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Laundry Detergents/Fabric Softeners

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posted on Jun, 9 2009 @ 11:27 AM
Lately on ATS I've seen what seems like an increase in the amount of threads about various chemicals put into products, our water, etc that may not have the greatest health benefit. As I was doing my laundry today, I thought "I wonder what is in my laundry detergent?" I assumed it would be some chemicals I could look up, but the only ingredients listed were: Biodegradable Surfactants (Anionic and Nonionic) and enzymes. This seems a little generic for me, so i checked my fabric softener as well with similar results: Biodegradable Fabric Softening Agents (Canionic).

Not being satisfied, I decided to look up exactly what this meant (thanks google
!) What I found was a little more than I actually expected.

A surfactant is basically a chemical that removes dirt from something (including clothes, skin, etc). Anionic surfactants hold a negative charge, to bond with the positively charged wash water. Cationic have a negative charge, and nonionic do dot dissociate in the water. (Source - Wikipedia)

Laundry Detergent

On the EPA's site, they have a list of surfactants included in most common laundry detergents.

Surfactants Builders Bleaches Colorants Optical Brighteners Solvents Wash Water Resource Efficiency Packaging

They go into detail for each, with the positive characteristics and causes of concern for each. Here are a few select ones:

Surfactants Positive Environmental Characteristic: Biodegrade readily to compounds with low toxicity. Example: Straight carbon chain compounds like linear alcohol ethoxylates or betaine esters. Key Characteristics of Concern: Toxicity to aquatic organisms, like fish (vertebrates), daphnids (invertebrates) and algae; persistence in the environment; toxicity of biodegradation byproducts.

Colorants Positive Environmental Characteristic: Low toxicity to humans and aquatic organisms. Minimize colorant use whenever possible. Key Characteristic of Concern: Toxicity. Studies indicate that certain colorants may cause cancer or other adverse health effects in humans (e..g., Rhodamine B). Metalized dyes present health and environmental concerns.

Ultimately, ALL except the last 2 are either toxic or otherwise harmful to humans and the environment, mostly aquatic life.

Source - EPA

Another thing to note about that, is that while it lists the ingredients as biodegradable, they are described as very slowly to biodegrade, have toxic byproducts in the biodegrading process.

Another site with potential harms from these chemicals:

Most detergents are derived from petrochemical ingredients. They may contain bleaches, synthetic whiteners, and chemical fragrances, even in some so-called "fragrance free" brands. Some detergents may contain ammonia, ethanol, naphthalene and phenol. Many liquid brands contain ethoxylated alcohols, which can be contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane. Detergent residues on clothes and bed linens can be a source of skin irritation, and lingering scents from scented products can cause respiratory and other reactions in both the user and others. Petroleum-based detergents cause more household poisonings than any other household product, (when eaten by children.) Laundry soaps, available as bar soaps or flakes, are usually made from natural minerals and fats and tend to be less toxic than conventional


Lastly, this has proven to affect plant life as well (probably obvious given the whole water thing


posted on Jun, 9 2009 @ 11:37 AM

The toxic response of lettuce to Igepon was that the roots turned brown and became necrotic within 24 h following exposure. Growth was suppressed for approximately 4 days following exposure to concentration greater than 0.35 mM


Fabric Softeners

Fabric softeners brought me similar results. One thing I wasnt aware

Some chemicals and symptoms:

ALPHA-TERPINEOL Causes CNS (central nervous system) disorders... "highly irritating to mucous membranes" ..."Aspiration into the lungs can produce pneumonitis or even fatal edema." Can also cause "excitement, ataxia (loss of muscular coordination), hypothermia, CNS and respiratory depression, and headache." "Prevent repeated or prolonged skin contact." BENZYL ACETATE Carconigenic (linked to pancreatic cancer). "From vapors: irritating to eyes and respiratory passages, exciting cough." "In mice: hyperanemia of the lungs." "Can be absorbed through the skin causing systemic effects." "Do not flush to sewer." BENZYL ALCOHOL Causes CNS disorders ..."irritating to the upper respiratory tract" ..."headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drop in blood pressure, CNS depression, and death in severe cases due to respiratory failure."

For more, view the Source

Fabric softeners may contain quarternary ammonium compounds (quats) and imidazolidinyl, both of which are known formaldehyde releasers.


Also, fabric softeners are designed to stop static cling, but to do so, it basically sticks itself to the clothing to do so, causing it to be in constant contact with your skin.

Most also state to NOT flush down drains or sewers, not to ingest, etc. Contact is not only by touching, but can also be inhaled as well.


Ultimately, I'm not saying to stop using detergents, I'm just trying to make an informative thread because prior to today, I had no idea what was in them. I also find it odd that there are numerous other alternatives such as baking soda, vinegar, etc that are safer for humans and the environment, yet those options arent as popular. (I'd never even heard of them!). If theres any itnerest in this thread, I'll do a little more digging into all this.

posted on Jun, 9 2009 @ 12:23 PM
Synchromystically, I found one of my mother's books yesterday. The Natural Formula Book for Home & Yard. 1982

Homemade Soap

"Just one ingredient in commercial detergents - phosphates - starts us off with three good reasons to consider making our own soap at home. Phosphates are (1) a petroleum-based product. That makes them (2) expensive. And they cause (3) water pollution in a very subtle form. Algae feed on phosphates, multiply, and eventually choke out other lifeforms."

"Making simple soap is an easy process involving just three basic ingredients - lye, fat, water. Lye is an emulsifying agent that lifts dirt and grease from the item being washed. Fat acts as a medium for holding caustic lye in a diluted state and provides the lather of suds which picks up dirt and holds it in suspension until it can be rinsed away with clean water. The water is used to dissolve the lye, which comes in crystalline form."

So, with this book and some elbow-grease I'm going to try making my own soap. With the end product in mind, I'll be able to customize it with scent, herbs, oatmeal and color to suit. The final product will be a solid hunk that can be shaved with a grater and used to make liquid soap, laundry flakes and much more. Or the mixture can be poured into molds. It takes about 2 weeks to "cure".

And for fabric softener, the book suggests baking soda for clean, fresh smelling clothes.

I like having alternatives to try since the commercial products are not exactly safe for us or the environment.

posted on Jun, 9 2009 @ 12:34 PM
Thanks for that post! I'd be interested to see how it turns out.

A little off topic, but lately I've been kind of into the whole idea of "alternatives". I have a few, I guess you can call conditions (mild acne, occasional dandruff, and blepharaitis, which is kind of like conjuctavitis). I've taken various over the counter and prescriptions for them, and while some have slight improvement, most either did nothing or made it worse. I looked up some natural alternatives I want to try out, for the acne mainly, with Aloe Vera gel, apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, things like that.

Maybe I can convince my mom to use baking soda instead

posted on Jun, 9 2009 @ 12:36 PM
LOVE this thread! Ive done some research myself, it really is fascinating stuff! I do know this.. few years ago, before my father passed, he was stripping old wallpaper and apint off our dinng room walls(plaster underneath). Chemical stripping sprays form hardware store were not reallt efective and took huors to saturate. So, a friend of his, told hm about uisnf fabric softener... and guess what..diluted a tad bit in water, took less than 20 minutes to remove all that old wallpaper and paint, and with ease! You didnt have to fight scraping it off. That made me think..damn! if it can strip paint off a wall, whats it doing to my cloths and skin? I only use natural fabric softener now, or not all all. Sun and earth makes a product i like.
I saw a documentary years ago, on history channel, about water pollution. They showed back in the early 1980's, a small creek known as firewater. Apparently, ionic surfectants did not decompose in water, and in fact were flamable. A wire had fallen off a post and into sewege stream leading to small river, and ignited it! I was watching actual footage of it. Try gooogling it on yuotube, somethinig might show up.
Dish detergent like dawn were mostly responsable for this. That is why today, we have non-anionic mixed it..its not flammable. I had read a post online forum, about tide detergent..and alot of people swear to it as an excellent pipe cleaner! They had noted, plumbers doing a job in their house, complimented the owenrs on such non blocked up pipes near the washer to exit lines...Tide laundry detergent was attribute to it.
I myself, only buy cheap and biodegradable. Time to time, i do buy natural cleaners, like from sun and earth, or E3 living.
Try this site... yuo can type in shampoos, deodorants, foot bahts ect ect and get an actual hazard rating! and the documented effects ingriedinets have done on lab rats, or whcih has been shown to cause cell mutation(cancer) in living tissue. I was shocked as all hell, to see Suave is rated at 6-7 on a scale of 10, 10 being bad of course.

posted on Jun, 9 2009 @ 12:42 PM
reply to post by kyle6677

For your acne, lavender flowers soaked in warm water will make a nice decoction that you can use to rinse your face. It will soothe the skin and work on clearing up the acne. Have your mom look it up. Maybe it will work for you. As I tell my kids, don't ever ever ever touch your face with your fingers. Use the back of your hand if you have to. The oils on your fingers will aggravate acne!

posted on Jun, 9 2009 @ 12:47 PM
reply to post by ziggy1706

The more information I have on the way commercial products are harmful, the more I want to learn how they did it before. It scares me how many chemicals are in everything we eat, drink, breathe and wear. Scary. Sometimes it seems like the more progress humans make, the worse off we are. Convenience has a higher price than we truly acknowledge.

posted on Jun, 9 2009 @ 03:41 PM
reply to post by Hazelnut

I've never heard of that before but I'll probably try it! Oddly enough, I;ve found just by drinking a lot of water reduces my outbreaks a lot

posted on Jun, 9 2009 @ 04:33 PM
I think this is an excellent thread
and highlights a danger that is lurking un-noticed IMHO. fabric softeners are the worst of the lot IMHO. They leave behind residues that may or may not be absorbed by our skin and into our systems.

We have made a few changes at home because of our sons excema and a work related reason.

1) We use ECOS detergent. Its an earth friendly detergent that has a built in Soy based softener and does not leave residues on the clothes.

2) Regular fabric softener is flamable. Some studies show that it can double or even triple flamibility of clothes. For childrens nightware and my flightsuits its a no no. I dont rub gasoline over my flight suit before i climb into the chopter so it makes sence not to do this.

3) We have a front loading washer. Clothes get clean with less detergent use. Tumble action also saves ware on the clothes, uses less water etc. We also second rinse things to make sure there is no residue left.

[edit on 6/9/09 by FredT]

posted on Jun, 9 2009 @ 05:37 PM
Thanks for that info! Looking further into alternatives, I found a few sites detailing how to make your own as Hazelnut described above


Some other alternative ones besides ECOS that FredT pointed out are also Mountain Green or Seventh Generation. Fragrance free, and no (or at least limited) chemical additives.

More info

As I desribed before, simple vinegar and baking soda can be used as well.

For extra bleaching power, add lemon juice or peroxide to a load of laundry once it gets going with your alternative to conventional detergent. Lemon juice or vinegar can also be used to deodorize laundry. For stains, soak laundry in a mixture of cold water, vinegar, and baking soda; you may want to spot test the fabric first to make sure that the fabric does not bleach or stain in this mixture.


If you want to remove static and dont want fabric softener, I found some alternatives to that as well. There are types available from Seventh Generation and some other companies listed above, but using baking soda and or white vinegar will help with this as well! I also came across some sites claiming to put a piece of aluminum foil in with the dryer and that would so the trick as well.

I think I will try to implement this somehow, as the last source states how the softener clings to the clothes, and never really washes out completely, so as FredT said, your carrying that crap around with you everywhere you go, all the time.

posted on Jun, 10 2009 @ 12:57 AM
On some dish detergents, the main ingrediants are sodium laurel sulfate, and sodium laureth sulfate, also in some shampoos...from what ive researched, those are engine degreasers! No wonder thiers a huge market for products like Rogaine...ide imagine theyde make you go bald much ealrier in life. Toothpaste also cotnains sodium laurth sulfate..its used as a fomaing agent, yet its classified as engine degreaser!
I cannot fathem or understand, how or why chemcials were put in place over natural ingriedients. Probably to keep cists low..but at the epsense of ur health and lives? A main reason to hate corporations..

posted on Jun, 11 2009 @ 09:48 AM
reply to post by kyle6677

I just want to let you know that I've begun gathering the materials and ingredients to make a simple soap. But I discovered that lye was taken off the shelves about 3 years ago due to its caustic nature and insurance issues. But! Roebic Crystal Drain Opener from this website says that it is good for making soap. So, I'll go today to see if I can still get it at Lowes. Then the next step is to try to find a butcher that will have the cleanest fat to render for the tallow.

I'll let you know as I make progress. I admit I'm a little cautious because I'm going to be experimenting using books and websites as mentors.

If all goes well, I intend to make little soap samples that I've customized with herbs and flowers, then wrap them in handmade paper (another very cool project) to give as gifts.

Also, the simple soap recipe can be the base for liquid soaps, shampoos and household cleansers with additional ingredients for each purpose.

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