Half the detergent can help a whole lot

SurfactantsIn the CRD you don't need to use a lot of detergent to get your clothes clean, which means you can send fewer harmful substances down the drain with every load of laundry. Using a smaller scoop of laundry soap will reduce the presence of potentially toxic compounds in the wastewater collection system and marine receiving environment. It will save money too!

Because of the CRD's soft water, you only need to use half of the manufacturer's recommended amount of laundry detergent to get the same results when doing your laundry.

How much is half?

  • 50ml for regular strength liquid detergent
  • 80ml for regular strength powdered detergent

The benefits are clear:

  • A healthier marine environment — fish and other organisms are freed from high levels of detergent-related toxins.
  • Financial savings at home — one package of detergent lasts twice as long.
  • Energy savings during wastewater treatment — less detergent in the wastewater requires less energy to break down.

Other cleaning products also benefit from our soft water. Try using smaller amounts of household cleaning and personal care products — you may find they work just as well this way.

I'm using 2x concentrated detergent, should I still use half the manufacturer's recommended amount?

Yes, use half of what the manufacturer recommends. Manufacturers will advertise that you are using half the amount compared to regular strength detergent but that is based on volume only.

What detergents are we concerned about?

Detergents (also known as surfactants) are essential ingredients in a wide range of cleaning products such as laundry detergent, dishwashing soap and shampoo. Detergents produce suds and provide the cleaning power. So, if a product causes "suds," it contains a surfactant. The detergent reduction campaign is initially focusing on reducing the amount of laundry detergent discharged to our wastewater collection systems.

Why is laundry detergent a problem?

The main issue with detergents is their potential toxicity to marine life, including hormone disruption. Detergents also require additional energy and treatment capacity to break them down. Using the optimal (reduced) amount of cleaning product will reduce the presence of detergents in the wastewater collection system and receiving environment, and therefore in the marine environment.

When treatment is in place, additional energy and treatment capacity are required to break down excess surfactant entering the system. Some surfactants are incompletely broken down with conventional treatment processes and some breakdown products can have harmful effects on organisms – even after treatment.

How much detergent should I use?

You can use half the amount of the manufacturer’s recommended amount of detergent to wash your clothes and still get your clothes clean. We recommend 50 ml for regular liquid detergent and 80 ml for regular powders. Those with high efficiency washing machines can further reduce the amount of detergent they use.

How will my clothes get clean with less detergent?

Manufacturer’s recommended amount is based upon moderate water hardness (amount of minerals in the water). The very soft water of the CRD means that using far less detergent will still get the expected results.

The average water hardness in the CRD is 15 mg/L (very soft) which is well below the 123 mg/L (moderate) national average of the largest Canadian cities.

Is there still a problem if I use “natural” or “biodegradable” detergents?

Yes, the use of “natural” or “biodegradable” detergents still impacts the environment. Although there are environmental benefits when producing surfactant from natural products (e.g. coconut-, palm- or olive oil-derived surfactant), the environmental impact from the use of surfactants is the same whether the product synthetic or natural surfactant.

Where do I get my laundry detergent scoop?

The laundry detergent scoops were delivered to houses, condominiums, townhouses and apartments that are connected to the regional sewer system. Replacement scoops are also available at the CRD office at 625 Fisgard Street in Victoria.

Aren’t there many things that are worse for the environment than laundry detergent? Why is the CRD choosing to focus on laundry detergent?

The CRD Residential Source Control Program has focus on a series of issues over the past years including pharmaceuticals and personal care products; fats, oils and grease; and cleaning products. However, laundry detergent is commonly used by all residents of the CRD and small behavioural changes, such as using half as much detergent, can result in great benefits to the local marine environment and lower impact on wastewater treatment plants.

Why is the CRD spending money on this program? Why is it important?

The role of the CRD is to protect both the environment and wastewater infrastructure. Preventing contaminants from entering the system is more cost effective than trying to remove them with treatment. In addition, some contaminants cannot be removed through treatment, or only through very expensive treatment options.

Why should homeowners take the responsibility for making the water cleaner? Isn’t this a CRD responsibility?

The responsibility to take care of our environment is shared amongst citizens, businesses and all levels of government. The CRD Source Control Program has focused on the business community because of its ability to regulate, monitor and enforce source control solutions. Wastewater from households also contribute to the impact on the environment but the Source Control Program approach to household is through education programs. The region’s citizens have proven to be very responsive to environmental initiatives such as recycling and we know that many citizens want to take action to protect our environment.

Once the CRD starts to treat the wastewater won’t this problem be solved?

No. Many problems can occur prior to wastewater even reaching the treatment facility. As an example, fats, oils and grease clog up pipes long before they reach the main pipes, often before they even leave the home plumbing system. Furthermore, some contaminants are only partially removed by treatment or are only removed by very expensive treatment options. Prevention is the best and most economic alternative.

Get the Scoop on using less detergent

When we launched the Laundry Detergent Reduction Campaign in May 2007, we mailed laundry scoops to residents connected to the Capital Region’s sanitary sewers. The reusable scoop helps residents measure half the manufacturer’s recommended amount of detergent — a reminder that half is enough to get clothes clean.