The other night on Twitter a blog feed popped up that looked to be fabulous. Once I began to read I knew this information had to be shared with you.
The blog post came from Mona of Eco Nuts. Mona makes most of us look like slackers (just take a look at her bio)!
I really appreciate her devotion to teaching others how to be more eco-friendly.
The title of her post is Common Laundry Disinfectants. Mona takes us through the natural and the harsh ways you may choose to disinfect your cloth diapers.
With Mona’s permission I am going to provide the information here. As a thank you I encourage you to hop on over and thank her for this valuable guide!
Here are some common laundry additives and methods to disinfect.
Hot water: This isn’t a laundry additive but is the most common way to disinfect laundry. If you are disinfecting diapers, hot water is a must. Hot water doesn’t kill everything, but most additives work best in hot water because the high temperature speeds up the chemical reaction. It’s a simple, easy method to help clean clothes that are really soiled. If no one is sick in your house and there is no pressing need to disinfect something, you don’t need to go any further with disinfectants. Your immune system will usually take care of anything that survives.
Chlorine Bleach: chlorine bleach is a common disinfectant. The downside is that straight bleach will ruin your clothes (so be careful what you’re wearing when handling it). While many online sources will talk about testing for color fastness on colors, I don’t advocate using it for anything other than whites. Color safe bleach does not disinfect, either. There are other options for colors.
Never pour bleach directly into the machine as it can ruin/weaken the fabrics it touches before diluting. Bleach also works much better in hot water. Make sure you are washing on hot before you add your bleach.
Do not mix bleaches. This means don’t mix chlorine bleach with oxygen bleach or colorsafe bleach. Use one bleach to avoid a potentially hazardous chemical reaction.
Bleach is the second most common disinfectant after hot water and it is effective and kills just about everything. The major cons of using bleach are that it can ruin clothes and can cause clothes to wear out/fade more quickly. It is dangerous to inhale and while it kills yeast, it doesn’t kill yeast spores (for yeast spore killing, see Grapefruit Seed Extract below)
Oxygen Bleach: Oxygen bleach is the third most common disinfectant for laundry. Unlike chlorine bleach, Oxygen bleach is colorsafe and starts a chemical reaction that breaks down into oxygen and water. Like regular bleach, oxygen bleach works best in hot water. Oxygen bleach works on many bacteria and viruses and does not harm fabrics while having the bonus of removing stains. Oxygen bleach works best in hot water, although be aware that your garments may have to soak in it for 6 hours or overnight (start with hot water) for it to really work.
Tea Tree Oil: One of the better known disinfectants. Tea tree oil is available in different grades, so it’s smart to educate yourself on what the grades mean when you buy and use. You want to look for a quality Australian Tea Tree oil (melaleuca).
Two major chemical components that make up tea tree oil are called 1,8 Cineole and Terpinen-4-ol and you want to look at the numbers associated with those components when selecting your tea tree oil for disinfecting.
1,8 Cineole is the compound that gives tea tree its camphor-like scent and is also found in eucalyptus oil. Cineole is a skin irritant so you want a low number for disinfecting. If a bottle says “for aromatherapy” there’s a good chance it has a high cineole percentage and will not work for disinfecting or any kind of application that will touch skin.
Terpinen-4-ol is what gives the tea tree oil its germicidal properties. It’s related to alcohol and is a good antibacterial and antiviral. You want a high number.
Top quality tea tree oil for disinfecting has a maximum of 5% cineole and a 35-40% Terpenin-4-ol
To use: add ½ -1 teaspoon to laundry*
For diapers, don’t put it directly on diapers. Add it to the water after the machine has filled. If you are using a frontloading machine, add the tea tree oil to some water and put that in the soap dispenser.
* I understand lots of people use anywhere from 5-10 drops for normal “everyday disinfecting” but if you need to really disinfect a load of laundry (contagious sick person in the house, yeast infection, etc) more tea tree oil should be used.
Kills: bacteria, mold, some viruses, yeast, but not yeast spores (for yeast spores see Grapefruit Seed Extract)
Grapefruit Seed Extract: synthesized from the seeds and pulp of the grapefruit, it’s a very broad spectrum microbicide, bactericide, fungicide, antiparasitic, and anti-viral. Grapefruit Seed Extract is the only natural way to kill yeast spores. It also kills staph, strep, salmonella, and e.coli. It also kills herpes and influenza!
GSE has been tested and found to be anywhere from 10 to 100 times more effective against these offending microorganisms than chlorine bleach, tea tree oil, colloidal silver, and iodine.
It is becoming the disinfectant of choice in hospitals, too!
It is expensive, so the other options on here are far more economical for other disinfecting, but when it comes to yeast – this is the single most effective way to stop it in its tracks on your clothing and cloth diapers. You can buy it at your local health food store.
GSE can also be diluted and used as a swab on affected areas, for cleaning, or even internally for parasites, but I am a laundry queen, not a doctor, and not an expert on treating any kind of human infection – though there’s plenty of other books and websites that can tell you all about it.
For light laundry disinfecting: use 10-15 drops per load.
For heavy disinfecting (when dealing with something nasty or resistant): ½ to 1 teaspoon of GSE to each load of laundry. Wash and dry normally
Hydrogen Peroxide: This is a liquid oxygen bleach and breaks down into water and oxygen.
Use a 3% solution (what is normally available at most drugstores)
Be aware that hydrogen peroxide can damage clothes the same way bleach can, so test for colorfastness and never pour directly on your clothes.
Use ½ cup in the bleach cup of your laundry machine. If you don’t have a bleach cup, start the machine without putting clothes in. wait until your machine is filled with water, then add the peroxide and let the water agitate with the peroxide in it before adding clothes.
Do not mix Vinegar and Hydrogen peroxide! They combine together to make peracetic acid which has different properties than vinegar or peroxide and is very corrosive, and can have dangerous effects and can bleach fabrics.
The Sun: This is a free and overlooked disinfectant in the western world but it can be just as effective as chlorine bleach. Line drying exposes your garments to ultraviolet radiation and infrared light. Too much exposure to the sun can ruin fabric however by permanently fading it. It’s a great way to get impossible stains out of whites, though. In small doses you won’t see any damage so it’s fine to leave laundry out in the sun for a day. A few hours is sufficient to kill bacteria. After a week you will see fading. Delicate fabrics can also be damaged by direct sun, so use filtered sunlight (underneath an umbrella or a tree).
Lemon Juice: Lemon juice is great on perspiration stains and is a great disinfectant. It will also help whiten fabrics as a bleach alternative. You can use ½ cup in the laundry. The disinfecting property of lemons comes from its high acidity. It changes the pH levels in bacteria so the microbes can’t survive. Lemon juice is best utilized in a separate wash cycle or in the rinse cycle from using other additives like borax or baking soda because borax and baking soda are both very alkaline, and will kill a different range of microbes. Adding lemon juice at the same time as other alkaline additives can alter the pH and not kill anything or create a reaction.
Vinegar: Another acidic disinfectant. You should use it on a separate wash cycle from Borax as you will lose the benefits of the pH changes each does that contributes to killing germs (Borax is basic and Vinegar is acidic). Lots of people add it to the rinse but I recommend another plain water rinse after using to bring the pH back to neutral. Contrary to popular belief, vinegar is not a strong disinfectant for laundry but should serve for gentle disinfecting. It does have disinfectant properties, but it is not as acidic as lemon juice. It is better utilized in the rinse cycle to help get rid of soap residue.
To use, add ¼ to ½ cup in the rinse cycle or regular wash load. Vinegar can be used safely at any water temperature. Also, Vinegar can be used with Baking Soda as the two together will also kill food germs and bacteria (and fight stains!) without creating any toxic byproducts.
Borax: Borax is a pH buffer and raises the pH of your water to make it slightly basic. Borax is used best as a laundry booster. It works by converting some water molecules to Hydrogen Peroxide and works best in hotter water. The pH buffer it create in the water make a stable environment for chemical reactions to occur between the soap and your clothes, thus its “laundry booster” qualities. The reactions that borax undergoes in hot water does the disinfecting.
To disinfect with borax, wash on hot and add ½ cup per load. Use in the wash cycle and not the rinse cycle. Borax can also be toxic if consumed, so keep away from little ones and pets.
As stated above, don’t use borax with vinegar or lemon juice.
Baking Soda: This isn’t a disinfectant but a lot of people think it is. It works with vinegar to disinfect but is not effective on its own.
There you have it! What methods do you use to disinfect your laundry?
My favorite part was that I learned something new!! I DID NOT know that bleach does NOT kill yeast spores! This information is going to influence my recommendations in the future.
Again, thank you, Mona, for your efforts to educate families and provide natural products for us to enjoy.