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What is Cruelty Free Laundry Detergent and Why Does it Matter?

May 14, 2019

Every year, millions of animals—including dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and more—are injured or killed in laboratories for the purpose of product testing. What does this entail? Horrific experimentations. For instance, it’s not uncommon for them to be immobilized in restraint devices, forced to inhale fumes, starved, burned, or given toxic drugs. Despite the cruel nature of these studies, the U.S. law allows them to continue—much to the horror of many people. 

Laws on Animal Testing

Currently, there are no U.S. laws that prohibit companies from testing on animals; however, there are no laws that mandate it either (as is the case in China—more on this below). Despite this, many brands continue to do so for the sake of increasing their profits. For this reason, it’s a good idea to research a company before buying their products.

Fortunately, there are laws set in place that prevent animal testing in other parts of the world such as the UK, India, New Zealand, and Turkey. In China, however, all products (particularly cosmetics) must be tested on animals before they can be sold. As a result, everything there is tested on animals—even if it was produced in a country where it is banned.

Which Kind of Products are Tested on Animals?

Unfortunately, there are many products that are still tested on animals. To give you a better idea, this includes cosmetics, skincare products, fragrances—even pet food (and it’s not just a simple taste test).

As you might be able to guess, cleaning agents are also included in this category; laundry detergents are no exception. For instance, animals are commonly used to determine whether or not certain ingredients will cause skin corrosion (i.e. pain, redness, itchiness, swelling, and tissue damage).

Why You Should Avoid Products that are Tested on Animals

For most people, the idea of testing on animals is reason enough. After all, it’s simply cruel to have them endure so much experimentation just for the sake of a product. Remember, these animals are typically not given any type of painkillers. In other words, they suffer throughout the entire testing process, something that can last for many hours. To make things worse, many of them are simply killed after these painful tests.

animal testing procedures

When you think about it, it’s not necessary either. Nowadays, there are thousands of ingredients that are known to be safe. Despite this, companies continue to subject animals to ruthless experimentations in search of new innovative formulas to drive up their profits.

By buying cruelty-free products, you’re not only saving an animal, but you’re saving your skin as well. The truth is, most of these items contain non-toxic and natural ingredients, both of which are much less likely to damage your skin. After all, companies only do animal testing on chemicals that have the potential of causing harm.

What is Cruelty-Free Laundry Detergent?

As mentioned earlier, laundry detergents are commonly tested on animals. Why? Because they are essentially a cocktail of chemicals, some of which may have the potential of causing harm.

Luckily, there are many cruelty-free detergents out there that you can choose from. By purchasing these products, you can rest assured knowing that you’re doing your part to help the animals. But wait, what exactly does “cruelty-free laundry detergent” refer to? Let’s deepen our understanding of this term.

The Meaning of “Cruelty-Free”

Basically, cruelty-free laundry detergents contain ingredients that are proven to be safe. Because of this, there is no need for animal testing. For instance, many of these products contain natural compounds, such as those that are plant-based, instead of harsh chemicals. Given that, they are also much more likely to be gentle on your skin. Why use something that is chemical-based, when you can use something that is all natural?

using cruelty free laundry detergents

Examples of Animal Testing with Laundry Detergents

Skin Corrosion Testing

Animals are tortured and killed on a regular basis—all for the purpose of testing laundry detergents. As mentioned earlier, it’s incredibly common for companies to use rabbits or guinea pigs to test the corrosiveness of certain ingredients. What does this involve? Essentially, these animals are shaven so that their skin is fully exposed. From there, corrosive chemicals are applied directly to the skin’s surface. Depending on the study, the chemical can be left for up to several weeks.

skin corrosion test

As you can imagine, this can lead to burns, tissue damage—even nerve damage. Despite the pain, they are not given any type of painkillers. Why would companies want to spend that extra money in the first place when their sole purpose is to increase profits? At the end of the gruesome experimentation, after they’ve served their purpose, these animals are killed.

The Draize Test

The Draize Test, named after toxicologist John H. Draize, is a toxicity test that involves applying a test substance (in our case, laundry detergent) into the eye of a conscious, restrained animal. Following the application, it is left in the eye for a set amount of time (sometimes a few weeks), during which scientists observe and record its effects, before it is rinsed out.

During the process, the animal is observed for signs of swelling, redness, cloudiness, discharge, or ulceration. As it is, some substances can even lead to blindness. Due to the fact that their eyes are easier to see, albino species, often rabbits, are used for this test. If the animal suffers irreversible damage to the eye, they are euthanized. If there is no permanent damage, they are often re-used for a second test after a “washout period”. 

Due to the nature of the test, it has garnered much controversy in recent years. Not only do people view it as cruel, but it is necessary due to the fact that rabbit eyes are different from human eyes. As a result, the use of the Draize test has declined in the United States in recent years; however, it is still continued in many parts of the country.

Carcinogenicity Studies

Carcinogenicity is the degree to which a chemical can produce or cause cancer. As you can imagine, this is true for many substances out there. As it is, rodents such as rats and mice are commonly used to determine whether or not chemicals are carcinogens. How? They are either forced to inhale or ingest a test substance. Sometimes, the chemical is applied or injected into the skin. Afterwards, the animals are observed for up to two years, during which researchers look for signs of tumor formation or abnormal cells. When the testing is done, they are killed.

In reality, these tests are not always accurate. As a matter of fact, testing with rodents leads to a lot of false negatives and false positives.

Acute Toxicity Testing

Some laundry detergent companies also perform acute toxicity testing to determine the danger of a chemical; this allows them to find out the effects of short-term exposures. In these tests, animals (typically rodents) are given high doses of the substance by forced inhalation, force-feeding, or skin/eye contact. Following that, they are observed for symptoms such as seizures, convulsions, severe pain, diarrhea, bleeding, or paralysis. At the end of the process, they are killed. 

testing on rodents

As widespread as these studies are, their results are not entirely accurate. As a matter of fact, it was discovered that these experiments are only capable of predicting toxicity in human with 65 percent accuracy.

Reproductive Toxicity Testing

In some cases, reproductive toxicity tests are conducted to determine whether or not a chemical has an effect on an animal’s reproductive ability. For these experimentations, animals are injected with a test substance several weeks prior to mating; their fertility is them examined, along with the growth and survival rates of the offspring.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, many researchers conduct two-generation tests (mating of the first-generation offspring). As a result, even more animals are subjected to the chemicals—and for longer periods of time.

Why Use a Cruelty-Free Detergent?

It Prevents the Companies From Doing More Animal Testing

Most of us use laundry detergents on a regular basis. In the long run, the costs can add up. Assuming that the detergent is tested on animals, you’re giving the companies a lot of money to continue what they’re doing—horrific, animal experimentations.

By using a cruelty-free detergent, you’re doing your part to help the animals. If anything, the companies will have less money to spend on more testing. If we’re lucky, it might even discourage them from the process altogether—however, that might be a bit too optimistic.

They are Gentler on the Skin

Cruelty-free detergents are also gentler on the skin—they don’t contain harsh chemicals, after all. Remember, it’s easy for detergent to come in contact with the skin. Why? It’s simple—we use them to wash our clothes, which we then wear on a regular basis. It only makes sense that this would increase the likelihood of skin reactions (especially for close-fitting garments). Now you might be thinking—”but I wash my clothes properly!”. The thing is, it’s not uncommon for detergent to remain on fabric even after it’s been washed; the more detergent you use, the greater the chance of this happening.

Many Cruelty-Free Products are Also 100% Vegan 

Vegan and cruelty-free are two different terms, the latter of which refers to something that is not tested on animals. However, there is some overlap. For instance, many vegans prefer using cruelty-free products. This is not too surprising—it only makes sense that someone who doesn’t use animal-derived products would not want to support animal-testing practices.

vegan laundry detergent

When picking a laundry detergent, it’s important to distinguish whether a product is vegan or simply cruelty-free. While many cruelty-free detergents are vegan, you want to always make sure by double checking the ingredients list.

The Best Cruelty-Free Laundry Detergent for Activewear

Want something that is specially formulated for sportswear? If so, ACTIVE detergent might just be what you’re looking for. Not only is it plant-based, but it is hypoallergenic with no added fragrances. Designed specifically for activewear, it contains catalytic enzymes that are capable of dissolving and breaking down body oils. In doing so, it eliminates odors.

For more information on ACTIVE detergent, check out the product information page.

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Sophia Grant

Sophia Grant brings her extensive knowledge of laundry and clothing care to the masses with her intensive cleaning guides. Her thorough understanding of fabrics, detergents, and washing techniques helps readers master the art of maintaining their wardrobe. Sophia's advice ensures that anyone can achieve professional-level results at home, keeping their garments looking pristine and lasting longer.

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