Sunday, January 4, 2009

Stinky Laundry: Toxic Detergent

Yesterday when I opened my back door I almost got knocked out by the most overwhelming detergent smell I've ever confronted! My very kind & lovable landlady hang dries her clothes on a line just like me, only she uses regular store bought detergent rather then a natural alternative. Not only does regular detergent out gas the most noxious smell even when used in small amounts, but this was like half the box had been dumped in for a one load of clothes. Just trying to walk past the eco savvy drying line of pretty colors was like swimming through a bottle of perfume designed to make you pass out.

What really worries me about products like this being sold to the public is that they are being sold without an ingredients list and under the false pretence that they are regulated and safe. These companies have no one watching over them, chemical additives in detergents and dryer sheets include hazardous substances that are known carcinogens as described by the EPA. The main problem is lack of government regulation on selling toxic chemical based products- and worse the lack of public education about what products we use in our daily lives. This lack of education is compounded by the "trust" consumers put into companies because of the marketing tactics used in advertising & the cheap prices. (Since my BFF is an important guy in an advertising firm, I have learned first hand many of their tactics to get the public to trust and therefore buy- it always will just be hype.)

Still think they wouldn't sell us "rainforest" scented detergent unless it was OK? Think again...check out how the EPA has set up the Safer Detergents Stewardship Initiative (SDSI) in order to try and recognize and catalogue the detergents that are safest for you and the environment. "Safer surfactants are surfactants that break down quickly to non-polluting compounds and help protect aquatic life in both fresh and salt water. Nonylphenol ethoxylates, commonly referred to as NPEs, are an example of a surfactant class that does not meet the definition of a safer surfactant." What poisons aquatic life poisons all life, but since most brands won't list their ingredients you would never know you "clean" your clothes in poison.

Unsafe detergents not only literally stink causing asthma and allergy reactions, but they also are seeping into your skin - so you might not get a rash or blemishes but as the toxic load builds up these types of chems can later cause other chronic illnesses. Many fragrances are also known neurotoxins and I am convinced that the reason my landlady calls me lisa, laura, lindsey, lizza, and every 'L' name but Leslie when she sees me is because she lives in a foggy cloud of detergent & perfume poison that has chems known to funk out our critical thinking skills, fog our thoughts, and some are even engineered to trigger brain functions that make us want to buy things!

Clothes actually need very little if any soap to get them clean, the washer (machine, wonder wash or hands) do most of the real work. A washer repair man once told me you only need a few drops of soap and that "they only tell you that you need more so you'll buy more." Now that is as economical on price as you can get- a box of natural detergent could last you a long time! There are natural alternatives at most healthy groceries - but even a little baking soda or a drop a vinegar will get the job done. Smelling like an artificial flower is not smelling clean...
real clean smells like the sun!

Happy Washing! :)

To Read about specific ingredients of detergents and their effects GO HERE.


Scientifnick said...

I walked by these clothes a few times yesterday. The smell made me grimace. Not only that but she must have put enough clothes out there to dress a small army!

It got me thinking how much detergent she must have actually used for it to have such a horrific stench. She must have used a cup of detergent for each article of clothing. There are what 64 cups in one of those big boxes? So she used about 2,000 cups of detergent or 31 1/4 big boxes of detergent for this one round of wash. Don't bother to check the numbers this is very scientific.

No wonder she has a hard time remembering things..... Seriously though, these detergents are disgusting. I use baking soda myself.

Ruth R. said...

Leslie, I have this stink to contend with every time I use the washer on my floor...I share with 7 other people, and they use strong stuff every time...I hate it so much!!!! I think what I need to do is run a few rags through it just to clean out the bad stuff, then do my laundry...costs 75cents a load, but worth it! I don't doubt for a moment that your landlady is having brain glitch from all the toxic crap she's been using...thing is, she can no longer smell the detergent...her olfactory nerves are shot!!! How about "gifting" her with some fragrance-free detergent sometime?
Worth a try, maybe?
Hey, thanks for the tip about trying the for videos...I have had so much fun with my photos on there today!!!
Hope to use it for a photo montage of my twin sisters 80th birthday for their party in June...yeah!!!
When you get to be 80, you party big time!!!! ha ha
Take care of yourself...hugs, Ruth

linda said...

Conventional laundry products and fabric softeners and dryer sheets are the bane of many MCSers existence.

Here's another article about the problem chems in laundry detergents:

Anne Steinemann has done some research about the VOC's in laundry products and "air-fresheners".

Really makes one wonder what those manufacturers are thinking.

The Oko Box said...

Nick- LOL! Your numbers seems dead on!

Ruth- AT one point I tried using the same washers as others- with my gluten allergy (wheat is in ALL conventional detergents) it was really unsafe for me. When I did try it, I did do two rinses of the machine first, then put my clothes in. But other people put SO much detergents in, it's like the machines are forever tainted smelling. I have been hand washing (and spinning by hand in my wonder wash) for years now.
(I am glad you made some videos too- it's so much fun to play on One True Media!)

Linda- Thanks so much for the link and info! I don't think the manufacturers think much, maybe they have brain freeze amd their hearts disintegrated from being around too much detergents!

Meg said...

I have to agree with you on the foggy brain bit. I have noticed that in almost everyone that uses such chemicals, but especially laundry detergents. In fact, I sometimes think I can almost tell exactly how many different types of chemicals they use by how foggy they are!

Anonymous said...

Most common room deodorizers have neurotoxins and carcinogens too.

Jenny said...

I'm now on day seven of my 'housemate' (I use the term loosely) drying unbelievably stinking clothes by drying them over insanely hot radiators. I am itching constantly, even with both my bedroom windows open and an air filter running 24 hours a day.

I think she might be keeping the laundry detergent business afloat single-handedly She's certainly making me ill. I move out in four interesting to see whether my health changes.

The Oko Box said...

Hey Jenny!

That sounds like such a crappy housemate situation! Good thing you are getting to move out- i would totally choke on hot cooking detergent smells. I am sure your health will improve alot when you don't have to contend with polluted indoor air.
Good luck! xo