Dealing With a Mysterious Rash? Laundry Detergent May Be the Culprit for Your Allergy

Allergies can be a nuisance, especially when you can’t identify the cause. If you are experiencing itching, rashes, or hives, you might want to look closer at the laundry detergent you are using. Laundry detergent may contain chemicals and ingredients that can cause allergies. Here are potential culprits that could be triggering your laundry detergent allergy and how to identify the allergies: 

Potential Culprits in Your Laundry Detergent 


Fragrances are often used to make our clothes smell nice and clean. These fragrances could be one of the leading causes of detergent allergic reactions. Fragrances often contain compounds that may irritate the respiratory tract and the skin, leading to rashes, sneezing, and even coughing. 

To avoid these irritants, try using fragrance-free detergents or ones that contain natural fragrances that are less likely to cause allergies. Avoid using fabric softeners with fragrances, which can further aggravate allergic reactions.


Enzymes are proteins that act as a catalyst to speed up chemical reactions. They are commonly used in laundry detergents to break down stains and dirt on your clothes. The most common enzymes in laundry detergent include proteases, amylases, and lipases.

They can be a major trigger for allergies in some cases. Enzymes can cause skin rash, redness, and itching, particularly on sensitive skin. To prevent these allergies, switch to enzyme-free detergents that are easier on your skin. 


Surfactants are chemicals that make it easier for water to penetrate clothing fibers and can cause allergic reactions. Some commonly used surfactants in detergents, such as sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, can cause rashes and dryness. If you’re experiencing these reactions, try using a detergent with milder surfactants like sodium cocoate or coco-betaine.


Preservatives are added to laundry detergents to prevent bacterial growth and extend the product’s shelf life. Some preservatives like formaldehyde, parabens, and methylisothiazolinone can also cause allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to preservatives can range from skin irritation, redness, and itchiness to respiratory distress. To avoid this, look for laundry detergents free of harsh preservatives.


Bleach is often added to laundry detergents to help brighten and whiten clothes. While bleach can effectively remove stains and smells, it’s also a harsh chemical that can cause skin irritation, rashes, and respiratory problems. You can help prevent a laundry detergent allergy by avoiding bleach if you have sensitive skin or struggle with allergies. Look for natural alternatives like baking soda and vinegar.


Dyes are often used in laundry detergents to add color and make the product more appealing to consumers. Synthetic dyes can also cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in some people. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to dyes can include skin rash, hives, and itching. Use dye-free laundry detergents or natural dyes like plant extracts to avoid this.


Phosphates are chemicals added to laundry detergents to help soften hard water and improve cleaning performance. High levels of phosphates in water can contribute to algae blooms and other environmental issues. Some people may be allergic to phosphates, which can result in skin irritation and respiratory problems. To avoid this, look for laundry detergents that are phosphate-free and eco-friendly.

How to Identify a Laundry Detergent Allergy

Respiratory Issues

Respiratory issues usually occur when you inhale the fragrance or dust particles from your laundry detergent. You might feel breathless or start coughing, sneezing, or wheezing. If you have asthma, exposure to laundry detergent fumes can also trigger an attack. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s key to switch to fragrance-free detergents or contact your healthcare provider.

Eye Irritation

Eye irritation means your eyes might become watery, itchy, or red, and you may experience a burning sensation. In severe cases, eye swelling can occur, which can be painful and uncomfortable. Rinse your eyes thoroughly with water and avoid using a detergent that causes eye irritation.

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting happen when the ingredients in your laundry detergent mix with your clothes, causing a reaction in your body. If you experience these symptoms after doing laundry, switch to a more natural or hypoallergenic laundry detergent. It is also advisable to wash your clothes thoroughly after every wash to avoid any residue.


Allergic reactions to laundry detergents can also cause headaches. If you experience headaches immediately after or while doing laundry, then it is likely that your detergent is the root cause. The chemicals in laundry detergents can be very strong and easily trigger a migraine. Take a pain reliever or use a laundry detergent for sensitive skin to relieve the symptoms.

Treat Your Laundry Detergent Allergy

To treat your laundry detergent allergy, rinse your clothes properly. If avoiding chemical detergents does not work, seeing a dermatologist could help. They can give you a patch test to determine what you are allergic to. They can also provide medications or creams to soothe any irritation or rash you may have.