Monday, February 23, 2009

Laundry Detergents: Clean House Clean Planet

Clean House Clean Planet by Karen Logan

Many laundry detergents have various ingredients in them that may not be the best for you, the environment or your clothes. Common ingredients can include quaternary ammonium compounds, sodium carbonate (or washing soda), sodium alkyl benzene sulfonate, sodium silicate, bleach, enzymes and sometimes phosphates. Sometimes the ingredients on the laundry detergent containers are cloaked in secrecy or ambiguous descriptions. So you may really have to do some research to find out what is truly in the detergent you use. (see pg 191 - Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan)

So to help you out, here are a few of the common ingredients and a little behind the scenes story that you won't find talked about about.

Quaternary Ammonium Compounds are toxic. Ingestion can cause burns in the throat. Many companies have phased out these compounds, you can still find them in older formulations. All phenols are corrosive and damaging to the skin and eyes with prolonged exposure leading to liver and kidney damage. (see pg 111 - Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan)

Sodium Carbonate (or Washing Soda) according to Wikipedia is a sodium salt of carbonic acid. Used in the making of glass, as a pH regulator, to remove the flesh from bones in taxidermy, and also used in washing detergents, in food cooking. Sodium Carbonate does have a different chemical composition from Sodium Bicarbonate (also known as Baking Soda). This has many uses but as you can see it has some extremes.

Sodium Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate according to the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet), this is harmful if ingested or inhaled in quantities. It is a mild skin irritant and is readily metabolized in the body.

Sodium Silicate has many uses according to Wikipedia. If it is used in neutral or alkaline it is stable but if it is in an acidic solution, it reacts with hydrogen ions to form silicic acid. Some of the many uses of Sodium Silicate include muffler repair and fitting paste, to seal leaks in the head gasket of engines, to create algae for aquaculture hatcheries, general purpose cement, food preservation, timber treatment, passive fire protection, and water treatment.

Bleach is found in almost everyone's laundry room and yet it was the most frequently reported exposure to the Poison Control Center in 1994. When mixed with acids, bleach can form toxic chlorine gas and when mixed with ammonia, it can form toxic chloramine gas. Bleach can irritate the skin and when ingested it can irritate the mouth, esophagus and stomach. (Pg 19 - Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan). There are also issues of the environment that of course the manufacturer says it is completely safe but that does not necessarily mean it is. There is plenty of evidence out there to suggest that what the manufacturer says is not necessarily true.

If you wish to read up more on various ingredients that are used in laundry detergents, the Soap And Detergent Association has a wonderful website filled with information relating to the industry that they represent. So please read that website with this in mind.

I have tried to find a site that lists all the ingredients of laundry detergents but if it is out there, it is evading me. Of course they claim it is a trade secret but in all reality, as toxic as the ingredients are, they should be listed. We have to thank the lobbyists and campaign contributions for making sure of this.

In this post, I've just listed a few ingredients that have some strange uses. Laundry detergent is not something you want to eat or drink but with children around, you need to be very careful as it takes very little to be ingested to cause serious problems. Laundry detergents are a major source of waste water and so the toxic ingredients in them have to go somewhere. It is probably safe to say that the less we use of these things, the better our world will be for future generations. There is so much more I could share from the book Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan, but I'll let you read it and learn much more than I am able to share here. It is an excellent book and I've personally used many of her ideas. They do work and they work well.

One thing to keep in mind is that many of these detergents to do not wash or rinse out of your clothes very well. If you don't believe this, try washing the next load of laundry and don't put any detergent in. See how much soap and suds come out of the clothes. Some detergents are better than others but why have all of this stuck to the fibers of your clothes where it might be a mild skin irritant or have a level of toxicity that you wear on your body all day long.

Here's some immediate things you can to begin changing how you use Laundry Detergent: (pg 196 - Clean House Clean Planet by Karen Logan)
  • Use half as much detergent and look at the results. Most likely your clothes will be clean with less product. Check it out for yourself and adjust the amount used to see what you truly need for your water type and situation.
  • If you have really have a load of laundry that is soiled, you could add a 1/2 Cup of Borax as a laundry booster.
  • When you're finished with a bottle of detergent, don't' just throw it out. Fill it up with water from the machine and use it in your washer for another load. You make the bottle go a little further which makes your dollars more effective and less goes into the landfill to pollute the environment and ground water.
  • Instead of bleach, try using lemon juice from a squeezed lemon. It works well and it doesn't take much.
  • Instead of fabric softener, try using 1/2 Cup baking soda to the rinse cycle.
  • Check out alternatives to the regular store brands. There are more Eco friendly products and some of them don't get too expensive.
  • Get yourself a measuring cup and keep it by the washing machine to accurately measure out laundry detergent. Don't go by the eyeball method or if I put more, it will clean better. More is not always better. Plus your laundry detergent dollars will go much further!
I use Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds for my laundry and I also use it for general cleaning and to mop my floors. It is a great cleaner and rinses out of the clothes much better than most laundry detergents. I use essential oils as well if I am cleaning the floors and it really makes the house smell great. The one nice thing when I use it on the floors is that it seems like dirt is not attracted to my floors like regular household cleaners. So I assume the same is true with using this in the laundry. This product appears expensive but I have a 1/4 cup measuring cup that I use and for most loads of laundry, I probably fill that measuring cup half way. Half of the 1/4 cup measuring cup is plenty for about 4 gallons of mop bucket water. Any more than that and everything is too soap sudsy. I have even began to experiment putting lemon essential oil (about 5 drops) into my whites and I was amazed at how well it cleaned them. I've started to add 1/2 cup of baking soda and it helps not only clean the laundry good but gives them a softness. So while this soap product may look expensive, it does go a long ways. If you use it like I do, it will last a long time.

The biggest thing is to become aware of what you are using and see just how it impacts not only your life, but the world around you. Of course finding something that works well and is not a hassle, is a big plus in making this work. Do like I've done though and prove to yourself if all of this makes a difference. I was a skeptic at first but the more I learn and do with this, the more I realize just what a difference it makes in my life.

Much of the information I shared here, I got from researching online and reading the book, Clean House Clean Planet by Karen Logan. This book is wonderful and has so many natural cleaning methods in it that are easy, inexpensive and wonderful to use. If you want to cut some of your household expenses from cleaning supplies, get this book. You'll be surprised at how it changes your life!


  1. Unfortunately Salsuds, according to Dr Bronners website contains Sodium Lauryl Sulphate or SLS, which is not a benign ingredient, but rather one that can cause damage to eyes, hair, skin, liver toxicity and hormone disruption. A better option is to use Dr Bronner's Baby Mild All in 1 Castile with an essential oil at a higher concentration. I'm rather surprised you overlooked this!

  2. To anonymous, whoever that is..

    I'm not sure why the "attitude" in your comment but just so you know when I looked at this website originally, I did not see the ingredients. They may have been listed but I don't recall that.

    I will check out the other product that you mention. It is great that you brought this to my attention but I did not INTENTIONALLY miss this!