Not all detergents are created equal and not all detergents are gentle on linen. Although linen isn’t as high-maintenance as other luxury fabrics (such as silk and cashmere), it does like to be treated with a less-is-more approach when it comes to detergent. This is where a little investigative work on your end comes in. Armchair detectives - put your sleuthing hats on.
The options are overwhelming and, because of that, we often continue to purchase the same detergent that we’ve been using forever (or that our parents used when we were growing up) without ever second guessing it. However, a lot has changed over the years and manufacturers have adapted their marketing to address the growing environmental concerns of consumers. Unfortunately, the change in marketing trends is not necessarily reflected in the actual production and composition of the product you’re buying. Green on the outside? Not necessarily green on the inside.
Greenwashing is a term that refers to companies and marketers making claims about a product’s positive environmental impact that are either false or cannot be verified. Terms such as “free,” “clear,” and “natural” are often used by detergent manufacturers to appeal to the growing environmental concern of the consumer without actually having any means of proving that their products have a positive environmental impact. To really know if your detergent is safe for your linen and your home, you’re going to need to flip it, reverse it, and read the label. Consider it tonight’s bedtime reading.
Fabric Softener and Deep Cleaning Enzymes
Although the use of fabric softener seems like something that’s on its way out, this pesky ingredient can still be found in detergents that claim to be “gentle.” Sure, fabric softener speeds up the softening process as advertised, but it does that by actively breaking down the fibers in the fabric. This process will shorten your linen’s lifespan significantly and will cause premature wear, holes, excessive lint production, and uneven texture. Keep your eyes peeled for any “built in fabric softener” terminology hidden on the front of the bottle or in tiny lettering on the back.
The same breakdown process occurs when linen is washed in detergents that are labeled as “deep cleaning” or are highly enzymatic. These enzymes actively work to break down linen and will cause premature wear and tear. Be on the lookout for any detergent that claims to be “tough on stains” or “deep cleaning” and run swiftly in the other direction.
Due to some very clever marketing tactics, we often associate anything labeled as “natural” with being safe and gentle. However, there are still many natural ingredients that will damage your linen. Be on the lookout specifically for citric acid, as this can cause irreversible colour loss. This acidic ingredient can be found in detergent and skin, hair, and body products.
We’re, for the most part, conditioned to be weary of peroxide in our detergent and personal care products. However, this ingredient is often snuck into detergents without being blatantly advertised on the front of the bottle. Peroxide can also be found in skin products (be on alert specifically for benzoyl peroxide in medicated face products) and will cause permanent colour loss in your linen and other delicate and coloured fabrics.
Seeing through these clever marketing tactics can be overwhelming if you’re looking to switch to a linen-safe detergent. We suggest sticking to detergents that are composed of a handful of purposeful ingredients that are going to get your laundry clean in the safest way possible. At Flax, we’ve been using Nellie’s Laundry Soda since day one and we’d recommend starting there.