If you believe advertisers, the hills are alive with the smell of laundry. In fact, they've somehow bottled the scent of spring, sunshine and tropical breezes. In truth, your laundry detergent is probably the furthest thing from nature in your pantry.
Your brand might be phosphate-free, but big deal - pretty much every detergent has been since the mid-90s. And most mainstream brands are filled with surfactants (these make your clothes more easily penetrated by water) that are not only suspected hormone disruptors, but may also be contaminated by skin-penetrating carcinogens.
Many soaps come with the stain-fighting power of bleach, which clearly irritates the lungs and skin. But did you know that if it seeps into waterways, bleach can create organochlorides, like dioxin, that are potential neurological, reproductive and carcinogenic toxins?
Enough about the dirty side of laundry soaps. The question is, which environmentally-friendly, all-natural brand actually gets the grime out? We got sloppy and rubbed dirt, oil, red wine and tomato sauce into seven white cotton fabric samples, let the stains set for an hour, then washed them with the detergents in warm water.
Since we're testing natural stain removers next week, we didn‚t pre-treat this week's stains, which, admittedly, didn't give the products much of a fighting chance. (Hell, even our control batch, tested with chemical sudser Tide Ultra, failed to remove the stains entirely). But there were some clear winners and losers.
This one actually did a relatively decent job on the Chianti stain, but the tomato remnants were reminiscent of the bright orange soda stains you see on little kids. nn
The oil stain looks like you can still lick it and taste the olive oil. Wonder created a weird black tree-ring effect on the wine stain, and did slightly better on the tomato stain than washing soda with borax. nn
Love the lemony scent. I've had good luck with this one in the past on run-of-the-mill sweat and dirt, and it did lift about as much tomato sauce as Tide and almost as much wine, but the oil and dirt are still alive and well. nnN
This one's almost a carbon copy of Ecover in terms of stain-lifting power sans pre-treating. Did marginally better on oil maybe. Hard to say. nnN
The tomato stain's so untouched you can actually still smell the herbs and garlic a day after we washed it! Dirt's gone, but it was from potted plant soil, unlike the other samples that were rubbed in mud outdoors. n
Even after washing, the tomato stain looks like a bright-orange sunset, making us long for romantic walks on the beach. Otherwise, it works about the same as Ecover and Soap Factory. nn
Our grime-fighting champion! This Quebec-made soap was the only one that elimated all traces of oil and beat Tide on tomato sauce, although, like the others, it only faded wine. NB: Do not overpour! We created a suds monster of B movie proportions! nnNN
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