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. Hi Otan,

    Thanks for the thanks!!!!

    I have heard of issues with LG machines not rinsing properly, especially bad at suds-locking, so all the detergent gets carried all the way through the the 3 rinses. Does your model have “Medic Rinse” and “Rinse ++”, if so selecting them might help.

  2. Sorry, forgot to add my doctors told me to use non-bio and told them at the time I did and they said “It won’t be that then”, luckily I am the suspicious type and did suspect it, so started to re-run the full rinse programme on my washing machine and that helped a bit. But I had a Hotpoint back then and it used far too little water to do a decent rinse, so didn’t completely clear it up. I have replaced my machine with a 15 year old Bosch that does 4 rinses 1/3 up the door so does rinse properly and has cleared dermatitis on my body! But I still suffer with it on my hands but is kept fairly well under control with creams at night etc. I just about have to buy creams in “Bill posters bucket” size as I need so much!!!!

    IMHO doctors talk out of their back sides, well ours do anyway. I got no help what so ever, all my skin issues are SELF DIAGNOSED.

    I use Ariel Biological powder and if not rinsed away properly as with all detergents I will be on the sterroid (can’t spell that, damn dislexia!) creams again. If my Bosch breaks down beyond repair I am well and truly stuffed.

    I hope you get better from the eczema soon, its bloody awful and not half painful.

    All the best,


  3. I have an extra rinse button on my older AEG I’m wondering if i should experiment over a period of time? Had some itchy scratchy problems myself.

    All this ecco awareness is a bit of a tyranny IMO. But the harsh facts are that the cost of water has risen enormously (for most areas) and is even more noticeable if you have a water meter!

    I don’t want to go back to washing HUGE sheets in the bath ( back breaking)..though probably thoroughly rinsed.

    Something else occurred to me regarding rinsing. I have in the past done dying with some really intense colours (following instructions to the letter) and never saw any sign of any in the machine after the process. Is this a more obvious way of proving rinse efficiency? what does anyone else think?

  4. Irrespective of any “research” done by these “experts”. As someone who has suffered with these new washing powders – its obvious once you isolate/change powder what the cause is. I’ve suffered from contact ecxema and stiff joints and generally feeling quite ill when using several brands. I change the powder and rewash ALL my laundry and I miraculously recover. ( so much for their research). These pharmaceutical people should be more careful about what they use. IMHO they seem to continually change the ingredients ( no doubt in a bid to wash whiter than white) . Several times I’ve gotten used to even non-bio liquids and then suddenly the symptoms reappear and have to go through the whole rigmorole again. Its a pain in the a**e. Sheets,clothes, my fabric sofa covers, everything. So if any of you pharma guys read this please think twice about what you use…..

  5. I personally don’t think it’s down to the bio/non-bio issue or laundry detergent chemicals alone. If washing machines rinsed properly, I don’t think people would be suffering skin allergies. It’s easy to blame just the detergent brand and its ingredients, but if it wasn’t left in your clothes in the first place there wouldn’t be a problem. Would you come out of the shower without rinsing away the soap/shower gel/shampoo properly?

    If anyone reading these comments is having skin problems, I recommend you read the page “Why can’t modern washing machines rinse properly?”

    Why can’t modern washing machines rinse properly?

    There are plenty of tips on that page on how to force modern “water saving” washing machines to rinse better. I hope following the rinsing advice alleviates the skin complaints.

    All the best. :)

  6. many years ago, my midriff and crutch were raw, directly related to Bio-detergent. I now have skin pain in the same area. Strangely there is no rash. As an old Highlander my clothing shields very sensitiv skin.
    Have the manufacturers introduced anything new inthe past three months?

    An old lady, Cambridge MD, (related to Nobel winner, brother Professor medicine) said to me that she was worried that Bio’s were causing so much reproductive damage that the could wipe us out.

  7. My daughter had suffered from skin allergies when we returned to the UK from the USA. We found that we couldn’t use persil of any type and aeril non bio worked great for a long time(hadnt really tried other brands as we uhit lucky with aerial on the 2nd attempt). Over several years we gradually switched to aerial bio. All was well until March 2010 when she had a major flare up of eczema. It was around the the same time the turn to 30 degrees was in the supermarket so I guess they had changed the formula; we are now back to aerial non bio which is getting extremely hard to find. We had a Dyson which rinsed twice every time and we usually applied the extra rinse aswell.
    If we have to change brands I will post again

  8. It is quite curious that this seems to be a British myth: I have never heard of allergy problems with biological detergents before (I am not British).

    Honeslty speaking, I have never heard of “bio” detergents before: in the rest of Europe, “bio” is used for organic food and the same detergents that here can be bought in the “bio” and “non-bio” version, in the rest of Europe are sold in the “bio” version only, without writing “bio” or “contains enzymes” on the box.

  9. My boyfriend over the years has had several flare-ups in his groin area – and every time I used bio powder !
    I am 100% sure that’s what it is. He has the rash now and I will wash all his underwear in Non-Bio today and his rash will be gone in a day.

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