Laundry, much like the act of blinking and navigating traffic on the drive home from work, is something we rarely stop to think about. Load the barrel. Scoop the powder. Click a few buttons and out comes crisp, clean sheets just 45-minutes later. But while there are benefits to running on autopilot in certain circumstances, your washing routine shouldn’t be one of them. At least, if you care about the damage your detergent could be doing to your health - and the wellbeing of the world.
You see, despite environmental issues becoming increasingly more obvious (bushfires! Climate change! Ocean acidification!) brands are talking the talk without walking the walk when it comes to their products. Learning the lingo that makes it onto a label is the first step, so you know which items to swerve and which to stock up on. Fun fact: ‘fragrance-free’ soaps aren’t necessarily any better than the scented kind (but more on that later.)
Here, we’ve rounded up some simple steps to lighten your next load.
1. Look for the lyes
You’ve probably heard the old adage, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know.’ Well, it’s particularly true for cosmetics and household products. Manufacturers aren’t required to disclose what’s in their formulas by law, so there’s really no way of telling what toxic chemicals we’re bringing into our homes and putting onto our bodies.
Grab your go-to laundry powder for a sec. Notice how the ingredients list is very vague (if, that is, it features at all.) Many brands label categories, such as “non-ionic surfactants” and “preservatives.” Not only is this incredibly confusing to the consumer, it doesn’t tell you anything about what the ingredient actually is. You wouldn’t trust a cake if the box said it was made with “animal fats” and “powdered grains,” would you? Transparency is key here
2. Wash with care
Ever wondered what makes laundry detergent smell so darn good? It’s almost always synthetic fragrance containing high levels of synthetic musk (an oestrogen mimicker and hormone disrupter known for its warm, sweet, powdery notes.) As synthetic musks are lipophilic, they deposit themselves in fat tissue and have been found in samples of breast milk, body fat, blood, placenta tissue, and neonatal umbilical cords. Concerning? You bet. Especially considering your skin is your largest organ, absorbing up to 60 percent of what you put on it - including any powder left on your clothes after washing.
Worth noting: un-scented products can also be problematic. Reason being? They’re often produced using fragrance-masking chemicals which prevent us from being able to detect any odour, although the ingredients that created in the first place are still there.
3. Clean with a conscience
Another interesting tidbit about synthetic musks: they don’t breakdown. Instead, they contaminate the soil and air around us and bioaccumulate, causing endocrine disruption in organisms, amphibians, and fish that live in the waterways. (Which, by the way, we then go on to eat.) Pretty scary since 8000 metric tonnes of the stuff is produced globally each year!
As for other nasty chemicals that lurk in laundry products and put humans, wildlife and the wider environment at risk? Ethoxylated degreasers such as sodium laureth sulphate, dioxanes, and chlorine (used for bleaching,) phosphates (water softeners that make cleaning more effective,) synthetic colours, synthetic fragrance and much, much more.
So, what is safe to use, you ask?
One Seed’s founder, Liz Cook, swears by Seventh Generation products as they’re formulated with renewable plant-based ingredients and come in sustainable, recycled packaging. Alternatively, trusty bi-carb and vinegar does the trick too! For linen that’s a little more luxe, check out our new line Laundrette - a collection of all-natural fragrances that will help your home and laundry smell incredible without harming your health or the planet.