Detergents
The Impact of Detergents on Your Watershed

     Detergents and soaps have been known to contain a high amount of phosphorous, which has been a major contributor to nutrient loading in watersheds.  Between 9% and 34% of the phosphorus load going to wastewater treatment plants from domestic sewage comes from automatic dishwashing detergents.

       While phosphates have been removed from laundry detergents, they are still found in dishwashing detergents and soaps. In detergent’s phosphates serve as a “builder” to improve the detergent’s cleaning efficiency.  These abnormally high phosphate levels entering the waterways destroy lakes, streams or other freshwater bodies by allowing algae in the water to grow faster than it normally would, leading to eutrophication.

       

     In addition to phosphates, most conventional dish and laundry detergents are made from petroleum, which is a nonrenewable resource. Some detergents also contain alkyohenol ethoxyates, that are suspected hormone disruptors. These don’t readily biodegrade and can threaten wildlife after they go down your drain. Also, the fragrances in detergents and fabric softeners can contain phthalates, endocrine disrupts, which have been linked to cancer and reproductive –system harm in animal lab tests.    

What to Look for When Buying Detergents
     These harmful chemicals can be avoided by using “fragrance-free” soaps, choosing dish and laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners that are plant based, and looking for “non-chlorine bleach” made from sodium percarbonate or sodium perborate. Even if you can’t find eco-brands, choose a detergent that is lower in phosphate per dishwasher load, since the content of detergents varies significantly among brands. Also, unless you have very hard water and very dirty dishes, you may find that considerably less detergent is needed to get your dishes clean than originally instructed.

Type

Phosphate Content

(by Percentage)

Grams of Phosphate

(per Tablespoon)

Bi-O-Kleen      (Powder)                                                    
Citrus Magic    (Gel)                                                         
Ecover
Seventh Generation            
Shaklee        (Powder)                                                      
Sun & Earth      (Tablet)                                                     
Trader Joe's Automatic Dishwashing (Detergent)    
Palmolive Gel    (Gel)                                                        
Electra-Sol Gel  (Gel)                                                        
Wal-Mart Automatic Dishwashing Detergent (Gel)         
Pure Power Gel   (Gel)                                                      
Sunlight Liquid  (Liquid)                                                     
Electra-Sol Powder       (Powder)                                        
Cascade Liquid   (Liquid)                                                    
Sunlight Powder  (Powder)                                                 
Cascade Complete         (Liquid)                                         
Pure Power Powder        (Powder)                                      
Hannaford Dishwasher Detergent   (Powder)
Shaws Automatic  (Powder)                                                
Wal-Mart Automatic Dishwashing Det. (Powder) 

Cascade PureRinse        (Powder)                                       
Cascade Action Pac       (Tablet)                                         
Electra-Sol Tablets      (Tablet)                                            
Electra-Sol GelPac

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1.6

3.7

4.0

4.0

4.3

4.5

5.0

4.5

5.0

5.3

5.3

6.0

6.3

6.4

8.0

8.7

8.7

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0.32

0.7

0.8

0.8

0.83

0.72

1.0

1.4

1.0

0.6

0.6

0.8

0.8

1.0

1.1

1.74 per tablet

2.2 per gelpac

Safe Homemade Cleaning Solutions

There are several possible homemade substitutes for laundry cleaners and softeners:

  • To remove stains from clothing, try soaking fabrics in water mixed with borax, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, washing soda, or white vinegar.
  • Another stain remover suggestion is to sprinkle the surface with salt and squeeze lemon or lime juice over the area, let it sit and rub it out, which can even remove rust if allowed to sit a few hours. 
  • Fabric can be softened by adding one-quarter cup of baking soda to the wash cycle, or one-quarter cup of white wine vinegar, which soften and eliminate cling.