Thursday , 26 April 2018

Thinking Green: Good Clean Fun Can Get a Little Icky

After spending two weeks visiting with you about conserving and protecting our fresh water supplies, I would like to narrow down my topic to the use of water that consumes many of our daily gallons and potentially can contribute to the pollution of our aquatic environment…washing. I am sure you are aware there are cleaning products that are safe, and some that are not. So, I would like to distinguish the difference between natural soaps and synthetic detergents.

The History– Soap got its name, according to Roman legend, from Mount Sopa. This peak was the site of animal sacrifices and rituals.  When rain would wash the animal fat and wood ashes down into the clay soil along the Tiber River, the women washing clothes discovered cleaner garments with less effort. Aha!

After the construction of Roman aqueducts about 300 BC, Roman baths became  popular and the demand for soap products increased. But then came the fall of the Roman Empire in 467 AD and much of Europe fell into a rather unhealthy and unclean state. This resulted in plagues for centuries including the Black Death of the 14th century.

Soap finally made a comeback after the Middle Ages. In fact, the art of making soap was considered a noble and respected craft that flourished until the 20th century.

In 1916 the Germans, who were suffering from a shortage of tallow due to World War I, created a synthetic detergent using the bi-products of petroleum, sulfuric acid, and sodium hydroxide. All be rather caustic, it was wildly successful.  With the introduction of fragrances and deodorants by 1953, sales of detergents surpassed that of natural soap products. As a result, our daily effort to be minty fresh, germ free and squeaky clean with the scent of pine has wreaked havoc on the very resource required to facilitate our cleanliness.

The Bad News-While the biodegradable natural soap is considered the lesser of two evils, it does combine with elements in hard water that will create an insoluble residue clogging drains and sticking to clothing.   The phosphates and other anti-bacterial agents used in detergents have resulted in cell and organ damage in aquatic animals and have destroyed the good, necessary bacteria in our waterways.

The Good News-The tide is turning on the production of detergents.  Large chemical companies are rolling out new lines of environmentally friendly cleansers that perform very well and generate less carbon dioxide during manufacturing. There is no consensus on what is considered natural anymore because environmental standards can vary from one region to another.  However, we are already seeing more choices of dish soaps, laundry detergents, and personal products that offer an alternative to the harsher ingredients found in cleaners dyed purple, orange and blue.

I challenge everyone to try one new, convenient, eco-friendly cleaner each month and see if you notice a difference in performance. You may be pleasantly surprised.  For more information, just Google “environmental cleaners.”  Next up, we will explore some natural cleaners found in your pantry that cost pennies to use.

Trudy Whitney is a contributing writer to  She welcomes all comments, (there’s even a space for that below), and invites readers to ask questions about taking care of our planet.  It keeps her mind from going to potting soil!

Trudy and Bill Whitney are the owners of Rapid Refill Ink, an independently owned retail franchise that refills and remanufactures inkjet and laser/toner cartridges for office and home printers. In an effort to encourage recycling, empty cartridges are brought to the store that can be reused many times.  Sustainable and recycled products were utilized in the build out of the shop located in McKinney.  For more information call 972.548.9393 or email

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