Dingy Sock Dilemma

Unwashed Socks
Time to air the dirty laundry!  We have a dilemma at our house. 
It's a dingy sock dilemma.

Darned if we do, darned if we don't.  Sorry for that very lame pun about socks, but it seemed like a good place to throw that in.

Back in the day, long before the responsibilities of parenting, when we had half as much laundry to do at our house, I used whatever laundry products worked. If a laundry detergent made things look good, that was all that mattered.

Those products could bleach, optically whiten, brighten and sparkle any clothing, even if we forgot to pretreat the occasional stain.  Back in the day, I just wanted our clothes to look good, and I didn't question what it took to make that happen.

Along came pregnancy and parenting, and my perspective on the mundane like laundry began to alter.  I searched for the gentlest laundry products, still not understanding the difference between claims on a label and listed (or unlisted) ingredients.  There was the time when the washer in our rental house malfunctioned and we started getting itchy red rashes because the detergent hadn't fully rinsed.  That freak occurrence prompted me to research a little more about what was in that detergent.

Meanwhile, I held tight to my old-fashioned chlorine bleach products with their antibacterial and whitening power, until the night my toddler awoke gasping for breath.  The rescue inhaler worked., thank God.  I thought I'd been a good mother to use that bleach cleaning power around the laundry room and the bathrooms.  After the fact, I started reading about bleach being a trigger for asthma and reactive airway disorders.

I thought maybe other popular laundry products were still okay for my family.  Then I started learning what independent scientists were uncovering about ingredients of concern in some of the best-selling detergents of all.  Believe it or not, they've even uncovered ingredients suspected of causing cancer.  I've since made alternative, homemade laundry soap and used it regularly for everyday washing.  I've also sought out newer, supposedly more eco-friendly laundry products to see if they can help with delicates and some whites.

If I pretreat every stain right away and presoak whites in a solution of hydrogen peroxide or oxygen bleach, I have pretty good results.  But in the busyness of life, when I don't catch every stain right away, and I don't have time for long presoakings, I admit that I really miss the old standards that can whiten just about anything.

Thus the dingy sock dilemma.  Not only do we have twice as many dirty socks to wash, but some household members are especially skilled at layering socks in dirt and grime.  Do I use the convenient products with their super-whitening powers while ignoring what the ingredients might do to my family and the environment?  Or is extra effort up front to keep whites looking white worth the peace of mind I get from not using chemicals of concern?

There are other benefits to making homemade laundry detergent and using vinegar for a freshening rinse.  It actually saves me money, and is reminiscent of what earlier generations might have done.  But wouldn't it be nice if we could find that same peace of mind from any convenient laundry product off the store shelf?

Tomorrow here at FlourSackMama.com, a watchdog of the environmental consumer movement will detail why there's so much concern about the most popular laundry detergent of all.  You won't want to miss this guest post.

May all your laundry be bright,
May your socks stay white,
And may you sleep well at night,
Knowing ingredients you used are alright.

Thanks for letting me air my dirty laundry.  Please be kind in your comments below.