Detergents have a significant impact on the environment. Water quality issues can arise such as phosphorous loading of lakes and streams. After the second world war, due to material shortages, phosphorous was added to household detergents ( Litke, 1999). The phosphorous rich detergents became popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s ( Litke, 1999). The problem arose when this phosphorus would enter waterways. Phosphorous causes aquatic vegetation to blooms, promoting the growth of algae ( Litke, 1999). Once the algae decays, the bacteria breakdown it down using oxygen in the process, this in turn causes the water to become anoxic leading to fish die offs as well as altering the appearance of the lake. Luckily the use of phosphates in detergents has been ban since the mid 1990’s ( Litke, 1999).
An eco-friendly method to wash clothing is through the use of soap nuts, also called soap berries. Soap nuts come from the soap nut tree, which is a part of the Sapindaceae family ( SapindusMukorossi.com, 2009). A common species used for the production of soap nuts is Spindus Mukorossi ( SapindusMukorossi.com, 2009). The nuts can be used as detergent due to high saponin content ( SapindusMukorossi.com, 2009).
Personally the use of soap nuts has offered an alternative to chemical detergents. Reactions to chemicals had previously been a problem in the household due to skin sensitivity. The nuts do require hot water in order to produce soap, which may be a little more costly. The alternative though is adding other chemicals to the environment which may cause different types of harm to animal and human life.
Also check out Our Positive Planet’s DIY laundry detergent!
Litke, D., W.(1999). Review of phosphorous control measures in the Unites States and their effects on water quality. Water-Resources Investigations Report, 99-4007.
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