Fels-Naptha in laundry detergent-toxic?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by teresab, May 14, 2006.

  1. teresab

    teresab Well-Known Member

    May 25, 2005
    Near Erie,Pa
    Over in the gardening forum they were talking about Fels-Naptha being toxic by using your clothes washing water on gardens.... OK..I started making my detergent by using Fels-Naptha, washing soda and borax. It saves money and I thought (?!?) was safer and better for my family. Is it better,worse or the same as going to the store and picking up a bottle of detergent there? And if it is worse...does anyone have a recipe that isn't toxic to my family and still get clothes clean? Thanks.
  2. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

    May 10, 2002
    Between Crosslake and Emily Minnesota
    Some people believe that Fels-Naptha contains napthalene (the stuff moth balls are made of)....well, it doesn't contain napthalene according to the label. It does however contain a small amount of naptha. Coleman fuel is naptha. Naptha is highly volatile. Consequently, I'd imagine that any naptha would volatilize out of the laundry soap under warm to hot washing temperatures. What ever amount of naptha that might remain in the gray water will certainly volatilize out when the water is sprayed on the garden. Naptha is not taken up by plants, so the only way you'd possibly ingest any of it would be if it was adhering to the skin of the edible portion of the vegetable. Of course, if the vegetable was dry, all of the naptha would have volatilized off of it.

    Personally, I'd be a bit more concern about all the boron you'd be applying to the garden from the laundry mixture. Boron is a micronutrient for plants and animals, but like anything else it can cause problems (toxicity) at high concentrations or dosages. Boron is taken up by plants.

  3. deb

    deb Well-Known Member

    Jul 27, 2002
    Toxic to your family and toxic to your garden are 2 different things!

    Plants generally don't like soaps or detergents in their water. Some plants tolerate it better than others (just like some plants tolerate salty water), but overall they would do better without soapy/detergenty water. You may be able to use rinse water in your garden, but it really depends on how much soap you use.

    As for your family, I wouldn't suggest that they either snack on fels-naptha bars or drink fels-naptha water, but they'll probably throw it up before they've even ingested a toxic amount. However washing your clothes with isn't a problem unless someone is allergic to the scent.

    Actucally, the real culprit in your homemade detergent may actually be the Borax. Yup, Borax is "natural". It is a naturally occuring mineral - Sodium Borate Decahydrate that is mined in Death Valley among other places. Plants do need boron (borate/borax) as a trace mineral in their soil, but too much boron (borax) is toxic to plants. Eating borax can be toxic to animals - including humans, so don't use it around food and keep it out of the reach of kids & pets.

    By the way, I know some folks consider washing machine water to be "grey" water, but you might want to check with your state. The State of Wisconsin says it is "black" water and should go through an approved waste water system.

    in wi
  4. MoonShine

    MoonShine Fire On The Mountain

    Mar 16, 2003
    I'm glad you asked this. I remember a long time ago,on this website,someone mentioned Fels Naptha being toxic. I never got the rest of it or the reasoning behind it. I've used Fels Naptha to wash clothes quite a bit...I always have some laying around.
  5. Farmer Willy

    Farmer Willy Well-Known Member Supporter

    Aug 7, 2005
    A short way past Oddville
    I wouldn't worry about it as some folks do. Most things are dangerous if used improperly. Water is dangerous if you drink too much, oxygen is dangerous if you breathe too much. You could say the same for salt, nitrogen, alcohol or chocolate chip cookies. I'd be more concerned with human pathogens from dirty wash water on my plants. Use the rinse water, discard the wash water, kick your feet up and have one of those cookies afterwards.