I am on a quest. A quest to reduce the toxic chemicals and harmful substances I use in my house. After removing glass cleaner and floor cleaner, I decided to tackle laundry detergents. Did you know that common laundry detergents and softeners are exposing us to incredibly harmful chemicals? Do you know what those same products are doing to the environment? I didn’t! And what I learned, and am about to share with you next, made me change my entire laundry system.
I should preface this with, I am just a typical mom. Not much granola crunching over here and nope, no science background either. Like many families, we are environmentally aware but to be honest, unless it saves us time and/or money we tend not to make big lifestyle changes. I try to buy organic, but it is so darn expensive. I try to buy “natural” products in our grocery store but I tend to stick with brands that are familiar and less expensive.
I started this journey, like many, with the birth of Miss E. Of course the topic of what type of detergent you use comes up with all the adorable newborn clothes and the guilt-laden pressure to purchase expensive baby detergents. I asked myself, if what I am using day-to-day is harmful for a baby, why on earth am I using it for myself?! And thus began the search for a more healthy laundry system.
What I learned
I read a lot. Just like researching a stroller or play yard, I read every blog I could find on the subject and started forming my plan. I learned quite a bit but I am a little cynical. I wasn’t going to believe every well written blog article or pretty website I came across. I dug deeper. Some of the better articles I read included links to actual medical journals and research. Here is some of what I found:
- “Common household products, such as detergents, contain chemical ingredients that enter the body, disrupt hormones and cause adverse developmental, disease, and reproductive problems. They are known as endocrine disruptors. They have been linked to ADHD, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, early puberty, infertility and other reproductive disorders, and childhood and adult cancers“. ¹
- “The mystery mixtures that provide the jolt of fragrance in fabric softeners and dryer sheets can contain hundreds of untested chemicals, including toxic ingredients like phthalates and synthetic musks – both suspected hormone disruptors. Fragrances are among world’s top five allergens. A recent University of Washington study on air contaminants from fragranced consumer goods detected between 18 and 20 chemicals in each of four laundry products – including likely human carcinogens acetaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, developmental toxicants methyl ethyl ketone and chloromethane, and allergens like linalool.” ²
- “Analysis of the captured gases found more than 25 volatile organic compounds, including seven hazardous air pollutants, coming out of the vents. Of those, two chemicals – acetaldehyde and benzene – are classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogens, for which the agency has established no safe exposure level.” ³
- “The detergent you’re using may contain a cocktail of potent cancer-causing chemicals, some of which the manufacturer doesn’t even have to list on the label. This loophole reduces the odds that you’ll ever discover what’s in there. Four of the worst offenders are: Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)/sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), 1,4-dioxane, NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate), and Phosphates. Not only are these chemicals potentially damaging to your health, but they are also contaminating waterways and harming the environment.” ³
Okay, so they convinced me. There just was too much information to argue; scary information! We had to make a change.
Our Move From Harmful to Healthy
Believe it or not, but I found a sweet spot! One where the solution is safer for the family, better for the environment AND cheaper! And to top it all off, it’s not any extra effort on my part to wash the billion loads of laundry! Beyond my expectations, the switch was simple and easy. Here is what we did:
- Fabric softener became plain old regular vinegar
- Dryer sheets became Nellie’s dryer balls and fragrance sticks
- Laundry Detergent became Nellie’s Laundry Soda and boosted with 20 Mule Team Borax if needed
- OxiClean became Nellie’s Oxygen Brightener
- OxiClean Stain Remover Spray became BunchaFarmers Stain Remover stick
Nellie’s Bulk Laundry Soda purchased from Costco is $99 for a whopping 1,100 load! A 4.43L Tide Original Scent Liquid Laundry Detergent does 96 load for $20. Which means it would cost $230 of Tide to run 1,100 loads of laundry! I saved $131 for the same amount of laundry! We even managed to purchase when it was on sale for $79, increasing the savings even more.
But do Nellie’s laundry products really clean as well?
I have been using Nellie’s now for about 2 years and have to say yes. I haven’t done a direct test comparing a regular laundry detergent against Nellie’s but I don’t have any problems getting my clothes clean; and that includes the disgusting mess caused by 2 young kids. I use a little BunchaFarmers Stain Remover stick on a stain and throw in a little borax and my clothes come out clean and stain-free. No complaints from me!
The dryer balls and vinegar work well to replace the fabric sheet and liquid softener. Vinegar also has the added bonus of also killing any stinky bacteria from towels and kitchen clothes too.
I have found really only 2 things I didn’t like about my switch:
- After a time in the dryer my clothes are covered in static… I hear that using an aluminum foil ball will help but I haven’t tried it yet. It’s not a big deal for me.
- The Nellie’s fragrance sticks don’t work. I love the smell in the box but when I insert them into the dryer balls just my first load of laundry has a very slight scent and then after that I smell nothing. Very disappointing. I believe a big reason more people don’t switch to a natural laundry system is the fresh smelling laundry. I have heard other methods of scenting your laundry but haven’t tried.
According to Amanda… the verdict is:
To be honest, I was scared of switching. I was convinced the healthy and more natural solution was going to leave my clothes dirty and stained. I definitely didn’t want to do MORE laundry! But what I found was that this switch was seamless! I really saw no difference in my cleanliness in my clothes between the regular detergents and Nellie’s. I also didn’t add more time to my laundry routine and on top of that I also saved a lot of money!
There are other natural laundry products on the market or you can go the homemade route as well, but I strongly encourage everyone to at least try it out! There are sample size packs for Nellie’s and Costco has an amazing return policy if you don’t like it. It is a very simple way to reduce a lot of harmful chemicals being exposed to your family. Trust me, you won’t regret your decision!
I feel happier knowing I am reducing the exposure of harmful toxins to my family AND my wallet is happy as well! WIN/WIN!
- Emerging Links between Chronic Disease and Environmental Exposure
- Don’t Get Slimed: Skip The Fabric Softener
- Scented laundry products emit hazardous chemicals through dryer vents
Like what you’re reading? Sign up for my Saturday Morning Newsletter to never miss a post!