The Answer: I get the biggest box I can find of Scent Free / Dye Free Arm & Hammer laundry powder. This stuff has the surfactants needed to get lead out of laundry, yet doesn’t have the scents and dyes that my kids are allergic to (as a result of being lead poisoned as babies). I also like the fact that it comes in a cardboard box (that hopefully is more recyclable than the plastic bottles so much detergent comes in.)
When my kids were poisoned (in 2005/ 2006) we also used Arm & Hammer to clean all of the toys (in the dishwasher or the sink, with appropriate quantities so as not to have a “Brady Bunch” moment with the dishwasher!) as well as to clean all of the laundry items (including pillows and dolls that could be machine washed). We also mixed the Arm & Hammer in with TSP in buckets of warm water (1/4 cup detergent + 1/8 cup TSP in a 5 gallon bucket of warm water), and used the solution to clean our concrete front porch (which was heavily lead-contaminated at the time), scrubbing the solution into the concrete with wire brushes and vacuuming up the dirty water with a wet/dry shop vac (and then dumping it down the toilet.)
I know personally that this works (TSP + Arm & Hammer), because prior to using this cleaning method, our porch tested positive at >1,100 micrograms of lead dust per square foot, and after using this cleaning method it was “negative” — clearance test dust-wipe result of “less than 10 micrograms per square foot” (their detection threshold).
You need to use a detergent with surfactants to clean up lead dust. Clorox wipes (and similar brands like Lysol) are bleach-free, and have the surfactants necessary to clean up lead dust — and are good to use on non-launderable surfaces. [Note: most soaps or products intended to be safe on your skin (or used directly on skin) like baby wipes, or any soaps intended for washing your body, are not effective for cleaning up potential lead contamination in your environment].
Please click on the image to see this product on Amazon. Keep reading below to see the everyday laundry detergent I use in my home (i.e. when we are not involved in any project to clean up possible lead dust contamination).
When we are not worried about cleaning up any lead dust hazards, we use scent-free, dye-free BioKleen. [It has surfactants, but they are plant-based; I have not tried to clean up lead dust with this product, so I don’t know for sure that it would work for that application, which is why I recommend the “tried-and-true” Arm & Hammer for cleaning up lead!] The BioKleen is super-concentrated, so there is less cumulative packaging as a result. It is also a local Pacific Northwest (Vancouver, WA) company! [Click the image to see the post on Amazon!*]
As always, thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any questions.
Tamara Elise Rubin