I’m sure most people are wondering why I’d make a post about laundry, but this site isn’t for or about “most people”. Special needs families often come across issues regarding laundry, sometimes it’s contact allergies, but the most common complaint is odor. We deal with body fluid more than most, spilled food, pet messes (because we have one cat who insists on peeing on everything that smells like human pee.)
Odors (meh, I’ll include stains in here, works the same):
In our house, we deal with night incontinency due to spinal cord damage, feeding difficulties resulting in spilled food, nose bleeds, hyper-diaphoresis (extra sweaty), teens/puberty, IBS, a senior dog, and that damn cat.
- Separate your soiled clothes from the regular laundry: if anything is soiled with body fluids other than sweat and I can’t wash it immediately, I have a basket in the garage for soiled laundry. This helps maintain a fresh smelling house and keeps the damn cat away from it.
- Rinse the mess: this is a must with blood or feces. They have to be hand rinsed first in cold water. For best results with dried blood, you can soak it in cold water overnight.
- Wash with an enzyme destroyer: for said soiled laundry we use Nature’s Miracle, which is made for pets. It works great on human messes, too. Having worked in healthcare, I have used Odoban, but I have found that Nature’s Miracle works better (Odoban is also associated with that classic nursing home smell for me, which also still smells like human body fluids, so I can’t get on board). Also, if ANYTHING is strong enough to work on cat pee, it will definitely work on human… I fill the detergent area of the washer with the Nature’s Miracle, add NOTHING ELSE. Put the setting on the longest wash cycle you have, including soak, tons of agitation, and 2-3 rinses. I rarely have to re-wash them after this unless the laundry was urine soaked and sat for a while. (Anyone have kids that hide their clothes after an accident? We do!)
- Wash other clothes, or wash again with a detergent that contains baking soda, AND use laundry sanitizer (not bleach): I have found Arm & Hammer works the best, even when I’ve used the unscented detergent. We also have several skin allergies and so far, no-one in the family is allergic to it. Lysol and Clorox both have laundry sanitizers Lysol is currently the only one with a hypoallergenic formula and kills more things than just bacteria (so I recommend Lysol). These kill 99.9% of all bacteria, including odor causing bacteria that like to sit in your sweaty or soiled clothes. Since COVID, these are often sold out in stores, but I highly recommend them. Use them in place of bleach for your washing machine.
- Fabric softener and scent beads: If everyone in your family can tolerate them, I recommend using both, they keep clothes smelling fresh longer and they’re softer for people who have sensitivities to fabrics. I get the scent beads with Febreze in it, it also helps block odors. (NOTE: if you use either on materials meant to be absorbent, they will be less absorbent. IE, towels won’t dry you as well.)
You can use the Enzyme Destroyer with your spot cleaner/carpet cleaner (Bissel or whatever). It works far superior to the “pet mess” formula that they make in their brand. You can also pour it directly onto a mess, and then use a wet dry vac after it sits. Can be rinsed the same way.
Detergent and sanitizer
fabric softener and beads
I prefer Downy over other brands. My grandmother always used Snuggle when I was growing up, and I found it flaired my eczema.
Besides the washing methods above, the only prevention is soiling prevention.
Waterproof mattresses are made with incontinency issues in mind. They often come in a variety of styles and sizes depending on how long the person is staying in bed or how soiled the bed might become. These are more comfortable than hospital mattresses and sometimes still fall under DME for insurances. You can often count it as a medical expense if you are purchasing out of pocket. Logo’s below have links to their sites.
Of course, if you can’t afford a waterproof mattress, you can make your current mattress waterproof with mattress protectors.
Easy to clean:
Vinyl or plastic covers are the easiest to clean by simply wiping them down, but if you have a person that sleeps hot, these will trap the heat in and can make them extra sweaty.
These are more comfortable to sleep in, hands down. Everyone in our house has at least one of these on their beds just in case of spills or accidents (even us adults). The downside is if you want to have them lasting a while, they need to air dry, meaning you will often need more than one. The drier will break down the waterproofing and it will fall apart over time. Also, you get what you pay for. Cheaper ones, especially the ones with the lining will break apart over time if the sleeper is a restless sleeper (one kid shreds theirs in their sleep).
Get the crappy vinyl or plastic waterproof one for those who regularly soil or heavily soil their beds. Then put a plush waterproof one over that. The plush one can be washed, the other stays on the bed… and have extras of the plush one so you can easily remake the bed without worrying about accidents while it’s in the laundry.
My suggestion is don’t use these unless traveling, or use on furniture and not the bed. If you use them on the bed, put them under the sheet above the mattress protector, but don’t have them make skin contact.
There’s your standard fabric, washable chuck pads that are available almost everywhere. They have fabric toppers and vinyl lining. I’m not the biggest fan of these. The fabric is often stiff or scratchy which doesn’t work for people with sensory issues. I admit, I got spoiled with fabric ones from Babies’R’Us years ago that have the waterproof material sandwiched between layers of soft fabric. Alas, Babies’R’Us is no more, but I’ve come to love Target’s brand. They’re super soft and huge! (Koala Baby is the brand we used to use. They have branched out to other stores, but their waterproof pads are often out of stock, they do have waterproof mattress protectors for crib/toddler mattresses and they work great!)
The link contains instructions to make your own. They are double layered, but if you want to hide that waterproof layer, all you would have to do is put fabric on the other side as well.
Although I am inclusive to all gender types, incontinence underwear is often designed for the plumbing a person has, not how they identify. So please understand when I say boy/men, it means there is more protection in the front and girl/women has more protection between the legs. Shop accordingly. Many brands may be designed for women, but have options such as boxer briefs/boy shorts. There aren’t many other options for men other than boxer briefs or briefs.
These include toddler training underpants, overnight underwear, and adult ones. There are many brands, they’re available almost everywhere, AND they are covered under DME by your insurance (unless you have Tricare because they won’t cover ANYTHING regarding incontinency).
I recommend these for night time use as they hold more than “leak proof” cloth underwear. Daytime use if the person wearing them has absolutely no control.
Bladder leakage pads also offer some protection and fit in normal underwear or can be layered in disposable underwear for extra overnight protection.
Outside of the bulky training pants you see for toddlers, finding these are hard in child sizes. They’re great for minor leaks and they fit just like regular underwear, so it boosts their confidence. There are more available in adult sizes, but you have to filter through all the period underwear. The fabrics are also better for skin. Do not use fabric softener with absorbent materials, they will lessen the absorbency.
I do not recommend the plastic underwear covers. They trap heat and moisture in and create the perfect breeding ground for infections.
There are many types advertised as incontinence underwear, but unless it specifically lists the amount of absorbency it has, they are only meant to be worn WITH a pad or some other kind of protection. It’s very misleading. Also note sizes are weird. When I write teen, some of them start at 14-16, others as small as 10-12.
Some popular brands are:
There just aren’t many options.
There are more products for women than men. I don’t know if this is because leakage is more common in women or men just don’t talk about it.
I’m sure there are others, but those are the ones I hear the most about or can read reviews easily for.
I know this post was absolutely no fun, but I hope it helps in some way.