Laundry detergent commercials would have us thinking we`re wrapping ourselves in clean mountain air or the fresh scent of wildflowers every time we wear our freshly washed clothes. But in reality we`re wrapping ourselves in a toxic blanket of chemicals. Although these commercial detergents may take the stains off your favorite pair of jeans, they are leaving something else far worse behind.
When we clean our laundry, we have certain expectations. Most of us expect all spots, stains, grime and odor to be removed from our laundry. We also want our laundry to smell fresh and feel soft to the touch. Detergent manufacturers use chemicals–no matter how potentially harsh or damaging– to fulfill these expectations and give you the impression of clean laundry. So here is the question we should be asking: is your laundry really clean if it`s saturated with chemicals after it`s been washed?
Here are just some of the chemicals commonly found in commercial laundry detergents:
Phenols: Deemed toxic by the National Health Institute, phenols can cause damage to the lungs, heart, kidneys and liver. They are very easily absorbed into the skin, making them especially dangerous. Phenols have been linked to serious health conditions and even death.
Optical brighteners: These are a popular new ingredient in commercial detergents. They trick the eye by altering ultraviolet wavelengths to make clothes look whiter. The result may be a façade, but the chemical dangers from these products are very real. Studies have shown these agents are extremely toxic to fish and can cause mutations in bacteria. They can also trigger strong allergic reactions in humans when exposed to sunlight.
Bleach: A traditional household cleaner, bleach has harmful side effects that have been known for decades. Bleach, or sodium hypochlorite, is a leading cause of poisoning in the home. It is a strong irritant to the eyes, nose and throat. Bleach can also cause severe reactions if it comes in contact with the skin.
Surfactants: A surfactant is a substance which basically binds to oily particles and carries them away with water during washing. These are what make our clothes clean when we wash them. Surfactants can be natural or synthetic. Natural surfactants are generally safe for people and the water supply, but chemical surfactants are not. Commercial laundry detergents are loaded with synthetic surfactants.
Fragrance: Artificial fragrances in laundry products are a strong irritant. The chemicals in fragrance additives can cause itchy, watery eyes and stinging nostrils. But the effects go much deeper than that. Chemical fragrances can trigger asthma attacks and aggravate allergies. They can even affect your thinking, making concentration and coordination difficult. All of these irritations show their worst in sensitive individuals, although no one is immune to the effects of these chemicals.
Any one of these chemical additives causes plenty of harm on its own, but all of these substances are combined and can react with each other in laundry detergents, becoming even more dangerous together than they were by themselves.
Think about it: clothing is in constant contact with your skin. The skin is exceptionally permeable; it quickly absorbs outside substances directly into the blood stream. Many experts recommend: if you wouldn`t eat it or drink it, you shouldn`t be letting it come into contact with your skin. Ditch the commercial laundry detergents and seek out more natural ways to clean your clothes.