That crisp, clean smell…don't you just love burrowing your face into your freshly-laundered pile of clothes!
But, have you ever wondered if that's really freshness that you are breathing in?
Sadly, you are exposing yourself and your sweet tiny ones to a serious health hazard.
Most of the detergents on the market today are elaborate mixes of dangerous chemicals that are harmful not only tour health but to the environment as well.
Read on and we'll give you a comprehensive list of what to avoid, and the safer substitutes available out there.
The List of No-No's:
Standing between shelves and shelves of bottles with sweet promises of whiter onesies, softer blankets, and long-lasting fragrance can be intimidating. But not when you are armed with information. Check the label for these threatening ingredients:
• Phosphate or Sodium Tripolyphosphate (STPP)
What does it do? You can get all geeky on the atom count available at WiseGeek but in a nutshell, STPP softens hard water and allows the surfactants (A.K.A. the degreasers) to do their work better on the fabric's surface. It is responsible for all that foaming your detergent makes.
Why is it bad? It upsets the balance in aquatic systems. When this bad boy hits the water, water reacts to all the extra nutrients with Hypertrophication. The algae go nuts in multiplying and eventually rob the other species of oxygen.
• Phenols (nonylphenol ethoxylate)
What does it do? Phenols kills and ward off bacteria. It can also be found in mouthwashes.
Why is it bad? Nonylphenol ethoxylate has been reported as an endocrine disruptor and mimics hormones.
Natural News also points out that phenols are easily absorbed in the skin and can cause damage vital organs such as the lungs, heart, liver and kidneys.
• Petrochemical Surfactants (Alkane Sulfonates, Linear Alcohol Ethoxylates, Branched Alcohol Ethoxylates, Alkyl Benzene Sulphonates, Alkyl Phenol Ethoxylates), Nonionic, Anionic and Cationic Surfactants ( such as Nonylphenol Ethoxylate, Esterquat)
What does it do? Think of them as the micro-workers who take care of the elbow grease, literally. They dissolve the grease and loosen the dirt, and then they encapsulate them to make sure the surface doesn't get dirty again. Cationic surfactants, on the other hand can be found in fabric conditioners to create that softer feel.
Why is it bad? ETSA (European Textile Services Association) which listed all of the compounds specified above, said in their environmental assessment of laundry detergents that petrochemical surfactants are non-biodegradable and are toxic to aquatic life. Nonionic and anionic surfactants, which have been banned in Europe, are known to feminize male fish and damage the sperm structure and function of mammals according to DIY Secrets. While, Brighthub reports that cationic surfactants like Esterquat have loose molecules that can accumulate on your skin over time.
• Optical Brighteners
What does it do? They are the ones responsible for those promises of whiter clothes. These agents absorb ultraviolet light and cast them out as visible blue light. This blue light then disguises any yellowing on the fabric, making it appear whitener.
Why is it bad? These illusion artists only work if they remain on the fabric after washing. Needless to say, they are designed to do just that. Yes, fabric washed with optical brightener-laden detergent is packed with chemical residue. Residue that rubs on your baby's skin, causing rashes, even eye irritation. Environment-wise, they are quite slow to biodegrade and have been known to cause bacterial mutation. Eeww...
• Methylisothiazolinone (MIT, 2-Methyl-3(2H)-isothiazolone, 3(2H)-Isothiazolone, 2-methyl-, Caswell No. 572A, 2-Methyl-4-isothiazoline-3-one)
What does it do? It is a preservative and a biocide. It kills microorganisms, keeping bugs and bacteria out of the product.
Why is it bad? It's a neurotoxin. One study reported that brief exposure to this chemical has damaged the brain cells of lab rats. That plus it has been linked to dermatitis, too. While studies are still ongoing, it is best to avoid products with this component.
• Sodium Hypochlorite (bleach)
What does it do? They get rid of the stain and kill bacteria. Sounds pretty useful you say? Read on.
Why is it bad? If you have worked with bleach before, then it's no secret to you that they are highly irritating to both the eyes and nose. Much worse reactions occur when it comes to contact with skin. You should also remember that bleach can emit poisonous fumes when mixed with ammonia (which might be in some unlabeled detergents).
• Butylphenyl methylpropional (2-(4-tert-Butylbenzyl)propionaldehyde)
What does it do? It gives off that fresh floral scent.
Why is it bad? It's an allergenic substance. While no tests have shown its presence in urine or blood samples, it's still something you want to avoid when you are dealing with delicate skin like your baby's.
• Benzalkonium Chloride
What does it do? It is another antibacterial. Widely used in hand sanitizers and household cleaning agents like Lysol.
Why is it bad? According to EWG's cosmetic database, some evidence point out that it causes severe skin, eye and respiratory irritation. It's a sensitizer and should be avoided by people with asthma and eczema.
The good news is that there are manufacturers out there who are on the same mission as Babu – that is to come up with products that are safe for both babies and Mother Earth. We have gathered a few names to help you get started with your quest for best:
- Ecostore is has a huge range of products perfect for personal use and around the home. They also have a great information area on their website and an easy to follow chart for nasty and safe ingredients. Babu just loves ecostore products.
- Earthwise In New Zealand and Australia has a fantastic range of household cleaners, soaps and lotions. Available online and in most supermarkets.
- Vermont-based, Seventh Generation is a popular name in the game and has a pretty impressive line of laundry detergents that are plant-based. you can buy online.
- Method takes it a step further. In addition to plant-based products, they also use 100% recycled plastic in their uber-cute packaging.
- There are also now so many fantastic blogs on how to make your own cleaners Wendyl's blog is great for these.
- Most great health food stores carry a variety as well, Harvest Wholefoods and Wise Cicada both have comprehnesive ranges
The Grist has a detailed review of popular products from these stores and more as you can see here. Most of these products are also super gentle on delicate fabric because of the absence of the unnecessary chemicals, wonderful for washing baby clothes and blankets that you want to keep forever.