It turns out that laundry, the bane of every household with children, can have a significant impact on the environment and your child’s health. Many detergents and pods used during laundry contain hazardous chemicals that emit volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), a few of which are classified by The Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogens. Additionally, germs and bacteria that have latched on to clothes and not cleaned properly during laundry can have its own adverse effects.
But, fear not. There are plenty of things we can do as conscious consumers and parents to minimize environmental and health risks. Read on to find out the best practices for washing your kids’ clothes so that they stay soft, get really clean, last long and keep your baby safe.
As much as we love our little cuties, we have to admit that they can drool, spit-up, spill, and poop themselves through a lot of clothes, pajamas, and bedding! As parents, we have seen it all and are used to it but we still have high hopes that when we pull that shirt or footie out of the dryer or take it off the line, it will actually be clean, soft, and the same color.
So as a reminder …
Always separate babies’ laundry from the household laundry. Treat tough stains as soon as possible with a baby-safe product. Follow all of the basics like separating colors and following the instructions on the garment labels as well as these often forgotten tips. Place socks and other small items in a mesh bag during washing and (machine) drying, since these items are prone to disappearing and the mesh bag helps to contain them. Fasten all hook-and-loop fasteners, close all zippers and snaps and turn colored garments inside out to help retain their true color.
The average non-energy efficient washing machine uses 29-45 gallons of water per load while most high-efficiency washers use only 15-30 gallons. Washing machines are the highest consumer of water in the house after the toilet so if you can, invest in star energy certified washers and dryers. These appliances use less water and will save you money on your energy bill. Washing machines are typically used by many households and can be safely used for laundering babies’ clothes.
Set your washer to “gentle cycle” and use cold water as much as possible. Use a mild, scent-free laundry powder. Be sure to avoid using products that contain harsh alkaline-heavy detergents, softeners, stain removers, dyes or perfumes as well as chlorine bleach. Not only are these chemical compounds tough on the environment and our health but they are also hard on cotton fibers and will reduce the materials’ softness and fade the coloring faster.
A good tip to help set the color fastness of your new clothes is to add ¼ cup of vinegar to the final rinse cycle for just the first washing.
Now that your clothes are clean, you are ready to move on to the drying-phase.I know that most families use machine dryers now because they are so convenient and save time but don’t forget about the benefits of air-drying. There are numerous advantages to air-drying your clothes and especially kids’ clothes. Air-drying is much gentler on clothes and improves freshness without the use of additional chemicals or fabric softeners. Additionally, air-drying your clothes can be safer. Ultraviolet light from the sun helps to disinfect laundry which is particularly important for baby clothing and diapers. Plus, it naturally helps bleach stains!
If using a machine dryer, dry on the lowest setting possible. High heat drying fades colors faster and stiffens cotton fibers. Don’t over-dry clothes. If your machine has a moisture sensor, be sure to use it. Clean the lint screen in your dryer between every load to improve air circulation and prevent fire hazards. Use the cool-down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying with the heat remaining in the dryer. Periodically inspect dryer vents to ensure they are not blocked. This will save energy and may prevent a fire.
Ditch the dryer sheets, they are loaded with cancer-causing chemicals and neurotoxins such as toluene and styrene. They also break down organic fibers, shortening the life of your fabrics. If you are worried about static cling, try rolling up a sheet of aluminum foil into a ball and adding it to the dryer instead of dryer sheets. This helps to reduce static electricity and keeps clothes crisp. You can use it for 1-2 months, a real money saver!
For fluffing up blankets and jackets throw in 1-3 clean, unused tennis balls or wool dryer balls. This also helps to prevent static and fluff up laundry.
Organic cotton clothes are a great investment and with a little TLC they will last a long time. By simply following label instructions and practicing gentle laundry techniques, your precious cotton sleepwear and clothing will stay as soft and cozy as the day you purchased them for a long time.