Many of us have changed to natural products for doing our laundry because of the harmful effects, to ourselves and our children, from the many and toxic chemicals used in commercial laundry detergents with their skin irritants and environmental pollutants.
But now it has come to light that those fragrances in laundry detergents and even dryer sheets are actually putting dangerous emissions – namely VOCs - into the air around us when we do our laundry. VOCs are volatile organic compounds (but read chemical rather than organic into this) which have significant vapor pressures and which can affect the environment and human health.
VOCs are numerous, varied and ubiquitous
In a recent study by the University of Washington, researchers found a total of 25 VOCs (including 7 hazardous air pollutants and 2 carcinogens) emitting from the dryer vents of tumble dryers.
They concentrated on 3 different areas of research:
1. dryer-vent fumes from a load of pre-rinsed organic-cotton towels washed with no products.
- the dryer gave off a minimum level of VOCs.
2. dryer-vent fumes from a similar load washed with a leading brand of scented liquid laundry detergent.
- 10 new VOCs were identified.
3. dryer-vent fumes from the final load washed with the detergent and later dried with a leading brand of scented dryer sheets.
- 7 additional VOCs were identified.
In total, the combination of scented detergent and dryer sheets yielded 25 different VOCs, 2 of which were classified as carcinogens with no safe exposure level so just an occasional sniff could cause permanent damage.
Add to this the fact that companies are not required to list all the ingredients in their "added fragrance” which means that there can be as many as 20 ingredients included - but not named and listed.
It is more important than ever to move away from all commercial and chemical products when doing your laundry and, of course, any other household chores.
- Skip the dryer sheets completely and rise to the challenge of static cling and clothes softening by adding a dash of vinegar to the rinse cycle.
- When using your dryer, and you want some extra fragrance, you can achieve this by a drop or two of essential oil on a cloth (such as mint or lavender) and adding to the drum.
- Alternatively, you could pop in a sachet of fresh herbs.
For the most natural laundry result of all, use soapnuts and line dry in the fresh air!