Dirty Detergents

The environmental impact of clean clothes.

Post contains link to the detergent tested.


The American household does laundry 8-10 times per week. Neglecting the entire issue of excess water consumption, there’s an equivalent problem that can be found in our detergents. That’s right, the thing that’s suppose to clean clothes isn’t necessarily clean for you or the environment.


What’s so bad about standard issue laundry detergents. Detergents contain synthetic fragrances, preservatives, dyes, sulfates, and dioxane, ethoxylate, and phosphates. But what do these things do, how do they do it, and why are they so bad?


Collectively, they work together to remove odors and stains from clothes. But for the body, the effects are not quite so positive. Dioxane can cause irritate the nasal passage and even cause long-term damage to your organs. Synthetic fragrances and dyes can irritate the skin, ethoxylate is known to disrupt the endocrine system, and sulfates have even been linked to cancer. The environment certainly doesn’t catch a break either. The compounds found in laundry detergents, such as cadmium, phosphates, and arsenic, can contaminate precious water resources. Phosphate buildup further contributes to eutrophication.


I tried out a biopreferred approved liquid detergent. For detergents, the Biopreferred program requires that X% of the product be biobased. Meyer’s clean day laundry detergent in Basil by the Caldrea company was my detergent of choice for this review and it is 76% bio-based according to the Biopreferred program. I ranked the product based upon several parameters to see how it stacked up to the original non-environmentally friendly variety. You can find it on Amazon for just $20.


Cleaning ability: 8

Mrs. Meyers gets an 8 in cleaning ability. It performed well on daily wear clothes and even with sweaty workout clothes. Basically, clothes that didn’t have any tough stains or marks, but that just needed a refresh after a few wears. For clothes with stuck on stains, I had to do a pre-wash scrub over the sink. Grease and oil stains came out as long as I gave the spot a quick wash over the sink prior to putting in the laundry machine. Colored stains were more difficult. Grass and turmeric cause the brightest and most difficult stains, so I tried those out. The grass stain came out after a pretty rigorous scrub. The turmeric stain left a yellow discoloration even with the scrubbing. All in all, the detergent works great for daily wear clothes and for those with oil or other minor less colorful stains.


Scent: 10

The Meyer’s products generally have great scents, and the laundry detergent is no exception. It is fresh and crisp and smells exactly how clean laundry line drying on a spring day might smell. Personally, I detest the smell of most other detergents. I find them to be artificial and overpowering. The Meyer’s, on the other hand, is understated without getting lost. The clothes came out smelling clean without any strong scent on them.


Required Quantity: 6

On particularly large loads, I had to use about one and quarter times the called for amount otherwise the clothes didn’t come out quite as fresh. For daily wear clothes, this really wasn’t a problem. However, for workout clothes that held sweat, the extra detergent was an absolute necessity unless I wanted the clothes to come out smelling musty. This adds slightly to the cost of the detergent per use. Using the prescribed amount, the detergent costs $0.30 per load, but considering that some loads required more than the base amount, the cost did exceed the price I would generally consider a good deal for laundry detergent.


Overall, I found the Meyer’s detergent to be a good option with a composite score of 8. Although it did require me to use a little extra and demanded that I pre-scrub set stains, I much preferred the natural scent and found its cleaning ability to be up to par. I consider a little pre-scrubbing to be a small price to pay in exchange for a healthier body and a healthier planet.

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