What is toxic soap?

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In a thread from a day or two ago, someone asked whether pumping greywater onto the ground would pollute. Some of the responses implied that it would be okay if the soap the person used was not toxic. I think someone said that Ivory is non-toxic. SO here's my question. What criteria do you use to determine whether a soap is toxic or not? Seems to me that I could eat a bar of Ivory or any homemade soap and I'd probably end up dying or at least really sick. --Happy trails, Cabin Fever

-- Cabin Fever (cabinfever_mn@yahoo.com), January 22, 2002


I think it has more to do with the phosphate content of the soap. You can buy no-phosphate soaps if you are going to use greywater.

-- Elizabeth (Lividia66@aol.com), January 22, 2002.

Phosphates have been outlawed for years, maybe a decade or more. So far as I know the only non-toxic soap is Ivory. I use 20 Mule Team instead of harsh cleansers, because I care about where the effluent from my dry well and septic goes, as does my state.

-- matt johnson (wyo_cowboy_us@yahoo.com), January 22, 2002.

Here's a fact sheet on toxic substances in the home and their alternatives. I beleive it was GT who first posted this on a laundry thread. There's more info in the archives, too. Fact Sheet

-- Bren (wayoutfarm@skybest.com), January 22, 2002.

I used laundry greywater on my garden once and it didn't die but it surely didn't do well that year. Later I found out that laundry detergents contain sodium carbamate which will kill plants. If you are using a commercial product, call their consumer affairs department and see what they have to say. Most, while not telling you outright not to use it as greywater, will say that it isn't "recommended."

-- marilyn (rainbow@ktis.net), January 22, 2002.

Regular soap (like you'd make at home with oil/fat, lye, and water) or that you can buy at a health food store, is probably safe for normal greywater use. No, I am not an expert, but everything I've read so far points that way (also, to me the fewer the ingredients, the better).

Purists may insist that veggie oils might be better for soap than animal fats--probably a chemist could tell the difference, I can't. Ivory, I believe, has tallow in it, whereas say, pure castile is only made with olive oil (although a lot of sellers will say that other oils are okay to still call it castile (but never animal products), but it is not castile in the traditional sense). Pure coconut oil soap (commonly available in stores as Kirk's Coconut Castile) will suds in hard and/or salt water, other soaps don't do as well.

Soap will break down in a different way than detergent (I don't think it contains phosphates, but am not sure what it does break down into), but as I said before, detergents ARE much more efficient, especially in areas with hard water, where soap scum is a real problem, so you use less detergent to do the same job.

I know on one of the recent laundry threads someone used hand dish liquid (probably the least toxic as it would have to be safe to use around food) to wash clothes with, and my friend's mother always used a capful in lieu of bubble bath--no bathtub ring. Even one of the Kelly Reno books had a recipe using clear dish liquid (which I don't see very often in stores) as a shampoo base. So, hand dish liquid is very versatile indeed.

Also, as to Ivory, say in the case of Ivory Snow, that has been a detergent for a few years now, no longer just flaked soap as it used to be. So you might want to grate (or powder in the food processor) the Ivory bar soap to simulate their former product.

Hope this helps.

-- GT (nospam@nospam.com), January 22, 2002.

Whoops! Sorry, I stand corrected.

-- Elizabeth (Lividia66@aol.com), January 22, 2002.

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