Is It Better To Use All-Natural Or Regular Laundry Detergent?

For many people, the words "all-natural" and "organic" imply positive attributes. Healthier, cleaner, safer, better, earth-friendly, and so on, but what about all-natural laundry detergent? Is it the better option, compared to regular, highly fragrant detergents loaded with chemicals? With consideration to the benefits and the cleaning effectiveness, yes, the all-natural version of laundry detergent is the better buy.

Laundry detergent is considered to be "natural" if it lacks the potentially harmful chemicals that you'll find in many regular laundry detergents. These include petroleum distillate, phenol, dyes, and ammonium sulfate. Usually, in place of these chemicals are plant-based ingredients like coconut and natural compounds and minerals like sea salt, Epsom salt, baking soda, and washing soda. 

All-natural laundry detergents like Purex Natural Elements, Earth Breeze, and Rosey Laundry Detergent don't typically include the alluring fragrance that many traditional laundry detergents feature. They may also be difficult to find unless you shop online, but they still offer a number of considerable benefits, both to people and the environment. Most are also very effective in cleaning clothes.

Benefits of all-natural laundry detergent for people

As you would expect of most other organic products, all-natural laundry detergent is "people-friendly" in that it doesn't pose as many health risks as regular detergent. For example, it's less likely to cause skin irritation since it doesn't include ingredients like synthetic fragrances, sodium laureth sulfates, and formaldehyde, which are known to cause skin problems. All-natural detergents are generally considered safe for people with sensitive skin or existing skin conditions.

Another factor to consider with organic detergent is toxicity risk elimination. According to the University of Washington, certain laundry detergents release dangerous, air-polluting chemicals like benzene and acetaldehyde through dryer vents. "These products can affect not only personal health, but also public and environmental health," former UW professor Anne Steinemann said. All-natural detergents don't contain these ingredients, meaning there are no risks of chemical toxicity to those who use them.

Wondering about the cleaning power? Even without many of the harsh ingredients in traditional detergents, some all-natural detergents can be just as effective at cleaning and removing stains, according to a Grist reviewer. Some of the tested detergents included All Small & Mighty Free & ClearPlanet Ultra Liquid Laundry Detergent, and Biokleen Free & Clear Laundry Liquid

Environmental benefits of all-natural laundry detergent

Another benefit of all-natural laundry detergents are the eco-friendly traits. Although this type of detergent doesn't necessarily improve the environment or undo the damage that's already been done to it, it can benefit the environment by reducing the number of threats to it.

Remember, after all that dirty, soapy water gets drained from your washing machine, it eventually ends up in the water table. Many detergents that aren't all-natural include phosphate, which can result in harmful algae growth in freshwater and can reduce the amount of oxygen in the water over time (via Green Matters). All-natural detergents are biodegradable and don't pose this threat to the ecosystem, since they don't use phosphate.

Organic laundry detergent also eliminates certain dangers to aquatic life, unlike many regular detergents. For example, chemical cleaning agents can do wonders for clothing by breaking down dirt with ingredients called surfactants. However, these chemicals can also break down things you don't want them to break down, like the mucus layer (that slimy coat) that protects fish's bodies (per Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering). So if you care about the environment and want to eliminate health risks that are linked to regular detergent, all-natural laundry detergent may be the better option for you.