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You are here: EPA Home » DfE » Technical Fact Sheet on Key Characteristics of Laundry Detergent Ingredients

Technical Fact Sheet on Key Characteristics of Laundry Detergent Ingredients

May 1999

The Environmental Protection Agency's DfE Program is a voluntary partnership-based program that works directly with companies to integrate health and environmental considerations in business decisions. DfE welcomes your participation.

This fact sheet highlights some of the key characteristics of a number of laundry detergent ingredients and systems.

Industrial and Institutional (I/I) Laundry Partnership Initiative

This DfE project encourages detergent formulators to design and launderers to use products with a more positive environmental profile. Products with a more positive environmental profile are those whose ingredients, when compared to conventional formulations, are less toxic, less persistent (i.e., they biodegrade faster), less bioaccumulative (i.e., they do not tend to build up in living tissue—human or animal)—and whose ingredient byproducts have similar beneficial characteristics. The DfE motto: "If it's not in your product or process, then you don't have to worry about it!"

Understanding the Environmental Profile of a Laundry Formula

The first step in improving a product's environmental profile is to understand the characteristics of your current formulation. Knowing the environmental and human health attributes of your product's ingredients allows you to compare the profile of potential substitute ingredients and decide whether a switch might have a net health or environmental benefit. To help with this process, DfE offers the scientific and technical expertise of its I/I laundry team. EPA's scientists have reviewed and assessed thousands of chemical substances and developed systems to predict chemical characteristics and toxicity in the absence of data. The I/I laundry team can provide you with information on what is known and not known about the potential environmental and health effects of detergent raw materials and additives.

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The Profiling Process

To begin developing an environmental and human health profile, the formulator provides DfE with a list of a product's current ingredients. DfE has developed a Industrial and Institutional (I/I) Laundry Formulator Ingredient Worksheet (PDF file, 83KB) to assist companies in submitting ingredient information. Once completed, DfE uses the worksheet to prepare a preliminary assessment profile as a baseline for considering safer alternatives. DfE invites potential partners to meet the technical assessment team and discuss its findings.

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Partnership Benefits

In addition to technical consultations with the EPA, a partner receives public recognition for formulation innovations and improvements that help protect health and the environment. DfE also helps extend recognition to partner customers, without whom the benefits of reformulation cannot be realized.

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For More Information on the DfE Program and the Industrial & Institutional Laundry Initiative

Please contact David DiFiore at 202 564-8796; e-mail: difiore.david@epa.gov. Download or request the DfE I&I Partnership Brochure (EPA744-F-98-008) and the Considerations for Partnership paper.

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