Over the past decade we’ve seen an enormous surge in biodegradable detergents and other ‘eco’ cleaning products hitting the shelves. Plant-based this, organic that, but what does it all mean and which products really are certified and which ones are non-toxic to our marine environment?

Let us start by looking at the term ‘biodegradable’. As you might imagine, there is a fine line between what officially passes the tests and a product that really is 100% biodegradable.

What is biodegradability?

Just a quick bit of science is needed here.
In the detergents you buy, have you ever noticed the word ‘surfactants’? They are in them all.
‘Surfactants’ is a group of chemicals. They allow dirt to be removed more easily from your clothes or other surfaces. Basically, they make a product work.

When claiming to be ‘biodegradable’, brands ONLY have to state that AT LEAST 60% of the surfactants are biodegradable. But, that still means 40% could still be harmful to our oceans.

What’s more, the other ingredients they contain (representing 80-98% of the detergent) can also be highly toxic to the marine environment. These other ingredients could be optical brighteners, dyes, artificial fragrances…

So, most detergents are not 100% biodegradable.

So, how should I choose products?

  1. Buy plant-based products as opposed to synthetic chemicals.
  2. Check whether these plant-based ingredients are sustainably sourced.
  3. Avoid optical brighteners, dyes and artificial fragrances.
  4. Prefer products that claim to be 100% biodegradable, not just biodegradable.
  5. Ask EYS for advice!

Remember, all the products we use are tested to be disposed of in land-based situations and not directly into the sea. This is why we must pay even more attention to the products we use on a yacht.