Ever experience itching or rashes after wearing freshly laundered clothes? It may be a sign of a laundry detergent allergy. These allergic reactions may be confined to a specific area, like the armpits, or spread across your entire body. The cause of reactions is likely to be one or more ingredients in typical laundry detergent, meaning allergies aren’t usually brand-specific. Here are some of the ingredients to watch out for that may contribute to your detergent allergies.

1. Surfactants

Surfactants are foaming agents that create the suds in your detergent, and assist with the removal of oils and stains. They also help to prevent dirt that floats in the wash from sticking back to your clothes after it’s been removed. Some surfactants also function as fabric softeners. These functions make surfactants common ingredient choices for detergents. Surfactant ingredients that may cause allergic reactions include:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate 
  • Sodium lauryl ether sulfate 

These particular surfactant ingredients can cause inflammation in the eyes, lungs, and skin, which can develop into a laundry detergent allergy.


    2. Fragrances

    Fragrance ingredients give detergents their pleasant smells and can be adapted from a large variety of sources. They are also more difficult to check for because manufacturers are not required to list the chemical ingredients of fragrances. They can simply list these as “fragrance.” The product description might give some hint, such as “lemon-scented,” but it’s worthwhile to exercise caution. Among the more common fragrance ingredients that are also allergens are:

    • Limonene
    • Linalool
    • Synthetic fragrances

    There are thousands of fragrance ingredients and combinations, and not all are allergens, but learning which ones are can be daunting. Experimenting with essential oil drops or fragrance-free detergents can help minimize the risk of fragrance-induced allergies.

    3. Preservatives

    Meant to protect cleaning products from becoming contaminated by bacteria themselves, preservatives are also used to extend product shelf life. A common group of preservatives that can be allergenic are parabens. While not typically capable of lasting harm, they can cause symptoms like itching and discomfort that are easily avoidable with paraben-free products.

    4. Dyes

    Though multiple brands employ dyes to differentiate their detergents, dyes make no contribution to the cleaning power of a detergent. Using dye-free detergents is an easy way to avoid this kind of allergy, and is a prudent choice for sensitive skin.

    5. Chlorine Bleach

    Bleach has long been known for its powerful cleaning properties, which unfortunately come at the cost of a caustic nature. Some detergents incorporate bleach in diluted amounts, but for those with sensitive skin, it can still cause irritation and damage. Extended exposure to bleach can cause burns on the skin and lasting damage to various body parts. The cleaning power of bleach can easily be compensated by other ingredients, making bleach-free products preferable for avoiding injury and irritation.

    6. Phosphates

    The function of phosphates in detergent is to boost cleaning efficiency, accomplishing more cleaning with less product. Phosphates can also contribute to skin irritation. They can also contaminate water supplies, causing algae bloom. Their combined risk to humans and the environment make it advisable to choose detergents without phosphates whenever possible.

    Signs of a Laundry Detergent Allergy

    While all of the above ingredients can cause allergic reactions, the reaction may manifest in different ways. Allergies typically develop slowly and from repeated exposure to the allergens, which allows you to spot and prevent them. Once fully developed, many allergies require only the slightest exposure to the allergen to initiate a reaction. Most allergies share common symptoms, making them easier to identify. The symptoms likely to be found alongside detergent allergies include:

    • Skin redness
    • Skin irritation
    • Hot skin
    • Rashes
    • Significant itching
    • Swelling
    • Bumps or blisters

    Any of these symptoms can have increased severity for sensitive skin. If you notice symptoms like these after doing or wearing fresh laundry, a detergent allergen may be the cause. Another possible reaction to allergens in detergent is a condition called “contact dermatitis.” Sensitive skin may be particularly vulnerable to this condition, developing it more quickly and for longer periods.

    One of the difficulties in diagnosing detergent allergies is that they may take time to manifest. Doctors can often identify symptom causes with simple patch tests that can be done quickly. If you are experiencing allergy symptoms, but aren’t sure of the cause, try a patch test. Once you’ve Identified the allergens, all that’s left to do is finding alternative products without them.

    Protect Sensitive Skin by Avoiding Irritants

    The simplest way to avoid detergent allergens is to choose products that don’t include irritants. Detergents like our selection at EnviroKlenz offer excellent cleaning potential without the abundance of harmful chemicals so often found on store shelves. EnviroKlenz detergents can leave your laundry clean and odor free, while eliminating the risk of irritating your skin and minimizing your impact on the environment and your plumbing systems – all through the power of simple, safe ingredients. Visit the EnviroKlenz website today to find your next lineup of laundry detergents, and keep your skin irritant-free.

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    “Any information that is provided on this website is not for the use by any commercial or personal entity without expressed written consent of the blog author. The material and statements illustrated within this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases or medical conditions. Nor does the author in any way guarantee or validate the validity, totality, or efficacy of any claims and will therefore not be held responsible for the content of any claims. Always consult your medical physician for any specific medical advice or recommendations.”