There is a direct correlation between your health and the air you breathe. If you are wearing clothes, sleeping on sheets, and wearing pajamas washed and dried with laundry products that contain toxic ingredients, then you are surrounded by air clouded with VOCs (volatile organic chemicals) that can cause asthma, contribute to chronic illness, irritate the lungs and sinuses and even be a contributing cause of cancer and other degenerative diseases.

The Facts

Conventional laundry detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets contain highly toxic chemicals that manufacturers are not required to list in the ingredients. In a study of the top six selling laundry products published by The University of Washington in July of 2008, laboratory testing revealed that nearly 100 VOCs not listed on labels were emitted. Five of the six products emitted one or more carcinogenic (cancer-causing) pollutants that are considered by the EPA to have no safe exposure level. Ninety-five percent of the chemicals found in synthetic fragrances used in laundry care products are derived from petroleum and are neurotoxic, or damaging to the body’s nervous system.

Dryer sheets and fabric softeners contain some of the most harmful ingredients such as benzyl alcohol (an upper respiratory tract irritant), benzyl acetate (carcinogenic – linked to pancreatic cancer), chloroform (neurotoxic and carcinogenic), alpha-terpineol (causes Central Nervous System, or CNS, disorders and is highly irritating to mucus membranes), pentane (may cause headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, irritation of respiratory tract), and many others.

Continual exposure to these chemicals can result in a toxic buildup in the system that can contribute to acute and chronic illness. The issue is compounded by the fact that the skin can absorb residues of the chemicals that are left in the clothes after laundering, giving another path of entry to the body.

Second-Hand Scents

Unfortunately, the potential for involuntary or second-hand exposure is also an issue for those who desire to use safe products. The emission from clothes can be so strong that other people in the vicinity are affected. Endless amounts of clients have reported that after being free from using these products themselves, they then noticed the harsh fragrances on other’s clothes. Also, the scent from toxic laundry products vented from the dryer to the outdoors can ruin the air quality for neighbors that are outside wanting to enjoy the fresh air. We should avoid contributing not only to our own exposure to these harmful chemicals, but also others.

Note: Many commercial laundry products that say they are fragrance-free use a chemical to mask fragrances and are, therefore, still toxic.

Our goal is to improve the air quality of your home, thus improve your health.

In light of this evidence, it can be very difficult to make a transition from longstanding favorite products and the often comforting, familiar scents that accompany them. The thought of making changes may be overwhelming, but this is to be expected as many long-term consumer habits are being challenged. So we recommend that you make changes as you are able. Education that results in an understanding of the information is the key, which will unlock the motivation to change. Every effort you make will be a step towards strengthening your immune system and enhancing you and your family’s health.

Start by using non-toxic products. Thankfully, the growing awareness of this problem has resulted in the creation of some wonderful, safe alternatives. The second you stop using toxic laundry care products, you start to reduce your chemical load. Ideally, we recommend using Branch Basics as a laundry soap as it is free of synthetic fragrances, preservatives, dyes and additives. It is also ideal for ridding your clothes, washer and dryer of previous synthetic fragrances.

Using Branch Basics

Branch Basics is concentrated and economical. It is equally effective in cold water as it is in hot, can be used in HD washers that require low-sudsing soaps and because it’s not a strong detergent – but a SOAP! – Branch Basics extends the longevity of your clothes. It’s also very effective for stains. Whats more is that it only takes 1 T to clean an average sized load. Our gallon concentrates cleans 256 loads of laundry!

Easy and Inexpensive Alternatives

  • 20 Mule Team Borax – A non-toxic soap that can be used for deodorizing and enhanced cleaning. Available at your local grocery stores.
  • Homemade bleach – ½ cup baking soda, ½ cup hydrogen peroxide (3%) and 1-cup water
  • Homemade fabric softener and static remover – Add ¼ cup of baking soda or ¼ cup vinegar to wash cycle to soften the clothes. (Note: Vinegar not only softens, but also reduces the static cling. Static in clothes is associated with synthetic materials or blends of cotton with synthetics. Ideally wear all natural materials like 100% cotton, silk, or linen.) Synthetic material dries fast, so you can line-dry synthetic clothing if possible.
  • Maddock’s Static EliminatorReusable, nontoxic dryer sheets. One box = 500 loads. They are chemical free, safe for cloth diapers and leave no residue.
  • See “Reducing Immune Stress: Non-Toxic Products.”

Detoxifying Your Laundry Room, Washer and Dryer, and Clothes

If you have been using conventional laundry care products that contain toxic chemicals, then it will be necessary to “detoxify” your laundry room. The toxic volatiles incorporate into the surfaces that they come in contact with. In some instances, the minute you walk into a laundry room you immediately smell the lingering odor of the products used even though there is no wash going. That is because the porous sheetrock has picked up the chemicals, creating a continuous outgassing into the air. It can sometimes take quite a bit of time and work to eliminate these chemicals. Unfortunately, these toxic chemicals from the laundry room have the potential to extend beyond the small space and permeate the entire house.

See ”Detoxifying Your Laundry Room“.

If you have been using conventional laundry care products that contain toxic chemicals, then it is also necessary to decontaminate your washer and dryer. The products deposit a residue in the washers and dryers that can be difficult to fully remove. It may take some time, but the effort will be well worth it.

See “Detoxifying Your Washer and Dryer.”

If you have been using conventional laundry care products that contain toxic chemicals, then it will also be necessary to decontaminate your clothes. This procedure too will take repeated efforts and over time will get better and better.

See “Detoxifying Your Clothes and Bedding & Mattresses.”