Image credit: Urban Farming Guys
I've written before about the green benefits inherent in DIY, but that doesn't mean that everything DIY is green. Take this latest video from the inspiring Urban Farming Guys—the same folks who gave us videos on DIY biogas and homemade goat milking stands—which shows us how to make insanely cheap laundry detergent from commonly available ingredients. The only trouble is, one of them is considered toxic.
When I saw the video above I was instantly intrigued. After all, who doesn't want to save a bundle on laundry soap, and avoid all that packaging going to landfill in the process? Using just borax, washing soda and bar soap, it's claimed that this recipe ican do 160 loads for $2—and you only have to look at the amount of packaging to surmise that there are significant environmental benefits.
But there's no such thing as a free lunch. A quick Google search on the environmental impact of borax found many pages singing its praises, while others were deeply concerned about borax contamination of metropolitan beaches. And a straw poll of TreeHugger contributors also siggested reason for concern. While some use it to control ants, and others as a laundry booster, Lloyd drew our attention to the information on toxicity in the wikipedia entry on borax, and noted that the REACH regulations on safer chemistry (which follow a precautionary principle) have raised the alarm before:
A reassessment of boric acid/borax by the United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Pesticide Programs found potential developmental toxicity (especially effects on the testes). Boric acid solutions used as an eye wash or on abraded skin are known to be particularly toxic to infants, especially after repeated use, because of the slow elimination rate. At a recent European Diagnostics Manufacturing Association (EDMA) meeting, several new additions to the Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) candidate list in relation to the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals Regulations 2007 (REACH) were discussed. The registration and review completed as part of REACH has changed the classification of Sodium Tetraborate CAS 1303-96-4 to toxic for reproduction.
Given that many people are already using borax, and that borax is an ingredient in many detergents anyway, there are undoubtedly some environmental benefits to this DIY recipe. But whether it is a truly "green" option is a matter of serious debate, and given that borax exposure can cause both respiratory and skin irritation, it might be a good idea to keep those kids away if you do choose to make this stuff.
For light loads, it's worth trying washing clothes with no laundry detergent at all (with or without the expensive rubber balls that are supposed to aid cleaning...).