When you think about toxic contaminants, you’re probably like most people and think about outdoor air fumes, garbage-choked waterways or industrial waste.
But the fact of the matter is most people spend the majority of their time indoors… as much as 80-90% in most cases. You spend a great deal of time working, studying, sleeping, eating, and even exercising in very enclosed spaces indoors.
So, wouldn’t it make sense to understand more about potential toxic contaminant risks in the indoor environments you spend so much time in… particularly, your own home?
In fact, the typical home in the US contains anywhere from 3 to 10 gallons of contaminants from glass and bathroom cleaners to garden pesticides and fertilizers… some of these contaminants may even contain carcinogens.
And sometimes it’s the routine things you do… habits you’re so used to doing a certain way…things you never give much thought to the potential dangers you could be exposing yourself and your family to – like when washing your clothes.
Yes, I’m talking about doing your laundry.
To help put this more in perspective, here are a few stats on the staggering amounts of laundry washed and detergent used…
- An average family washes around 80 pounds (30 kg) of laundry every week
- In the US alone, 35 billion loads of laundry are washed every year
- The average amount of detergent used per laundry load = ½ cup… which means 17.5 billion cups of detergent are used each year in the US alone
So, whatever liquid or powder you’re pouring into your washing machine week after week, how do you know how safe any of these detergents are… or are not?
Let’s take a closer look at…
Potentially Toxic Ingredients Found in Most Laundry Detergents
For several years now, I've been alerting and educating people on some of the dangers of ingredients in many popular brands of laundry detergent… some ingredients that are even carcinogens.
And I can tell you most laundry detergents contain a potentially toxic stew of chemicals that can leave residues behind on your clothing… and can be absorbed by your skin or released into the air you breathe.
Here are just some of the toxins and potential carcinogens found in typical
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – Chemical foaming agent known as a surfactant. Studies have linked use of this chemical to a variety of health issues from skin irritation to organ toxicity.
- Dioxane (1,4-dioxane) – The majority of top laundry detergent brands contain this synthetic petrochemical known as a carcinogen. This is a by-product contaminant of the manufacturing process and is not required to be listed on product labels.
- Linear Alky Benzene Sulfonates (LAS) – Synthetic petrochemicals that biodegrade slowly making them an environmental hazard. Benzene is a probable carcinogen.
- Nonylphenol Ethoxylate (NPE) – Petrochemical surfactant banned in the EU and Canada. May cause liver and kidney damage. Biodegradable, but biodegrades into more toxic substances.
- Petroleum distillates (aka napthas) – Derived from synthetic crude oil, linked to lung and mucous membrane damage.
- Phenols – Can cause toxicity throughout the entire body.
- Optical brighteners – Can be toxic to fish and cause allergic reactions in humans.
- Artificial fragrances – Linked to various toxic effects on fish and mammals, and can cause allergies, skin and eye irritation to humans.
- Phosphates – Used to prevent dirt from settling back into clothes after being washed. Can stimulate growth of marine plants that trigger unbalanced ecosystems.
- Ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) – Group of compounds used as an alternative to phosphates. Found to cause reproductive and developmental effects in lab animals and does not readily biodegrade.
- Sodium Hypochlorite (household bleach) – Chemical precursor to chlorine, which is extremely toxic. Skin contact can produce caustic irritation or burns. Mixing with other cleaning products can create hazardous and sometimes carcinogenic fumes.
These are just some of the toxic and potential carcinogens found in typical laundry detergents that can not only cause you harm, but raise havoc in the environment as well. These harsh chemicals can build up in your clothes and eventually penetrate your skin.
Detergent makers are not required by law to list these ingredients.
Well, I’m going to focus on four of the most toxic detergent chemicals… so you can keep a closer eye out for them and learn how to best avoid them altogether. I consider the four worst offenders in laundry detergent to be sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), 1,4-dioxane, nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), and phosphates.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – Anything But Natural!
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a surfactant, detergent, and emulsifier used in thousands of industrial cleaners and cosmetic products.
SLS is pervasive in nearly all shampoos, scalp treatments, hair color and bleaching agents, toothpastes, body washes and cleansers, make-up foundations, liquid hand soaps, and yes… laundry detergents.
Because SLS is a very inexpensive foaming agent.
Although SLS originates from coconuts, the chemical is anything but natural.
SLS is the sodium salt of lauryl sulfate and is classified by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Cosmetics Database as a "denaturant, surfactant cleansing agent, emulsifier and foamer," rated "moderate hazard."
Similar to SLS is sodium laureth sulfate (short for sodium lauryl ether sulfate, or SLES), a yellow detergent with higher foaming ability. SLES is considered to be slightly less irritating than SLS.
One of the most confusing and deceptive issues with SLS is how it goes by many other names, including…
- Sodium dodecyl sulfate
- Sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt
- Sodium salt sulfuric acid
- Monododecyl ester sodium salt sulfuric acid
- Akyposal SDS
- Aquarex ME
- Aquarex methyl
So, even if laundry detergent manufacturers were to list this ingredient on their product label, they could disguise SLS by using other chemical names.
But what are the potential hazards of SLS…why is it so important to avoid this cleansing agent?
How Could 16,000 Studies Possibly Get it WRONG?
When it comes to raising any sort of ‘red flag’ on anything health-related, I’m always careful not to take a single study or research finding as the ‘gospel’ truth.
But with SLS, there are 15,965 studies in the PubMed science library relating to the potential risks.
How could almost 16,000 studies be wrong?
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), research studies on SLS have shown potential links to…
- Irritation of eyes
- Organ toxicity
- Developmental/reproductive toxicity
- Neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and ecotoxicology
Plus, a number of studies report SLS being potentially damaging to oral mucosa and skin. This is not at all surprising since SLS is actually used as a skin irritant during studies where medical treatments for skin irritation require first using an intentionally-irritating agent.
Avoiding SLS in your laundry detergent, as well as other personal care products, is a must.
Wouldn’t you agree?
The question remains is how can you avoid it when laundry detergent manufacturers don’t need to list it on their labels?
Well, hang in there… and I’ll show you the best approach on how to avoid this and other toxic laundry detergent chemicals as well.
Why is the Environmental Protection Agency So Concerned About NPE?
When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) starts getting concerned about a consumer product, we all need to pay attention.
And such is the case with nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) found in many laundry detergents. The EPA recently released an action plan to address both NPE and nonylphenol (NP), whose main use is the manufacture of NPE.
The action plan was to gain support for ongoing voluntary phase-out of NPEs in laundry detergent.
Why is the EPA so concerned about these chemicals?
When the EPA gets involved, it usually means there is strong evidence hazardous chemicals are showing up in the environment… which means NPE and NP either do not biodegrade very well or biodegrade into something even more toxic.
NPE is already banned in Canada and Europe. And even Wal-Mart has listed NPE as one of the chemicals they’re asking suppliers to phase-out. Plus, the Sierra Club has further petitioned the EPA to regulate NPE.
With NPE and NP being found in environmental samples from freshwater… to saltwater… to groundwater, sediment, and soil… you can understand why the EPA is taking action.
Although NPE and NP are not yet banned in the US and don’t require listing on product labels, there is a very simple way you can avoid these synthetic petrochemicals in your laundry detergent. I’ll show you how to do this coming up.
1,4-Dioxane – Synthetic Chemical Found in Most Laundry Detergents
In 2007, over concerns raised about a synthetic chemical called “1,4-dioxane,” the Green Patriot Working Group (GPWG) embarked on a study to determine how much of this toxic chemical was found in laundry detergent.
- About two-thirds of the laundry detergents tested contained 1,4-dioxane
- 13 popular brands contained 1,4-dioxane with one brand as high as 55 parts per million (ppm)
- Even the so-called natural brands weren’t totally free from 1,4-dioxane – 2 out of 7 did contain the toxin
Why so much concern over 1,4-dioxane in the first place?
Deadly Threat to YOU and the Environment
Synthetic 1,4-dioxance is created when laundry detergents, and other cleaning products, are cheaply manufactured using ethoxylation (a short-cut industrial process in which ethylene oxide is added to fatty acid alcohols to give them detergent properties).
And since 1,4-dioxane is considered a byproduct, it’s technically recognized as a contaminant and doesn’t require listing on the product label. Sound familiar?
- Is considered a carcinogen by the State of California
- Has been found to be potentially toxic to your brain and nervous system (according to the CDC)
- Potentially causes issues with your kidneys, liver, and respiratory system (based on info from the CDC)
Plus, due to its lack of effective biodegradability, it’s an increasing threat to waterways.
Like other detergent toxins I’ve already talked about, 1,4-dioxane goes by other names as well. Look for the following suffixes in detergent ingredients…
- "Myreth," "oleth," "laureth," "ceteareth," any other "eth"
- "Polyethylene," "polyethylene glycol," or "polyoxyethylene"
Plus, you need to be aware that SLS is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane.
So, this is one harsh chemical you want to avoid being exposed to and avoid exposing the environment to as well. And I’ve found and helped create a solution to help you do all this.
Most Laundry Detergents Have Removed This – Why Not All?
Detergents are available with or without phosphates—so you have a choice!
As of March 2008, twenty-five states have issued phosphate detergent bans, and the list continues to grow. Fifteen new states joined the cause in July of 2010… that’s a total of 40 states who issued bans.
So what are the issues with phosphates?
Phosphates are the main cleaning ingredient in many laundry detergents (and other household cleaners) because they break down dirt particles and remove stains by softening the water and allowing suds to form.
This process enhances the cleaning power of the detergent.
However, there are human health problems, as well as major environmental hazards associated with phosphates.
Phosphate residues left behind on items cleaned with phosphate-containing detergents have been known to potentially cause…
- Skin irritations
Plus, one of the biggest concerns with phosphates is the environmental havoc they create in waterways with increased algae growth which…
- Acts as a fertilizer in the water choking off rivers and lakes
- Suffocates salmon and other aquatic life
- Releases toxins that deplete waterways of oxygen once the algae die
And, the scary thing is phosphates remain active even after wastewater treatments.
The bottom line… you do have a choice. And finding phosphate-free laundry detergent is quite easy. Unlike other potentially dangerous toxins, most detergent manufacturers list the fact the detergent is phosphate-free right on the label.
Why You Should Avoid Fabric Softeners and Dryer Sheets Like the Plague
I wouldn’t be thorough in my analysis of laundry dangers if I didn’t address fabric softeners and dryer sheets.
Even though they may make your clothes feel soft and smell fresh, fabric softeners and dryer sheets are some of the most toxic products used in the laundering process.
And further emphasizing my concern over carcinogenic laundry ingredients, here’s a list of some of the contaminants found in fabric softener and dryer sheets, and their potential health impacts…
- Benzyl acetate – A carcinogen
- A-Terpineol – Can cause respiratory and nervous system problems.
- Ethyl Acetate – A narcotic on the EPA's Hazardous Waste list.
- Camphor – May causes potential central nervous system disorders.
- Chloroform -- Neurotoxin, anesthetic and carcinogenic
- Pentane – A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled
Plus, some fabric softeners and dryer sheets even contain ethanol, an alternative fuel derived from corn, grain, or even agricultural waste. Any wonder it’s on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list?
Your choices are clear here… just don’t use fabric softener and dryer sheets. As far as fabric softener, I’ll have an alternative for you coming up that won’t require you to purchase a separate softener at all.
But first, here are…
Seven Simple Tips for Greener Laundering
Hopefully, public awareness about the four detergent contaminants I reviewed earlier will, in time, be banned from use. With 40 states already banning phosphates, this is a step in the right direction.
But what can you do in the meantime to minimize your exposure and help shrink your ecological footprint?
Here’s a helpful list for ‘greener’ laundering…
- Buy concentrated detergents – These types of detergents have reduced packaging and a smaller carbon footprint (requiring less space and fuel for shipping).
- Wear it more than once – Instead of washing your clothes after wearing them only once, if they’re really not dirty, washing them less often saves energy and extends the life of your clothes as well.
- Wash and rinse in cold water – You’ll save a bundle on electricity by not heating water because 90% of the energy required for washing lies in heating up the water.
- Wash only full loads of laundry – Washing small loads of laundry is very inefficient and wastes water and energy.
- Hang it out to dry – There are about 88 million dryers in the US alone, each emitting a ton or more of carbon dioxide every year. Because they use so much energy, anything you can do to cut back on dryer use can make a real difference. If possible, put up a clothesline… your clothes will last longer and smell fresher as well.
- Try making your own detergent – One of the greenest ways to go is do-it-yourself laundry detergent. You’ll only need a few ingredients and will certainly know what’s going in your formula (to avoid exposure to all the contaminants discussed above). There are many options available online.
- Avoid dry cleaning – Traditional dry cleaning is not a ‘green’ process by any stretch of the imagination. It is a toxic process which uses harsh, carcinogenic chemicals, such as perchloroethylene (aka ‘perc’). If you must dry clean certain clothes, look for an eco-friendly ‘green’ dry cleaner in your area.
In addition to all this, I would strongly recommend you take the time to highly scrutinize any laundry detergent you buy. There are natural laundry detergents out there that do list some of their ingredients, and even more importantly, list what they are free of.
What to Look for in a Top Notch Laundry Detergent
Just like there are cheap toxic laundry detergents, there are also cheap imitations of ‘natural’ laundry detergents.
- Non-Toxic and 100% Biodegradable – Helps protect the environment… particularly, lakes and streams.
- Uses eco-certified ingredients – Testing by an independent agency that certain ingredients used are indeed ‘green.’
- Uses only plant-based enzymes – Avoid animal-based enzymes and other animal ingredients (which can lead to unnecessary animal testing). More on the importance of enzymes coming up.
- Phosphates- and Sulfates-Free – Free from phosphates and SLS/SLES (and other derivatives).
- 1,4-dioxane and NPE-free – Free from 1,4-dioxane (and all its derivative names) and NPE. You already know about my concern with their health risks.
- Free from bleach, dyes, fragrances, optical brighteners, and masking agents – Only food-grade ‘cleaning’ sources used.
- Derived from plants, vegetables, and food sources – Contains only food-grade ingredients.
- Includes a plant-based fabric softener – No need for a separate softener.
- Performs ideally in cold water and is safe for delicate fabrics and colors –Saves energy over hot water. Performs well regardless of fabric material and colors.
The point is the detergent you are looking for uses safe, non-toxic plant-based and food-based ingredients.
Now, I realize finding a perfect match for laundry detergent based on the criteria (above) is not easy. Well, I’m ready to help you take the guess-work out of all that. Believe me, this is another example of how I’ve had my team perform their homework to save you valuable time.
In a moment, I’ll introduce you to what I believe is the top laundry detergent available today… one in which my team and I had solid input into creating an ultimate formula.
But first, let’s take a closer look at…
Why Enzymes are So Important
So what are enzymes and why are they important in laundry detergent?
Enzymes are basic proteins found in all living things. They act as catalysts to speed up chemical reactions. In laundry detergent, enzymes remove and help wash away a variety of stains on your clothes.
One amazing thing about enzymes in laundry detergent is they do not lose their functionality after working on each stain… they go right on and work on the next one.
Some of the most important reasons to use enzymes in laundry detergent are because enzymes…
- Can replace very large quantities of synthetic chemicals, including those with potential carcinogenic risks
- Work effectively at very low temperatures… not always the case with manmade chemical solutions
- Are fully biodegradable and eco-friendly
But I must warn you here… all enzymes are not be created equal. That’s why my team and I worked directly with a laundry detergent producer to create an extraordinarily unique formula.
The enzymes in Mercola Greener Cleaner Laundry Detergent…
- Are plant-based only enzymes – No animal testing or animal ingredients.
- Total 3 different enzymes – While other detergents often include only 2 or even 1 enzyme in their formula.
- Are produced, quality tested, and backed by the largest enzyme company in the entire world.
You can begin to see how my team and I didn’t cut any corners when we set out to provide the best laundry detergent available today.
How My Laundry Detergent Stacks Up
Here’s a helpful chart that shows how Mercola Greener Cleaner Laundry Detergent stacks up against my ‘shopping’ criteria and the competition.
|| Mercola Greener Cleaner
|| Other Detergents
|100% Non-Toxic and 100% Biodegradable?
|| Yes – Only plant-based, food-grade ingredients used to protect you and the environment.
||Many detergents use 100% non-toxic and 100% biodegradable ingredients. But not all.
|Uses Eco-certified ingredients
|| Yes – Ingredients used in Greener Cleaner are eco-certified.
||Not many detergents can make this statement. Few if any have their ingredients eco-certified by an independent lab.
|Uses only a combination of plant-based enzymes?
|| Yes – Three (3) plant-based enzymes are formulated into the laundry detergent. No animal-based enzymes or ingredients used.
||Not all brands of laundry detergents avoid animal-based enzymes and other animal-based ingredients that may require animal testing. Plus, most brands incorporate only 1-2 enzymes in their formulas.
|Phosphate- and Sulfate-Free?
|| Yes – No phosphates or sulfates, including SLS, SLES, or derivatives.
||Many brands, including one of the most popular brands, often use a form of SLS. Why? It’s a very inexpensive synthetic foaming agent.
|1,4-dioxane and NPE-Free?
|| Yes – Completely free from 1,4-dioxane and NPE.
||Detergent brands are not totally free from these petrochemicals.
|Free from bleach, dyes, fragrances, optical brighteners, and masking agents?
|| Yes – Greener Cleaner is free from all these chemicals and synthetics.<
||Most brands tend to be free from these ingredients. But others are not and don’t list on their labels that they do contain some or all of these.
|Derived from plants/vegetables and natural food sources?
|| Yes – Only plant-based and food based ingredients used.
||Even some brands include animal-based ingredients in their detergents.
|Includes a plant-based fabric softener?
|| Yes – No need for a separate fabric softener with potentially risky carcinogenic ingredients.
||Not all detergents include a plant-based fabric softener in their formula.
|Performs ideally in cold water and is safe for delicate fabrics and colors?
|| Yes – Works well in both HE (high-efficiency) and non-HE washing machines. Plus, performs well regardless of fabrics or colors.
||Some brands work in both HE and non-HE machines. But not all of them.
So, why couldn’t most laundry detergent manufacturers satisfy my criteria?
There are many reasons, but one of the most compelling one is cost. Some companies producing so-called natural laundry detergents often cut corners by:
- Using cheaper foaming agents like SLS…
- Using cheaper animal-based enzymes…
- Cutting back on the number of plant-based enzymes they use in their formula…
- Not including a fabric softener in the formula itself.
With Mercola Greener Cleaner Laundry Detergent, I chose not to cut corners when creating a detergent. And at the same time, my team was able to keep pricing very reasonable.
More on pricing info coming up.
Why Safe, Non-Hazardous Ingredients Are My Top Priority
I mentioned the Environmental Working Group (EWG) earlier. They provide a safety rating system for personal care products (including most laundry detergent ingredients) in their Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.
The EWG is a non-profit organization that I believe is not tied one way or another to any specific manufacturer.
The chart below is a sample of some of the general ingredients in Mercola Greener Cleaner Laundry Detergent and how they compare to one of the most popular detergents in the marketplace today.
‘Hazard’ scoring key from EWG is as follows:
- 0-2 – Low hazard
- 3-6 – Moderate hazard
- 7-10 – High hazard
From this general ingredient comparison chart, you can quickly see how well Mercola Greener Cleaner Laundry Detergent’s ingredients rank against one of the top-selling natural brands.
detergent EWG score:
||0 – does not contain any
||4 – contains SLS
||Info not available
||Info not available
||Does not contain a 3rd enzyme
|Cleaning agent #1
|Cleaning agent #2
|Cleaning agent #3
|Water softener ph adjuster
||Only has 1 preservative
Get Stain and Spot Treatment Power When You Need It
With Mercola Greener Cleaner Stain Treatment, attacking those nasty stains and spots is easy.
Mercola Greener Cleaner Stain Treatment is…
- Free from toxic petrochemicals
- Fragrance- and dye-free
- Free from phosphates, masking agents, and sulfates
- Powerful – But won’t leave harmful residue on your clothing
This is one tough stain treatment and a fantastic complement to Mercola Greener Cleaner Laundry Detergent. So, what makes this stain treatment so powerful?
If you remember earlier, I brought to your attention the reasons why I felt enzymes are so important in laundry detergent. Well, the same holds true, even more so, with a stain treatment. And Mercola Greener Cleaner Stain Treatment has 4 unique and powerful enzymes designed to help work on stains like these…
- Fat and oil – Butter, cooking oil, grease, and salad dressing
- Starch – Baby foods, chocolate, and tomato-based foods (ketchup, etc)
- Protein – Blood, eggs, and grass
I strongly recommend Mercola Greener Cleaner Stain Treatment as a powerful and easy-to-use complement to Mercola Greener Cleaner Laundry Detergent.
If You Want a Laundry Detergent and a Stain Treatment at Reasonable Prices – You've Come to the Right Place!
With all the ingredients that make up Mercola Greener Cleaner Laundry Detergent and Mercola Greener Cleaner Stain Treatment, and with my team making sure we didn’t cut any corners when it came to eliminating toxic and potential carcinogenic chemicals (often found in many top-selling detergents and stain treatments), you might be concerned about the cost of these laundry products.
Well, as I mentioned above, my team worked hard to keep pricing reasonable.
In fact, at $23.99 per gallon (128 fluid ounces/3.79 liters), Mercola Greener Cleaner Laundry Detergent costs only $0.19 per ounce. That’s equal to, or better than the per ounce price of many top-selling natural brands.
And at only $14.97, Mercola Greener Cleaner Stain Treatment is reasonably priced as well at only $0.68 per ounce.
So, not only do you get all the remarkable 100% non-toxic and biodegradable ingredients… with multiple plant-based enzymes, and a built-in plant-based fabric softener (in the detergent)… you can take advantage of both Greener Cleaner laundry products at reasonable prices.
Order today, to start cleaning your clothes and help keep the environment ‘greener’ with Mercola Greener Cleaner Laundry Detergent and Mercola Greener Cleaner Stain Treatment.
Greener Cleaner Has Been Discontinued
At Mercola.com, we always strive to provide you with the best products we can.
That’s why we are currently reformulating our Greener Cleaner.
We apologize for the current inconvenience, but please know that that our new laundry detergent will be better than ever.