Remember last time when I talked about changing your mindset?
Well that’s something to remember as we talk today about detoxing our cleaning and laundry.
Why? Because there are a lot of things we’re programmed to think mean clean clothes and a clean house. When we have a folded basket of laundry and it smells soooo good and fresh. When we stick an air freshener in the wall to make our bathroom smell nice… those things are ideas we need to let go of, because most of them actually mean we’re polluting our environment, home, and bodies with yucky chemicals.
Let’s talk first about what we need to avoid in our laundry and cleaning products. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but some of the worst offenders that are important to get out of our homes.
It’s a little tricky because manufacturers aren’t required to list specific chemicals on their labels but knowing what to look for that is listed is key.
#1- Fragrance– Yep, the lovely stuff that makes your laundry smell nice. You don’t want it in your detergent, or fabric softener! Why? Well, for several reasons. First is that when the air that comes from dryer vents is measured it contains VOC’s (volatile organic compounds). What are those? They are chemicals listed with the EPA as air pollutants, and dryer vents let off at least 10 different ones! Even worse is the 2 that are found in the highest concentration, acetaldehyde and benzene, are carcinogens with no safe exposure level… let that sink in. Unfortunately these chemicals aren’t confined to just the air coming out of the dryer. They also permeate our clothing and bedding, and then our skin.
Fragrance isn’t just found in laundry products either. Check your cleaners, your air fresheners. They can all contain up to 250 chemicals, many of them toxic listed under the term “fragrance”. Even unscented products can contain fragrance as an ingredient!
Fragrance chemicals are also linked to skin issues, such as eczema, and allergies.
#2 Sodium Laurel Sulfate- Do you love lots of bubbles when you wash dishes? Well that’s the SLS doing it’s job, and unfortunately it’s doing more than that. According to the EWG (ewg.org) SLS is classified as a moderate hazard. It is has been linked to neurotoxicity, cancer, and endocrine disruption. Since it’s listed as a moderate hazard it might not seem that bad, however it’s in everything. Most any cleaning product that produces bubbles contains sodium laurel sulfate or one of its counterparts, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium dodecyl sulfate, sodium salt sulfuric acid and several more. So while doing laundry, washing dishes, scrubbing toilets.. you’re being exposed. Lots of exposure to a moderate hazard becomes a much larger health hazard in the long run.
#3 Bleach– My husband loves bleach. He thinks it smells clean. (He needs a major mindset change) but I rarely rarely use it. However like fragrance and SLS it is one of those sneaky ingredients that finds its way into lots of other cleaners so we need to be on the look out for it. Why is it bad? Well besides being a skin, eye and respiratory irritant (in fact OSHA requires gloves and a mask when using chlorine bleach in workplaces) it has many other health effects. You see it’s also bio-acumulative meaning the small exposures build up in our bodies eventually causing strain on our organs like our liver, kidneys, and lungs that are responsible for detoxification. The irritation to our lungs is often linked to conditions such as asthma. Most accidental poisoning cases involve products that contain chlorine bleach.
#4 Parabens- These lovely chemicals mimic estrogen in the human body. REcent studies are showing stronger and stronger links to parabens and breast cancer, in fact breast cancer tissue has been shown to contain parabens. They are used as preservatives in many laundry and cleaning products and are something you really want to avoid!
#5 Formaldehyde– Um… yuck. This known carcinogen makes its way into a lot of things and cleaning products are no exception. This is not something you want to be putting on the clothes you wear, in the air you breathe, and back into our water system!
Like I said this is the short list of big things to avoid. But starting here will make a big difference in cutting down the chemicals your family is exposed to. Another thing to consider too is that it’s not only your family that is being polluted here. The air, water, and earth are all soaking in the chemicals so once we use them they’re not going anywhere!
So what do we use instead??
That’s a great question! And while the task of getting rid of all the cleaners and laundry products in your house and finding or making new ones seems daunting it doesn’t have to be!
The first thing I recommend is getting to know the EWG. Log on to ewg.org and check out the products you use. Read up on the chemicals they contain and why they are bad. This site is so valuable when you’re wanting to clean up your products and it can really help you understand, more than I’m able to fit in a blog post, what you should avoid and why.
Second think about what you can make yourself. I love making my own cleaners with essential oils and vinegar or other household products. They are cheap, easy, and effective. This is one of the changes that is the simplest, and will leave you feeling so much better about what you’re using.
Here’s my favorite alternatives that I mix up and what I use in my laundry!
Next cut out chemical air fresheners. Ditch the plug ins and sprays. Those can also be replaced with essential oils or natural potpourri. (Here’s my favorite!) A essential oil diffuser and some great scents will have your home smelling fresh. Even if you don’t believe all the hype about the benefits of EO’s there’s no denying they smell great and are a non-toxic alternative to traditional home scents! (Here’s my favorite places to buy affordable non-MLM oils)
Now find some products you love and trust to do the rest. There are a lot of companies out there that claim to have non-toxic products. Here’s where you need the knowledge of ingredients and access to the EWG. Unfortunately just claiming to be safe doesn’t make products free of the bad stuff so before you buy do your homework. THen once you try a product if you don’t like it look for another. It’s important to find products you love so that you don’t default to the old toxic stand bys.
To get you started here are a few companies that I’ve used or heard great things about. (keep in mind not 100% of their products are perfect but they’re a good place to start!)
Founded (as the name implies) by a mom, they offer a nice selection of laundry and cleaning products.
Available in most grocery stores and online this company has some nice alternatives. The EWG rates some of their products really well others are iffy. Just check before you buy!
The Honest Company gets some mixed reviews and has reformulated many of its products to be cleaner after some scrutiny. The EWG rates a lot of their products as safe and I feel good about using many of them. It’s also super convenient to have them delivered monthly.
I came across this soap in my local grocery store. Lucky for me they’re in Ohio too so I can get their soap at stores here. You can buy online, even set up an auto ship. I’ve been really pleased with our results from their detergent.
Whew… this may be my longest post ever. If you’re still with me, I hope you’ve learned something and feel better equipped to help your home be cleaner and toxin free! I’d love to know what products you use or make and how well they work for you!
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