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For a substance that’s supposed to get your clothes clean, laundry detergent does a dirty job on the environment and your own health. True, there are some less toxic products out there, but why not forgo the plastic jug of Seventh Generation and make your own? That’s what Grist.org’s Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan did in a test of three home brewed detergents. Check out her results here.

Stett Holbrook

Stett is a senior editor at MAKE with abiding interest in food and drink, bicycles, woodworking, and environmentally sound human enterprises. He is the father of two young makers.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.

Contact Stett with tips and story ideas on:

*Food
*Sustainable/green design
*Science
*Young Makers
*Action sports


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Comments

  1. Washing soda? Ivory soap? Borax? I don’t see how these are any greener than the commercial stuff.

  2. Bradley Gawthrop says:

    The statement that laundry detergent “does a dirty job” on our health is offered here without even half hearted attempts at offering evidence. It strikes me as a rather extraordinary claim to make in passing as though it were well established fact.

    1. Kindly click the link to the article and you’ll find references to EPA data and other sources.

      1. Bradley Gawthrop says:

        Uhm; No, not really. Nothing at the provided links (excepting the link to Rodale, who are, to put it kindly, not in the Science business) suggests that laundry detergents, used in accordance with their instructions, pose any risk to a typical persons health whatsoever. Some of the ingredients used in laundry detergents, when applied in vastly greater doses or ingested can adversely affect health. You probably shouldn’t drink liters of the stuff. But there is no evidence presented that use of laundry detergent can be linked (even tenuously) to negative health effects in a normally healthy person, barring special sensitivities.

  3. Chris W says:

    You can get commercial laundry detergent without dye or fragrance. And since when is everything supposed to be non-toxic? She says borax (sodium tetraborate) is a wonder powder. Wikipedia says “Substances and mixtures imported into the EU which contain Borax are now required to be labelled with the warnings “May damage fertility” and “May damage the unborn child””.
    If you really want to do something green you could use the wash water to flush toilets and the rinse water to water your garden, or use the rinse water to wash the next load, And don’t drive to six stores looking for washing soda.

  4. ESL JOBS says:

    If you really want to do something green you could use the wash water to flush toilets and the rinse water to water your garden, or use the rinse water to wash the next load, And don’t drive to six stores looking for washing soda.

  5. Alan S. Blue says:

    The level of evaluation being used here is roughly equivalent to the business of banning dihydrogen monoxide.

    “Natural Ingredients” does not mean “better” in all cases. Proctor and Gamble wanted to eliminate formic acid as a surfactant. They discovered you can get it out of ground ants and termites. Which are “Natural”. Pure formic acid from a vat, or imperfectly separated formic acid from ants.

    Also concerned about the safety after the cavalier dismissal of anything remotely like a consideration of concentrations and exposure levels.

    Heck, pure oxygen has issues, let’s ban it too.

  6. [...] DIY Laundry Detergent (makezine.com) [...]

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