Atopic Dermatitis Flare Prevention Tips: Laundry Care

From bath soaps and lotions to carpet cleaners and pollen, it seems just about everything that comes into contact with skin can trigger atopic dermatitis. Living in a bubble isn’t an option, so how do you protect yourself and/or your family? While many triggers can’t be avoided, many others can. Laundry care is one area full of triggers that can be controlled. It’s all about choosing products carefully.

The vast majority of laundry detergents, scent boosters, stain removers, and fabric softeners on the market are bad news for sensitive skin. Dyes, fragrances, ingredients you can’t pronounce that were likely made in a lab somewhere – these things are not for those of us with atopic dermatitis. To find the laundry care products that will keep your (or your child(ren)’s) skin happy remember this one essential tip:"Free is your friend."

“Free” Is Your Friend

No, I’m not talking about money. I’m talking fragrance-free, dye-free, phosphate-free, paraben-free, Sodium Laureth Sulfate-free, etc. Added perfumes and artificial ingredients irritate sensitive skin. This is particularly true in regards to laundry products because the fabrics we wash stay in contact with our skin for such long periods of time. Organic or hypo-allergenic products are your best bet for flare prevention. (If you’re not interested in or can’t afford organic products, All® Free Clear liquid laundry detergent is a lower-cost option that works very well for many people with eczema.)

That being said, there are times when you likely will need some sort of scent. Unless you can afford to buy new socks or sheets every ten days, in which case … have at it. If you’re like me, however, and you just can’t justify that kind of repeated expense but you’re also desperate to eradicate the stench of a preschooler’s nighttime accident, a child’s upset stomach, or a working husband’s sweaty feet, you will need to find a tolerable scent booster at some point. (Unscented organic and/or “free and clear” detergents just don’t seem to do the trick.)

In such cases, it really comes down to trial and error to find a product that...

  • doesn’t irritate anyone’s skin,
  • does what it says (actually handles odors without replacing them with an even worse one), and
  • doesn’t destroy your clothes or make your life more difficult by caking in the machine or not washing out.

When "free and clear" isn't enough

The best place to start is usually an organic product boasting an ingredient list you can actually pronounce. Since "free and clear" isn't an option when you need a scent, try to find a product with only natural, soothing scents that you know you can tolerate. (Lavender or honey are two common scents that many people can tolerate. Certain herbal scents may also work for you.) You can find a multitude of such items online or a few select ones at your local grocery store. I recommend trying the product out on small items, like socks, before moving onto bigger (or more important) things like underwear or sheets.

If a product doesn’t satisfy one of the above requirements, toss it and replace it. You also might try to find some DIY recipes online that work for you and your family. (If interested in this option, Pinterest is often a good place to start looking. Just be aware that essential oils and “natural” ingredients can still irritate skin, depending on the ingredient and the person.)

How about you? What products have you tried that absolutely did not work? Have you found any that did? Please share in the comments below!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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