Monday, November 7, 2011

Tried And True Eco Tips from an Aspie Mum

As most of you know, I'm Mama to a kid with Asperger's, sensory issues, anxiety and sleep disorders. It's a full basket and comes with things like constipation, reflux and panic attacks. They're pretty sensitive on the inside.

But, most sensitive kids are also sensitive on the outside. It develops into things like Eczema, warts and sores that don't heal.

Soph had quite bad Eczema and she had both the dry and the weepy kind.

Like most Americans, I grew up with Johnson & Johnson's No Tears (there ARE tears!!) and so, I bought that for my baby when I was expecting. It's quite expensive here in NZ, so it's really a consumer move to purchase J&J stuff.

However, by about 6 weeks, my baby was starting to feel like rhino. Rough, prickly skin. I would feel other babies and people would feel my baby and ask what was going on.

A lot of people told me reflux babies tend to have dry skin, but no one mentioned sensitive skin.

This isn't Soph, but this is quite similar to her eczema patterns.

When she developed both the oozy and dry kind of Eczema at about 14 weeks, we started on the Pinetarsol bath (the green liquid you add to the bath), and the horrible cream that feels like old fashioned cooking lard. Ugh. That just made her sticky, smelly and itchy, especially in the NZ heat.

As we are closer to the Ozone hole, there isn't as much block from the sun's rays, so people tend to burn quicker and deeper than you might in the US.

So, in addition to all the bath stuff, we were loading her up on Super Baby 70+ sunblock which is loaded with chemicals. The poor poppet was like a lobster with all the irritation and redness.

Finally, a homeopath told me to get rid of the chemicals. I hadn't even considered the chemicals in all the crap we were putting on her and around her.

First, we ditched the washing/laundry detergent. At the time, we were using Persil and we went to a liquid amolin laundry wash. At times you can find it quite affordable at your supermarket and I know quite a few front loading machines recommend it, which is a great step for your family. However, it looks as though Bayer has decided to stop producing it. I hope they are replacing it with a similar product because there is a real need for parents to move to less chemicals with their new babies.

So, Amolin, we tried it for months. Did nothing. So, we went even further and began using Soap Nuts.

The brand I purchased during my 12 months with soap nuts was Global Soaps. I found it at my local organic shop and was very pleased with the brand.

Soap nuts can take a few washes to get the soap residue out of your machine and off the clothes. The clothes feel different when washed with soap nuts because there is no agent to soften the fabric.

Using Soap Nut is incredibly easy. The 'nuts' are really the reproductive berries for the plant and are little round black nuts. They come in a soft, sticky, sour cherry smelling 'shell' and this is where the cleansing agent comes in. You break a few of these nuts from the bunch and put them in your little draw string linen bag. Toss it into the area when it will receive the most agitation and toss your clothes in.

I used cold water and therefore needed more nuts because less of the surfectant is released. However, if you use warm water washes, you need fewer nuts but they do not last as long because the surfectant is released more thoroughly.

You know it's time to chuck them when they are no longer stiff or sticky. You then toss them into your flower garden or veggie patch and they rot and compost.

If you're lucky, occasionally you will get the little black nut and can keep them to start your own plantation. They require quite a lot of destruction to the nut to get it to sprout and it takes about 7 years of maturation before it will fruit.

I loved my time with soap nuts. I adored the smell, how absolutely CLEAN my clothes were, but there is an issue in that your whites are no longer Clorox white and stains don't come out.

But, there are adjuncts created to help.

This is the stain remover bar. I never found it effective on things like mud, blood, paint or felts, but it smells divine.

For a fresher smelling laundry, you can add the Essential Oil blend.

I used this for everything. I put some in the cistern of the toilet, in my dishwasher, in my laundry, in my dryer balls. It is heavenly. I found it so calming but without that sort of sleepy effect.

Finally, there is the whitening powder.

This was my lifeline trying to keep my clothes stain free. It was fantastic. And Soph's skin didn't react to it.

So, that took care of our laundry, which I think was contributing a LOT to her eczema. I would do sheets, towels, pillows, clothes, blankets, etc. There is no point in reducing chemicals if you're just going to wrap your child in chemical residue.

One of the WORST offenders in chemical induced eczema is fabric softener either in a liquid form or in dryer sheets. Being an American, I was horribly addicted to dryer sheets. It took me about 5 years to find a dedicated retailer, and I bought in bulk. Time and time again, fabric softener is indicated as being a skin offender.

However, there is hope for you commercial cleaning addicts!

Currently, tried and tested in my own home, is MY advice. Take it or leave it, but this is my tried and true laundry plan.

For stains, I soak in warm water with baking soda or I spot clean the area with a bit of palmolive soap, warm water and finger scrubbing. Soaking is great for socks and cloth pads. I do not use a commercial stain remover.

We began using laundry powder again after 12 full months on soapnuts. That meant that the soap nuts traveled with us and when we were sharing a washing machine, yes, the soap residue from other's clothes did affect ours. If I was washing soph's clothes, I'd do a rinse before adding the soap nuts, then do a wash with the soap nuts. The commercial soaps do strip the nuts, so prepare to use more.

Currently, I use 2 brands. I prefer Next Generation Lavender Laundry Powder more, but supply is often an issue and I've found Earthwise Orange & Eucalyptus Plant & Mineral Based Super Concentrate Laundry Powder is more readily available. However, you can buy Next Generation products direct from their website.

Now, you will notice that a lot of 'eco' brands write that they use a concentrated system and this is something to note. If you are doing a load of laundry for someone with sensitive skin, please adhere to the limits they have provided for you and use as little as you need with plenty of water.

For a while, I foolishly was adding an 'extra' bit for more cleaning power and using an eco wash with limited water and finding the clothes were coming out caked in powder. I'd just dust it off and dry them. Bad move! That soap will cause contact dermatitis for EVERYONE, not just your eczema kid.

I bravely made the move to try Earthwise's Papaya & Aloe Vera Fabric Softener. Like I said before, I'm an addict! Thus far, we've had no major reactions, but I have been very limited in my use, mainly just for towels as we really love soft towels here.

If you want a non-chemical solution to fabric softeners, Dryer Balls would be the way to go. I made my own using a real wool knitting wool. I basically tied a knot and wound the ball until it was a huge ball, washed it a few times and presto, had my own dryer balls.

Now, mine was a non-instruction based attempt, as I wanted non-plastic dryer balls but did not know where to find them. In the end, I had a washer full of loose wool that smelt like sheep. Not bright. So, I unwound my machine, rewound the balls and stitched the ball together. That worked for a while until the balls started to fall apart.

I will say, they did absorb a lot of water in the dryer and my towels felt nice. I was, however, put off by the mess, so threw them away. It was a sad day.

Enter the Solution: Tumblemonkey Handmade

Unless you are well experienced in the art of felting, you need professional help. For all my Kiwi and Australian readers, Tumblemonkey Handmade is the way to go. And, if you are using cloth diapers, want to use cloth diapers, or have a friend using cloth diapers, these dryer balls ARE the best gift. I'm asking for a set of 3 for my stocking this year.

(She also has the most creative and gorgeous felt creations on Etsy.)

A lot of eco families do not use dryers and I really respect that. We were without a dryer for 6 months, thankfully over the Summer. My clothes line is up a hill and it is terribly hard to go up and down while the bricks are wet or I am sore. And living in Wellington, that's almost daily.

So, cutting dryer time is a major ECO move for families. I believe dryer balls that absorb the water or humidity in the air is the best move. I can't put into words how excited I am to get them in my stocking.

Cleaning the Home

Then came the other cleaning chemicals in the house. I was one of those people who tried to use an 'all-in-one' product so I wasn't having to use 3 different products for cleaning. I'd buy the Baking Soda or Essential Orange but, chemicals are still chemicals.

For that, we moved to baking soda, and old tooth brush and vinegar. Yes, it takes elbow grease and that is often hard with arthritis or fibro. Like you, I don't want to punish myself in trying to do better for our family.

So, if you need something to degrease a product, palmolive is just as effective and you can make you own spray by adding palmolive and water. Shake to activate, spritz, leave for 5 minutes then scrub. I hate the feel of microfibre cloths, but Matt finds them very useful.

For floor care, vinegar can work well to brighten, refresh and clean linoleum. We have a mock wood floor and I sometimes sprinkle baking soda on and brush it around before mopping with vinegar and water.

Some people use Apple Cider Vinegar but it can be quite expensive here, so I just use plain white vinegar bought in bulk.

Cleaning with vinegar is a great way to avoid exposure to many hazardous commercial household cleaners and it's cheaper, safer and easier on the environment.

The cheaper distilled white vinegar, available at your local supermarket, is the best type to use for cleaning. The acetic acid in vinegar is an effective disinfectant, deodorizer, and cleaner which will cut grease and soap scum, dissolve mineral buildup, and inhibit mold and bacteria growth.

For the household, a number of time-honored vinegar cleaning recipes are included some of which require, for best results, the addition of other readily available non-toxic ingredients such as:
Salt - to help dissolve tarnish.
Baking soda - to absorb odors and act as a mild abrasive.
Hydrogen Peroxide - to help disinfect.

Caution: Do not add vinegar directly to materials containing ammonia since this could produce harmful vapors.

Now, onto the Toilet and Bathroom.

When I gave up my toilet blocks, I cried a few tears. To be honest, my toilet gets mucky very quickly. There is no magic blue wash that cleans for me. I have a husband who doesn't flush to save water. I have a child who freaks out about said pee being in the toilet, so there is always toilet drama in my house.

I found to get the stains out with baking soda and vinegar, it was hard work. I was lamenting to my homeopath at the time about having to scrub the toilet with vigor and being sore from it and very exasperatedly she choked out: "Use shampoo!!"

I was stunned. Shampoo? In the Loo?

But it works well. There is a of surfectant in shampoos and the very cheap kind can be liberally squirted, and it works well. I just squirt it in, brush it down and flush. Of course it doesn't have chemicals to inhibit growth of icky things, but it's a quick, effective wash.

I wash my tub with my daughter's eco shampoo and I use my husband's shampoo to clean the shower. Then they both have the same product touching them that they are already used to. We have a frosted glass shower door and to be honest, I don't try to get the soap scum off it, I just leave it as it is after a clean.

The sink gets a scrub with eco shampoo and it comes away brilliantly.

We have quite a damp home and mould on the windows over winter is an ongoing issue. Vinegar sprayed onto the aluminium joinery helps to delay the mould, but nothing short of hard scrubbing removes it.

Carpet Care for us is the downfall. Between muddy cat prints and dropped food, our carpets are a mess. I really would like to find a good chemically light treatment for my carpet.

My last tip is for pet odour. As I mentioned in the past, we've had a cat pee war involving a couch that can't really be taken apart. We tried sprays from the store, but the smells that came with those things made me sick.

One was called a 'clean' scent with vanilla and lavender. I felt so sick from the smell we had to leave the doors and windows open.

ElimO Veterinarian spray is a recent find. It's made in Knoxville, TN, but you can get it here in NZ by ringing 0800 700 100.

Now, it IS harmful if consumed, so keep it locked away.

You add 4 fl oz to 28 fl oz and can spritz it on curtains, fabrics, in the litter tray, in the air. It has a lightly floral scent.

You CAN use it full strength, but I'd really only put it straight onto pee.

So there you go, tried and true eco tips from an Aspie Mum. Keeping things safe for their sensitive insides and outsides is key. The insides take a lot of work, but it really is simple to reduce chemicals in your home.


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