Love the Scent of Fresh Laundry? That Fragrance Isn't as Clean as You May Think

Photo Credit: Irum Shahid, stock.xchng.

Ahhhh, the scent of fresh, clean laundry. You can buy laundry detergent in every fragrance from lavender to citrus to "fresh rain" -- whatever that's supposed to smell like. But next time you do a pile of laundry, you may want to change your detergent. That "fresh laundry" smell, even in some popular "green" detergents, is often off-gassing toxic chemicals.The University of Washington recently conducted a study on 25 commonly used laundry detergents. They found that these detergents emit an average of 17 chemicals each, ranging from limonene (which gives products a citrus scent) to formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

The researchers placed all 25 samples in a glass container, then tested the surrounding air for volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Every product emitted at least one known carcinogen. Because cleaning product manufacturers aren't required to list ingredients on the label, it's hard to tell which products contain harmful chemicals. "The products emitted more than 420 chemicals, collectively, but virtually none of them were disclosed to consumers, anywhere," states study author Anne Steinemann, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University.

The study analyzed a range of products, from best-selling national brands to so-called "natural" brands and found that every single one of them emitted at least one carcinogen along with several other chemicals. The study doesn't go into the health effects of these chemicals; it merely informs us that they're there, often despite claims that the products are "green" or "natural."

To avoid toxic chemicals in your laundry, consider making your own laundry detergent. It is very cost-effective and rids your laundry routine of any mystery ingredients. Here are a few recipes that are simple to make:

More About Green Cleaning:
Tips for Line Drying Your Clothes
How to Go Green: Cleaning