When you think of your mother then how do you imagine her? A woman picture comes in mind who is cooking for you, serving you with all her love, tending your injuries and washing your clothes. Yeah the last picture is funny but it is included in daily chores of a mother or wife which she does to maintain your health. But have you ever thought about her health. What will happen if the laundry detergent she is using for cleaning contains harmful chemicals? She will be the one who will get most affected, don’t you think so?
If you really care for the lady of your house then you must investigate your laundry detergent (cleaning agent) and we will definitely help you in that.
What is laundry detergent?
It is a cleaning agent used for cleaning laundry and commonly known as detergent or washing powder. It is a mixture of several ingredients which includes surfactant, builders, alkalis, enzymes, and anti redeposit ion agent, fabric softener, fragrances and many more things which we will discuss further in detail. Detergent is commonly sold in powder form but liquid detergents are also used in various households. It is generally used during hand washing or machine washing to clean the clothes.
What are the ingredients in laundry detergent?
It is short for surface active agent that is used for mainly three purposes
Wetting and penetrating the fabric
Reduce the bond between dirt and fabric which is assisted by mechanical action of hands or machine
Emulsification of dirt and retain it in the wash solution
Linear Alkyl Benzene Sulfonates (LAS) and Nonylphenol Ethoxylate (NPE) are commonly used surfactant in detergent. Many carcinogenic and reproductive toxic substances such as benzene are released during surfactant production process. Its content percentage in the product may vary but it is in high amount up to 30 percent of the total weight of product.
Surfactant like benzene can be harmful for human health because short term breathing of benzene in high amounts may cause death and if inhaled in low amounts then it can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, tremors, confusion, and unconsciousness.
Some amount of surfactant remain attached with the clothes after washing and when you wear them it is passively absorbed by the skin which can cause skin irritation and affect adversely. NPE is found to be toxic to nerves, skin and environment and it is also a potential hormone disruptor.
This ingredient is used to stabilize the formulation of detergent to increase it shelf life. Some common stabilizers are polyalkylene oxide or ethylene oxide. These chemicals are found to cause eye and lung irritation and cause skin problems such as dermatitis.
Tap water generally contains positively charged metal ions like calcium and magnesium ions which percentage in water determines the hardness of water. These metal ions react with the surfactant and induce their precipitation. Therefore, the detergent works less effectively. Phosphates and EDTA are common chemicals added in the detergent to make it more effective in hard water but these chemicals are found to be very harmful for environment as they cause algal boom and damage ecosystem.
This ingredient is used for stain removal and maintaining whiteness and brightness of the fabric. Active Oxygen bleaches are generally used as bleaching agent and it is suitable for stain removing from colored fabric as it doesn’t damage the existing color. This chemical works by oxidation of stain which breaks down the chemical bond between stain and fabric. It may be used separately and it is also included in some detergents. It is found to cause skin, eyes, and lung irritation and it can also form toxic compounds by reacting with other ingredients which can lead to respiratory issues, liver, and kidney damage.
This ingredient is used to enhance the light reflected from fabric surface to make it appear more whiter and brighter which helps them to retain their new look for long time. Optical brightener hides the appearance of undesired color like yellowing of fabric by introducing a complementary color. The chemicals of optical brighteners attached to the fabric absorb the ultra violet rays and convert into visible blue violet light. This blue light masks the yellowish appearance of fabric and gives an overall white appearance. Some common brighteners used in detergent are naphthotriazolystilbenes benzoxazolyl, diaminostilbene disulfonate etc. these chemicals are linked with developmental and reproductive effects and can cause skin irritation to sensitive skin when comes in contact with it.
If you still think that your washing powder is safe for you and the person who is washing your laundry then it is good for you but if you have doubt on your favorite detergent then you can try natural alternatives. There are few tips which can reduce the damage for some extent.
–rather than going for readymade detergents and living under a fear of having negative health effects, you can make your own washing powder at home. You just need a little washing soda, borax and an unscented bar. There are many recipes of detergents online which you can try at home.
– look at the ingredient list of the detergent while buying it. You can also refer environment working group’s laundry guide which has list of safe products based on the lowest hazard rating.
Use natural fabric softener
– why wasting money on fabric softeners when you can get the same result from half cup of vinegar.
Natural stain remover
– pre treat the stubborn stain with mixture of washing soda, baking soda, and water to remove the stain naturally and remain safe from chemically laden stain removers.
– little amount of baking soda used during washing process can brighten your clothes naturally and don’t irritate your skin like the chemical based brighteners.
Clean your washer
– if you are washing clothes in a machine then cleaning on regular interval like weekly is an essential requirement because it will remove any remove any soap scum, bacterial build up and other harmful things which can stick to your clothes during wash. You just need to fill your machine with hot water and add some white vinegar to it. Run the machine and it will clean itself.