Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Baby Macbeth

When EGirl was about 2, she would spend what seemed like hours at the sink, scrubbing her hands and futzing around in the water. Out, out, d*mn spot!

Although we've heard that one needs to sing the full alphabet or Twinkle Twinkle in its entirety in order to reap the cleansing benefits of a hand wash, it's never really been an issue for our household. Her primary caregiver is a germ freak of a high yet fairly self-contradictory order (I don't count dog germs in the scheme of things, and I find dirt proper, from the woods or fields or gardens, to be pretty benign -- it's the foodborne and human pathogens that freak me out, plus, I don't want my kid to end up with asthma and allergies bz we created a bubble aka the hygiene hypothesis).

That said, I am a shoe removal fiend (check out this Treehugger article about how kids whose families didn't take their shoes off faced more pesticide exposure than those who ate non-organic produce) . I've long been a fan of the alcohol-based hand sanitizers on the go plus good old soap and water. Lots of soap and water. Thank goodness that we live on a swamp. Anyhoo, Reader Mitch wrote me yesterday to ask about a Washington Post article on antibacterial soaps, suspecting (correctly) that I'd have hand-wringing commentary (I looove Tuesdays! WP Health section!):

Mama Bird, What are we to make of the article in today's Washington Post - "Are Antimicrobial Soaps Making Tougher Bugs?" This is scary stuff to me... though I am planning to show my Mama Bird this article as evidence that showering only once a week is good for me and everybody. Antimicrobial soap? Regular soap? No soap? Mitch

Dear Mitch --

Actually, if you read between the lines in the article it was good news for all of us. I have long avoided anything with triclosan/antimicrobial soap on general principle as I agree with the article's hesitations about them (possibly creating drug resistant bacteria, killing off huge swaths of beneficial bacteria that our kids need, read anti-probiotics -- conbiotics??). Also, I've read that hot water and soap are just as effective as any other cleansers. But yesterday's article pretty clearly states that triclosan-bred superbugs are still a fear, not the reality. So yes, we should stick to regular soap (except for the immuno-suppressed among us), but I was heartened that all the triclosan out there hasn't yet done much damage. Except maybe the dioxin creation which is still a hypothesis.

On a practical note, all the hand soap at Costco has triclosan (I just looked last week for triclosan-free hand soap refills, cause you really never know what on earth will turn up there next -- last time they had organic yogurt, organic milk, organic spaghetti sauce, AND organic raisin bran, but I digress... no plain old soapy hand soap) . Fortunately, you can still be economical *and* green if you get the Method stuff from Target (which come in quasi enviro refill bags/bottles --still plastic borne but big).

Great question, Mitch! xo MB

P.S. Hand sanitizers work well, too, just make sure they contain at least 60% alcohol in their ingredient list.

P.P.S. If you have a tiny baby, we have put some serious mileage on our hot air De-Germer (if you must know, it's actually called a Germ Guardian, a ridonculous misnomer if I've ever heard one).


Susannah said...

I love the curvy Method bottle, but I hardly ever get out to Target. Do you know where I can get refills in the city? Or online? Also, I wonder if it's more enviro to just use bar soap (altho I admit I hate the muck in the soap dish). I feel a little silly burning fuel to drive to a big box store to buy plastic-encased soap OR asking someone else to burn fuel to bring it to my doorstep.

MamaBird said...

Hey Susannah -- yes, bar soap is the obvious enviro answer. My child is pretty fond of the whole pumping it out thing -- and actually I just read an article that said that bar soap can breed bacteria if it's old and cracked or collects water. So just make sure you have a soap dish that drip dries if you know what I mean? As for Method refills, and have the 34oz bags for sale singly and it looks like Amazon used to have cases of 6 hard plastic bottles but they're unavailable. I think Method must be phasing those out. It is all a little silly, though, agreed. Surely we can just keep our soapcakes dry! MamaBird

Mary said...

I've seen a lot of skepticism online about the "greenness" of Method products. Any thoughts?

MamaBird said...


Tx, argh.
Treehugger commentary not positive. Thanks for the heads up. We could use Dr. Bronner's to refill the pretty containers, but DC has hard water and it gets pretty gnarly to use soap. Any other ideas out there? Guess it's back to bar soap indeed.

MamaBird said...

OK, I think I will now go back to a castile-type soap after much consultation with the EWG Skin Deep database. Keep the curvy bottles, refill them with this:
It's got an even better rating than Dr. Bronner's soap. And if you clean with vinegar/water, the vinegar will knock out the soap despite the hard water. Thanks, Mary! I should have known that marketing was too good to be true! I looked up all the ingredients in the "Go Naked" hand wash which is what we've been using and there were a # of ingredients with moderate health concerns. I'd prefer to use something that's top ranked, why not?

MamaBird said...


Ivory Soap - moderate hazard per EWG (/ looks like bz of fragrance

Go for Kiss My Face Fragrance Free Olive Oil Soap (can get at WF so we can walk there) -- it's got a zero rating (best) from EWG and is made of olive oil, salt, and water....