Can laundry detergent cause dermatitis?

November 5, 2015

Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D.Several laundry detergents now claim to be appropriate for sensitive skin. This is interesting because detergents are not something directly applied to the skin. Find out more.

Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D.Several laundry detergents now claim to be appropriate for sensitive skin. This is interesting because detergents are not something directly applied to the skin. Further, laundry detergent ideally is completely washed out of the clothing and nothing should be left behind to cause skin issues. Problems might arise if too little water is used during the washing process or too much detergent is placed in the cup leaving unrinsed soap in the clothes. It is also possible that in hard water the detergent might not completely dissolve again leaving residue in the clothing. However, most laundry detergents are designed to work in all types of water hardness and most new washing machines load sense and automatically determine the amount of water required.

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Problems arise with some of the scented laundry detergents that also contain fabric softners and optical whiteners. These are substances designed to be left behind in the clothing and may cause problems. It is these ingredients that may not be present in sensitive skin laundry detergents.  This is what is meant by a “free and clear” laundry detergent.  

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