Why is it Nasty?
Optical brighteners represent a prime example of chemicals added to a formula to “over-engineer” performance. These pollutants, most often found in laundry detergents, are similar to fluorescent dye. In the wash, they do not contribute to cleansing at all. In fact, they do precisely what their name hints: they coat fabric with this “fluorescence.” so that whites and colors appear brigther by refecting more light. The problem is that optical brigtheners are not biodegradable formula and will bioaccumulate and pollute the environment. They are designed to not “wash out”, but instead desposit on the surface of a fabric and can irritant sensitive skin.
How do I find it?
One easy way to avoid optical brighteners in laundry detergent is to look for clear products that do not have any irridesence/fluorescence.. (Did you know that under a UV light, optical brigtheners will glow?) In looking at ingredient labels, look for products that are made without optical brighteners. Some common optical brighteners are: coumarins, naphthotriazolylstilbenes, benzoxazolyl, benzimidazoyl, naphthylimide, and diaminostilbene disulfonates