Laundry detergent is a type of cleaning agent used for washing fabrics. Though conventional laundry detergents does a great job at keeping the fabrics clean and smelling fresh, unknown to many it poses a great risk in our health as well. Commercially produced laundry detergents have chemicals that do more harm than good. Based on the research conducted in University of Washington, everytime you use scented laundry detergents or fabric softeners, it releases more than 20 of volatile organic compounds (VOC) for every load. Some of these VOCs are dangerous air impurities while some are even classified as cancer-causing chemicals. Not only are your health at risk but also the neighborhood and environment may suffer from these chemicals.
Aside from the organic compounds, there are other chemicals that can be found in laundry detergents that are also damaging to your health. Some of the ingredients that can be found in laundry detergents are phenol (can cause internal damage such as in liver and lungs), bleach (causes skin allergic reaction when in contact), phosphate (toxic fertilizer banned in Europe and some parts of the United States), optical brighteners, sodium laureth sulfate, dioxane and synthetic surfactants. These chemical ingredients are necessary to make laundry detergents effectively cleans fabric but they are also harmful to one’s health as some of these are carcinogens. They can easily be absorbed by skin or through inhalation and even harmful to the environment.
Good thing there are safer alternatives that can be used minus the harmful side effects. These natural alternatives are readily available and can easily be bought in grocery stores and are also as effective as the commercial laundry detergent products. They do not have harmful chemicals that will affect personal health or the environment. So, protect your family and the environment from these cancer-causing products and switch to a safer products whilst enjoying the same result without the risk.
Indigenous to countries like Nepal and India, these dried small black berries from soap nut trees (sapindus mukorossi) are hypoallergenic and an ecological alternative to laundry detergent. It contains saponin which works like soap with its lathering characteristic. To use the soap nuts, place at least 3 to 5 pieces in a muslin bag and close by tightening the drawstrings. Make sure to soak them in hot water to release the saponin (especially if you are planning to wash them in cold water) before tossing it at the washing machine. It’s very easy to use for numerous times until it becomes soft and gray. One way to check if it is still an active nut is by running them through warm water and squeeze until it softens and suds are coming out. Liquid detergent can also be made from soap nuts by crushing and boiling them for 30 minutes (two soap nuts for every cup of water). Let it cool down before straining it in a jar and put in a fridge to avoid spoilage. This liquid detergent can be used as an all-purpose cleaner – from glass to jewelry. Aside from them being versatile, affordable, reusable and non-pollutant, it saves water (use less water when rinsing), acts as fabric softener and can be grown at your own backyard.
More popularly known as a baking ingredient, baking soda or sodium bicarbonate is also an alternative to laundry detergent. It is also good for removing odor on clothes and light oil stains. Three quarter cups of baking soda is enough to clean a full load of laundry, keeping clothes clean and making white clothes whiter, too. You can also add essential oil to the wash for fragrance. It is so safe to use it can be washed in cloth diapers. There are other benefits in using baking soda such as: drain cleaner, freshens mouth, whitens teeth, soothes feet by soaking in three tablespoon baking soda in warm water, safest way to clean baby, clean carpets by sprinkling the baking soda powder on the carpet and leave on for 15 minutes before vacuuming and remove grimes and dirt in shower.
Though washing soda or soda crystal (scientific name: sodium carbonate) is related to baking soda, this one is much stronger. Washing soda is used to remove stubborn stains due to its high alkaline compound. To effectively maximize its potential, use it as a pre-soak laundry by mixing two spoonful of washing soda in a gallon of warm water before adding the clothes with stain. Let it sit for 30 minutes then add another half cup of washing soda in the washing machine then wash the fabric as usual. For overnight soaking, use just two tablespoon washing soda in the same water content. You can make laundry detergent powder by combining half a cup of baking soda, one-fourth cup of washing soda, one-fourth cup of borax and grated natural soap. Make sure you keep it safe in a resealable plastic container.