When I first became a mommy there was a lot of little things that I did not prepare myself for. The lack of sleep. The lack of time. The mounds and mounds of laundry that little, sweet cherub produced on a daily basis. I truly had no idea how many times I would have to change the clothes on my infant son. I fully expected the change of clothes from pj’s to daily clothes back into new pj’s at night but I think I was in serious denial. There were days that I would put a fresh onesie on my son only to have him soil it within minutes and then again an hour later. This went on for months! I needed to keep up on all this laundry but I knew that I had to change my washing ways.
Most people spent hundreds of dollars baby proofing their homes but don’t necessarily think about doing the laundry different. Baby stains can be hard on clothes and since children can have ultra sensitive skin you have to be careful what you use. Keeping your laundry routine green for baby is the best bet to avoid any skin reactions. Making a few careful decisions on what to buy and what to avoid can make the difference between a happy healthy baby or a cranky, itchy one.
The dirty little secrets of your laundry room
When choosing a detergent, opt for a green, fragrance and dye free formula that is free of toxic chemicals like Benzaldehyde, Quaternium-15, Nonylphenol ethoxylate, Linear alkyl sodium sulfonates (LAS) and Petroleum distillates (also called naphthas). These chemicals can leave toxic residues on clothing which can cause irritation and are linked to cancer and reproductive problems.
Green detergents and soaps are not just better us but for the environment as well. Most conventional laundry detergents are made from nonrenewable resources such as petroleum. These chemicals aren’t biodegradable and threaten wildlife after they go down the drain. Chemical fragrances and phosphates build up in streams and lakes, upset the natural balance, and can starve fish of the oxygen they need to survive.
Avoid using chlorine bleach and fabric softeners. While bleach it is an effective whitener and disinfectant is is also highly caustic, damages the environment and is a suspected carcinogen. Fabric softeners might smell nice but come with the unwanted bonus of skin irritation and even worse. Chemicals like: Benzyl acetate (linked to pancreatic cancer), Benzyl alcohol (an upper respiratory tract irritant), Ethanol (linked to central nervous system disorders), Limonene (a known carcinogen) and Chloroform (a neurotoxin and carcinogen) are regularly found in fabric softeners and dryer sheets.
So what should you use?
There are many green laundry detergents on the market today but you need to carefully read the label and educate yourself on all the ingredients to make sure you don’t get more than you bargained for. Consumer Reports has a great tool you can use to make an educated decision before you buy.
To play it completely safe you can make your own non-toxic laundry detergent using: washing soda, Borax and a bar of Dr. Bronner’s Castille soap using this recipe. Making your own cleaning products is usually much cheaper than buying a pre-made product and you always know exactly what is touching your baby’s skin.
If you want to make the change to a greener lifestyle but are not quite ready to take out your cheese grater to make the above recipe you can opt to use a straight, eco-friendly, green soap. Using a castile soap such as Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap in place of detergent is a great choice (use the same amount of soap as you would detergent.) Please note: when switching from detergent to soap for the first time you will want to add ½ cup of white distilled vinegar to prevent yellowing for the first few washes. The yellowing is a result of detergent residues reacting with soap and is temporary.
For whites with stains try soaking fabrics in water mixed with one of the following: Borax, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, or white vinegar. Some of these methods will have a mild bleaching effect so use caution while soaking darks or colors. To avoid baby stains from setting, try using a damp washcloth that has been dipped in baking soda on the stained area as soon as possible. When possible, hang or place garment outside in the sunlight to help lighten/remove any remaining stains. Once again, the sun will have a bleaching effect on dark colors so use this method only on light colors and whites.
Instead of using fabric softener, add a 1/4 cup of baking soda or 3/4 cup of vinegar to each wash. This will not only give your detergent a boost to help lift stains but will also remove odors and soften your clothes as well…safely.
You have enough to worry about besides what is lurking in your laundry room. Save your worries for the time when that sweet baby turns into a teenager…