Sunday, 4 June 2017

Skin disorders, washing machines, blocked drains, Epaderm and Paraffin BP 50:50 ointment UPDATED!

Welcome, if you are reading this then you either suffer from skin disorders that are helped by the application of paraffin grease or you are helping someone who suffer.

In my case I have been helping a friend, for the last two and a half years, who suffers from Psoriasis which is now nearly covering her whole body. Her treatment has included the application, first, of Epaderm, in increasing amounts and more recently the Paraffin PB (50% soft white paraffin, 50% paraffin) ointment or 50:50 as its known.

The result, in terms of laundry equipment, has been bunged up washing machines and blocked drains, but, from this, has come an evolving regime to keep the drains clear and the washing machines turning. My friend has to wash everything once it is used to stop her skin getting infected, this is an awful lot of washing and keeping the system going is vital to her wellbeing.

Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for any damage or harm the following guide may cause to you, your friends, family or property. The information is given in good faith to help you find your own regime for tackling these problems. Following any advice here may shorten the life of appliances, clothes and may have an effect on skin conditions.


Epaderm was the first grease that was prescribed for my friend and has been very effective: a pot has been a treasured companion. Initially my friend was taking cyclosporine which her skin reacted to very well and was using two applications of Epaderm a day. It wasn’t long before her drains, which were not good anyway, started to block and her washing machine, a Bosch Logixx 8, got the dreaded F18 error - which means it’s bunged up. My friend had been doing boil washes to clear the machine but that didn’t seem to help.

At the same time my friend was having problems with the psoriasis becoming infected and, to cut a long story short, we found that the water coming out of the machine during the rinse was not at all clean, despite doing an extra rinse at the end of the cycle. To help this we started doing boil washes, once a week with white wine vinegar (500ml), which not only cleaned the washing machine out, but the drain pipes too.

This has benefited me and other friends. I used to get skin irritation on my back. I now do an extra rinse after a wash cycle and I don’t get skin irritation anymore!

More Epaderm

Sadly, my friend had to come off cyclosporine when it started to have adverse affects on her liver, she had a terrible reaction to acetretin, no reaction to methotrexate, and she is now trying some of the biologic drugs. In this time, due to the increase in the psoriasis the amount of Epaderm needed increased and we had to increase the frequency of the vinegar boil washes to once every two days.

When it got really bad the doctors advised she switch to the 50% soft paraffin 50% paraffin or 50:50 ointment. She is currently using about 3.5 litres of 50:50 a day and suddenly our washing system needs to be rethought. Her clothes are completely saturated in the stuff. When you wash them the normal way the hot water from the wash melts the grease and it ends up coating the inside of the washing machine – you can ladle it out of the doorseal – it’s horrible.

The science of detergents

Detergents work on oil and grease by bonding to them. Oil and grease molecules stick to each other, and everything else. When you add a detergent the oil molecules bond to the detergent molecules instead and stop being sticky. So when grease has bonded to the detergent in your favourite washing powder (or liquid) it can be washed away by the water; hotter the better. Vinegar is even better at washing it away but you don’t want your clothes smelling of vinegar.

Enough detergent for 50:50

I have found virtually nothing on the web or from the doctors on how to wash out 50:50. Looking at forum posts for garage mechanics, a lot of them massage Gloop (which I assume is the same as Swarfega in the UK) into the clothes before putting them into the machine. We have not tried Gloop or Swarfega as we’re not risking it on her damaged skin but I did buy a bottle of Non-bio liquid and massaged it into the 50:50 sodden clothes. It worked, there were no grease pools in the washing machine. There is quite a lot of white sludge, which is what you get when you bond the detergent to the grease, and this can be washed away.


Unfortunately the regular non-bio liquid had a lot of perfume in it, the smell was overpowering, so I have tried some others. SurCare is good, the laundry is completely smell-ftee when you have finished, which is disconcerting, but it is very concentrated and if you get it on your skin (mine is quite healthy) you really feel like washing it off quickly. I then tried Waitrose sensitive non bio non perfumed liquid. I have found that if I use one capful per garment, and no more than 5 of the really greasy garments at once, I do not get any grease splattered on the inside of the drum when its finished. There is still gooey sludge, so its not perfect, but the best so far. I usually then do a second wash with just a little washing liquid just to rinse out any extra detergent that might be there.

Gooey sludge trapped in the rubber door seal

So in summary, use as much washing liquid as necessary, do small loads so the machine and the drains have a chance to cope with the grease. 

Finally, our vinegar boil wash regime has been increased to once a day and so far everything is remaining operational. Soda crystals are good at keeping the drains clear but can wreck a washing machine if used in it regularly.

The current washing load, with extra washes and boil washes, is more than she can cope with. She cannot do a load unattended as if the drains do block up the flat (and those flats below) can get flooded. Friends are helping out with washing loads and until she has an improvement we all have greasy washing machines.