When we think of our skin and what we put on it, things that instantly come to mind are moisturiser, make up, sunscreen, shampoo and so forth. But what about our clothes? If you live in a country where clothing is required (you know, so you don’t get arrested if you go out in public naked) then you more than likely wear clothes. And let me go one step further by saying that you probably wash those clothes too! 🙂
I don’t wear clothes to bed, I hear you say…. But you sleep on sheets and blankets, don’t you? And I hope you wash them! Don’t forget those towels when you give yourself a good scrub to get dry after a shower or bath.
What do you wash your clothes with? Laundry powder or laundry liquid? You think it all magically disappears off your clothes through the “rinse” cycle? Think again.
Where does the water go once it’s washed and rinsed your clothes? In our waterways or in your back yard, if you have a gray water system.
Just to reiterate. You wash your clothes with laundry detergent, which stays on your clothes as a residue, then you cover the majority of your body with those clothes. Before you put on your clothes, what is your body covered with? Skin. Skin is the largest organ of our body and it absorbs things you put on it. If you haven’t read my article about skin, read it here.
So, I think we can agree now that laundry cleaning is rather an important part of our everyday lives. Let’s talk about why this seemingly innocent every day activity can be so very dangerous.
The majority of your supermarket, off the shelf laundry detergents contain some pretty nasty ingredients. Let’s get technical! 🙂 (this is my favourite part. Likely it bores you to death, but keep reading anyway)
I’m only going to talk about the “top four” here so that I keep you awake.
- SLS and/or SLES – oh but I don’t have to tell you about these because I already covered them in this blog. Little suckers hide everywhere!
- 1,4-dioxane – a petrochemical. This one is interesting because it is not actually added intentionally. It is actually a by product of SLS and it is created by a process called “ethoxylation”. Anyway, highly carcinogenic and toxic to your brain and central nervous system, kidneys, liver and respiratory system. (also a major ground water contaminant)
- NPE (nonyphenol ethoxylate) – “lovingly” referred to as the “Gender Bender”. When NPE enters your body, it can’t distinguish between it and estrogen. It is an endoctrine disruptor which can cause hormonal problems. For example, when rainbow trout are exposed to NPE they become part male and part female. Reminds me of that three eyed fish in Mr Burns’ stream on the Simpsons.
- Phosphates – well, if you read my blog about dishwashing powder you will know that it phosphates burn and dry out skin. They are also known for causing things like nausea, diarrhoea and skin irritations. But the greatest sin of the phosphates is what it does to the waterways. This single chemical can kill off a whole lake! And it has done. What happens it that it increases the algae growth which in turn suffocates all life forms like fish by starving them of oxygen. When the algae die, they release toxins that deplete waterways of oxygen. Geez, I have a gray water tank and I sure do not want that stuff in my garden!
Again, there are a lot more toxic things in there than just these four. Like the carcinogenic, formaldehyde which is what you breathe in with the scent.
Some of the most common side effects of these ingredients are:
- Respiratory problems
- Eye irritation
- Skin irritation
- Endoctrine system disruption
I recently witnessed firsthand, the side effect of skin irritation. I had unexpectedly run out of my “safe” laundry powder. One of the kids had an “accident” over night so I just HAD to do the washing. I went to the store and bought a packet of a well known brand of powder. And since I was already doing the washing, I thought I might as well do all the washing that was there.
The whole family broke out in a rash. In varying degrees, but all affected. One of my two year olds was most harshly affected with a red rash and welts all over his little body. The worst thing was that even when I washed everything in the “safe” powder again, the skin irritation took a long time to go away. Needless to say, I am just never going to take that risk again.
The companies who make the laundry powders and liquids do NOT have to disclose the ingredients on the back of the packet. It can be a “trade secret”, very much like the perfume. So you need to make sure that you are buying from a company which is willing to stake its reputation that their product is “safe” or buy one that does have the ingredients or you can make your own.
In conclusion: skin is your largest organ which absorbs everything and don’t forget about the cumulative effects of things. Be careful of what you put on your skin. Keep putting clothes on your skin but take care what you wash them with.
Safe Alternatives? Here are some to get you started: