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Why “Plant-Based” Doesn’t Mean Much When it Comes to Laundry Detergent

Oct 19, 2020

Why “Plant-Based” Doesn’t Mean Much When it Comes to Laundry Detergent
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Did you know there’s zero regulation of the word “natural” on cleaning products and laundry detergent?

That means those so-called-natural cleaners might be made with ingredients you'd never consider at all natural. Scary, right?

But we know you know better.

Many consumers are getting wise to the greenwashing of the industry, which is why more people are opting for laundry detergent labeled “plant-based,” aiming to clean with cleaner ingredients. But there’s a dirty secret: “plant-based” and “plant-derived” cleaners almost always use synthetic detergents made using petroleum. 

A quick perusal of all-purpose cleaners on the shelf reveals that many brands claiming to be better, cleaner, and natural contain decyl glucoside, a detergent produced with petrochemicals and other hazardous substances in a complex industrial process. When we see decyl glucoside on labels claiming to be natural, we want to wash their mouths out with soap! 

Many plant-based cleaner ingredients can also cause irritation and allergic contact dermatitis.

When companies rely on industrial chemistry to transform natural ingredients into cleaners, the results can be just as damaging to your lungs, skin, and eyes as their conventional counterparts. (Check out the ingredients of your cleaners on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, you may be surprised what you find.) 

We’ve manufactured our own natural soap products for over 75 years, so we know how soap is made.

And since we’re also scientists developing our own formulas, we know what goes into the other guys’ products. Here's a dirty secret: even if the final result of synthetic detergent production is relatively safe for your personal use, the process to get there is often toxic and dangerous for workers. Many synthetic detergents are made using some safe ingredients like coconut oil—but the process to turn them into cleaners involves dangerous ingredients that require onsite oil refineries, industrial machinery, and dangerous, corrosive petrochemicals. We’re proud to say you could make our soaps in your kitchen with safe ingredients you could buy in the store.

If you’re picking plant-based because you follow a plant-based diet, you should know that plant-based cleaning isn’t always vegan or cruelty free.

If your cleaning products contain palm oil or palm oil derivatives—which can appear on ingredient lists as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Palmitate, Glyceryl, Stearate, and a whole host of other names—they’re contributing to the deforestation of rainforests and the destruction of animal and human habitats. That’s not cruelty free to us. 

We’re tired of greenwashing, and in all likelihood, so are you.

If you’re tired of seeing a green leaf logo or “all-natural” on bottles only to find it’s made using petroleum or harsh detergents, consider the fact that soap is the original household cleaner—made with simple ingredients using simple chemistry for thousands of years. All of Ingredients Matter’s products, including our popular fragrance free laundry soap, are made with soap, not synthetic detergents, synthetic fragrances, synthetic preservatives, palm oil, dyes, parabens, phosphates, brighteners, or any other ingredient shortcuts.

What “plant-based” secrets are the others hiding?

We’re challenging the industry to be more honest and change the dirty status quo. P.S. Car tires are technically “plant based.” Have you ever seen a tire fire? That’s not clean. 

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