Biological detergent and skin irritation

Skin-irritation In one of the daily newspapers the other day I read an article that claimed scientists from Nottingham and London have carried out a review of 40 years of research on the biological agents used in biological washing machine detergent.

Their conclusion is, and I quote, “it’s a myth that biological washing powders irritate the skin or aggravate eczema”. The findings have been published in the British Journal of dermatology and the conclusion was, “the balance of all the evidence is that enzymes in laundry detergents are not a cause of either skin irritation or skin allergy”.


Biological detergent not guilty?

I must admit to being surprised at these findings. Over the years I have come across many people who believed that biological detergents caused itching to one or more members of their family.

I can only assume they believe this because they stopped using biological detergents and the itching and irritation disappeared. Otherwise they could not have decided it was the biological detergent causing the problems.

However, biological enzymes are not guilty according to people who should know what they are doing but I can’t say how credible these tests were, or who commissioned them. There is some suspicion they were funded by detergent manufacturers.


Here is some useful information from the National Eczema society about household irritants which covers many causes of irritation including laundry – Household Irritants.


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30 thoughts on “Biological detergent and skin irritation”

  1. An aspect that has not been properly explored is the use of Optical Brighteners in modern washing products.

    They are almost ubiquitous, and I have read suggestions that they can cause problems. They are an interesting class of chemical used in vast quantities in modern paper-making, and in laundry detergent products. They work by reducing the energy of Ultraviolet radiation and reflecting some of it back off as blue light. This increases the apparent brightness of washing, without actually contributing anything at all to making it more clean. It is a more sophisticated version of the old Laundry Blue that was still in use in my early 1960s childhood. You will look hard to find a brand (Ecover is one) that does not contain Optical Brighteners.
    In point of fact though, Atopic skin is sensitive and intolerant and it can produce an inflammatory response to many different things – even a change of perfume in a laundry detergent could trigger a chemical sensitivity and cause inflammation. The only recourse is trial and error to find what works or doesn’t work for you. (I have atopic eczema and served on the board of the National Eczema Society some years ago).

  2. Hi All

    All the power brands such as Ariel, Persil, Bold and Surf are ridden with perfumes and allergens. They are all trying to entice the consumer with fragrance and smells because people who are not ‘well-informed’ on cleanliness believe that fragrance equals clean clothes. All these people that buy into this baloney are just lining the pockets of Unilever and Proctor & Gamble.

    I have been using Simply Pure Soft-tabs – they are available in Sainsbury’s and Holland & Barratts. They are manufactured in Castleford in the UK and is fragrance free, hypoallergenic, phosphate free and great for people with skin conditions. It’s been fantastic for my family’s skin and they support the National Eczema Society. The owner will even let you try samples for free. I suggest you all look them up.

  3. Hello Rebel, most people aren’t affected by the fragrances and genuinely love the fragrances, nor do they have any itching or irritation. Some prefer no smell, just nice and clean smell and have some reactions. Have you heard of the new device that may be coming onto the UK market that allows you to wash in cold water with no detergent or fabric conditioner? I may be testing one out soon.

    1. Hi Andy

      I was on Unilever’s website once looking at the product information for Comfort Vanilla & Gold Iris Fabric Conditioner once because I was worried it was making my skin itch – there were 9 ingredients on their that were all allergens – Linalool, Limonene, Geraniol and others. That device sounds great but what test reports have been conducted to substantiate those claims – is there proof that it actually cleans your clothes? This is why I opted for Simply Pure tabs because Valerie Hart from Alba Science backs it – it sanitises, disinfects and thoroughly cleans your clothes leaving a clean smell. I have always had an interest in detergents because my skin is sensitive and reacts to all the power brands that Tesco and Asda flaunt in every aisle. Whatever happened to creating value on retail shelves – the buyers ought to be sacked for sticking to ‘safe’ all day and not letting us have other options.

  4. Hi Rebel. The device is claimed to be based on more expensive devices that have been used in hospitals for a long time. It does something to the water, “Advanced oxidation gasses and electrical energy is infused into your water. Including Ozone (made from 3 oxygen atoms), Hydrogen peroxide (made of 2 x oxygen atoms + 2 x hydrogen atoms), Ionization / electrical charges. These gasses are all naturally occurring and generated in a eco-friendly way.”

    It goes on to say, “The mixture of oxidized water gets to work cleaning your garments. Dissolved gasses penetrate fibers lifting and dissolving dirt, stains and odours.”

    Sounds very interesting. It won’t be cheap (around £250 – £300) but it should definitely appeal to a lot of people. I doubt it would cope with heavily soiled stuff (they advise to pre treat heavy stains “as you would normally”) but if you can do most washes in cold water with no detergent that’s going to save a lot of wear and tear on the machine, electricity and hot water, the cost of detergent – and that’s before factoring in any of the environmental benefits. I will likely be promoting it if it tests out ok.

  5. Hi Andy

    That is interesting – who is the manufacturer?
    I think there are many good ethical brands out there in detergents who don’t get given a chance because of the ££££ Unilever and P&G give to all our supermarkets to shove them in our faces. This is why everyone is going to Aldi because they are sick at the sight of ‘special offers’ every two minutes and just want what they need not cheap offers. and more money spent on things we do not need to buy in bulks etc.

    That is expensive the device – be sure to let us know how you get on when you try – in the mean time I am happy to promote Simply Pure Soft-tabs to anyone with eczema in particular like me – like I said I have clean smelling not highly perfumed clothes now and my skin is top tip compared to when I use to use Ariel.

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