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My ten-year-old has always had dry, sensitive skin. A few months back, the issue exploded. Dry and sensitive became rashy and painful. We had her tested for allergies. The tests came back: intolerance to gluten, soy, and peanuts. Those ingredients were cut out of the family meals.

It was no small feat for this carb-loving, nutty family. We quickly found out that gluten is in more than just bread and pasta (ice cream!). Even some lotions and toiletries contain gluten. Soy is also a sly ingredient that lurks in many food products. If it comes in a wrapper, we found, it almost certainly has soy in it.

After we cut out the pertinent allergens, the red raised rash on our little girl’s arm disappeared. But the lighter rash up around the neck and shoulders remained. It had the look of a contact allergy. Patrick furrowed his brow as he examined it. “Certain laundry detergents make my dad break out,” he said. “Maybe she inherited her grandpa’s sensitivity.”

Why hadn’t I thought of that? I asked around and found many of my friends have similar issues in their family.

“Whenever people complain of a rash, I ask if they use Tide,” said Serena as we sat together at Easter. “I think that Tide is an offender when it comes to contact-rashes.”

Funny she should mention Tide. I have been a Tide believer for years. It’s the one laundry soap that can wash the deepest dirt out of my hubby’s pants. The following week, I bought Tide Free & Gentle ($11.97 for 64 loads at Walmart). Perhaps a detergent free of dyes and perfumes would help my little lady. The clothes got clean, but my daughter’s rash remained.

“We use All Free Clear [$8.77 for 64 loads at Walmart] and the Costco Kirkland Free & Clear [$14.39 for 120 loads],” said Lisa. “It does not get stains out. So I just buy brown pants for my toddler. If the stain is still there, no one notices.”

Jules was another All Free Clear user. “I add a small amount of OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Powder [$7.52 for three pounds at Walmart] to each load,” she explained. “I think it helps with stains. I also have a lot of pee-accident clothes around here, and I think it’s more of a disinfectant.”

OxiClean would not be wise here in rashland. But my friend Sophie offered another option. “We use Method Free and Clear Laundry Detergent. It rocks. A small bottle gives you 50 loads. I buy it at Target [$14.99].”

“We use Trader Joe’s Liquid Lavender Laundry Detergent,” said Andrea ($9.99 for 64 loads). “I am allergic to the powder detergents — they make my skin itch and the smell makes my eyes water.”

“Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Laundry Detergent [$15.99 for 64 loads at Sprouts] is my favorite, but a bit pricey,” said Cherie. “Lavender is my favorite, and I also like lemon verbena. The lemon reminds me of college and my friend’s verbena garden.”

I like the smell of lavender and lemon, too. But the saleslady at Whole Foods said I should go fragrance-free if skin irritation is an issue. She suggested the Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent Free & Clear ($8.49 for 66 loads at Whole Foods). The text on the bottle quotes the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy: “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” The container of the soap is a compostable cardboard.

“My nanna breaks out in rashes from Tide and some soaps,” offered Bernice. “She uses All Free Clear. But in our home, I have started to make my own laundry detergent. I don’t know if it is hypoallergenic, but it is gentle on the nose. A lot of regular detergents have heavy perfumes.”

Bernice’s homemade detergent is a combination of melted Fels-Naptha Heavy Duty Laundry Soap bar ($.99 a bar at Walmart), Borax All Natural Laundry Booster ($3.38 for 76 ounces at Walmart), and Arm & Hammer All Natural Super Washing Soda ($3.24 for 55 ounces at Walmart). “The Fels-Naptha has a light, clean scent.”

Bernice adds a bit of lavender oil for a mild, natural scent. “Making my own detergent costs me a fraction of the price to buy regular laundry soap. I can make it for about $7, and it lasts for over a month.”

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Comments

gluten June 8, 2012 @ 3:09 p.m.

I found your website perfect for my needs. It contains wonderful and helpful posts. I have read most of them and learned a lot from them. You are doing some great work. Thank you for making such a nice website.

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Gracie March 23, 2013 @ 7:35 p.m.

I am going out of my mind with itchiness and would like to try "Bernice's homemade detergent. Is there any way to get a recipe and directions? Thanks!

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monaghan March 19, 2014 @ 12:54 p.m.

In laundry soaps eliminate all fragrances and never ever use fabric softeners. Rinse clothes and bedding and towels twice. Wear cotton duds. Avoid scalding baths, hot tubs or showers. Lotion up often with unscented anything, even vaseline which has rapid-healing properties. Avoid exotica in anything you put on your skin -- like mango, papaya or guava -- simplicity is the watchword. Stay out of the sun and find a hypoallergenic sunscreen. See a dermatologist and get a written list of do's and don'ts.

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