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Which detergent should I use for organic clothing?

What detergents are you using for your organic clothing?  Lately, many people are buying things organic. From food to clothes. We all have our reasons but just to name a few – it’s green, great for the environment, it’s for our future, it’s healthy, it’s safe for our kids, it’s hip, go LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability)!

Is it a fad? An emphatic no – it is a multibillion dollar industry that has grown with each consecutive year.

Today, let’s focus on organic clothing. What does it mean? To put it in simple terms, it is “chemical free” fabric against your skin. The definition for natural and organic textiles is very clear cut. For example, organic wool is taken from sheep that is grown freely on the range and organically raised. While organic cotton is derived from plants that are grown, harvested and processed without pesticides and other man-made chemicals. There are controversies about the extent of what organic means due to the dyes used in clothing, processing of the fibers etc. but we will not focus on this matter.

Have you ever owned any organic clothes? Have you washed it with any of these brands? Tide (even Tide “Clear and Free”), All, Cheer, Era, Gain, Ivory, Fab, Dynamo, Ajax, Arm & Hammer, Wick, Surf, Yes, Purex and last but not least DREFT – the #1 detergent recommended for babies by pediatricians?

Your organic clothes you have invested has now been (pardon my French) “de-virginized” – in other words, your once organic clothes are now like any other clothes – “foreverly” not organic.

Flourescent Whitening Agents (FWA) aka. Optical Brighteners have been on the market for a long time.  It is the man-made chemical creation of what consumers wanted whiter whites and brighter colors.  When FWA treated clothes are exposed to UV light, they emit a blue light.

As one can see in the above picture FWA treated cloths or indeed whiter thus more brighter by nature.  Untreated cloths are almost ivory in color.  As visible light is changed into UV light, one can see only the FWA treated cloths and not the untreated one.

FWAs are present in all the laundry detergents listed above including many others.  Its function is to make the clothes whiter and brighter.  The distressing fact is that since it acts like a permanent dye, FWAs do not wash out of the clothes.  It serves like another chemical layer on your clothes emitting a blue hue as seen under UV light.  This combined with natural sunlight masks the real color of the clothes and gives it a brighter look due to the blue light that is now being reflected from the clothes.

Going slightly off topic, having a slight blue light is also evident in some of the bulbs for reading and also the dreaded halogen bulbs with the bluish tint headlights which blind the sight of  oncoming vehicles.  Very annoying.  The science behind this stems from the short wavelengths of blue light which tends to scatter more.  Also difference in pupillary response between yellow and blue light is a big factor.  Thus with even “less” output, things look brighter with a slight blue hue.

If you do invest in organic clothes for whatever the reason.  Wash it in detergents that do not contain FWAs – unless you want to light up with a blue hue at a party that has black light.  Then again you have your non-organic clothes for that purpose.  What’s worse is finding what you thought was organic cotton lighting up anyway under black light.  Don’t be quick to blame the manufacturer but consider first whether you washed it in your once trusted detergent that claimed to be  “clear and free” or even worse, detergent targeted for babies.

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