Managing soaps and detergents

Many soaps, detergents and other cleaning products contain chemicals that can’t always be removed when wastewater is treated. These chemicals can end up in our local waters, where they can harm fish and aquatic plants.

About surfactants

Surfactants are the key chemical ingredient in soaps, laundry detergents and personal cleaning products (like shampoo). If it makes suds, it has surfactants.

Surfactants increase cleaning power, but can be harmful to fish and other aquatic life. Not all of the region’s wastewater treatment plants are able to remove surfactants during the treatment process.

Use less, save more

Nearly all cleaning products are designed to work in medium to hard water. Our region has soft water with few minerals in it. This means we can use about half the manufacturer’s recommended amount of soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, etc. and still get good results. Use less, save money and put less strain on the environment.


Laundry detergent is one of the biggest sources of surfactants from homes. Try using a smaller scoop and half (or less) of the amount recommended by the manufacturer. You should still get clean clothes.

Replace bleach with one cup of baking soda in the wash cycle or use non-chlorine, chlorine-free or hydrogen peroxide bleaches.

Outside your home

Anything that goes into a storm drain goes directly into the nearest body of water. Don't let soap from car washing and other cleaning activities go into storm drains. Find out more.

Choose safer products

  • Read labels and look for products low in phosphates, chlorine, dyes and perfumes.
  • Avoid products with these symbols
    Avoid products with these symbols
  • Try making your own natural cleaning products