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What Ingredients Can Cause a Laundry Detergent Allergy?

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You may be allergic to your laundry detergent if you develop a rash, red skin, or blisters after doing your laundry or wearing freshly cleaned clothes. Laundry detergents may smell like flowers or morning dew, but these scents mask the smell of the chemicals used to make the detergents. You can develop laundry detergent allergy or sensitivity when the ingredients do not agree with your skin. Below are the most common laundry detergent allergies and the ingredients that cause them:

What Is a Laundry Detergent Allergy?

A laundry detergent allergy is a type of contact dermatitis caused by the skin having an adverse reaction to certain substances. Laundry detergents do not only affect the skin. The chemicals in your laundry detergent may also affect your respiratory system.

There are two types of contact dermatitis: irritant and allergenic. Irritant dermatitis manifests as rashes that form when an irritating substance damages your skin’s top layer.

Allergic contact dermatitis happens when your body has an immune response to an ingredient in your laundry detergent. Allergic reactions from laundry detergents can resemble allergies from poison ivy or other substances. Some signs of allergic contact dermatitis include:

  • Swelling in affected areas
  • Blisters
  • Redness on the skin
  • Hot skin
  • Severe itching
  • Bumps
  • Skin that hurts to touch

Allergic reactions to laundry detergent may develop a few hours after exposure or even a few days later. Sometimes the immune system takes time to identify the allergens in a laundry detergent brand. Symptoms may develop after repeated exposure. Once an allergic reaction manifests, it only takes a small amount of the allergen to cause a reaction.

Ingredients That May Cause Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions to laundry detergents result from one ingredient or a combination of ingredients. Here are some ingredients that may cause laundry detergent allergies:


Surfactants are chemicals that can help break down stains and prevent the dirt released into laundry water from sticking to your clothes. Other surfactants can help to soften cloth fabric. Surfactants remove the natural protective oils in the skin, which causes dryness, resulting in cracks and scaling that leads to irritant contact dermatitis.


Parabens lengthen product shelf life and kill fungi that could otherwise cause laundry detergents to break down. Parabens may cause adverse reactions in some people. They can interfere with hormones in the body, causing endocrine problems.


Laundry detergent manufacturers add fragrances to make them smell good and mask the smells of their chemical ingredients. Some people may have allergic reactions to these chemicals.

Limonene and linalool are the common hydroperoxides used as laundry detergent fragrances. Limonene produces citrusy scents when it mixes with oxygen in the air, while linalool produces flowery scents. Allergies to laundry detergent fragrances may manifest as hay fever symptoms like sneezing, watery eyes, and a runny nose.


Traditional laundry detergents have blue dye, which manufacturers use to make the detergents look white. The dyes in laundry detergents are purely for aesthetic purposes and perform no role in cleaning.

Most people with laundry detergent allergies can react to the dyes used to color laundry detergents. Allergic reactions to dyes can manifest on the skin as breakouts or itchy areas.

Preventing Laundry Detergent Allergies

You can reduce your risk of experiencing a laundry detergent allergy by identifying the components in laundry detergent you are allergic to and using products free of them.

Using patches containing the different ingredients in laundry detergent, your doctor can determine which ingredients you are allergic to. You should keep these patches on your body for about two days, after which you need to visit your doctor for an assessment.

There are multiple types of hypoallergenic laundry detergents, including dye-free, paraben-free, and unscented products. You can also use natural laundry detergents with non-toxic ingredients.

Read Also: Things To Be Cautious of When Using Propane

You can also rinse your laundry twice to keep detergent residue from building up on your clothes. If the fabrics of your clothes allow it, use hot water to kill allergens. Clean your washing machine regularly with hot water to prevent the buildup of chemical residues.

Have Allergy-free Laundry Days

If you have a laundry detergent allergy, laundry days can be stressful. The good news is manufacturers have now developed hypoallergenic laundry detergents for people with laundry detergent allergies. Visit a doctor to determine which laundry detergent ingredient you are allergic to, and buy laundry detergents free of the allergen.

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