Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Cloth Diaper Geek Explains it all! All about Tea Tree Oil

Welcome to another edition of The Cloth Diaper Geek Explains it all! Each week we focus on frequently asked questions and issues concerning all things cloth diaper related. If you've got a question for the Geek, simply use our Blog Contribution form and we'll be happy to troubleshoot for you and answer your questions.

This week the Geek will focus on your questions regarding the use of Tea Tree oil.

Question: What is Tea Tree oil?

The Geeks Answer: Tea Tree oil, aka Melaleuca oil, is an essential oil taken from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree, native to Australia. This oil has naturally occurring antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial properties. It is most commonly used diluted. It can cause skin irritation even after dilution. Testing for allergies or skin sensitivities is recommended before use.

Tea Tree is also commonly used to treat acne, skin infection, athlete's foot and head lice among many other things.

Question: Does Tea Tree work for washing diapers and killing bacteria? If so, how?

The Geeks Answer: Honestly, in my research I've found that the recommended amount needed to definitevley kill bacteria in laundry would be more than I would recommend using on cloth diapers. Unlike regular laundry, it is important that the oil does not build up on your diapers and cause them to repel. For this reason it is not recommended that you use more than 1-2 drops of Tea Tree oil in your wash or in your wet pail.

Also, due to the fact that Tea Tree oil is naturally a very potent oil, even when diluted, adding more than 1-2 drops to you diaper laundry could very well cause skin sensitivies and rash issues with your baby.

Even though you may not be able to rely on 1-2 drops of the oil to rid you of your bacterial problems, you can count on it to help mask and neutralize odors and keep them smelling fresh and soft.

My best advice is to experiement with the use of Tea Tree for your diapers. Start with 1-2 drops and increase if needed making sure that your diapers aren't getting oil build up and that your babe's bum is still rash free.

*Another important note...In researching this topic I did come across those who beleive that the use of Tea Tree, due to it's antibacterial properties, could contribute to the evolution of "superbugs," antibacterial resistant microorganisms. They belive that the use of low-dose Tea Tree that is not stong enough to kill bad microbes acutally toughen their defenses making them stronger and more resistant.

Likewise, I found information disputing the above claims.


Attila & Tamara said...

I have been wondering about this. I used to use tea tree oil when I got a pimple and it worked really well. When I read about people using it in their diaper laundry I was intrigued but nervous. Truthfully, the idea of any essential oil in my diaper laundry makes me nervous because of the "build-up" issue. Thanks for researching this for us!

Julie said...

You're welcome. It was really interesting and a little hard to decipher. There was so much info for and against, I guess it's just up to each person if they want to try it and how much to use. I think my son who has eczema wouldn't tolerate it so I am not interested in the Tea Tree method for diapers.

Michelle - Blessed Mom of 5 said...

I haven't used tea tree oil in my laundry, but do put a drop in my wipes solution and haven't had any problems. There is also a company called Melaleuca (www.melalueca.com) that has great all natural products! (It's also a great business opportunity, but you don't need to have it as a business to purchase their products.)

Unknown said...

That is good to know- I thought it would get rid of more bacteria than it probably does. Interesting that it might actually cause rashes too. It does help keep diaper pail odors at bay though :)

Candice said...

Great post. I'm one of those who have talked about low-dose tea tree oil usage. It's not just a belief, though. Studies have proven that Tea Tree Oil has the potential to create germ resistance in a similar way as antibiotics used in the medical field. You can even find studies done by companies in the TTO industry that say the same.

Two sites: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_tree_oil (this is a great article simply for the bibliography at the bottom, which contains several of the above mentioned studies.)

(A TTO company's chart with individual strains of bacteria and the amount of TTO needed to effectively kill the germs.)

Thanks again!

Ryan, Corrie, Max, and Jack said...

Thank you for this greatly informative post!! I was just talking about TTO today and wanting to try it! Now I feel more informed.


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