Can you go a step further after purchase organic clothing?

Just as it is important to use sustainable clothing, it is also to take care throughout his life and use the least possible impact is generated, washing being one of the most critical parts of their life cycle. It is therefore important to know certain tips washing and consumption more sustainable alternatives.

Soap or detergent?

Nowadays almost any product used to wash clothes is called “soap”, but there is a major difference between soap and detergent, regardless of them being sold as powder or liquid. Soap is an ancient cleaning agent whose main ingredients are natural, these being oils or fats, unlike other detergents composed only of various chemical components. 

Knowing the consequences of using such chemical ingredients is important because today we face an ever-increasing environmental problem. The chemical sector is making efforts to reduce some polluting substances, but many products still exist with ingredients and additives that assumedly mean better efficacy, but have very negative effects on nature. Some of them are phosphates, enzymes, optical brighteners, etc.

Inevitably, huge amounts of such waste reach rivers and seas via our drainage systems, and affect the natural environment as they pollute waters, threaten aquatic fauna and cause nasty smells. 

Soaps, however, have a minimum chemical content that helps avoid, or reduce to a great extent, such consequences. Soaps are also biodegradable products. The same can be said of ecological detergents, which are certified after having passed analyses and controls to guarantee that they are enviro-friendly.

Why does soap wash?

Have you ever wondered why ducks that swim in a lake are dry when they step out? This is because their plumage is covered with a layer of fat that makes them waterproof. This phenomenon has to do with water and oil not mixing. 

The same applies when your clothes or items are fat-stained and you try washing them in water: water does not wet the oil/fat stain. However you can remove these stains with soap. Soap’s cleaning effect is due to its molecules being one part lipophilic, by means of which they join fat or oil, while the other part is hydrophilic, with an affinity for water, which is why they joins it. So soap takes fat and transfers it to water by forming an emulsion. 

What is saponification?

Soaps are prepared by one of the most well-known chemical reactions: saponification of oils and fats. Plant oils, like coconut or olive oil, and animal fats, like tallow, are glycerine esters with fatty acids. This is why when they are processed with a strong base like soda or potash they saponify; that is, the fatty acid salt known as soap is produced and glycerine is released. If saponification is carried out with soda, sodium soaps are obtained, which are solid and of widespread use in homes. If carried out with potash, then potassium soaps are obtained, which are softer.

Soda-free soaps?

The use of soda or potash in soap-making does not make soap dangerous or "unnatural", as some people believe. Such use is an essential element in the chemical reaction as part of the traditional formula. After this chemical reaction, ingredients not only mix, but also transform, so soda as such no longer remains in soap (soap would logically not be suitable for skin, but the exact opposite would apply). A similar and very clear example is common table salt used in food. Its composition is sodium chloride (chloride+sodium). Soda-free soaps are basically made from solid detergents, and their composition includes other ingredients that remain after soap has been manufactured. So their natural characteristic is doubtful. The same applies with glycerine soap as this ingredient may come from various sources. It is important to be informed about this and to attempt to analyse soap compositions, which should always be found on labels.

Infografía sobre el lavado ecológico de la ropa - Infographic on ecological laundry - Infografia sobre el rentat ecològic de la roba
Lavado ecológico
Impactos medioambientales del lavado de la ropa
Consejos para un lavado responsable

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