Even though it’s been sold for more than a hundred years, I never heard of Fels-Naptha bar soap until I started making my own laundry detergent four years ago. I bought a case of the soap and loved smelling the fragrance – both when I made the soap and then when I used it when washing clothes.
I never gave a second thought about its safety, though – until I noticed an article on Livestrong.com.
One potential conflict is that naptha is a petroleum-derived solvent.
Guess what, though? Fels-Naptha soap doesn’t contain naptha. According to Dial, Fels-Naptha’s ingredients are:
“Soap (sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate (or) sodium palmate kernelate, and sodium palmate), water, talc, cocnut acid, palm acid, tallow acid, PEG-6 methyl ether, glycerin, sorbitol, sodium chloride, pentasodium pentetate and/or tetrasodium etidronate, titatium dioxide, fragrance, Acid Orange (CI 20170), Acid yellow 73 (ci43350).”
Fels-Naptha does contain titanium dioxide – Livestrong.com states that the mineral contaminates oceans and lakes, yet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deems it safe for food and cosmetics and personal care products like sunscreen and toothpaste.
Livestrong.com also explains some of the soap’s ingredients:
“Fels-Naptha contains soap consisting of sodium tallowate and sodium cocoate or sodium palmate kernelate and sodium palmate. The word ‘sodium’ refers to sodium hydroxide, the lye used to make soap, in this case with tallow, coconut oil, palm oil or palm kernel oil. It also contains water and talc. Coconut acid, palm acid and tallow acid are fatty acids derived from plants and animals. They are emollients and surfactants, cleaning agents in other words. PEG-6 methyl ether is an extract of juniper. Fels-Naptha also contains glycerin, an emollient; sorbitol, a sugar alcohol derived from fruits, corn and seaweed, a moisturizer; and sodium chloride, ordinary table salt. Pentasodium pentetate and/or tetrasodium etidronate are inorganic salts used as emulsifiers and dispersing agents. Titatium dioxide is an opaque white pigment. The soap also contains fragrance, source not specified and acid orange and acid yellow colors.”
While I view Fels-Naptha as a trickier judgment call than Murphy Oil Soap, I still think it’s safe enough for my family to use.
There’s one big problem, though.
In all my Internet research, I discovered many unverified claims that Fels-Naptha should not be used with septic systems. (Thanks to the soap’s fatty acids.)
Because of this – and the fact that my husband and I are just trying to figure out life with our brand new aerobic treatment septic system – I’m choosing not to use Fels-Naptha as an ingredient in my laundry detergent. For me, this is a huge bummer. If I could use it, I would. But I don’t want to take a chance at botching up our septic all because of my homemade laundry detergent.
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