Why detergents aren’t your best friends

Maybe that “ek chammach” for “safedi” laundry detergent you are soaking your clothes in isn’t that harmless after all. 

Would you drink a glass of detergent water? Crazy question? Not really. That’s pretty much what you are doing now anyway. Just in a roundabout way. By tossing one little spoon of detergent powder in the washing machine, you are releasing into the environment additional chemicals that eventually find their way back into your drinking water and your body.

Detergents make you pay a heavy price for a clean white shirt. They contain surfactants, the suds-makers that actually damage the human immune system. Among other harmful chemicals that detergents carry are phosphates, ammonia, naphthalene, phenol, optical brighteners, and artificial fragrances. No, this is not predicting doomsday, or talking about the #1 reason for people to fall ill: heck, road accidents cause more deaths in India than anything else. But it is true that we are doping our bodies, water and environment with way too much chemicals. And we can certainly have less of that.

So, how do you cut down on the use of detergent? There are ways as well as eco-friendly products that you can use as substitutes.

If you are possessive about your detergent brand and unwilling to experiment with substitutes, try the following tips:
1) Use less detergent than that recommended by the manufacturer. Not every shirt of yours sports tough stains but every grain in a detergent is ‘over engineered’ to remove blotches, whether they exist or not. Use your discretion.
2) For daily wear clothes that are not soiled, use just half or even a quarter of the amount recommended by the manufacturer.
3) For stained clothes, treat the soiled patches before dumping them in the washing machine. Vinegar is one helluva stain wiper.
4) Sun-dry white clothes. The scorcher lightens stains and even burns up bacteria while drying your clothes.

Many eco-friendly substitutes to detergent spare the environment and leave the texture and colours of your clothes intact. Two of the Indian brands that come readily to mind are Krya and Daily Dump.

Krya powder

Chennai-based Krya Consumer Products LLP has a natural detergent powder, which is made of organic soap berries. A 400-gm pack of Krya detergent powder costs Rs 290, good for 40 standard 5 kg wash loads. You can also use the powder for hand and bucket washes.

Krya powder is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, and is completely biodegradable. “If you follow the instructions on the pack, our powder costs Rs 7 a wash versus Rs 12-13 for a regular chemical detergent,” says Srinivas Krishnaswamy, an Indian Institute of Management (Bangalore) alumnus and co-founder at Krya.

Watch video on how to use Krya detergent powder:

Daily Dump, a brand of Bangalore-based PBK Waste Solutions Pvt Ltd, has a bio detergent, Bio-D bar, a biodegradable product made of palm oil. A 200-gm bar costs Rs 24. You can also pay Rs 35 for a pack of three 100-gm bars, and Rs 88 for a pack of four 200-gm bars. The maids seem to have taken a liking to the product. “Maids in homes that have used our product have referred it to other households they work in,” says Srinivas Aithal, a supplier to Daily Dump.

Daily dump's bio-d product made of palm oil.

Daily dump’s bio-d product made of palm oil.

Know of some other wonderful ways to use go detergent less or at least reduce its use? Tell us!

Coming up: Living without shampoo

Catch Every Drop is a campaign on sustainable water conservation by The Alternative, sponsored by Arghyam, with partners India Water Portal and Biome Environmental Solutions.

Whether it is the Cauvery river dispute, the unregulated proliferation of bore wells or the death of Bangalore’s beautiful lakes, everyone has a story, an opinion or a question on water. While most people understand and recognize the importance of saving water, not everyone knows how to do it, or even what exactly they can do.

Follow Catch Every Drop here, on Facebook and Twitter (#catcheverydrop) to find out how you can do more than 100 things to reduce, reuse, recycle and harvest water in your homes, offices, apartments and in the community. Every drop is precious. Let the future not be dry. Save today.

Discuss this article on Facebook