Managing Soaps and Detergents

Soaps, detergents and other cleaning products can’t always be removed when wastewater is treated and can end up in our environment. Thanks to our region’s soft water, you can use less soap and get things just as clean.

What are Surfactants?

Surfactants are the key chemical ingredient in soaps, laundry detergents and personal care products. Surfactants make things sudsy and increase cleaning power, but are hard to fully remove when wastewater is treated. They can end up in our ocean, where they can harm fish and aquatic plants.

 How to Reduce the Impact of Household Chemicals

You Can Use Less (and Still Get Things Clean)

Soaps and detergents are designed for hard water. These products work really well in our region’s soft water, so you can use less and still get the same cleaning power. Trying using half the manufacturer’s recommended amount of detergent. Use less, save money and put less strain on the environment.

What is Metro Vancouver Doing to Reduce Surfactants?

Metro Vancouver is working to reduce surfactants in wastewater by:

  • Monitoring wastewater entering and leaving each wastewater treatment plant, to protect public health and the environment
  • Upgrading its primary treatment plants to provide higher levels of treatment, which will allow more surfactants to be removed during wastewater treatment
  • Educating residents, through a public communications initiative that asks people to use smaller amounts of detergents, soaps, cleaning products and personal care products

Soap Reducing Tips

  • Reducing Chemicals from Laundry

    Laundry products are one the largest sources of surfactants in our homes. To reduce laundry-related chemicals:

    • Use half the recommended amount of detergent (you should still get clean clothes)
    • Replace bleach with one cup of baking soda in the wash cycle
    • Use non-chlorine, chlorine-free or hydrogen peroxide bleaches
    • Replace fabric softener by adding ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle
  • Using Pods and Laundry Strips

    It is harder to use less when you’re using pods. Use only one pod and wash full loads to get the most cleaning done with your pod. Cut laundry strips or use less that the number of strips recommended by the manufacturer. You may need to experiment a bit to find out what amount works best.

  • Shampoos, Conditioners and Other Personal Care Products

    Most of us don’t measure our shampoos and conditioners, so it’s easy to use more than we need. Start by using the amount actually recommended on the product and see if you can reduce from there. Conditioners are a good starting point, as they often contain more harmful surfactants.

  • Should I Use a “Green” Product to Reduce Surfactants?

    “Green”, “natural” or biodegradable cleaning products typically contain surfactants that are made from natural products. These surfactants can still affect the environment. Using less product is still the best way to reduce surfactants.

  • How to Choose Safer Cleaning 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. Natural cleansers work well and are less toxic, less expensive and better for you and the environment.