The problem with most "eco-friendly" laundry detergents -- and what we're doing about it

A couple months ago, we started testing a laundry detergent concentrate. We’ve been unhappy with the “eco-friendly” options currently on the market. Why? Most of them use PVA (also known as PVOH or PVAL)-- a petroleum derived “dissolvable plastic.” These dissolvable plastics are used as binders to make dissolvable pods, like Dropps, or laundry sheets, like TruEarth.

Why PVA is a problem

PVA, or polyvinyl alcohol, is a synthetic polymer. It dissolves, yes. But there is little conclusive evidence that it actually biodegrades, or how quickly.

When we started talking to manufacturers to make our dish soap pods, we were never able to get a clear answer. All the companies that use them claim that PVA is biodegradable, but the factories themselves don’t use that language. They only say “dissolvable.”

Many sources claim that PVA is biodegradable and hasn’t been shown to have negative effects when ingested. However, just because it doesn’t have any mutagenic or other harmful effects that can be measured short-term, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have long-term effects.

A study analyzed by The Economic Times found fragments of semi-synthetic and synthetic fibers including “unidentified polyvinyls closely resembling polyvinyl alcohol or polyvinylchloride - PVA and PVC” in crustaceans examined in deep parts of our oceans -- up to 10,890 meters.

While the effects on these animals and their ecosystem are still unknown, we can’t ethically use PVA and call it “eco-friendly” if it’s still winding up in their bodies clearly not yet biodegraded.

What we’re doing about it

When it came time to develop a new, more eco-friendly solution, we went old school. We developed a new concentrated laundry powder that’s free of PVA. Our laundry powder requires just 1 tablespoon per load compared to the 1 cup you would have used in the 70s or 80s.

We’re launching our first samples of laundry detergent this month and we'd love to know what you think.


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