Home > Fluorescent Whitening Agents, Recommended Products and Services > Not all detergents are created equal!

Not all detergents are created equal!

There are many laundry detergents on the market.  Some brands we are all familiar with are Tide, Cheer, All, Arm & Hammer and so on.  But do they all clean cleanly?  Definition of clean from Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “clean” (used as an adjective) as free from dirt or pollution.  “Clean” (used as a verb) means to rid of dirt, impurities, or extraneous matter.

Basically there are 4 main areas of concern where the definition of  “clean” is in conflict with detergents:

  1. Fragrances  – are chemicals added to the clothe fibers to emit a scent.
  2. Dyes – adds a slight color to clothes enhancing the brightness.  According to the EPA, “Studies indicate that certain colorants may cause cancer or other adverse health effects in humans.”
  3. Enzymes – aids in the digestion of organic matter thus speeding up the cleaning process. However it may cause irritation of the skin, especially in the baby, when the enzyme have not completely washed off the clothes.
  4. Brighteners – FWAs acts almost as a “permanent” dye on the clothes.  It works by binding to the fibers of the cloths and reflects the blue portion of the light spectrum.  It is evident with the use of a UV lamp (black light) thus the flourescent blue glow.  This reflection of the blue light creates a masking effect ultimately making whites whiter and colors brighter.

A fifth concern deals with fabric softeners (which is a separate entity from detergents but commonly used in the wash/dry cycle). There are 2 types: anionic and cationic. Both works by placing a coating on clothes. This thin coating has lubricant properties which give the clothes a false sense of softness.  This  lubricant properties also make the clothes hydrophobic (repel water) thus being stain resistant.

All of the major areas of concerns can be a trigger for allergies or cause skin irritations.   All are terrible for the environment since most are not biodegradable.  With that said some are even used as a marker for industrial waste.

Residues from detergents are also a concern.  Uninformed, some even wash with regular soap which is notorious for leaving residues thus ruining the performance of the clothes.  Residue build-up on clothes cause skin irritations, decreased performance of advanced fibers ie. Goretex and decreased absorbabilty of fibers too.  Charilie’s Soap did an interesting independent lab test on soap residues.  Their findings can be seen here.

Charlie's Soap compared to Tide Liquid

Poor rinsability was indicated by a weight gain after controlled washing and drying.  Those washed in Charlie’s Soap gained no measurable weight at all.  It is reasonable to assume that hypo-allergenic fabrics washed in Charlie’s Soap is shown to leave no irritating residues and will surely remain so when washed with it.

Country Save commissioned an independent lab to test their products against 4 others to compare dissolvability of the detergents.  Undissolved detergents can be a big cause for residues on clothings.

Un-dissolved solids of detergent.

With all that said, what is the detergent HappyBabyUSA is foremost recommending?

Our reasons are:

  1. It is highly effective in cleaning all kinds of fabrics even with tough stains.  (Green products are great but it has to foremost be effective on the task it is supposed to do – in this case it is to clean clothes!)
  2. It is environmentally friendly and over 97% biodegradable in 28 days.  (To be certified biodegradable, a substance must be 80% degraded in 28 days.  It is certified safe for use in small lakes and streams.
  3. There are no extra fillers, no added dyes, no lyes, no phosphates, no bleach, no enzymes, no fluorescent brighteners, and none of that “cheap” perfume.
  4. The “entire family” can use this laundry detergent – from babies to adults.
  5. The ingredients were simple and straight forward – coconut oil based surfactants, sodium carbonate and sodium Metasilicate for the powder (water for the liquid)
  6. 100% green company and made in North Carolina, U.S.A.

There are other good green laundry detergents but other companies seem to compromise with the “green” take on the environment by adding dyes, fluorescent whitening agents etc. to their other products and also add fabric softeners to their lineup.  This is more evident with the larger companies.

Other powder/liquid detergents that are worth mentioning –  Allens Naturally, Country Save, Planet, Mountain Green and Nature Clean.  With these brands it is important to carefully choose the detergents geared for the baby and without the extra additives.

  1. Karen
    February 6, 2016 at 11:25 am

    I scanned your articles on FWAs for info on which “main stream” detergents to avoid that have these agents. If I missed such an article could you please send me the link.

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