Why Your Traditional Laundry Detergent is Not Cleaning Your Clothes and Hurting the Environment

Why Your Traditional Laundry Detergent is Not Cleaning Your Clothes and Hurting the Environment

Ken Arnswald |

Laundry detergent is not inherently bad, but it can pose some potential hazards if used improperly. Here are a few potential issues that can arise when using laundry detergent:

  • Allergic reactions: Some people may be sensitive to ingredients in laundry detergent, which can cause allergic reactions such as rash, hives, or difficulty breathing.

  • Eye irritation: Laundry detergent can be irritating to the eyes, especially if it comes into direct contact with them.

  • Poisoning: If ingested, laundry detergent can be harmful and potentially lead to poisoning, especially in young children who may be attracted to the colorful packaging or the smell of the detergent.

Parents have frequently looked for better laundry detergent options, seeking a laundry pack that is not only safer for the family and environment, but actually cleans clothes well, too.

Traditional Laundry Detergents Can Harm the Environment

Some laundry detergents can have an adverse impact on the environment, depending on the ingredients they contain. Here are a few ways in which laundry powder detergent and liquid laundry detergent can potentially harm the environment:

  • Phosphates: Some powdered laundry detergent contains phosphates, which are chemicals that can stimulate the growth of aquatic plants and algae. When these plants and algae die, they can decompose and deplete the oxygen in the water, which can harm fish and other aquatic life.

  • Chlorine bleach: Chlorine bleach is a common ingredient in many laundry detergents. When it is released into the environment, it can react with organic matter and create harmful byproducts, such as dioxins.

  • Synthetic fragrances: Many laundry detergents contain synthetic fragrances, which can contain chemicals that may be harmful to aquatic life.

  • Packaging: Laundry detergents often come in single-use plastic bottles, which can contribute to plastic pollution.

To minimize the environmental impact of your laundry detergent, you can consider using eco-friendly options made with biodegradable ingredients and packaging. You can also look for products that are phosphate-free, chlorine-free, and fragranced with natural ingredients. Finally, you can recycle or reuse the packaging of your laundry detergent to reduce waste.

Beware of Laundry Soap!

Many environmentally-conscious “detergent” products are simply soaps and can have more negative impacts than positive long-term. Regardless of whether you are using powdered detergent or liquid detergent, you might be just using a laundry soap which isn't eco friendly.

There are differences between laundry detergents and soaps. The major difference in detergents from soaps is the detergents do not contain fat or oil, which is important to avoid wasting your wardrobe. Soap builds up inside of clothing, thereby trapping dirt and causing it to be absorbed in clothes. This is one reason to avoid washing clothes by hand.

Laundry Detergent Can Actually Harm Your Clothes

This seems absolutely counterintuitive, but your favorite, great-smelling detergent might be the reason your clothing looks less than new.

Laundry detergent can potentially harm clothing in a few ways:

  • Color fading: Some laundry detergents contain ingredients that can strip away the color of clothing, especially if they are used in high concentrations or if the clothing is washed at high temperatures.

  • Fabric damage: Traditional detergents can also damage the fibers of clothing, causing them to become weak and prone to tearing. This is more likely to happen if the clothing is washed in hot water or if it is not washed according to the manufacturer's care instructions.

  • Allergic reactions: Some people may be sensitive to ingredients in laundry detergents, which can cause allergic reactions such as rash, hives, or difficulty breathing.

Why Don't My Clothes Look New Anymore?

Pilling is a common problem that occurs when fibers on the surface of clothing become tangled and form small, fuzzy balls. Here are a few ways to prevent pilling on clothes:

  • Wash clothes inside out: Turning your clothes inside out before washing them can help reduce pilling, as the inside of the garment is usually less abrasive and will come into less contact with other clothing and the washing machine.

  • Use a laundry bag: A laundry bag can help prevent clothes from rubbing against each other and causing pilling. You can find these bags in various sizes and materials, such as mesh or canvas.

  • Avoid overloading the washing machine: When you stuff too many clothes into the washing machine, they can rub against each other and cause pilling. It's best to wash clothes in small, evenly-balanced loads to reduce the risk of pilling.

  • Use a low-abrasion detergent: Some laundry detergents contain ingredients that can be harsh on clothing and contribute to pilling. To reduce the risk of pilling, you can use a detergent that is formulated for sensitive skin or that is specifically designed to reduce pilling.

  • Avoid drying clothes on high heat: High heat can cause clothes to shrink and become more prone to pilling. To reduce the risk of pilling, you can dry your clothes on a lower heat setting or hang them to dry.

  • Use a fabric shaver: If you notice pilling on your clothes, you can use a fabric shaver to gently remove the pills. These shavers have a rotating blade that cuts off the pills without damaging the fabric.

That Lovely Laundry Detergent Scent May Not be so Lovely

Some people may be sensitive to the synthetic fragrances used in most laundry detergents, which can cause irritation or allergic reactions. These reactions can include symptoms such as:

  • Rash or hives

  • Itching

  • Redness or swelling of the skin

  • Watery or itchy eyes

  • Sneezing or coughing

  • Headache

  • Difficulty breathing

If you are sensitive to fragrances, you may want to use a laundry detergent that is unscented or that is formulated with natural fragrances, such as essential oils. You can also consider using a fabric softener that is unscented or made with natural fragrances.

It's important to be aware that synthetic fragrances can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, which can contribute to air pollution and may have negative health effects.

If you are concerned about the impact of synthetic fragrances on your health and the environment, you may want to choose laundry products that are free of synthetic fragrances.

Sensitive Skin? Conventional Detergents Might be the Culprit!

Some people may be sensitive to laundry detergent ingredients, whether liquid detergents or powdered detergent, which can cause irritation or allergic reactions on sensitive skin.

To minimize the risk of irritation or allergic reactions on sensitive skin, it's important to use a laundry detergent formulated for sensitive skin. These detergents are usually free of harsh chemicals and synthetic fragrances, which can be irritating to some people.

You can also consider using a hypoallergenic laundry detergent, which is specifically designed for people with allergies or sensitive skin.

If you are not sure which laundry detergent to use, you may want to consult a healthcare professional or a dermatologist for recommendations. They can help you choose a detergent suitable for your skin type and sensitivity.

Should You Use Hot or Cold Water When Washing Clothes?

Washing clothes in cold water can be better for the environment for a few reasons:

  • Energy savings: Heating water for laundry consumes a significant amount of energy, and using hot water can increase your energy consumption by up to 50%. By washing your clothes in cold water, you can save energy and reduce your carbon footprint.

  • Water conservation: Cold water uses less water than hot water, as it does not need to be heated. By washing your clothes in cold water, you can conserve water and reduce your water usage.

  • Clothing preservation: Hot water can be harsh on clothing, especially if it is made of delicate or synthetic fabrics. It can cause clothes to shrink, fade, or become more prone to pilling. Cold water is gentler on clothing and can help to preserve the color and texture of the fabric.

Of course, it's important to note that cold water may not be as effective at removing certain types of stains or bacteria as hot water. In general, it's best to use hot water for heavily soiled items or for items that are prone to bacteria or germs, such as towels, bedding, and workout clothes.

For other types of clothing, it may be better to use cold water, especially if the fabric is delicate or if you want to preserve the color and texture of the fabric. It's also a good idea to follow the care instructions on the label of your clothing, as these will provide specific recommendations to soften fabrics or for washing and drying the item.

What Are Eco-friendly Detergents?

Eco-friendly clothes detergent is typically free of synthetics. The scent is normally fragrance-free, or the scent can be extracted from essential oils or botanicals. Most traditional detergent sold in big stores uses a big plastic bottle full of artificial fragrances that can irritate sensitive skin or noses.

Environmentally-Friendly Packaging

Environmentally-safe detergents come in the form of small laundry pods that still provide the cleaning power of big bulky plastic bottles. Being biodegradable means your laundry liquid is plastic free and contains no chlorine bleach, and is safe for washing machines.

Green laundry detergents are laundry detergent pods that dissolve completely in the wash and never even leave the laundry room. To go even further, dryer sheets should not be used, but opt for dryer balls instead.

Are There Really Environmentally-Friendly Detergents?

Gladly there is nothing that needs to compromise the washing performance. With Healthier Home Laundry Packs, which come in a recyclable cardboard box, you add superior stain removal to your laundry routine, even when washing with cold water.

Throw out your old plastic packaging and plastic waste and rid your laundry room of harmful chemicals by choosing an eco-friendly, fragrance free laundry detergent.


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