Laundry Detergent Allergy

Posted 4 months ago by Prakhar Parihar in

The amount of chemicals we have to deal with in our daily life has increased manifold over the last few decades as the technological and scientific evolution has moved ahead in leaps and bounds. They are everywhere and permeate pretty much every product we use on our skin and around the house. These chemicals and compounds are not always the most friendly towards the human skin. Skin is the first line of defense for us against any harmful intruders to our body and so it can also face the brunt of the harshness of these chemicals and develop some sort of rash or allergy. In this article, we are going to talk about Laundry detergent and how the components and the chemicals in it can cause an allergy to us and what would the best of going about treating it.

  1. Causes behind Laundry Detergent Allergy
  2. Symptoms of Laundry Detergent Allergy
  3. How To Cure It?
  4. Tips and Tricks To Avoid Detergent Rash

Laundry Detergent Allergy

We have to come in direct contact with our laundry detergent[1] basically all the time. We wash our clothes with it and we have to wear them all the time and we sleep on bedsheets and use blankets washed with it. Hence, the laundry detergent is always in contact with our skin due to the clothes we wear and the fabrics we come in contact with in our daily lives. This can cause allergies for us. Laundry detergents contain a plethora of compounds in it like fragrances[2], preservatives[3], dyes[4], and others which are made up of harsh chemicals. These can easily cause rashes[5] in anyone, be it kids or adults. The allergy from laundry detergent can appear on the skin like a red and itchy rash. Allergies generally happen after repeated exposure as our body can take time to identify the allergens[6] but it can also happen after once. We will learn all that about laundry detergent allergies and more in this post. So, without further ado, let us dive in, starting with the causes behind the allergies caused due to laundry detergent.

Causes behind Laundry Detergent Allergy

There are a couple of major reasons which are behind the allergies caused by laundry detergents. The first one of them is:


Allergens are a kind of antigen which our body and immune system[7] may perceive as a harmful invader and hence cause allergic reaction[8] to fight it. So basically, allergens are the substances which can cause allergies and most laundry detergents contain tons and tons of chemicals in them which have a good chance of being irritating to the skin and body.

Similarly to soaps, laundry detergents contain surfactants[9] whose purpose its to help with getting rid of dirt and impurities. They achieve this by loosening the said impurities from the surface of the clothes. Some of these surfactants can be quite caustic and harsh and hence cause irritation onto the skin of people who have sensitive skin[10].

To make the laundry detergents attractive and alluring to people, the companies add pleasing fragrances to them to mask the fact that they contain many chemicals. But the thing is these fragrances themselves are made up of many chemicals which can easily cause irritation, rashes, or allergies on the skin. Moreover, the detergent companies use a proprietary blend of perfumes too which makes it much more obtuse to understand what it actually comprises of.

Overall, laundry detergents contain many allergens but they are mild in nature for the most part. If you are to have allergies from any allergen in the detergent, it will typically reveal itself after a few exposures for the first time as it would take time for your body to identify the allergen. But once you have developed the allergy, any subsequent exposure to the allergic material will cause an instant reaction. Other allergens which the laundry detergents may contain include enzymes[11], dyes, preservatives, fabric softeners[12], parabens[13], and more.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis[14] is a skin condition in which your skin develops rashes or allergies when it comes in contact with a certain substance or material. Now, this material can be anything from flora and fauna to metals, to skin care products and soaps, etc. Now, contact dermatitis can also be of two different varieties. Namely:

Irritant contact dermatitis:

This one does not really cause an allergic reaction by the body. It is caused when an irritating substance or surface comes in the contact with your skin. Then, that substance can cause rash and irritation on the skin due to damaging it, which can cause some itching and discomfort. Moreover, you can ger irritant contact dermatitis from the material of your clothes too rather than the laundry detergent. This is more likely to occur after the first exposure to the irritating substance but not necessarily as it can just as easily happen after repeated exposures too. This kind of irritation usually goes away by itself pretty soon once the irritating substance is removed from contact with the skin. It is one of the most common forms of skin rashes which is not allergic in nature.

Allergic contact dermatitis:

This type of contact dermatitis is caused when the skin comes in contact with a substance which is allergenic to the body. If your body perceives any substance as harmful, even though it is not, it produces an immune response to fight back. This can appear in the form of red and itchy rashes on the skin. This usually does not occur after just one contact with the allergic substance. It could take a few days of regular exposure for allergies to break out and the body to show symptoms like itching and redness. 

Symptoms of Laundry Detergent Allergy

So, you should understand by now that you can not be allergic to all of your laundry detergents but some compound in it because detergents are made up of so many different chemicals and compounds. It is definitely a thing which is more than the sum of its parts. And remember, these allergies may take a while to show at first but they can also show when you come in direct contact with the detergent itself while washing your clothes.

Normally, contact dermatitis will occur when the skin comes in contact with the irritants closely and for long extended periods of time. Hence, considering this, if the symptoms and rash are spread over various and large areas of the body then the cause behind it could be your laundry detergent. The symptoms are more likely to occur where clothes are in tight and close contact with your skin and also where there is extra sweat. So, areas like your armpits[15] or groin are under the most risk of exhibiting these symptoms. Or your bedsheets can also cause the allergy or your pillowcase which is in direct contact with your face for hours every day. You should be on the lookout of these following symptoms of contact dermatitis.

When the body's immune system mistakes an ingredient as being a harmful invader into the body, it invokes a reaction by supplying histamine chemicals to the bloodstream. This produces an inflammatory effect on the skin and results in itching. Some people may also experience stinging or burning allergic sensation with the itching. Many laundry detergents contain several chemical components which are capable of producing an allergic reaction from the body. Some of such substances are ammonia, petroleum distillates, polymers, and synthetic surfactants but dyes, fragrances, and the preservatives are the biggest culprits and they are responsible for the majority of allergic reaction in people due to laundry detergents.

The inflamed area of the skin, where the allergy is exhibiting itself, may also start swelling and develop bumps and raised rashes. This inflammation is liable to spread to nearing areas and further show allergic symptoms in other places. There are components in laundry detergents which may not show allergic reaction right at the onset but exhibit allergic symptoms only when there is exposure to the sun. Components like optical brighteners can cause issues and allergic reaction on the skin once it is exposed to sunlight. Such symptoms may be more severe and expand to hives and blisters which will be filled with painful fluids. These may pop, resulting in gross drainage and also cause the skin to crust and flake over.

Irritants and allergens may also result in allergic reactions in the eye as it is easy to transfer the allergens to the eyes from hands. Since eyes are sensitive and vulnerable parts they can exhibit symptoms of allergy which are called allergic conjunctivitis. This causes similar effects as conjunctivitis and your eyes will be puffed up due to fluid retention and excess production of fluids in the mucous membrane of the eyes.

How To Cure It?

If you are sensitive or allergic to any substance, the most crucial thing for you is to identify it and then figure out whether it is present in your laundry detergent. If it is, you have to look for a better one. There are many detergents available in the market nowadays which are free from irritating chemicals like fragrance and dyes. You can opt for those ones which are milder and gentler and see if they work better for you. If you have symptoms of allergies like rashes and such, there are also steps which you can take right in the comfort of your home to treat them and make it better.

Tips and Tricks To Avoid Detergent Rash

Now, that we have learned a lot about allergies due to laundry detergents, here are a bunch of tips and tricks which are going to help you avoid them so that you do not have to face the pain and inconvenience of dealing with them.

This concludes our article on laundry detergent allergies. Hope you have learned some stuff from it and it has helped you find a solution, or at least a clear path, to avoiding any allergies caused due to your laundry detergent.

This article has been medically reviewed by Dr.Geeta Sundar on 03/06/2019 

Laundry Detergent Allergy

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