Non-Toxic Laundry Guide


Laundry is one of the most impactful steps you can take if you are looking to incorporate greener and cleaner products into your home.

The conventional options that exist on the market today are some of the most unsettling of the items I’ve seen on my journey; full of environmental, neurological, and retrodictive toxins, not to mention all the waste that comes from using capful after capful…jug after jug…when it’s not even necessary to do so.

Looking back, I wish I had placed my focus on detoxing my laundry room much sooner. There are few spaces in the home with as much potential.

When you switch to less toxic laundry, you don’t just make a safer home.

You will also do wonders for the cleanliness of the air inside of your home by axing literally hundreds of compounds polluting the air in your sacred space. Remove dozens of irritants that could be contributing to any number of issues from eczema and psoriasis to chronic headaches or asthma. Dump less chemical down the drain, making water safe and cleaner for the future. Plus, you will also find that your clothes last much, MUCH longer.

Here are some of the reasons I hate convectional laundry products:

  1. Their harsh chemicals are destroying your clothes.

    Have you ever noticed your shirts get holes where you spray your all in one stain remover? That’s not just normal wear and tear, that’s a slew of ingredients eating through fabric…it literally burns a hole through fabric! Even polyester (which, fun fact – is plastic. That’s a conversation for another day but you can learn everything you need to know about plastic in THIS post.

    The replacement products work just as well as the blue stuff, if not better, without the gaping holes in your clothing
  2. These products aren’t even cleaning your clothes as well as you think.

    Most of the big name brands use ingredients called optical brighteners that play with light in a way that gives your clothes the appearance of clean. It’s a literal illusion and likely the number one reason for the misconception that natural products don’t clean as well, which they do.

    They do, they just don’t lie to you.
  3. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who regulate the cleaning products industry, does not require *any* ingredients transparency on cleaning products, which includes the items in your laundry room.

    That means that companies do not have to disclose any of the ingredients in their laundry (or other household cleaning) products, which isn’t just a complete and total violation of consumer rights (in my humble opinion) but is also highly concerning considering these are the products with the most toxic contents.
  4. Some of the most toxic chemicals in your home are concentrated in these products. I am going to talk more about a few of the specifics, but what is important to know right upfront is that the products are incredible toxic, and no, they don’t just disappear when they are washed down the drain.

    They pollute land and water for years to come, are just as toxic (if not more so) to wildlife and our living ecosystem, and many of them don’t biodegrade, meaning they build-up and stay in our environment forever.

    They also stay in your clothing, holding those skin irritants and other toxic chemicals nice and close to the skin every single day, all day. If that’s not concerning, I don’t know what is.

Toxic Chemicals In Laundry

Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted by a wide array of liquid and solid products and ingredients, numbering in the thousands in the laundry industry alone. They are so dangerous because of both the short- and long-term adverse health effects, which include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, loss of coordination, nausea, along with extensive and permanent damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system, and cancer.

The main problem with them is that so many products and items we come in contact with everyday actively emit these toxins, and the more extensive and long term our exposure is, but more likely it is that they contribute to conditions like chronic headaches, asthma, and other chronic disease.

VOCs are significant when it comes to pollution ass well, because they contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, which is the key pollutant that causes smog.

Because these compounds are used in thousands of items commercially such as paints, paint strippers, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, cleaners, disinfectants, moth repellents, air fresheners, hobby supplies, dry-cleaned clothing, pesticides, building materials, furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids, not to mention nearly all of conventional cleaning products on the market today, studies have found that levels of several organics average 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has said that the air inside of your home is likely more polluted than the air in Los Angeles, which ranks as the city with the most polluted air in the US.

Though hundreds, possibly thousands of VOCs are currently used in conventional laundry products today, some of the most common are Formaldehyde, limonene, α- and β-pinene (pine scents), ethanol and acetone.

One of the best things you can do to reduce the number of VOCs in your home select laundry products that are free from petroleum derived chemicals.

Fragrance

Fragrance is a riveting component in nearly every conventional detergent, softener and static sheet on the market. What is interesting about fragrance is that it could be hiding literally thousands of ingredients from the label.

That means that even if a company chooses (voluntarily) to list the ingredients contained in the cleaning and laundry products they sell for their consumers, when it comes to fragrance, the one single word could mean any combination of thousands of ingredients.

Because the scent of a product is considered “proprietary information” and protected as a trade secret, companies are NOT required to tell you ANY of the ingredients in their scent blends…Ever.

This is also true for industries regulated by the US Food & Drug Administration, which includes Personal Care, meaning all of your shower, hygiene, dental, skin and body care items.

The main problem with this, besides the obvious deception that goes along with not having to share an ingredients list with your consumers, is that legally, any single ingredient that contributes to how a product smells can be hidden behind the word “fragrance”.

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists 3,059 materials that are reported as being used in fragrance compounds, many of which are linked to health effects including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.

That’s just scary.

Not even because there is no transparency, but also because they are just plain unsafe.

The Breast Cancer Prevention Partners released a report in 2019 revealing that 3 out of 4 chemicals linked to cancer and other chronic health effects found in the beauty and personal care products they tested were secret fragrance chemicals that don’t appear on the label.

Researchers at the University of Maryland call fragrance “the new second hand smoke”, and claim that scented products, including but not limited to laundry products, are the #1 cause of pulmonary disease – meaning everything from asthma, COPD and lung cancer.

In 1986, the National Academy of Sciences targeted fragrance as one of the six categories of chemicals that should be given priority for neurotoxicity testing. This came after animal studies linked fragrance ingredient p-cymene to headaches, weakness, & irritability, along with the reduction in number and density of brain synapses.

For more information about Fragrance and why I have completely removed all synthetically scented products from my home, you can read THIS blog post.

Sulfates

Sulfates, including but not limited to Sodium Laureth Sulfate, are surfactants, the primary component of most cleaning detergents.

Sulfates are irritating, they always have been, but they are becoming more and more of a problem today because they are in more and more products every year at increasingly higher concentrations and, to put the icing on the cake, we are consuming products, especially cleansing products, faster than ever before.

For starters, Sulfates are the very same cleaners used in auto mechanic shops as the primary means of degreasing for engines and other car parts. Thank you to Johnathan Van Nass for putting that fun fact out there for all of us.

Let me make just one fact clear right of the bat: we are no where near as dirty as a used, greasy engine, and I personally find the idea that my body requires the same cleanser offensive. Especially after writing this article.

But the real concern with sulfates isn’t just because of their over aggressiveness, it’s also what they’re hiding. Sulfates, and many other petroleum derived chemicals, are often contaminated with a little known compound called 1,4-Dioxane (which can also be known as Dioxane or Diethylene Oxide).

Dioxane is a chemical by-product of ethoxylation, an inexpensive shortcut process companies use to reduce the irritation caused by petrochemicals and produce softer, sudsier detergents. Because it is not an ingredient, rather a contaminant of manufacture, you will never see Dioxane on ingredients lists or product labels.

Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure to high levels of 1,4-dioxane has caused vertigo, drowsiness, headache, anorexia and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs in humans while chronic exposure (like that which we receive through the use of products containing petrochemicals every day) can lead to damage to the liver and kidneys, is suspected to cause cardiovascular and blood, gastrointestinal, immuno, kidney, neuro, respiratory toxicity.

EPA has even classified 1,4-dioxane as a Group B2, probable human carcinogen.

Here is a short list of other ingredients that are ethoxylated and therefore at risk to be contaminated by 1,4-dioxane:

Acrylates/Steareth-20 Itaconate Copolymer
Ammonium Capryleth Sulfate
Ammonium Pareth-25 Sulfate
Ammonium Myreth Sulfate
Ceteareth
Cocamidopropyl Betaines
Disteareth
Emulsifying Wax NF
Steareth – 2, -4, 10, 16, -20, 21
Isosteareth
Magnesium Laureth Sulfate
Magnesium Oleth Sulfate
Myreth
Oleth
PEG’s

Phenoxyethanol
Polyethylene
Polyethylene glycol
Polyoxyethylene
Polysorbate
PPGs
Potassium laureth phosphate
Steareth
Sodium Coceth Sulfate
Sodium Deceth Sulfate
Sodium Oleth Sulfate 
Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Sodium Myreth Sulfate
Sodium Trideceth Sulfate 
Zinc Coceth Sulfate

For more about sulfates and their impact to your health you can read THIS blog post


These are just some of the chemicals you can find in your Laundry Room. Keep in mind that there are many, many more that I just don’t have the time or space to include in this article.


Solutions For Your Laundry Room

Truly Free

There are a lot of things that I love about TrulyFree, but the most obvious is that they make really high quality products for your laundry room, that works great, contains literally NOTHING that concerns me at all (which is ridiculously hard to find) AND are nearly zero waste.

Its literally everything I could ever hope to find, and more, because it is delivered right to my door, exactly when I need it.

They send you the last jug you will every own when you place your first order, and from that moment on ship safe, natural, nearly zero waste refills directly to you in these small little pouches. It is so easy. After trying dozens of “ecofriendly”, “clean” and “safe” products for my laundry, these are the ones I keep coming back to.

They’re affordable, functional, safe, non-toxic, biodegradable and low waste. The full monty.

Truly Free is, for the most part, a subscription service with several starter packages to choose from. Here are the starter kits they currently have available. I’ll do my best to keep these links updated for you.

Basic Starter Kit

Large Laundry Bundle

Detergent Only Offer

Small Detergent Bundle

Tap the photo to be redirected to each offer.
Or, you can just shop their store, one product at a time, using THIS link.

Soap Berries

Over the years I have become a true and total believer in the soap berry. I first heard of them on the Shark Tank, a popular TV show where I have found many of the brands that I’ve used and loved on my journey! The soap berry is the fruit from the Sapindus Mukorossi tree native to the Himalayas. They are de-seeded and dehydrated, and then packaged in a cardboard box (another win!) 

The soap from which this berry gets is name is naturally found in the shell of these berries, and is activated in the presence of water. use 5 of these berries at a time, tossed in the washer inside of a small canvas pouch that comes in the box. 5 berries should last about 5 washes, sometimes more! This box should last for about 100 loads.

Ozone

Recently I have discovered the power of Oxygen for cleaning my home and laundry, and let me just say this stuff is impressive. It makes cleaning so much safer and stress free.

One low cost investment gets you safe, effective, zero waste cleaners for literally every surface in your home for years using nothing but water. There are no required no added chemicals, maintenance, or subscription required.

I have come to favor the Aqueous Ozone Laundry System from O3 Waterworks most.

The system that they offer is simple. I have mine mounted just above my washer and plumbed into the cold water line that used to hook directly into the washing machine. It uses a patented electric charge to briefly separate the O2 molecules in the water into single oxygen atoms, which then reform into loosely-held O3 (ozone) molecules.

The water is then redirected into my washer, or though the additional hose attachment so that I can fill up a bucket for household dusting and cleaning.

In plain english, what that means is that water passes through the system when the washer is turned on, and becomes ionized to keep dissolved solids suspended in it. The system then pulls air from the room, charges it, activates the oxygen molecules, and adds them to the water. That’s it.

I know it sounds complicated but this machine is super simple to install and will last you a lifetime (I highly recommend installing a surge protector, as I had once of my systems fail after a surge).

I’ll be sure to write a blog post on the power of aqueous ozone to clean your home, and you clothes, but in the meantime I encourage you to do your own research on the topic. I think you will find the investment in this system quickly pays for itself, environmentally and monetarily!


Dryer Balls

The chemicals used in traditional dryer sheets are some of the most worst out of all of the products in the laundry room, mostly because of the high concentration of fragrance and VOCs. For the past 10 years I have been using Wool Dryer Balls instead and they are amazing and truly make me wonder why Dryer Sheets even exist.

Just toss three or four of them in with a load of laundry in the dryer and embrace the simplicity. Their constant bouncing around separates the clothing while it dries, reducing dry time along with static, and you can even add your own essential oils right to the balls if you like your clothes scented!


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Sources

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) on 1,4-Dioxane. National
Center for Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development, Washington, DC. 1999.

Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality. (2021, September 24). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality

M. Sittig. Handbook of Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals and Carcinogens. 2nd ed. Noyes Publications, Park
Ridge, NJ. 1985.

https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2016-09/documents/1-4-dioxane.pdf

Fragrance. (2021, August 19). Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP). https://www.bcpp.org/resource/fragrance/

Arnott, D. (2007). Second-hand smoke. New Scientist, 196(2632), 24. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0262-4079(07)63019-x

Story of stuff

Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality. (2021, February 10). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality

McConnell, J. (2019, April 1). Fragrance: The New Second Hand Smoke. Women’s Voices for the Earth. https://www.womensvoices.org/2017/09/08/fragrance-new-second-hand-smoke/

De Vader, C. L., & Barker, P. (2009). FRAGRANCE IN THE WORKPLACE IS THE NEW SECOND-HAND SMOKE. American Society of Business and Behavioral Sciences16(1).

Steinemann, A. (2016, October 20). Fragranced consumer products: exposures and effects from emissions. PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5093181/

Congress, U. S. (1990). Office of Technology Assessment, Neurotoxicity: Identifying and controlling poisons of the nervous system. OTA-BA-436. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.

ICSC 0502 – SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE. (2008). International Labour Association. http://www.ilo.org/dyn/icsc/showcard.display?p_lang=en&p_card_id=0502

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. (1983, December 7). Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate. JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF TOXICOLOGY. https://eservices.personalcarecouncil.org/PublicAffairs/Cosmeticsinfo/SLSALSAssessment1.pdf

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality

M. Sittig. Handbook of Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals and Carcinogens. 2nd ed. Noyes Publications, Park
Ridge, NJ. 1985.

https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2016-09/documents/1-4-dioxane.pdf

Fragrance. (2021, August 19). Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP). https://www.bcpp.org/resource/fragrance/

Arnott, D. (2007). Second-hand smoke. New Scientist, 196(2632), 24. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0262-4079(07)63019-x

Free range Studios. (2007). The story of stuff: With Annie Leonard. Berkeley, CA.

Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality. (2021, February 10). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality

McConnell, J. (2019, April 1). Fragrance: The New Second Hand Smoke. Women’s Voices for the Earth. https://www.womensvoices.org/2017/09/08/fragrance-new-second-hand-smoke/

De Vader, C. L., & Barker, P. (2009). FRAGRANCE IN THE WORKPLACE IS THE NEW SECOND-HAND SMOKE. American Society of Business and Behavioral Sciences16(1).

Steinemann, A. (2016, October 20). Fragranced consumer products: exposures and effects from emissions. PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5093181/

Congress, U. S. (1990). Office of Technology Assessment, Neurotoxicity: Identifying and controlling poisons of the nervous system. OTA-BA-436. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.

ICSC 0502 – SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE. (2008). International Labour Association. http://www.ilo.org/dyn/icsc/showcard.display?p_lang=en&p_card_id=0502

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. (1983, December 7). Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate. JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF TOXICOLOGY. https://eservices.personalcarecouncil.org/PublicAffairs/Cosmeticsinfo/SLSALSAssessment1.pdf

Volatile Organic Compounds (vocs). Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. (2021, May 19). Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://www.pca.state.mn.us/air/volatile-organic-compounds-vocs

Hi Loves!

I’m Lo! I am a blogger, course creator, avid environmentalist and curly hair queen. My job is simple: to awaken your consciousness, help you step away from mass consumption and embrace a more simple and sustainable style of life.

Let’s create radical change!

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4 Comments

  1. Marie Polsinelli says:

    I just got my Truly Free laundry bundle today and so far I’m loving it! First I used the machine wash. My machine smelled nice afterwards. Then did two loads of laundry. I used the dryer angel and my clothes smell so good! Question- if companies don’t have to list ingredients then what convinced you that truly free is good?

    1. Logan says:

      YAY! This makes my heart so happy. I really love the products too, and after much experimenting I am glad to be back to using them. Truly Free voluntarily lists all of their ingredients, so I know exactly what’s in it!! There are absolutely no petrochemicals of any kind in their laundry products. This dish soap does contain sulfates, which is a bummer. I am still on the hunt for my unicorn dish soap.

  2. Katy says:

    I truly appreciate the thoroughness of your research. You have become my Curly Girl Activist. Keep it up. I hope everyone emails this to family and friends.

    1. Logan says:

      Thank you SO much, love!! I can’t wait to write more posts like this one!

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