Did you know U.S. consumers wash more than 35 billion loads of laundry each year? Since that translates to 1,000 wash loads being started in the U.S. every second of every day, we felt called to dive deeper into the environmental risks associated with doing laundry.
The Not So Environmentally Clean Way Of Cleaning.
Washing is as easy as throwing your dirty clothes on the floor, gathering them up a few days later, tossing them into the machine, pouring your detergent, and pressing start. But, what are the environmental effects? Let’s start with laundry detergent. Did you know there are over 13 toxic chemicals in conventional laundry detergent, and 7 in dryer sheets? The top three most harmful chemicals in most laundry detergents are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate/Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLS/ SLES), Phosphates, and Formaldehyde. All of these chemicals are extremely harmful to human health and detrimental to the planet.
Besides the harmful chemicals found in laundry detergent, scientists have also discovered that a significant amount of microplastic pollution in water comes from washing clothes. Microplastics are entering waterways by traveling from our washing machines, through wastewater treatment plants, as they currently do not have filtration systems capable of filtering out microplastics and entering our lakes, rivers, and oceans. For the amount of washing that takes place every day around the world, we have to find sustainable solutions for this household chore.
Facts About Laundry:
- 1 billion laundry jugs are discarded in the U.S. annually.
- 70% of laundry jugs end up in landfills.
- Laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets emit more than 25 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) per load – many of which are classified as hazardous air pollutants.
- Chemicals in laundry detergents include things like fragrances, endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, and potent cancer-causing chemicals.
- Over 95% of the chemicals used to create fragrances are derived from petroleum.
- A study that analyzed over 25 top-selling laundry products found that those with “organic” and “natural” fragrances emitted just as many hazardous chemicals as conventional products with fragrances.
- Phosphates in detergent remain active even after wastewater treatment and end up in rivers, and lakes, where they act as toxic fertilizers.
- Phosphates increase algae growth, and as the algae die, they release poisons that further deplete oxygen in the waterways.
- Microplastics shed off clothes in the form of microfibers when fabrics are made of polyester, nylon, acrylic, or spandex and end up in our lakes, rivers, and oceans.
- Of all the floating dust in your house, 33% of it is microplastics from your clothing.
How can I make an impact?
Action 2: Planet Protector
- All of Action 1
- Use bio-based stain removers and ditch the fabric softener altogether.
- Consider indoor drying racks or hang your clothes outside to dry to preserve energy.
- Use cold water if possible to preserve the life of your clothing.
Action 3: Earth Angel
- All of Action 1 & 2
- Swap out your detergent jugs and boxes for earth-friendly laundry sheets or pods.
- Get a microfiber ball to absorb microplastic in each wash.
- Try soap nuts or other natural laundry products through our sister site The Conscious Buyer.