Are You Allergic to Laundry Detergent? 3 Common Symptoms and Treatments for Sensitive Skin

Are you having an allergic skin reaction and aren’t sure what the cause is? It may be time for you to take a look at what detergent you are using!

My mom has very sensitive skin and for the longest time she couldn’t find the cause of her rashes. We originally thought the culpret was food, but unfortunately this was not the case. It was so hard to see my Mom so uncomfortable for such a long time!

Since I already have a skin condition called DSAP, I’m very cautious about my skin care, cleaning & laundry products so we finally he had the idea to switch the detergent we were using to see if that was the cause of my Mom’s skin allergy.

And guess what… it worked! Although it did not relieve all of my Mom’s symptoms it was clear that detergent was a major cause of her discomfort.

Doctors such as Dr. Jeanine Downie agree that detergent can be a major cause of skin allergies. If you are worried that this might be the case for you, there is no need to worry any longer! I have put together a list of 3 Common Symptoms that you will experience if you are allergic to detergent.

3 Common Symptoms That You are Allergic to Detergent

 1. An Uncomfortable Rash Will Appear

This rash usually includes dry, itchy, and red skin. If the rash is more severe the area will also swell.

2. You Will Sneeze an Annoying Amount and Have Itchy Eyes

This type of reaction tells you that your allergy is more severe because it was brought on by inhaling the soap particles while breathing.

3. Skin Will Be Hot to the Touch and You Will Have Blisters

This is the most extreme of the three symptoms and the most uncomfortable.

When looking at ingredients in detergents there are a few things to look out for. In fact there are 3 Common Allergens that exist in many of the mixtures.

Top 3 Allergens in Detergents

  1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

This chemical breaks up the layer of oil on your skin that keeps it from drying out.

  1. Fragrance

Many fragrances are hard to detect as an allergy because the products don’t tell you exactly what the ingredients are. It is still one of the most common contact allergens in soap even though it doesn’t directly contribute to cleansing.

  1. Coconut Diethanolamide

It is actually more common for people to be allergic to coconut through touch than it is through ingestion. In detergents it is similar to sodium lauryl sulfate and breaks down the oil on your skin.

If you are experiencing one of the three symptoms, or using a product with the three allergens you having a reaction called dermatitis. Dermatitis is any inflammation of the skin that leads to redness, scaling, itchy or tiny fluid-filled blisters. It occurs when your skin comes in contact with a specific substance or chemical. Your body takes in the allergy through your skin and becomes inflamed. The most common cause of detergent allergies comes from fragrances and dyes.

It is ironic that something that is supposed to clean actually has the ability to irritate and harm your skin. Many times when it comes to detergent, the area that comes into contact through touch is the part that is actually having the reaction. However if the reaction is severe enough it will spread to areas that are not covered by clothing.

It is sometimes hard to tell the difference between different types of rashes. Ones that are caused by laundry detergent normally show up all over your body. But there are ways to prevent a reaction and treat your sensitive skin.

6 Treatments for Sensitive Skin

1. Use Histamine Administered Oral Antihistamines Gels or Creams

  • Second-generation Antihistamines are most commonly administered
  • Make sure to check out the side effects because some cause drowsiness, nausea, etc.

2. Use Topical Corticosteroids

  • Topical corticosteroids are classified based on potency
  • Results are best when it is used 2-3 times a day

3. Use Natural Remedies like Oatmeal

  • This is better if the reaction is occurring on a large part of your body
  • Put a cup of oatmeal in a tub of water to improve the dryness and itchiness of your skin


4. Switch to a Naturally-derived Detergent

5. Remove Laundry Detergent Residue Left on Your Clothing

  • Use less detergent to begin with
  • Use an extra rinse cycle
  • Add vinegar or baking soda
  • Look for detergent’s that have a good ‘rinseability’ score

6. Avoid Dyes and Perfumes

If you are experiencing any skin allergy symptoms it is time to make a change! Take care of yourself, stay healthy, stay green.

19 comments on “Are You Allergic to Laundry Detergent? 3 Common Symptoms and Treatments for Sensitive Skin

  1. A lot of this information was interesting to me. I didn’t know that some people are allergic to things like detergent, and I for sure didn’t think there was so many issues that could come from it if they were. I guess it makes sense that there would be problems, because most people are allergic to something, but I didn’t think it would be this bad. Thanks for the heads up!

  2. My son developed a laundry soap allergy, his Doctor said it looked like ringworm. Not!! He went to a dermatologist, he said acne, he had never seen a soap allergy that looked like that. I pulled up pictures of laundry soap allergy’s and it looks just like it.

  3. Yea i never knew i was allergic until tonight after i washed my clothes and got a shower i put the ones i washed on not even 20 mins later i started itching.

  4. My husband has developed what we believe to be a severe allergy to Laundry Detergent. We have found that drinking alcohol or taking hot showers exacerbates his symptoms. We have yet to figure out exactly what the cause is though because not all detergents have the same ingredients and he has had outbreaks, even when using Hypoallergenic, scent free etc.

    • I am also severely allergic to any and all laundry detergents including ones specifically formulated for infants. I have been to Stanford Medical Center Dermatology and also U.C.Davis. I will soon be going through Patch Testing which will hopefully provide me with more answers. I am currently just using 3/4 cup baking soda to wash my sheets and towels. I have had two very severe reactions, with hives and burning skin, when I used the detergents. I wish your husband the best of luck.

    • Katie, that sounds like my husband. He’s been to several Dermatologists and Allergists, nobody can figure out what is going on with his rashes. They have prescribed creams and pills but nothing is working. They suggested Dove soap and cool showers, that’s not working either. We have eliminated certain foods, that didn’t help. I’m just researching laundry detergents because I didn’t know you could be allergic to laundry detergent. I’m hoping the Seventh Generation detergent works and I’m also going to try the extra rinse cycle. I hope something helps him, he’s up half the night itching even with medication.

  5. I recently developed an allergy to ERA laundry detergent. I have used it for years with no problem, but it began about 3 months ago. I also started using the Grab Green Fragrance Free and no problems. It also does a much better job cleaning my clothes.

  6. hello everybody, I have suffered for this condition from 16 years. I helped my mother to washing the dishes and doing the laundry. Today I cannt help scraching my hands during the night. I use corticoesteroids cream, and any kind of cream. It´s so annoying the pain and the itching. that sometimes I need to scratch my hands with a nails comb under the hot water, and I get some relief. It started when I was 20 years and I have a lot of allergic reactions in my body. Then after some vaccines that the allergist gave me, I could breath better. I could smell the dust before vaccines and a got asthma. I born allergic to everything, like some food, dust, pollen, and animal hair. My mother gave me a padded full of goose feathers, I couldnt stop sneezing. She is so evil, so I got it back. Then if I have ice cream, chocolates, fried food, and butter or cream for a week, I had a allergic reaction. and I need decadron dextametasona. and then I feel better, I had for some time antihistamine pills, and improve my life. I always suffer from sonambulism, nighthawk. Sometimes when I sleep I feel like a thousands of ants eating my skin. I think because of the sheets. My mother always thought that I had scabies or parasites, because it always was difficult to me sleeping at night. I will get your advise and change the damn detergent to a hipoalergenic one like woolite that is for babies. My father used to put vaseline pure, after taking a shower all over his body. I had johnson baby oil, and creams for the itching that I have. but in my hands teh itching I cannt take it anymore. well kisses from Buenos Aires Argentina, bye.

    • Have you looked at the fiber content of what you are sleeping in? I am highly allergic to polyester and really anything “poly” related, including carbomer in lotion. Carbomer is a polyester!

  7. I’ve had a contact dermatitis rash for over a month now and was told by my doctor that it may be caused by some soap or detergent I use. I haven’t changed the brands of these items and have used them for years now. I just buy a cheap laundry soap, but am going to try Sun hypo-allergenic detergent and hopefully that is the cause. I’ve also always used Softsoap body wash, but am going to switch to Dove sensitive skin bar soap. I pray that one of these changes help, because the itching is all over my arms and legs, so I think maybe the body wash or detergent might be the cause..I hope. I don’t understand how this contact dermatitis would just start now after all these years using the same things. Could aging and Menopause make a difference too? I know your body changes when you get older, but I’m only 45.

    • I have a reaction to perfumes, underarm deodorant , and have gotten blisters in my throat that are extremely painful from detergent . I am dealing with a painful reaction ,blisters in my throat,’ What can I do to relieve the papin?

      • I have to get at least two steroid shots, not the pills, they make it worse for me. The first steroid shot seems to make it worse on me which makes me scared to get the second, and the second shot makes it stop totally. I wash my clothes again and only wear what was rewashed until they all are rewashed and use extra rinse. Most recently, I accidentally bought “Splashless” bleach…wrong idea to use it anyway and I paid dearly, so had to rewash everything. Half the battle is mental, it will be ok though. You will get through it. Poison ivy will get me also, gets in bloodstream and pops up anywhere.
        Just like the lady above in Argentina, she is talking about the steroid shot.
        Betamethasone cream can help too, it’s a steroid cream.

    • Hi my name is Selina and 41 and I having these issues too I have changed my laundry soap and hope it works I have a friend that a dr and she said menopause can most likely also cause these issues is woman can not win lol good luck .

  8. So I’ve been using that laundry detergent Xtra. I have been breaking out in blisters mostly on my arms my legs a little bit and a little on my face. I don’t feel sick I don’t have a fever. But it was giving me anxiety thinking something was wrong. The doctors didn’t know what it was. So I started researching the laundry detergent and a lot of people break out. And I read that blisters is the most severe reaction. I’m switching detergent using vinegar. I hope this works because there is nothing else that I can think of that’s causing this

  9. I started by feeling itchiness after putting on my night free and I didn’t figure out what could be the problem until I spent the day cleaning up my clothes oops I had rashes on the hands, breasts and at the abdomen.very irritating. I realised it could be detergent reaction. Thanks for informing me what to do.I spent whole sleepless night.

  10. i too am allergic to every laundry detergent. i cant wear pants which i have to but they just burn and prickles and turn my legs red mostly jeans are the worse. i am allergic to flormalihyde which is put on everyones clothes now for bacteria and bugs from other countries. that could be some of your problems and mine. wont rinse out either. i found a laundry detergent that works and now it is no where. it is called evolve sensitive. use to sell at k mart. cant get ahold of company either. lot of people looking for it. if you fine it let me know. please!!!

    • I habe heard that you can soak clothing in milk to get rid of the formeldahyde. Soak overnight and then wash. Anything from China is NOT regulated from the US as to how much formeldahyde they can spray on clothing! Quite shocking!!

    • I have changed from tide to arm and hammer with no perfume or dye. Worked all summer NO ITCHING,until I returned to Florida for the winter. All of my clothes, bedding, and towels are full of tide. I am double rinsing everything. . My arm pits are raw. I read the articles on making your own soap. I am going to try it. Have you noticed the HUGE SELECTION OF TIDE PRODUCTS in the soap isle? It is shocking. My mother always used tide, so did I , But, when I stopped (I was in Michigan). I double rinsed everything. It was an awful job. HOWEVER, I stopped itching all summer in MI. HOPE THIS HELPS, GOD BLESS YOU ALL. I am back in Florida, double-rinsing and waiting for my raw itching pits to heal.

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