Shared by Anindita (Eczema- an Indian perspective)
I am publishing my updated article on ecofriendly and natural alternatives for laundry and cleaning needs at home. It is a primer for those of you who are looking for eco friendly and natural alternatives for a cleaner and greener home.
I find that it is important for me to highlight the fact that there are harmless, natural, environment friendly laundry, dish washing, and cleaning alternatives which are available to us. In this particular post I have focused on the laundry and household cleaning agents that we use (In subsequent articles I would be focusing on the impact of our food habits and diet). While most of us do all that we can as far as moisturizers and bathing products are concerned for children who have eczema, some of us are not aware that the regular dish washing, cleaning and laundry products used in a household can also have a large and harmful effect on sensitive skin and allergy/eczema prone children (and adults). In India especially, eczema and other allergies are a recent phenomenon as compared to the West.
While I was happy using regular detergents and cleaning products for my household cleaning and laundry needs, I was particularly happy using highly fragrances and foaming cleaning/laundry detergents and thought that all products which were labelled as “child/baby friendly” and “gentle on the skin/clothes” actually were child friendly and gentle on the skin. But after a bit of research I was quite surprised to find that quite a few of the products that I had been using all my adult life were cumulatively doing more harm than good to my entire family and this was especially true for my daughter who has severe eczema. That is when I started looking for alternatives and was pleasantly surprised to find out that there are much better, natural, harmless and environment friendly options which might also be much more economical for regular use. Now, over the past couple of years in my quest to manage my daughter’s severe eczema, I have made a lot of changes in our lifestyle which includes skincare products, laundry products, dish washing products as well as other household cleaning products.
Since I am sharing my own personal experience in using these products, I have restricted this post to products which are available to Indian consumers only. Also, please note that I am going by the information provided by the manufacturers as far as the ingredients are concerned, certifications as mentioned and in some cases I have taken into account the product reviews by other users.
All that foams is not soap!
Soaps and detergents are two different things but are often mistaken to be the same. While soaps are traditionally made from fats and oils and have been around for centuries, detergents are usually of synthetic origin and is a much more recent phenomenon. Detergents react less to minerals (found in hard water) than soap and hence is now the preferred choice for most.
-Sulphates are surfactants which are used in a wide range of products especially laundry and dishwashing detergents in order to reduce the surface tension of water thereby improving its ability to wet things and remove the dirt.
-Other products where Sulphates are found are bathing products like shampoos, shower gels etc, toothpastes and even baby care products and it provides the “foam” that we are so used to.
-Nowadays most of the skincare and laundry detergents usually contain the gentler Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) plus a host of other chemical fragrances and preservatives and not the much harsher surfactant Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS).
-But even SLES is a chemical which is harmful for sensitive skin and it is just one of the many chemicals which are present in any cleaning/skincare/laundry products.
-The other common chemicals are preservatives like Parabens (Methyl, propyl, isbotyl to name a few) and Methylisothiazolinone fragrances which are mostly made of synthetic chemicals and synthetic colours, found in many baby and child care products.
-Many organic and natural products have preservatives like Parabens and foaming agents like SLES unless stated otherwise. Hence it is imperative while buying any such product to check the ingredients listed carefully no matter what the label says in the front. The good thing is that there are detergents (laundry and cleaning purposes) which are available to us today which use natural ingredients and are also fragrance free.
Soapnuts- the underrated cleaning agent
Soapnuts (or reetha as it is known in India) is actually not a nut but a dried berry or fruit which is highly effective in powder and liquid form and can be used to clean clothes, jewellery, dishes, hair and other household items. It is found mostly in India and Nepal and was used extensively in India to wash clothes and hair long before liquid detergents and shampoos took over.
The saponin which is found in the fleshy part of the soapnut is a 100 % natural hypoallergenic surfactant which is believed to have antibacterial and antifungal properties as well.
-Soapnuts can be used for cleaning pretty much anything and is the only cleaning product which is completely natural. Any other product which is labelled ‘natural’ will contain at least some chemicals like preservatives, fragrances amongst others.
-The other important aspect of using soapnut is that it extremely convenient to use in washing machines (front and top loading) and dishwashers (in liquid form).
-We use soapnuts regularly as the main cleaning agent for all our clothes and white vinegar and essential oils (lemon is my favourite) as a fabric conditioner and to remove grease and add natural fragrance to the laundry.
About The Author– Anindita writes as a mother of two young children one of whom suffers from a very severe form of Atopic Dermatitis or eczema as it is commonly known. In the past couple of years they have gone through many ups and downs with their daughter’s skin condition and have learned a lot in the process. They know how hard it is for a parent to watch their child suffer and struggle to lead a normal life while dealing with severe eczema especially in India where awareness is still very low about this condition. They hope that by sharing their experience and knowledge as a parent dealing with child’s eczema they will be able to help other children and their parents. She runs a Support Group for parents in Mumbai for those who have children with moderate to severe Atopic Dermatitis.
You can reach her at- firstname.lastname@example.org