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How toxic is your laundry powder? The 6 common chemicals to avoid

Almost 9.5 million Australians or 76% of grocery shoppers purchase laundry powders in an average year, according to Roy Morgan statistics (2011). But for such a frequently used household product it is surprising how little knowledge we have about what we’re really buying. What is actually in each scoop of that powder and what is its true impact on our skin, our bodies and the environment?

We’ve uncovered 6 of the most common laundry powder chemicals you should avoid, and the good reasons why (note: since manufacturers aren’t required to list any of their ingredients by law, it can become a case of looking out for those which state what’s “not” in their products.) Here they are.

1. SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulphate)
This is the foaming agent that makes your shampoo bubble up – and your laundry detergent too. It’s in countless other personal care products from mouthwashes to toothpaste. Harmless? Hardly. Although the legend of it being a carcinogen is largely debunked, SLS is still a proven skin irritant, which can strip the skin of its protective oils and moisture and could be a concern given its long-term, accumulative exposure to the skin via clothing and bedding. It’s also not necessary to good wash results – which is why we don’t include it in Bosisto’s Laundry Powder.

2. Fillers
Fillers: they’re the laundry industry’s grubby little secret. Fillers are cheap bulking agents which add nothing to the product’s cleaning ability but make it appear like you’re getting more. Powders used to be “cut” with lots more fillers before the industry went to concentrates however they’re still around – you only need to do our 1 minute, at-home test on your current laundry powder to discover the shocking truth.

Why avoid fillers? They don’t dissolve in your wash, which causes all kinds of havoc from allergic reactions (to insoluble particles trapped in clothes) to corrosion of your washing machine parts over time. They’re also bad news for septic systems, creating an oxygen-blocking crust over the soil. Bosisto’s Laundry Powder is 100% soluble and contains no fillers.  Just see the stunning results of our solubility test below.
LP Test - Bosistos vs. Big Brands small
Bosisto's vs. the big brands - the difference is clear!

LP Test - Bosistos vs. Eco Brands small
Bosisto's vs. other eco brands

3. Synthetic fragrances

Laundry giants would have us believe we are cocooning ourselves in crisp mountain air or the scent of wildflowers each time we wear our freshly washed clothes. But in reality, we’re wrapping ourselves in a toxic blanket. A single fragrance can contain hundreds of harmful chemicals, some of which are not much better than those found in cigarette smoke. Pregnant women, children, asthmatics and those prone to allergies, eczema and dermatitis should be especially careful to avoid fragranced products. Yet their use in the laundry abounds, because it sells. The human olfactory sense (our sense of smell) is a very powerful one - we associate certain scents with pleasant experiences, leading to us associating these feelings with using a certain product, leading to sales at the register.

But we don’t have to give up pleasant smells in the laundry for our health’s sake – just choose more wisely. Bosisto’s Laundry Powder contains natural 100% Bosisto’s Eucalyptus essential oil to impart the fresh, long-lasting scent of the Australian bush with no harmful chemicals.

4 . Bleaches and dyes
Bleaches and dyes add to the toxic load of laundry powders. Bosisto’s Laundry Powder cleans and brightens powerfully without bleach and with no artificial dyes. Chlorine bleach can be harsh on the fibres of clothes, contributing to deterioration and colour-fade. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns against the use of bleach in the laundry due to the fact it deteriorates clothing fibres and creates more lint, which may then catch fire inside your dryer.

5.  High sodium content
Look out for “Garden safe” products as they’re likely to contain low levels of sodium. Why is sodium bad? Water with high salt levels is toxic to plants and soils, leaching nutrients and significantly disrupting pH levels. Even if you don’t use your ‘grey water’ from the washing machine on your garden, it’s still making its way into our waterways making a low-sodium formula like Bosisto’s Laundry Powder a kinder choice for the environment.

6. Zeolites
They sound like ingredients from outer space, but what exactly are zeolites? A relatively new addition to washing powder formulas, zeolites are synthetic compounds which exchange magnesium and calcium ions from hard water with their own sodium ions. This basically means they ‘soften’ hard water and can improve the lathering effect of the detergent. The problem? Studies have shown zeolites are skin irritants. For this reason many people choose to minimise exposure, especially those with young children, chemical sensitivities or allergies, eczema or who are prone to contact dermatitis. If sensitive skin is a concern for you, choose a formula which is zeolite-free such as Bosisto’s Laundry Powder.

Click here for your free downloadable handy hints and tips using natural essential oils around the home. 

Bosisto’s Laundry Powder is available at Coles, Woolworths, independent supermarkets, selected pharmacies and online.


Sources & References

The safety of synthetic zeolites used in detergents.Fruijtier-Pölloth et al,  Arch Toxicol, 2009, Jan;83(1):23-35
Environmental Protection Agency US
Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database "1,4-Dioxane," US Food and Drug Association, CFSAN/Office of Cosmetics and Colors, July 3, 2007
Ozone and Limonene in Indoor Air, Wainman et al, Environ Health Perspect. Dec 2000; 108(12): 1139–1145.
United States Department of Agriculture, Organic Certification Program
The Australian Cancer Council
Lightning Products – euca.com.au
Indoor Air Quality: Scented Products Emit a Bouquet of VOC’s, Carol Potera, Environ Health Perspect. Jan 2011; 119(1):A16.
Positive health.com, naturalnews.com
Lanfax Laboratories