Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Non-Toxic Laundry Guide: The Good, The Bad and The Toxic


Just like every family with kids, we do a lot  - I mean  A LOT- of laundry at home.   My sons get home from camp, the playground, school or soccer practice really really dirty; we are talking black knees, shorts and t-shirts covered in dirt or paint - the works.   Part of me is happy when they come home so dirty because  I always say it makes them look like they had a blast BUT I know it also means extra work and power when laundry time comes around.

Every parent I talk to asks me what laundry detergent I use.   I have to admit, the laundry room is the one area where I have REALLY struggled to find non-toxic alternatives that work as well as their chemically loaded counterparts.  But it can be done and here is how.

There are a couple of challenges you will face when looking for an effective and non-toxic laundry product

1. Cleaning product companies (including those that produce laundry detergent) aren’t required to disclose the ingredients they use in their products, and what they’re keeping from you could be hazardous to your health.  

2.  Even ‘green alternatives’ have been found to have toxic chemicals in them.   Case in point, last year, even the Honest Company’s laundry detergent came under fire by a Wall Street Journal investigation, which found that the Honest detergent contained a chemical it promised to leave out ( Honest Co settled the suit out of court agreeing to pay $1.55 million to settle a nationwide class action suit).

3.  Lets face it, some non-toxic products just do not clean as well/deeply 

So, what do I  do?
First, lets understand what's in the most popular brands of detergents and why these chemicals should be of special concern to a parent.  


The laundry detergent you use for your family has access to our and our munchkin’s bodies twenty four hours a day, every single day.  The detergent (or the chemicals that gives our just clean clothes that ‘fresh’ smell) will remain on our clothes all day,  allowing our skin to absorb the chemicals.  Our just washed bed sheets will give off the same chemicals and we will breathe in these chemicals all night long.  Even our munchkin’s teddy bear or precious blankie that he/she carries around all day will be washed using the same detergent. 

Infants and children are mostly susceptible to the dangers of chemicals because their immune, neurological, and hormone systems are still developing, and quite often, are very allergic to harsh detergents. Go out of your way to fund the purest detergent you can for use for babies!

Here are a sampling of some of the most well known detergents on the market.   According the the Environmental Working Group, they all score terribly due to their toxic chemicals.  


Note that even those targeted towards babies and those marketed for sensitive skin or 'free and clear' contain worrisome ingredients.

Among the chemicals commonly found in laundry products that you want to avoid (but remember many time these aren't listed and yet can still be found in conventional laundry detergent!) :
limonene, a compound with a citrus scent;  Suspected Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant, Immunotoxicant, Kidney Toxicant, Neurotoxicant, Respiratory Toxicant, and Skin or Sense Organ Toxicant.

ethanol; and acetone, a solvent found in nail polish remover and fabric softener. On the EPA's Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders.

acetaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde and methylene chloride (all probable carcinogen according to the EPA)
  • Fragrance:  terms like "perfume" or "fragrance,"  and even “essential- oil” are catch-all terms that can hide the presence of chemicals such as synthetic musks and other endocrine disruption and reproductive and developmental harming chemicals.

Non-Toxic Munchkin Clean Laundry Buying Guide

  1. First and foremost: have a bit of patience. Be willing to try a couple of products and product combinations before you give up on non-toxic laundry detergents. 
  2. Understand that laundry detergents marketed towards babies and kids are not necessarily safer than conventional detergents. 
  3. Understand greenwashing techniques. i.e.. just because a product claims to be ‘organic’ or ‘all natural’, 'free and clear' or for ‘sensitive skin’ does not make it non-toxic 
  4. Understand the difference between unscented and fragrance free. Fragrance Free is what you are looking for.This means that no artificial (synthetic) fragrances have been added to the product. unscented products typically have added fragrance agents used to mask the other smells. 
  5. Stick to companies that disclose all of their ingredients. This requires a bit of research. The Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Cleaners database is a great source. 
  6. For the most part avoid fabric softeners. I understand they are convenient and feel great after using, however according to the Canadian Environmental Health Association, conventional fabric softeners are the “most toxic product produced for daily household use”. These sheets are made up of a bunch of chemicals and fragrances and are especially dangerous because of how constantly they are used (weekly laundry) and the technology these products have that allow the chemicals to ‘re-release’ over an extended period of time. 
  7. If you absolutely cannot find a truly non-toxic laundry detergent that gets rid of stains to your liking consider buying a stain removing spray that you can use sparingly only on the worse stains. 

Non-Toxic Munchkin Recommends
Laundry Detergent 
Eco Nuts "As Seen on Shark Tank" Organic Laundry Detergent (100 Loads)

Nellie's All Natural Laundry Soda, 3.3 lbs. (1) This one I have not used but has great reviews and ingredients too.

Alternatives to fabric softeners:
- choose a well known trusted eco brand, like Attitude and Seventh Generation (their dryer sheets are non-toxic in that they are unbleached, chlorine-free, use plant-based softening agents, and are not artificially fragrance. Unlike most companies they actually disclose all of the ingredients in their products).
- dryer balls, quite effective in reducing static.
- If your washer allows for this, add a 1/2 cup of baking soda to the water in your washing machine before adding your clothes. Let it dissolve prior to adding your clothes, the baking soda with naturally make your clothes soft.

Seventh Generation Fabric Softener Sheets, Free and Clear, 80 Count

Stain Removal

Oil stains can be removed manually with dishwashing soap!

- ATTITUDE Laundry Stain Remover, Fragrance Free, 16 Fluid Ounce

- OxiClean Baby Stain Fighter, Soaker, 3 lb Tub Baby stain Soaker

- OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Free, 3 Lbs

- 365 Everyday Value Oxygen Whitening - Powder

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