Chemicals are in EVERYTHING, and most household cleaners are full of them. I have been interested in reducing my families chemical exposure for several years, but for me it’s been on going for more than 20 years. I have extremely sensitive skin. My skin breaks out in to hives from fragrances, dyes, and additives that are in everything from soaps, sunscreens, make-up, laundry detergent, and lotion. I have had to be diligent in reading labels, understanding what effects my skin, and learning alternative ways to clean myself and my clothes without irritating my skin. Then I gave birth to my son, who is asthmatic, and my need to further reduce our chemical exposure increased. His asthma is triggered by fragrances, harsh chemicals that can penetrate the lungs, and many additives that are in cleaners and soaps. I will be doing a series in this blog that will go over the various areas where we have cut back on chemicals.
The simplest place I have found to start in reducing your exposure to chemicals is in what you use in the laundry. Clothes touch every part of your body, and the dyes, fragrances and chemicals used in detergents and dryer sheets can be harsh on any lungs but if you are asthmatic can make breathing extremely difficult. Before I had my son, I use to buy Free and Clear forms of laundry detergent. However, I realized that even these forms of detergent still had a lot of the chemicals, additives and dyes that were sensitive to my skin – so we made a change to more natural and less toxic ways to clean and dry our clothes.
Ditch Your Dryer Sheets
Dryer sheets are known to be full of chemicals that can not only cause higher incidence of cancer – but the chemicals used to create the lovely scents on the sheets can also impair respiratory function in asthmatics. The national institute of health surveyed household products that are scented and found that the products emitted 100 volatile organic compounds. When you use scented dryer sheets, you are adding harmful chemicals in to your home and polluting your indoor air space. Individuals with asthma or other respiratory diseases are highly sensitive to changes in air quality. We eliminated dryer sheets over a year ago, and we noticed almost immediately that our son’s breathing increased significantly. We were able to reduce his number of needed nebulizers and asthma treatments. It was a simple change that helped his quality of life.
Replace your Dryer Sheets with Dryer Balls
Many will ask – how do I reduce static electricity in my laundry if I don’t use Dryer sheets? I was concerned about this too! However, I found wool and plastic dryer balls that you can purchase either at stores like Target, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, online through Amazon, or you can purchase them through companies like Norwex. We currently use a combination of Wool Dryer balls and plastic dryer balls. We use a total of 5 balls in each load. If you are concerned about the lack of “fresh scent” to your laundry – the good news is you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to the wool balls. My favorite scents are Tea Tree Oil and Lavender. However, there are dozens of options you can use. Make sure you determine if the oils are safe for kids and asthmatics – as not all oils are safe!
Get rid of Fragrance and Scented Laundry Detergent
I know this one is hard because MANY people are use to that fresh scent of clean laundry. However, as described above by the study done by the National Institute of Health – scented products pollute the indoor air quality of your home. The study done showed that scented products emitted more than 24 known carcinogens in to the air including formadelhyde, methylene chloride, and acetaldehyde. According to the NIH, that these hazardous air pollutants have no safe level of exposure – so any LEVEL of exposure can cause damage. If you are interested in having cleaner air in your home, this is another great place to start. The scents can also irritate and inflame the lungs of asthmatics and others with lung diseases. The chemicals used to produce the scents can also cause skin irritation to those with sensitive skins. This was the first place we made changes, and it’s been the most significant change in our family.
Find a Greener Alternative
There are a lot of really amazing options for cleaning your clothes that will not break the bank, and will help improve the air quality in your home. If you google, Home made laundry detergent – you can find pages like this that have recipes for creating your own safe detergents. Most are very easy to make, and most will be with easily accessible ingredients. If you are looking for even easier solutions, the quickest and most effective one I have found is a combination of two household items you probably already have: Baking Soda and Vinegar. It’s true Baking Soda can be used for pretty much EVERYTHING and it is my go-to for most cleaning. We use 1/2 to 3/4 cup of Baking Soda. If you have a front loading laundry or top loading laundry – I prefer to just dump it directly in to the the basket with the clothes. Vinegar is a natural fabric softener and antiseptic. Most of our grandmother’s used Vinegar to clean everything because not only is it cheap but it’s effective. It kills germs almost as effectively as Bleach without the harsh smells. I use about 1/2 cup of Vinegar in each load. If you are concerned about the odor of vinegar, I have found that doing on extra rinse of your wash before you dry can remove the smell from the clothes. However, vinegar is odorless when it dries.
As you can see it’s not difficult to make changes to your laundry cleaning to improve the air quality in your home. The options I have listed are economical and environmentally friendly. We have seen tremendous improvements with fewer break outs in our skin, our skin is less itchy and dry, and our son has improved respiratory function. I hope these will help you too!
Please let us know what your go-to’s are for greener laundry detergent and drying!