Did you know that up to one in every five infants has eczema, and doctors estimate that between 10 and 20 percent of children worldwide suffer from the condition? Eczema can be incredibly uncomfortable for your child and may feel very difficult to manage. How do you keep your house clean without contributing to flare-ups?
Finding a good eczema laundry detergent and other eczema-friendly cleaning products can feel like a gauntlet, but with the right research, it doesn’t have to be. In addition to the information listed here, I like the Think Dirty app to vet other products you may be considering. Why should we worry? Let’s look at babies for example:
An EWG study found 200 chemicals the umbilical cord blood of newborns
In another study almost 80% of the chemicals detected in maternal blood samples were also detected in the umbilical cord blood samples. These chemicals are not good for anyone, no matter the age.
Children’s small bodies are still growing. Research estimates that 5% of childhood cancer and 30% of asthma are related to chemical exposures. Read on to discover some top eczema cleaning tips and make your house a healthier place for your child.
Pick the Right Fabrics
In many cases, keeping your child’s eczema under control is as much about prevention as it is about management. The first step in an eczema-friendly laundry routine is to buy clothes made with non-irritating fabrics. As a general rule, it’s best to opt for natural, plant-based fibers, rather than synthetic or animal-based fabrics.
Linen, cotton, and silk can all be excellent options for kids with eczema. You may want to choose pajamas made from cotton, silk, or terry cloth, as these fabrics tend to be less irritating to sensitive skin. Try to stick to lighter-colored fabrics, too, as these tend to have fewer dyes and chemical treatments than dark fabrics. The Eczema Company makes clothing utilizing zinc and Tencel which many families have found helpful. Use promo code Temple15 to get 15% off your purchase.
Wash New Clothes
Once you’ve bought your child eczema-sensitive clothes, it’s incredibly important to wash them before the first time they wear them. Clothing straight from the store can contain chemical remnants from the manufacturing and dyeing process. They also tend to have dust and dirt in them from the shipping process and allergens they absorbed from the store.
Removing tags can help to reduce some of the irritation clothes can cause to sensitive skin. Before you wash an item for the first time, take a picture of it and then take a picture of the tag with the washing directions. Remove both the main tag and any tags in the side seams of shirts and look back at the picture when you need to figure out how to wash the item.
Get Unscented Detergents
Of course, it almost goes without saying that you need to look for unscented detergents for your child with eczema. Artificial fragrances are one of the most common triggers for breakouts, and even natural essential oils can cause irritation. You want to opt for liquid detergents that don’t have any added fragrance. Our bodies hold on to toxins like a glass of juice. A little food preservative here, some food coloring over here, bleach there, phthalates over there. The more pollutants in our body, the fuller the glass, which leads to inflammation. The more inflamed our body is, the more likely it is to flare from eczema.
When you’re shopping, look for “free and clear” detergents. Oftentimes, these products will avoid any added fragrance and may be free from other irritating substances. The word “fragrance” can actually mask a cocktail of dozens of harmful ingredients. Below are a few of the common chemicals I recommend avoiding.
Chemicals to avoid in your detergent:
– Sodium lauryl sulfate/ sodium laureth sulfate
– Phosphates & EDTA
– Petroleum distillates
– NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate)
– 1,4 dioxane
You might assume that the government has tested all the chemicals used in your laundry detergent for safety, but that’s not actually the case. Out of some 62,000 chemicals approved for use in the US, only about 300 have actually been tested for safety. Always check the ingredient list for known triggers, but if you’re not sure yet what causes your child problems, the products below can be a good place to start.
Avoid Fabric Softeners
If you didn’t grow up dealing with eczema yourself, you may be in the habit of adding fabric softener to your laundry. Fabric softeners were developed when line drying was still popular and were designed to keep clothes soft and pliable as they air-dried. But if you’re trying to manage your child’s eczema outbreaks, you’re going to want to ditch the fabric softener.
Fabric softeners tend to have more fragrances and harsh chemicals in them than other types of laundry products. If you have a dryer (which we’ll discuss more in a moment), they’re not strictly necessary, since the tumbling action softens the clothes. And in the end, it’s better to have clothes that are a little stiff than clothes that make your child break out.
Wool balls from New Zealand are a great substitute for dryer sheets. It helps dry the laundry faster and fluffs up the towels. To prevent static, place a few safety pins on the wool balls.
Don’t Rely on “Hypoallergenic”
When you first start shopping for eczema-friendly cleaners, chances are you keep your eyes peeled for the word “hypoallergenic.” But over time, you might find that these products make your child break out just as much as the regular thing. Unfortunately, a hypoallergenic label isn’t a guarantee that the product inside is safe for your child.
The problem with “hypoallergenic” products is that they’re tested on adults, not kids or babies. They may still contain irritating substances in amounts small enough that they don’t bother adults. Always check ingredient labels before you buy a new cleaning product to make sure they don’t contain any known irritants.
Use a Dryer
When you’re doing laundry for a kid with eczema, it’s best to use a dryer if at all possible. Line drying clothes, especially outside, can introduce pollen and other allergens to your kid’s clothes. A dryer keeps them contained, allows them to dry softer, and doesn’t introduce as many allergens.
If you don’t have a dryer at home, consider taking your child’s clothes to a laundromat and wiping out the drum with a damp microfiber cloth to remove any residue. If you absolutely have to line-dry clothes, try to set up a drying rack indoors in a tiled area where dripping water won’t cause any damage. This will keep pollen and other allergens off of their clothing even if you don’t have a dryer.
Also, avoid dryer sheets and use wool dryer balls instead. Dryer sheets contain lots of chemicals.
Consider Making Your Own Cleansers
If you’ve tried to navigate the gauntlet of cleaning products at the grocery store, you may have discovered that reasonable choices for eczema-friendly households are few and far between. It may seem like every bottle has at least one kind of irritant in it, if not multiple. Also, cleaner and cosmetic manufacturers aren’t required to show their full ingredient lists on their labels. As a result, f you’re like many of us, you may have decided that it’s easier and safer to make your own.
There are a number of all-natural recipes for household cleaners that can be a great choice for your kid with eczema. You can control what goes into these cleaners and ensure that none of your child’s known irritants get included. You may also be able to save some money on these cleaners, especially if you buy your ingredients in bulk. Remember, good old distilled white vinegar is a tremendous low allergy cleanser! Below are a few options I like.
Scented All-Purpose Cleaner
What you’ll need:
Combine the above ingredients together, pour into a spray bottle, shake, and then let infuse for a week before using. Once done, you can use the homemade all-purpose cleaner to remove hard water stains, clean trash cans, wipe away wall smudges, and much more. Besides a fresh scent, the lemon rind may help boost cleaning power.
Kitchen Cleaner and Deodorizer
What you’ll need:
- 4 tablespoons baking soda
- 1 quart warm water
To deodorize, use the homemade baking soda solution above or pour baking soda straight from the box into your drain or garbage disposal to remove odors. To shine and remove spots from stainless steel, make a paste of baking soda and water. Apply it with a damp cloth and rub gently in the direction of the metal’s grain. Rinse and buff dry.
Avoid Essential Oils
If you search for homemade cleaning recipes, you’re going to find a lot of people recommending essential oils. The fact that essential oils are natural would seem to make them a better choice for kids with eczema. But the truth is these substances can be irritating, and even people without eczema should never put essential oils directly on their skin.
Try to stick to natural odors from substances like vinegar and lemon juice. In fact, vinegar and baking soda can be a great option for cleaning everything from sinks and showers to the bottom of your oven. You can also use lemon juice to remove hard water stains and diluted vinegar as an all-purpose cleaner.
Avoid Fragranced Products
It may come as no surprise that cleaning and household products with fragrance can cause eczema flare-ups. Even products with light or natural scents may leave behind irritating residues. These products can also cause problems with allergies and asthma, which many kids with eczema also suffer from.
Whenever possible, opt for cleaning products that don’t have fragrances of any kind. Mop floors with a vinegar solution, wipe the furniture with damp microfiber cloths and wipe down counters with diluted vinegar or bleach. Avoid using air fresheners, scented fabric sprays, and other chemical aromatics.
Fun Fact: Clean has no smell. We have been taught by marketing that clean has a smell such as Febreeze or PineSol or Bleach. As usual, beware of marketing!
Look for EWG Verified
One great way to figure out which products should be safe for your child with eczema is to look for a seal of approval. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reviews cleaning products and determines which ones are safe and free of dangerous chemicals. You can find their official verified seal on products that don’t contain any of the common irritants.
The EWG also has a list of verified products available on its website. You can search products by category, filter by known irritants, select child-friendly products, and filter products by brand. You can also search for specific products to see if they’re on the list of approved products for kids with eczema (EWG products rated 0-3 are safe for kids with eczema).
Opt for Allergy-Free Decor
As with eczema-friendly laundry, the best way to manage outbreaks is to prevent them in the first place. When you’re picking décor for your home, it’s a good idea to avoid many of the same irritants as you do in your child’s clothing. This is particularly important with rugs, throw pillows, furniture covers, curtains, and bedding.
Try to get your child bedding that’s made with 100 percent organic cotton or linen, and always avoid down pillows and duvets. If possible, swap wall-to-wall carpets for solid flooring and washable throw rugs. Opt for linen or cotton curtains, avoid down-filled pillows, and cover any wool furniture with linen or cotton furniture covers (wool coverings can be tough on sensitive skin, though they are low toxicity.)
Vacuum and Dust Often
One of the best things you can do to keep your child’s eczema flare-ups to a minimum is to vacuum and dust often. Dust mites and allergens can irritate eczema, and both of these and more can lurk in normal household dust. And the more you let dirt and dust build up, the more cleaning products you may have to use to get things clean.
Plan to vacuum and dust the entire house at least once a week, using dirt-trapping tools to keep irritants as contained as possible. In high-traffic areas and bedrooms, you may want to dust at least two or three times a week and do a quick sweep once daily. Dirt-collecting pads can be a great way to keep dust and irritants to a minimum without taking up a huge amount of time in your day. If it is in your budget, investing in a Roomba or similar robovac can make your life easier.
Get Microfiber Cleaning Tools
In your battle to keep dirt and dust under control, microfiber cleaning tools are going to be some of your best allies. Microfiber cloths are made of very fine synthetic fibers that are woven into soft fabric. When you run a microfiber cloth over a surface, all of those tiny particles produce a static charge that attracts and captures dirt, dust, and pollen.
Microfiber cloths can be a great way to ensure you get as many irritants as possible out of your home. Use them to dust, wipe down counters, and clean up spills. You can even put a microfiber cloth on a Swiffer-style sweeper and use it for your daily sweep of high-traffic areas to keep irritants to a minimum.
If you’d like to find the best eczema laundry detergent along with the best eczema-friendly products, check out the rest of our site at Dr. Ana-Maria. We’re here to help families build strong, resilient children. Contact us today and start finding healthy solutions for your kids.
Yours In Good Health,
Drs Ana-Maria and John Temple