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Rachel Vidoni: Little Changes.. Immerse

“It was easy to procrastinate. I was much more attracted to creative items on my list, like working on my website or playing on Facebook. While I was consumed by developing Choose Wiser, my good friend Karen and her husband were well on their way to changing out their four-step lawn care program for organic methods and creating homemade weed killer (a gallon of white vinegar, a bottle of lemon juice, and a ¼  cup of castile or dish soap). At the other end of our neighborhood, Tara had methodically evaluated cleaning products, replacing those with ammonia, chlorine bleach, and phosphates with kinder choices. She eliminated unhealthy cleaning products like a sharpshooter at target practice, taking out the bad guys with rapid trigger pulls. With Tara and Karen running ahead of me on the same path, it was rather convenient for me to follow behind. Trusting their experiences involved less thinking and reminded me that the goal was a healthier home, not to recreate the wheel. Sharing our successes was a way to “work smarter, not harder,” achieving the result with less overlap in effort. It was one thing to research what I did or didn’t want in my dish detergent, but it was a blessing and time saver when my friends cut to the chase with tried and true experiences. “I tried making my own dish soap. No matter what, it left a film. I am happy with a store-bought eco-friendly version.” Mulling over my to-do list, I realized I needed to employ a lot more girlfriends in my life.”

                                                                               – Excerpt from Little Changes

Do you ever stop and wonder why you buy a product and use it at home? Is it because you had a coupon? It was on sale? Your parents used it? It was the closest item to the aisle and you threw it in the cart before your toddler threw a fit?

Before I started on this journey I used to pick a laundry detergent based on what I grew up with (didn’t our mothers know everything?) or how it smelled. Isn’t that how we know the clothes are clean? They smell like wonderfulness? I hate doing laundry, I hate laundry activities, and I certainly didn’t spend any time figuring out what exactly I was washing my clothes with. Wasn’t it just soap? You know, soap, one simple ingredient that washes lots of different things? I didn’t know that what we consider “soap” is made up of many different ingredients, or that cleaning products aren’t required to list those. Have you ever tried looking on the back of your laundry detergent? Your fabric softener? Your Windex? What’s in those products anyway? You won’t find a list of ingredients, but you will find plenty of cautionary statements (and nothing that tells you why you need to be cautious). Isn’t that curious? But there are some ingredients you want to avoid in your laundry soap. Just like the old shirt you use to clean the oil off the grill and wipe down the tires on your van, you don’t want to be washing your items with nastiness.

What to Avoid:

Phosphates, chlorine bleach, artificial fragrances, colors or preservatives, ammonia, alcohol, Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) or Sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES), EDTA, diethanolomine (DEA), and 1,4 Dioxane.

Why You Should Avoid Them:

In general, the above ingredients are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, or allergens. If you’d like to know the specifics, you can find out more about each ingredient on the Environmental Working Group’s Chemical Index. You can also surf here for a red-yellow-green break down of chemicals as a starting point.

The thought is, if we have a better alternative to these ingredients, then let’s make a wiser choice by choosing a safer product with fewer ugly ingredients than before. Finding a friendly laundry detergent will take care of many these nasty ingredients in one scoop. But does that mean the perfect option exists? Not always.

It’s important to know, that one really ugly ingredient you want to avoid in your laundry detergent is 1,4-dioxane. 1,4-dioxane is a known cancer-causing chemical, and in animal studies has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer. It acts as a solvent and is an expected contaminant from other commonly used ingredients like sodium laureth sulfate, PEG compounds, and others. This chemical can actually be taken out of products effectively.

Women’s Voices for the Earth, Healthy Child Healthy World, and MomsRising  explain that Tide’s (the first synthetic laundry detergent on the market) Free & Gentle®  soap, marketed to families as being safer for babies and children, contains 1,4-dioxane. The above websites also have suggestions for you about how to help create change, but the Women’s Voices for the Earth website states that:

“It turns out that Tide Free & Gentle® isn’t so gentle. A report recently released by Women’s Voices for Earth, Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in Your Cleaning Products? found high levels of the cancer-causing chemical 1,4-dioxane in the detergent. 1,4-dioxane doesn’t appear on the product label or on the product website, so consumers have no way of knowing it’s even there.

The Tide website says: Safety: The Most Important Ingredient in Tide®. If that’s true, then 1,4-dioxane should never have been in the product in the first place.”

So what can you do? Quit washing clothes altogether? (Which sounds like a GREAT idea to me on most days.) You could shop around for a safer product. You could wash your clothes when they are really dirty, not just after they’ve been worn once. You could also send  a message to Procter & Gamble letting them know that 1,4-dioxane isn’t something you want caressing your child’s tender skin. You actually have a lot of choices—you aren’t stuck in the wash cycle of status quo. Unless you want to be.

Why do you buy the soap and cleaners you buy? What motivates your purchase? Price? Convenience? What your friends or family use? What do you think about the fact that cleaners don’t have to list ingredients? Let us know what you think GEM nation!

More from GEM:

Life Lessons Kristi Marsh

Little Changes: Devour

Little Changes: Smother

Rachel Vidoni is a professional writer and blogger and former classroom teacher. She is a mediocre mother to three pretty neat kids. You can follow her humor and family blog at You might not be a better parent after reading her blog, but you will feel like one. Follow her on Twitter @RachelVidoni

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