Recently, I got a comment on a post I did about a year ago about Arm & Hammer Essentials, and I used the comment in a post that talked about optical brighteners. Apparently, even something that, on first blush, looked ec0-friendly and cheap, contains petroleum products in the form of optical brighteners which are derived from benzene. Benzene is bad for people and bad for our water ecosystems.
Anyway, contained in the comments for that post, my friend Brenda gives the link to Charlie's Soap. Bren used to own her own cloth diaper business, and was (and still is) slavishly dedicated to providing information that matters to people, whether it be about the best way to cloth diaper your child, or the cheapest way to feed your family. By the way, be sure to catch her blog, Gainesville Deals -- it is chock-full o'ways to feed your family for less and is probably applicable even to people outside of our food-feeding range.
So, again, anyway, Charlie's Soap was one of those little-known products that Brenda happened upon in her searches for the best soap to use to wash cloth diapers. It is biodegradable -- here is a pullout from their research page, under the "Biodegradable" heading:
To qualify as biodegradable, a substance must be 80% degraded in 28 days. Charlie's Soap degraded over 97% in soil in 28 days and is certified safe for use in small lakes and streams.
Here's another factoid from their Products page:
Our Laundry Powder is a revolutionary approach to laundry care. It does not cover up stains and odors with scents and brighteners - it really cleans. It is made with a unique blend of biodegradable coconut-based detergents and high-grade, completely soluble, Green River washing soda.
The fact that it is certified for use in small lakes and streams makes me think that this is okay stuff. I trust Brenda's judgement because she used this stuff with her kids' diapers. I'm going order the big, 5-gallon bucket of the dry powder, because it comes out to about 11-cents per load. A 2.5 quart bottle of Arm&Hammer Essentials with 41 loads for about $5.50 is 13-cents per load, so it's a little cheaper and the shipping is free for orders over $20 through the Charlie's Soap website.
If anyone in my area is interested in co-op'ing this with me, you can dig into my 5-gallon bucket for 11-cents per load and I'll throw in an old Oxy-clean bucket! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know -- I'll email you when it comes in!