Laundry Care Basics: Detergents and Allergies

August 1, 2015

 

Please note that this is the fourth article in our series on laundry care basics.

 

How To Pick Out Detergents That Won't Cause Allergies

 

Unfortunately, many people find they have itchy skin, or even respiratory issues, after they use certain types of laundry detergent. The synthetic fragrance chemicals used in laundry detergents are the primary cause for these allergic reactions. To avoid this problem, look for non-scented detergents, often labeled, "free and clear."
If you miss the fragrance, you can try adding a few drops of natural essential oils to your free and clear liquid detergent. The essential oils of lavender, rose, lemon, and orange are all very popular for this purpose. However, you can make your own unique blend of these and other essential oils such as eucalyptus, lemongrass, thyme, spruce, citronella, sage, spearmint, wintergreen, clove, cedar, or juniper berry! One small bottle of essential oil will last you more than a year! This way, you can create exactly the fragrance you love without the allergic reactions!
Detergents can also cause skin irritation due to the chemicals used to brighten clothing. If you have switched to a free and clear detergent but you are still experiencing skin irritation, look for any reference to "brightening" on the packaging. If you see this, switch to another free and clear brand that does not say this.


Powder Detergent Versus Liquid Detergent


In general, powder detergents tend to cost less than liquid detergents and the packaging on powder detergent tends to be more eco-friendly. However, powders also come with several drawbacks. First, powders don't always dissolve well and can leave residues on your laundry. Second, the binders used to turn the detergent into powder contains chemicals that can cause allergic reactions in some people. Third, while you can easily pretreat a stain with liquid detergent, you cannot do so with a powder detergent.


Be Sure To Use High-Efficiency Detergent For High-Efficiency Washers


High-efficiency washers, such as those in our laundromats, use less water and more thoroughly agitate your laundry. This has the advantage of getting your clothes cleaner while being kinder to the environment. However, if you use standard laundry detergent in a high-efficiency washing machine, you will get too many suds to rinse out throughly in the rince cycle. Therefore, when you buy laundry detergent for high-efficiency washers, make sure the label says "high-efficiency" or simply "HE." HE detergents are specifically formulated to work in high-efficiency washers and will produce less suds.


What Detergent Brands Remove Stains Best?


Generic laundry detergent works well for families who only lightly soil their clothing. However, if your family has kids who like to tumble in the grass, adults who like to garden, or you have a tendency to spill coffee and/or wine stains on your clothing, then you'll want to buy a detergent consistently rated as a great stain remover. One of the best sources for this information is Consumer Reports since they thoroughly test the effectiveness of all the major detergent brands, as well as some of the store brands, in the laboratory. Various versions of Tide detergent (produced by Procter & Gamble) consistently rank in their top seven picks. However, recently "Wisk Deep Clean Free & Pure HE" earned their coveted top pick, just beating out "Tide Ultra plus Bleach Vivid White + Bright." The same was true for the standard versions of both brands. Of the store detergent brands Consumer Reports tested, Costco's Kirkland laundry detergent performed very well at stain removal as well.


Laundry Detergent Pods: Pros and Cons


Due to their simplicity, laundry detergent pods have caught on like gangbusters. In case you haven't seen these, they are little packets that come pre-measured with just the right amount of detergent to do one normal load (you use two packets for heavily soiled laundry or extra large loads). You simply throw in a pod before you put in your clothes in and you're good to go! The outer packet simply dissolves in your wash so it "magically" disappears. These pods are also extremely lightweight so they are super simple to pack to the laundromat!
As convenient as laundry detergent pods are, there is one major problem with them if you have kids. They are highly poisonous! However, the way they are packaged with bright colors, and sometimes eye-catching geometric patterns, they look just like candy and/or toys to small children. When children see them, they are inclined to suck and chew on them and even bite into them and swallow the contents! Thousands of children have been hospitalized, and some have even died, as a result. In fact, there have been so many calls to poison call centers about children ingesting laundry detergent pods, the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH), a division of the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has issued warnings about the pods. They've also teamed up with poison call centers to train phone responders on how to deal with the problem more effectively. You can read more about this on the following webpages:
first article from the cdc
second article from the cdc
If you use laundry detergent pods around small children, we urge you to take extra precautions to ensure they do not have access to them. Storing them in ziplock bags is a good first precaution. We also suggest you then place these inside a plastic storage container or box so that children do not see them and become fascinated by them. You can also shop for detergent pods that are opaque/dull, such as some of the new Tide pods, so they don't attract children.

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