Laundry Detergent Green - Our Daily Green

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Laundry Detergent Green

After last week's challenge to do a "Body Soap Detox", a lot of folks asked the obvious question, "What is so bad about soap?" We need soap to keep ourselves clean as well as our homes and our clothing. The problem lies more in what is used to make the soap and the additives for scent,softening, filler and to make it work more efficiently. Since our skin is in constant contact with fabric, how we clean that fabric is just as important as how we clean our actual skin.

Many modern laundry detergents are complicated mixture of chemicals. According to How Products are Made,
Very rarely is soap simply soap. For example, although people commonly refer to laundry detergent as "soap," it is actually a synthetic combination that functions much like soap, utilizing derivatives from crude oil to create a surfacant which is what bonds to the dirt to wash it away. Water contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and manganese which react with detergent to form a precipitate that doesn't rinse out, eventually causing laundry to feel stiff. To offset the formation of precipitate, manufacturers add in sulfuric acid making it more difficult for the minerals bond with the water.  

In addition to a surfactant, modern detergent contains several other chemical builders such as different phosphates which make the surfacant more efficient and also sequester minerals, meaning that they hold them in solution, preventing them from precipitating out. Although many detergents are now limiting the use of phosphates, they still utilize several other chemicals, including agents that help prevent soil from settling back on washed clothes. Fluorescent whitening agents are also common. Oxygen bleaches such as sodium perborate improve the detergency of the mixture, especially in low-phosphate or no-phosphate products, as well as helping to remove some types of stains. Processing aids such as sodium sulfate are also used to prevent caking and to standardize product density.

Perfumes are also found in commercial detergents to cover the odor of the dirt and any chemical smell from the detergent itself. Suds control agents also have a role in detergents—too many suds can cause mechanical problems with a washing machine.
Charlies Soap Laundry PowderSound confusing? We think so. Sound like something you want to wear all day? Not us, especially considering that residual chemical scum is deposited on the fabric with every washing. After about 10 washings it reaches 2% of the weight of the fabric (Clemson University rinseability test available). This residue is perfume, ultra-violet brightening dyes, salts, surfactants, processing sids, washing machine lubricants, and a variety of oils, fats, and polymers which stiffens the fabric by binding the fibers together.

It really doesn't need to be so complicated or laden with chemicals. By subtracting instead of adding, we can get a better, less expensive, and safer product. Last summer, Our Daily Green discovered Charlie's Soap, a biodgradable, hypo-allergenic, and phosphate free laundry soap. Charlie's Soap does not cover up stains and odors with scents and brighteners. It is made with a unique blend of biodegradable coconut-based detergents and high-grade, completely soluble, and naturally occuring washing soda from the Green River area of Wyoming.

We ordered Charlie's Soap and were amazed to learn we only needed a TABLESPOON per load. That's all! After using regular detergent with all the chemicals, we did need to clean our washer of residue left behind. It was really disgusting to be honest, to see the grey sticky gloppy stuff that came out on our rags the first few loads. To think that had been next to our skin! After about 3 washes, all the residue was gone and our laundry got softer and softer. We haven't needed to use fabric softener at all. (Stay tuned for Monday's guest post about ways to naturally soften clothes and cut down on static). Charlie's Soap arrived in a reusable cloth drawstring bag, with no other bulky or unnecessary packaging.

After using it for several months, we're not ever going back. In fact we are getting ready to order a 5 gallon bucket of it, that we estimate will last 4 years! (Remember, it only uses a TABLESPOON a load) And it works wonderfully in cold water, too. Our clothes are clean and soft and our towels are fluffy!

Our Daily Green is so impressed by this product that we contacted the company to see if we could host a giveaway. One lucky US reader in the month of February will receive an 80 load bag of laundry powder and a 17 oz. spray of all purpose cleaner. In order to qualify for the giveaway, all entrants must comment on this post and send me your email address so we can contact you if you win. For additional entries: "like" Our Daily Green and Charlie's Soap on Facebook and tell me as much in your comments.

Giveaway is open to US readers until February 28, midnight EST.

DISCLOSURE: Our Daily Green received a few samples of Charlie's Soap and a small sample bottle of all purpose cleaner. We just really love this product and wanted to tell you about it. The people at Charlie's Soap were quite gracious to offer the giveaway.

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