Is your laundry detergent making you itch?
We wear our largest organ – about 20 feet of it – on the outside of our body. Our skin. It has the important job of being the first line of defense from germs and toxic substances – like the skin-irritating chemical residues of conventional laundry detergents. If your skin reacts by getting itchy and irritated, it’s time to take a closer look at your detergent’s ingredients.
It’s Not Just Soap
Traditional laundry detergent is one of the most common skin irritants, and that’s because you’re getting a lot more than just soap when you wash your fabrics with them. Synthetic dyes, preservatives and other harmful chemical irritants are also on the ingredient lists. When these chemicals come into everyday contact with your skin –the clothes you wear, the sheets you sleep on, and the towels you dry with – they are absorbed, accumulate over time, and can trigger allergic skin reactions, also known as dermatitis or eczema. In fact, the incidence of eczema is on the rise, up 2- to 3-fold in industrialized nations, impacting approximately 15% to 20% of children and 1% to 3% of adults.
Know Your Clean
Know what to avoid when it comes to protecting your skin from harmful chemicals in your laundry detergent. Unbelievably, there’s no national requirement to list ingredients on laundry detergent labels. It’s up to consumers to find safer, greener, non-irritating alternatives – especially if you have existing skin sensitivities or health concerns. Stay away from these common ingredients found in conventional detergents:
- 1,4-dioxane – A known carcinogen and neurotoxin, it can cause skin, eye, nose, throat, and lung irritation, drowsiness, headaches and vertigo, even in small amounts. Look for ingredients with “eth” like “laureth” and “ethoxy,” as well as "polyethylene glycol" or “PEG” ingredients.
- Optical Brighteners – Chemical residues that stick to fabric, making them appear brighter. Designed not to wash out, they remain on fabrics, irritating sensitive skin. Also a non-biodegradable, environmental pollutant. Easy to spot if your detergent is iridescent or has fluorescence to it.
- Formaldehyde (and formaldehyde donors such as DMDM hydantoin (DMDMH)) – Used as a preservative, it’s a very toxic respiratory irritant and known carcinogen. Can remain on clothing and be absorbed by the skin. Tricky to spot, but some of the most common chemical names to watch for are bronopol, diazolidinyl urea, disteardimonium hectoride, imidazolidinyl urea, methylene glycol, nitromethylidynetrimethanol, and quaternium-15.
- Dyes – Lots of laundry detergents include irritating dyes, even some products marketed for babies. Most dyes are listed by their color name, such as "FD&C Blue" or "Yellow-5."
Save Your Skin
If you’re afflicted with sensitive skin or eczema or just want safer, greener alternatives to help protect your overall health, here are some simple steps you can take:
- Look for laundry detergents that are certified Safer Choice by the U.S. EPA. It’s a great way to find detergents and other cleaning products that use the safest ingredients in their class, meet high standards for performance, and avoid potentially toxic ingredients.
- Find laundry detergents that are dye-free and include claims like “hypoallergenic,” “for sensitive skin,” “free and clear,” "formaldehyde-free" and “ph-balanced” claims on the label. These are usually milder on the skin.
- Always wash new clothing, sheets and towels before using. Many fabrics are treated with chemicals, dyes and fabric finishes that can irritate skin. Give laundry an extra rinse to make sure no residue is left behind.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water each day to help keep skin hydrated and flush out toxins. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9998-eczema/prevention
- Avoid scratching or rubbing dry skin. Use a hypoallergenic cream or lotion to help keep skin moisturized, especially after you bathe or shower. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9998-eczema/prevention
A Safer Way To Do Laundry
Looking for a safer, greener alternative to conventional laundry detergents? Try plant-powered ECOS® Free & Clear Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent. Designed for all fabrics, it lifts stains, brightens whites and guards colors without harsh chemicals or irritants, leaving skin happy and healthy, head to toe.
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