Why Should We Care About What's in Our Soap?

Soap: a salt of a fatty acid used in a variety of cleansing and lubricating products.

Modern Soap is Not Inherently Evil

The soaps and detergents of today are multiple times stronger (and smell a lot better) than the animal fat and ash mixes of ancient Babylonians.

And, yes, this is because of added chemicals, enzymes and fragrances.

Buy "Modern" laundry detergent here

So, Should We Worry about What's in Our Soap?

Yes. And No. It Depends!

How "toxic" a soap or detergent is depends on what and where that product will be used (and how much).

Laundry detergent would be far too strong and possibly even toxic for bathing a puppy, yet we wouldn't expect a hotel to use anything weaker on their sheets!

Buy Vegan Laundry detergent here (for clothes, not dogs)!

But What About Phosphates, Sulfates and other stuff that may be bad for us?

Again, it Depends

  • Phosphates make water less hard and thus help the detergent work better. However, these can harm the life in bodies of water. Phosphates are banned in some states.
  • Sulfates are foaming agents that allow oil and water to mix. This helps strip oils from dishes, skin, and clothes. As you might suspect, it can be too harsh for some people and may be the #1 cause of dry scalp!
  • "Other junk" includes benzenes, synthetic fragrances, bleach and formaldehyde, to name a few. Each play a roll in our soaps that WE, the consumers, demanded!

This is not a complete list! Just a few examples. Even as I write this (Feb 2023), NY state just banned detergents that contain more than 2 PPM of 1,4-dioxane, a potential carcinogen. The ban affects many popular detergents—including Arm & Hammer Clean Burst, Tide Original, Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Free & Clear, and Gain Original + Aroma Boost.

So What Do We Do?

Pick the Right Soap for the Job

We already do this to some extent (hopefully no one washes their dog with laundry detergent), but we can also pay attention to the differences among soaps in their own category.

For example, using a gentler (read: less toxic and less effective) detergent on lightly soiled laundry than we use on visibly muddied, bloodied or otherwise gross laundry!

Buy Local powdered detergent here

Or Lower your Expectations

  • If you want to avoid brighteners, then don't expect your whites to come out gleaming.
  • If you want to avoid fragrances, then don't expect your laundy to smell like anything except cloth.
  • If you want to avoid phosphates and sulfates, then don't expect to get clean laundry using cold water.
  • etc.
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