>> Friday, January 29, 2010
I received a response from Taylor Sutherland, president of Charlie's Soap, earlier this week (as I've said before, their terrific customer service is one of the reasons I've always liked this company). Here's what he had to say:
Howdy,According to the document he had attached, here's what's in Charlie's Soap:
I've attached a note from Charlie that goes to the heart of why we're really hesitant to fully disclose all the workings of Charlie's Soap. Long story short, no one makes detergent this way. It was a breakthrough that has never occurred to the Big Boys so we just don't tell them. If they found out, we'd be out of business because they'd copy it and we wouldn't be able to compete. Butyl celosolve has been the subject of misinformation for years now. It rhymes with methyl and ethyl celosolve and those two are horrible to be around. The amount of Butyl that we use breaks down in the earth completely in a month (97.3% in 28 days) and is non-toxic based on a the recommendation by Duke University. The scale they use is that 50 parts per million in the air (a dense fog of pure Butyl celosolve) is the limit for being non-toxic. We use a tiny percentage in water. If you smell the product you're smelling a microscopic fraction of the 50 parts per million which is the non-toxic level.
On a personal note, we made Charlie's Soap to be safe not only on paper or for a government regulation, but because when it was created, we knew personally all the workers at the textile plant that were going to be using it. Being sued is bad enough, but being made a pariah because you made Mrs. Collins from down the street sick is MUCH worse. We made Charlie's Soap to such exacting standards of efficacy and safety for just that purpose. And 16 years (1976 to 1992) in industry work with no recordable safety incidents speaks volumes. These people were using it 25% strength all day long, hosing down machinery, scrubbing and rinsing. The were soaked head to toe all day long in Charlie's Soap. I personally was bathed in it as a young baby. My brother has MCS and actually makes the product getting raw ingredients all over himself and he's fine.
I hope this helps give you a better understanding just how safe Charlie's Soap is but also give you an idea of just how secretive we have to be, within the law, of course.
- The powdered laundry detergent (what I use) contains coconut oil based surfactants, sodium carbonate, sodium silicate, and soda ash.
- The liquid laundry detergent contains coconut oil based surfactants, sodium carbonate, soda ash, and water.
- The all-purpose cleaner contains coconut oil based surfactants, a natural solvent (this must be the butyl celosolve), sodium carbonate, soda ash, and water.
What I Think
I can totally see their point - as a small company, they're worried about losing market share to bigger companies if their formula is revealed. But from a consumer standpoint, how can I decide if a product is safe if I don't know what's in it? Because Duke University says it's safe? There are so many ingredients that companies claim are safe that independent researchers say are not. Think BPA. So how do I know who to trust?
The other problem is with the generic label "coconut based surfactants," which I see on all sorts of "all natural" products. I learned today from Jennifer the Smart Mama that sodium lauryl sulfate is a coconut based surfactant, and that's one of those ingredients that we're supposed to be avoiding. So it almost seems like companies are using the term "coconut based surfactant" to avoid admitting that they're using ingredients their customers might not be happy about.
I'm always coming back to the same old questions about non-toxic cleaning products and beauty supplies. For now, there just don't seem to be products in those categories that meet all of my qualifications: non-toxic, affordable, and get the job done.
It's like with my whole shampoo dilemma: the non-toxic products that I tried left my hair a greasy mess, and I'm sorry but I'm no dirty hippy. But the Lush shampoo bar with sodium lauryl sulfate leaves my hair looking normal. And it's affordable and comes with zero packaging.
Or the makeup dilemma: the makeup brands that score really well on Skin Deep are way out of my price range. But I can find organic makeup in recycled paper packaging from my corner drugstore.
For now, does the answer have to be less toxic is good enough?
I'm interested to hear your opinions both on the Charlie's Soap issue and the wider non-toxic/less toxic dilemma!
You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.
Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.