big companies to move toward more eco-friendly ingredients; they’re still lacking on many fronts. Now that we’re living on a septic system and will be bringing a small child into our life I want to make sure that I can keep all the nasty chemicals as far away from us as possible.
About Nellie’s All Natural Laundry Soda
Nellie’s All Natural Laundry Soda is a powder which is not fragranced, has no SLS or SLES, phosphate and it’s chlorine free. Powder laundry soap is a rather uncommon thing now – it seems like most brands sell liquid formulas. The problem is liquid formulas are mostly water (and you already have water going into your wash!) What’s the point in paying for more water to be added to your laundry?
The laundry soda comes with a little measuring spoon (one tablespoon) that you can use to measure out how much powder you need per load. For a large load you use the whole tablespoon and smaller loads you use about half; it’s highly concentrated so less is more.
What’s in Nellie’s Laundry Soda?
The ingredients are pretty short and sweet – yet surprisingly rated.
Sodium Carbonate (also known as washing soda or soda ash)🌱. A mild skin irritant when used in concentrations above 15% however it is a naturally occurring ingredient.
Linear Alcohol Ethoxylate. Skin Irritant, does not biodegrade in water systems³
Sodium Chloride. 🌱 Also known as table salt, helps to cut grease and soften water.
Sodium Metasilicate. An inorganic salt, skin irritant.
How does Nellie’s All Natural Laundry Soda Work?
I have been using Nellie’s Laundry Soda for about two months now; it was a really weird switch to using a powder instead of a liquid detergent and I didn’t fully trust that it would manage to clean my clothes. Surprisingly it has done a very good job at keeping our clothes clean (and it’s very different to not smell anything when you’re pulling your clothes out of the wash.)
I’ll be honest, I do miss my scented laundry detergent and I have been adding lavender essential oils into the wash to help make them smell at least like something. Now that we live on a well we do have more sulfur and iron in our water and even with the water softening system we just had installed I do find that our clothes come out smelling lightly of farts. (Yes, you read that correctly!)
Since moving to our new home I’ve been drying our clothes on the clothesline and have noticed that dark clothes seem to come out with some white-powder looking marks on them. I’m not sure if this is a by-product of the clothes being hung out to dry, our washer just not rinsing properly or the laundry soap not breaking down properly in cold water. At our last house they came out with no marks in the dryer.
Would I repurchase Nellie’s Laundry Soda?
To be entirely honest I was not expecting that 2/3 of the ingredients would be skin irritants – I can understand why less is more when adding to your wash. I haven’t noticed any skin irritation and nor has my boyfriend. I am very displeased that the formula includes a chemical which doesn’t actively biodegrade in water systems either. If something is marketed as all-natural I want to make sure that it’s not going to harm the environment (and in such a small concentration I’m sure it wouldn’t.)
It works well, it does the job and even if my clothes come out smelling a bit like sulfur thanks to our water I know it’s no fault of the laundry detergent. I want to find a product that’s a little bit more scented with some essential oils and only has ingredients that are readily biodegradable in our septic system. I don’t believe that I would repurchase solely for the smelly water problem and the presence of Linear Alcohol Ethoxylate.
However, if you are looking for a more green option and you don’t have water that smells lightly of farts then this could be a good step to making the switch to a more eco-friendly laundry soap; we put a heck of a lot of chemicals down the drain every time we wash our clothes.
What’s your preferred laundry soap?
¹Hickey, H. (2017). Toxic chemicals found in common scented laundry products, air fresheners | UW News. Washington.edu. Retrieved 6 August 2017, from http://www.washington.edu/news/2008/07/23/toxic-chemicals-found-in-common-scented-laundry-products-air-fresheners/
³Laundrypedia; Detergent Ingredients | Innovation – Tide. (2017). Tide.ca. Retrieved 6 August 2017, from https://tide.ca/en-ca/about-tide/innovation/detergent-ingredients
⁴Linear Alkylbenzene Sulphonate. (2017). Retrieved 6 August 2017, from http://www.heraproject.com/files/HERA-LAS%20revised%20February%202013.pdf
²Steinemann, A., Gallagher, L., Davis, A., & MacGregor, I. (2011). Chemical emissions from residential dryer vents during use of fragranced laundry products. Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, 6(1), 151-156. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11869-011-0156-1
TOXNET: HSDB: DODECYL ALCOHOL, ETHOXYLATED. (2017). Toxnet.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 6 August 2017, from https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search2/f?./temp/~rkpb2Z:3