This is a re-published article from DiaperDiscussions Blog.
Tea Tree oil is a hot topic in the cloth diapering world. Some swear it's the best thing since sliced bread and others swear you shouldn't use it. Many natural products contain tea tree and boast about it being one of mother natures greatest gifts. Let's take a closer look at Tea Tree and see if we can come to any conclusions for or against it's use.
What is Tea Tree oil and what makes it so special?
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 in a diluted form. It can cause skin irritation even after dilution so 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.
Does Tea Tree work for washing diapers and killing bacteria? If so, how? 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.
So my conclusion is that using tea tree is something you should decide on your own. If you can find suitable alternatives then you may want to go that route. If you already love and use tea tree in your day to day routines as well as your cloth diapering laundry and have experienced no problems then good for you! Tea tree is definitely not something to treat as lightly as if it were just another essential oil, it is a powerful natural remedy who's medicinal properties should always be taken into consideration.
Do you have an experience with tea tree oil that you'd like to share? Please leave us your comments, we'd love to read them!
Written by the Cloth Diaper Geek, Copyright 2009 DiaperDiscussions