Mathilde's Green Parenting Guide:
Part 3. Personal Care for Kids the Natural Way
After sharing some tips and tricks to achieve greener food and fashion for kids, here are some suggestions to help you remove toxicity from your children’s environment - and also waste less when it comes to their personal care:
One of the reasons we have got so used to the more toxic detergent options is that they do often work with very little extra work on our part. The reason being that “bio” detergents are loaded with enzymes, active agents which are usually quite efficient on stains (and also excellent at activating eczema and all sorts of other skin allergies). Tomato sauce-covered shirt anyone? In with the rest of the whites, and let’s hope for the best! Well - mainstream detergent or not, the problem is that you run the risk of the stain not really going and setting into the fabric - something from which your little one’s clothes might never recover. To extend the life of any clothing, you should always try to pre-treat stains prior to loading anything into the washing machine. My go-to's are our Light Bristle Laundry Brush and the BLANC Natural Stain Remover which, if you ask me, is a little magic and can tackle the toughest of stains. Ecover also does a handy stain remover which comes with a pre-integrated brush, readily available at most supermarkets. The bottom line though: do put in a little elbow grease before chucking your heavily-stained children’s clothes into the wash, to ensure that they come out stain-free and last a few months longer...
Check your labels
Many conventional laundry detergents are toxic both to the skin and for the planet - in other words, nothing you want to soak your - or your children’s - clothes in. What was frankly always a no-brainer to me was switching over to buying more eco-friendly laundry products. That’s literally just checking the label and making sure that what you buy isn’t going to add toxicity to your home environment and into the world in general. For laundry detergents, and because we aren’t all chemists who understand the complicated words at the back of the bottles: a good first step is to switch over from “bio” to “non-bio” detergents (i.e. without the enzymes, which have been linked to increased eczema and skin allergies). A very useful resource if you do want to check the labels and be careful about what shouldn’t be in your laundry detergent is this page from our partner BIO D’s website, which lists all the nasties that shouldn’t be in your household products or detergents: phosphates, phthalates, enzymes, synthetic perfumes, triclosan, chlorine bleaches - to name but a few.
People are often scared that these eco-products aren’t going to work - but the reality is that research has come a long way and in most cases, they really do now (in some cases even better than conventional ones!) - I do not use anything else at home. Another argument against this is that they are way more expensive than eco-products. Some of them are, and I am well aware that being able to practice, talk or write about sustainability is still a privilege, and that I am likely writing for privileged readers. But for everyday use - again things have really changed, and prices have come way down. A quick look at the Tesco website shows that the price per litre of a mass-market brand of bio (i.e. bad, i.e. with enzymes) laundry liquid is currently £5.69, vs. £6.00 for a basic Ecover Non-Bio Laundry detergent - that’s a 5% difference, which isn’t gigantic, if you can afford it. In our stores and our e-shop we sell a selection of detergents that I personally use at home: from the Bio D range (the most affordable and for everyday use) such as this Washing Powder or Hypoallergenic Detergent to the more specialised Tangent GC range such as Tangent GC’s Delicate Detergent.
At BLANC, we feel strongly that children’s clothes should be cleaned without chemicals so we will always take 25% off all children's wear. Whether it’s Halloween costumes, winter wedding outfits, party clothes (or simply anything you can’t really clean at home) - we’re here to help! Either drop it off in one of our stores or book a collection online.
Limit the use of wet wipes
Another topic that never makes me very popular is wet wipes. Parents loooove wet wipes. Wet wipes are so, so convenient… Yet wet wipes are SO bad for the environment. We often use wet wipes because… well because they are there, and perhaps we can’t really be bothered to walk to the tap. I am no saint myself and have come to this conclusion fairly late in my parenting journey, unfortunately. I was convinced I was ok because I used biodegradable aqua wipes, which are probably the lesser of all evils as they contain less nasty chemicals and do biodegrade… but which are still single-use - and never EVER flushable, even if they say so on the packet. I now think that wet wipes should be reserved for: 1) when we are in transit and there is really no other convenient way to change our babies 2) absolute poo-tastrophes at home. If you’re not convinced, sorry for what I am about to do but please read on: each wet wipe you use will outlive all of your children put together. Yep - you read that right, unfortunately. Solutions? Well. My first go-to is a reusable saviour: the hard-working muslins! They are always ready to help: from winding baby to swaddling to wiping those little mouths, or as a huge cover-all napkin to prevent those pesky bolognese stains. And they last forever. Whenever we travel I always carry one gigantic muslin and several smaller sized ones, and I wet them with some water to clean those sticky little hands and faces. The second thing I did was to swap single-use cotton pads or wipes for washable wipes or reusable cotton pads at the changing table. I have a little jar with warm water handy, and a laundry basket real close to chuck the used washable pads into for later washing. Very easy for most nappy business, unless it does get too messy (then I will yield and use cotton pad indeed!). Saviour no. 3: let me (re)introduce the handkerchief. The very same one your grandpa likely used to wipe your little nose back in the day - well I say, bring ‘em back! My husband and I always have some handy, and they wipe runny noses just as well as single-use wet wipes ever will. You don’t have to have the brown checked ones either - check out these stylish ones for men and these for women (Zero-waste Christmas present for 2 people: tick! You’re welcome).
The subject of nappies is a mighty tough one. We want to be better, but frankly who has time to wash that pyjama 3 times a day because the nappy’s overflown? Doesn’t that mean more washing anyway, which isn’t eco-friendly? Also, for anyone who works - daycare centres do not like the idea of washable nappies, so that’s kind of it and the dreadful, dreadful plastic disposable nappy is back in the picture. Except that there are half-way options. I have always used Naty nappies (and there are plenty of other good brands out there). I think they are not only a planet-friendly alternative to the regular ones, but they are also a healthier choice for your baby. They are 100% chlorine-free, unbleached, completely fragrance-free and are made from plant-based materials - suitable for all little baby bums out there, especially the ones with sensitive skin. My two sons used them (up until pull-up days), and I can testify, tired mum to tired mum: they work. They do NOT leak. Make the switch!