Did you know that your laundry habits might be causing your allergies? Laundry isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when people think of allergies, but it is a common culprit. If you’re not careful, your laundry can pack a potent one-two punch with dust mites and irritating chemicals. The resulting itchy skin, rashes, hives, and eczema are enough to make anyone miserable. Luckily, you don’t have to make huge changes to your routine; simply employing some new cleaning strategies will bring relief from your allergy symptoms.
These tiny mites aren’t visible to the naked eye, but they are a leading cause of allergies in the home. It’s estimated that every mattress contains 100,000 to 10 million dust mites. They can also bring on asthma attacks, especially in young children and the elderly.
To get rid of these microscopic pests, bed linens should be washed in hot water. The mites can survive temperatures up to 56ºC/133ºF, and they will cling to fabrics washed in water of that temperature. Wash every sheet, blanket, and pillowcase one a week in hot water. Needless to say, the sheets need to be made from a resilient fabric that can withstand high temperatures. Cotton is a good choice.
You can also use chemicals such as benzyl benzoate to kill dust mites in your laundry. This solution is considered safe for short-term use, but nobody knows how it affects a person’s health when used for long periods of time. Extra rinse cycles can help wash away residual chemicals. If you have a skin condition, you might have better luck using benzyl benzoate on fabrics you don’t touch on a daily basis.
If you suffer from allergies, eczema, or other painful skin conditions, you should be extra careful when doing the laundry. Some detergents and fabric softeners contain chemicals that irritate sensitive skin. These should be tested on one or two pieces of laundry at first, just to see if they will cause an allergic reaction. If they do, rinse out the washing machine thoroughly with hot water and move on to the next product.
Folks with serious allergies should try detergents that don’t contain perfumes or dyes. These are frequently marketed for babies and toddlers, but they work just as well for grown-up laundry. Some people find that biological washing products, which contain enzymes, worsen their skin conditions. Enzymes are natural substances that help break down molecules, such as stains. If your skin condition worsens after using a biological washing product, either do a double rinse cycle before drying your clothes, or switch to another type of detergent.
Stain removal can be a challenge to people with skin conditions, simply because most stain removers rely on harsh chemicals. For a natural approach, try mixing up your own stain remover from vinegar, club soda, baking soda, or corn starch. The results might surprise you.
Fabric softeners are another source of skin irritation. Luckily, there are hypoallergenic alternatives. Instead of regular fabric softener, try a quarter cup of baking soda. Vinegar and Borax, also used in quarter-cup measurements, make clothes soft without worsening the symptoms of eczema. To go totally chemical-free, use laundry balls instead of a detergent or fabric softener.