Green power!! (greener alternatives for laundry and cleaning products especially for eczema and sensitive skin)

I am publishing an updated my article on ecofriendly and natural alternatives for laundry and cleaning needs at home. It is a primer for those of you who are looking for eco friendly and natural alternatives for a cleaner and greener home.

Cleaning word cloud concept

I find that it is important for me to highlight the fact that there are harmless, natural, environment friendly laundry, dish washing, and cleaning alternatives which are available to us. In this particular post I have focused on the laundry and household cleaning agents that we use (In subsequent articles I would be focusing on the impact of our food habits and diet). While most of us do all that we can as far as moisturizers and bathing products are concerned for children who have eczema, some of us are not aware that the regular dish washing, cleaning and laundry products used in a household can also have a large and harmful effect on sensitive skin and allergy/eczema prone children (and adults). In India especially, eczema and other allergies are a recent phenomenon as compared to the West.

While I was happy using regular detergents and cleaning products for my household cleaning and laundry needs, I was particularly happy using highly fragrances and foaming cleaning/laundry detergents and thought that all products which were labelled as “child/baby friendly” and “gentle on the skin/clothes” actually were child friendly and gentle on the skin. But after a bit of research I was quite surprised to find that quite a few of the products that I had been using all my adult life were cumulatively doing more harm than good to my entire family and this was especially true for my daughter who has severe eczema. That is when I started looking for alternatives and was pleasantly surprised to find out that there are much better, natural, harmless and environment friendly options which might also be much more economical for regular use. Now, over the past couple of years in my quest to manage my daughter’s severe eczema, I have made a lot of changes in our lifestyle which includes skincare products, laundry products, dish washing products as well as other household cleaning products.

Natural Non-Toxic Cleaning Products

Since I am sharing my own personal experience in using these products, I have restricted this post to products which are available to Indian consumers only. Also, please note that I am going by the information provided by the manufacturers as far as the ingredients are concerned, certifications as mentioned and in some cases I have taken into account the product reviews by other users. 

 All that foams is not soap!

 Soaps and detergents are two different things but are often mistaken to be the same. While soaps are traditionally made from fats and oils and have been around for centuries, detergents are usually of synthetic origin and is a much more recent phenomenon. Detergents react less to minerals (found in hard water) than soap and hence is now the preferred choice for most.


  • Sulphates are surfactants which are used in a wide range of products especially laundry and dishwashing detergents in order to reduce the surface tension of water thereby improving its ability to wet things and remove the dirt.
  • Other products where Sulphates are found are bathing products like shampoos, shower gels etc, toothpastes and even baby care products and it provides the “foam” that we are so used to.
  • Nowadays most of the skincare and laundry detergents usually contain the gentler Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) plus a host of other chemical fragrances and preservatives and not the much harsher surfactant Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS).
  • But even SLES is a chemical which is harmful for sensitive skin and it is just one of the many chemicals which are present in any cleaning/skincare/laundry products.
  • The other common chemicals are preservatives like Parabens (Methyl, propyl, isbotyl to name a few) and Methylisothiazolinone fragrances which are mostly made of synthetic chemicals and synthetic colours,  found in many baby and child care products.
  • Many organic and natural products have preservatives like Parabens and foaming agents like SLES unless stated otherwise. Hence it is imperative while buying any such product to check the ingredients listed carefully no matter what the label says in the front. The good thing is that there are detergents (laundry and cleaning purposes) which are available to us today which use natural ingredients and are also fragrance free.

Soapnuts- the underrated cleaning agent

 Soapnuts (or reetha as it is known in India) is actually not a nut but a dried berry or fruit which is highly effective in powder and liquid form and can be used to clean clothes, jewellery, dishes, hair and other household items. It is found mostly in India and Nepal and was used extensively in India to wash clothes and hair long before liquid detergents and shampoos took over.


Nutshells of soapnuts in a cotton bagThe saponin which is found in the fleshy part of the soapnut is a 100 % natural hypoallergenic surfactant which is believed to have antibacterial and antifungal properties as well.

  • Soapnuts can be used for cleaning pretty much anything and is the only cleaning product which is completely natural. Any other product which is labelled ‘natural’ will contain at least some chemicals like preservatives, fragrances amongst others.
  • The other important aspect of using soapnut is that it extremely convenient to use in washing machines (front and top loading) and dishwashers (in liquid form).
  • We use soapnuts regularly as the main cleaning agent for all our clothes and white vinegar and essential oils (lemon is my favourite) as a fabric conditioner and to remove grease and add natural fragrance to the laundry.

Other laundry products

 Apart from soapnuts products which are natural, biodegradable and convenient to use either by hand or in washing machines are as given below.

Power Laundry, Liquid Laundry and Bio Laundry Bar from the Rustic Art brand: The main ingredients in these products are soda ash, natural neem soap powder, glycerine (for liquid laundry), non edible oils (for soap bar) and natural lemon extract. I use these products for my bed linen, towels, soft furnishings and other heavy materials, delicate clothes and woollens (Liquid laundry) and I use the Laundry bar for the tough stains.


Bio-D from Bio-D is a bio detergent by (a brand of Bangalore-based PBK Waste Solutions Pvt Ltd) which is a biodegradable product made from palm oil. I have been using it as an alternative to the Bio Laundry bar from Rustic Art for the past year or so for the clothes which are handwashed.

Another product which is relatively new and is available in India is Kyra Natural Detergent Powder which is made of organic soapnuts. I plan to use this in the near future.

Home clean home

 There are various household non toxic and environment friendly cleaning products which are available to us. One can use basic kitchen items like white vinegar, baking soda and lemon to make cleaning products. I have used a combination of these from time to time to clean my kitchen pretty effectively. ONe of my favourite recipe for a multipurpose cleaner is as given below-

All-Purpose Cleaner recipe from

3 parts filtered water

1 part vinegar

1-2 tsp lemon juice

5-7 drops of lemon essential oil


(You can check out more useful articles on homemade and non toxic cleaners from the following websites-

Natural cleaner. Vinegar, baking soda, salt, lemon

But for those who want a more convenient off the shelf option there are other products available as well in India. These products are made using natural ingredients like essential oils, plant extracts which are thus biodegradable, non toxic and eco friendly as well. I regularly use the products listed below for my cleaning purposes:

  • Just Mop Spray- Multipurpose Household Cleaner and Just Mop- Herbal Surface Cleaner from the brand Herbal Strategi
  • Floor and bathroom cleaners from the brand SOIL
  • Floor cleaner from the brand Safe O Shine

Harmless dish washing alternatives

Dish washing detergents also use foaming agents, synthetic fragrances and other chemicals to make them extremely effective in cleaning grease and dirt. But if you are really interested in making a change for greener alternatives, there are other options available.

One option is to make a dishwashing liquid from basic items like washing soda, citric acid and vinegar like the recipe mentioned below from the blog (source: which also can be used in the dishwasher

1 cup washing soda (old recipe used  baking soda)

1/4 c. citric acid

1/4 c. coarse salt

10-15 drops of citrus essential oil (Optional.  Orange, grapefruit, or lemon essential oils have great cleaning as well as antibacterial properties.)

Distilled white vinegar (in the rinse aid compartment)

Mix first 3 ingredients well in an air tight container. Add essential oil.  Mix again.  Fill your rinse aid compartment with undiluted white distilled vinegar.

Use 1 tsp. detergent for average loads.
Use 1 tbsp. detergent for extra greasy, dirty loads

White distilled vinegar can be thus be used along with lemon essential oil as a rinse aid thus eliminating the need for any artificial rinse aid products.

Another option is to buy a scrub made of the combination of soapnuts, shikaki (dried fruits of the Acacia tree native to Asia) and lemon peel which is a completely natural, non toxic and ecofriendly option for dish-washing by hand like the one by

Availability and delivery in India

I have been able to find out about all the products mentioned earlier through a lot of research on this topic over the past few years. I have also managed to source these products in a few cases through the manufacturer’s own websites but more often than not through the various websites advocating a green, eco friendly and healthier way of life. These are websites which list organic foods, clothing, personal care, cleaning and other products.

Some of my favourite websites (with quick delivery and good service) are as listed below ( in no particular order):

  • : A comprehensive website which promotes green, eco friendly and sustainable lifestyle through composting and non toxic products for home and garden. This website has the Vanastree soapnut and shikaki scrub (manufactured by Dailydump) that I use for my dishwashing needs and the Bio- D biodegradable detergent for laundry purposes. They also have their own brand of soap-nuts (108 Soapy Nuts).
  • NaturalmantraGreenngood and These are comprehensive websites which list organic foods, supplements, natural home care, personal care products etc and is very convenient to buy laundry and household cleaning products from. I use all of these websites from time to time for my house cleaning, laundry and other household and organic grocery requirements.

I have compiled some of the easy and convenient ways in which you can use non toxic, natural alternatives for your household cleaning, laundry and dishwashing needs and their availability. I hope that this will encourage you to make your home a greener, eco friendly place for your family and friends.

Please feel free to get in touch with me for any queries or if you have any suggestions on this topic.

Eczema- a change in lifestyle

Many of you would have already read my last post recounting our nightmarish experience as parents where our daughter went through “severe neutropenia” as a result of “myelosuppression” (where her bone marrow had effectively shut down due to an immunosuppressant given to control her severe eczema). Yet, we have managed to pull through after a harrowing time earlier this year and since then things have come back to normal (well almost).I have mentioned briefly in my previous post about some of the measures I have taken at home and the changes in our lifestyle to ensure that no stone is unturned. I have been inspired by many parents who shared their experiences through their blogs, websites, forums, support groups and other social networks.

The first thing is that there might be no “one” particular thing or action that will help you to control your child’s eczema. It is usually a combination of things like regular moisturizing, topical application of steroidal creams, oral medications in severe cases and other such factors. But many parents have also been able to control their child’s eczema (or at least improve) through some lifestyle changes. I have done the same for my child and though in my daughter’s case her eczema is quite severe and is managed through medications, I never give up hope that these measures might be helping her in some way or the other. In any case, I am quite willing to make whatever changes that are required to be one step closer to help Aiyana lead a comfortable life and I am sure you will do the same for your child if required.

Some steps I have taken

1. I changed the laundry and dishwashing detergent for the entire household since that was the first thing most parents mentioned as a key trigger for flare up for eczema in many cases. Infact, last year, when Aiyana developed Erythroderma was the time when I changed the way we do our laundry. It was definitely difficult in the beginning to completely redo the way we do our laundry. I had to find out about product availability in India, their suitability to our climatic and water conditions and train my help to use these products. But through trial and error I have managed this effectively and for the past one year now I have completely eliminated synthetic detergents from my household and use only natural products to do the same.

I wanted to find a natural cleanser free of most chemicals (especially SLS and SLES) and came across our very own traditional “reetha” used by our previous generations for laundry as well as bathing purposes. Luckily for me, soap nut (or reetha as it is called in hindi) is produced primarily in India and Nepal. The fruit contains saponins which is a natural surfactants (foaming agent) and have been used for thousands of years in Asia for washing.

I thus started using soapnuts instead of regular and baby laundry detergent for all our clothes since no matter how “gentle” the detergent, they all contain “sulphates” as surfactants or foaming agents. Unlike other cleaning products which contain the harsher surfactant or foaming agent- Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), the laundry detergents usually contain the gentler version Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLES) and a host of other chemicals and preservatives.  I have written about this in details in my earlier post -“Bath time! (And skin care routine for eczema).

I buy a soapnut brand called 108 Soapnuts from a Bangalore based company called Daily Dump  through their website. There are also several other websites like and amongst others which promote an eco-friendly and green way of life and stock this brand. As far as other household linen and delicate clothes are concerned I use various forms of a natural, SLS and SLES free laundry detergent made by a brand called “Rustic Art” . They have laundry powder products made of soda ash, lemon and neem extracts, bio degradable liquid laundry cleanser made of natural glycerin and bio degradable laundry bars made of non edible oils, lemon and neem.


Rustic Art laundry powder

2. I also changed my dishwashing detergent from the usual detergent based ones which contain sulphates and preservatives and  other chemicals. I started using a powder made of  shikakai, soapnut and dried lemon peels by the same brand Daily Dump and have been successfully using it to clean utensils by hand for more than a year. However, there are several other options to make one’s own dishwashing detergents by using natural ingredients like castile soap, vinegar, glycerin, borax (NOT boric acid), citric acid, baking soda, essential oils (for fragrance) amongst others. 

(There are quite a few blogs and websites dedicated to green living which have recipes to make on your own and a couple of examples are – and

 While I have not made dishwashing detergent at home yet, I have used an automatic dishwasher product free of phosphates, chlorine and other chemicals. It is a plant-based product which is fully biodegradable and is made by a company called Earth Friendly Products and is called Wave Auto Dishwasher GelI use it intermittently in my dishwasher as and when required (it is available on amazon websites in UK and US).

3. One of the other major trigger for eczema in children is dust mites which is a tiny insect found in every home. While it is not possible and practical to get rid of it completely one can reduce the incidence somewhat by following a few steps that I have followed

  • I have gotten rid of soft toys and soft furnishing from the children’s bedroom (one should remove carpets if any especially from the bedroom)
  • using “dust mite proof” hypoallergenic covers for the mattresses and the pillows; Portico has a range of such products available in India
  • I changed the heavy drapes that we used to have and started using light, cotton curtains which do not hold as much dust; also I change them every month
  • I also make sure to change and wash all our bed linen every week (ideally one should wash the bed linen in hot water at 50 degrees Celsius or more)
  • I have also purchased a steam cleaner ( Morphy Richards is available in India) and use it once a month on the mattresses and upholstery; it is more effective than a vacuum cleaner since the heat kills the dust mites without the use of chemicals
  • I am planning to test the bedrooms for dust mites using a test kit to figure out whether these measures are working or not using Ventia™ Rapid Test for Dust Mite Allergen; I will update you once I have done so

Ventia Allergen test

These are some of the steps that I follow diligently at home and now these changes in our lifestyle have become second nature to me and my family. I believe that even if these measures do not directly and measurably improve my daughter’s eczema (at least in the short run) they do not harm her either. They are changes that I am willing to make and so have a lot of other concerned parents whose children suffer from allergies, eczema, asthma and other related conditions.

It really helps to know what has worked for others and I keep myself updated about the way other parents try and make their homes and environment more green and healthy for their children and incorporate some of the measures from time to time. I hope that you might also find some of these useful and beneficial for your child in the long run as well.

If nothing else it will open up a whole new world of eco-friendly and green living for you and your family like it has for me!  

 Incase you have any suggestions or questions please do feel free to get in touch with me. 

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