Doing the laundry can be a mundane household task, but it’s one you should take great care in doing. Not only to get clean clothes and towels, but to keep your children safe from an unsuspecting danger that could lurk in your home: liquid laundry packets.
What are liquid laundry packets? The packets are a fairly new product (also called laundry pods, or laundry packs) that fit in the palm of your hand and contain the correct amount of laundry detergent for one normal load of laundry. The highly concentrated detergent is contained inside a material that dissolves in water.
So what’s the problem? Seems like a convenient way to do laundry: pop a pod in the washing machine, and you’re ready to go, without the hassle of measuring liquids or powders.
But the problem is, laundry packs are colorful, and could look to children like a piece of large candy. The consequences of a child getting ahold of a laundry packet are dire.
Laundry packets are designed to dissolve when they come in contact with water. Which means if your child puts one in his or her mouth, it will dissolve, allowing the concentrated detergent inside to flow into your child’s mouth.
If a child ingests a laundry packet, he or she could experience the following, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
- Difficulty breathing
- Temporary vision loss
- Severe eye burns
- Throat swelling
- Excessive vomiting
- A loss of consciousness
Another danger children face at home is from ingesting medications. Read up on how to avoid the dangers of child poisoning from medications in the home.
The use of laundry packets has grown, thanks to their convenience, and they are now used in 20 percent of households. Every day, more than 30 children get into liquid laundry packets, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.
Between 2012 and May 2015, poison centers received more than 33,000 calls—an average of one every hour—as a result of laundry packets. And, between 2012 and 2013, more than 700 children ages five and under fell ill to serious effects as a result of laundry packets.
How to prevent becoming a statistic
The best way to prevent the dangers of liquid laundry packets is not to use them. If they aren’t in your house, they won’t pose a danger to your children, or any child who might be visiting.
However, if you do choose to use laundry packets, you should use and store them with care, especially if you have children (or pets) in the house.
1. Using laundry packets
Never let children handle the laundry packets. If your child likes to help with the laundry, allow him or her to sort the clothes, place them in the machine, or just observe mom or dad do the laundry. They should not take part in placing laundry packets in the machine. It’s also a good idea to explain to your children that the pods are dangerous, and to never touch them or put them in their mouth.
To keep yourself safe when handling laundry packets, always make sure your hands are dry before picking them up. The material encasing the laundry detergent can dissolve quickly, even with the small amount of water that could be present on wet hands.
2. Storing laundry packets
Especially if your washing machine is located in your kitchen, never store laundry packets with or near food, where they could be mistaken for an edible item.
It’s a good idea to keep laundry packets in their original container, so anyone who comes across them will know what they are. If you remove the packaging or label, the packets could more easily be mistaken for food or candy.
Always keep the laundry packet container closed, so it isn’t as easily accessed. Store the container in a high cabinet, if possible, and one with a childproof lock. Try to avoid storing the packets in the open, even on a high shelf. If they are within sight, a child might become interested in accessing them.
Looking for more ways to keep your young children safe? Read the six things your six-year-old should know about safety. Some of the tips may surprise you, and others might just make the difference between an accident happening, or not.
3. What to do
If a child (or adult) does get into or ingest a laundry packet, contact poison control immediately. The number is: 1-800-222-1222. If you can’t find the number for poison control and you think your child may be sick, don’t hesitate to dial 911.
Looking for more tips on how to keep your children safe at home? Read a series on how to childproof each room in your home. Check out Part 1 on childproofing your living room, Part 2 on childproofing your kitchen, and Part 3 on childproofing the bedroom.
Photo Credit to: Austin Kirk, Feb. 1, 2015 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.