If you’ve ever put on a clean and fresh piece of clothing only to have an itchy reaction on your skin, you may be asking yourself, “Can laundry detergent cause eczema?”
Laundry detergent is a well-recognized eczema trigger. Specifically, if you’re having a reaction to your freshly cleaned laundry, you’re likely experiencing contact dermatitis, a type of eczema that occurs when you come into direct contact with a substance that irritates the skin. Because you’re likely washing clothing that covers every part of the body, an eczema rash from your laundry detergent could appear anywhere on the body.
To help save you from an itchy eczema flare-up, here are 10 tips to make your laundry routine more eczema-friendly:
1. Check your detergent for eczema triggers & switch brands if necessary
Laundry detergents are common eczema triggers because they often contain many harsh and irritating ingredients. Triggers found in many detergents include:
- Fragrance allergens
- Parabens and sulfates
- Fabric softeners
- Optical brighteners, which help make whites look whiter
These are all ingredients to avoid if you have sensitive skin. However, when you’re looking for a laundry detergent for eczema, scanning labels for ingredients like surfactants and optical brighteners can feel intimidating. These irritants can be listed under a wide variety of names.
That’s why we want to share one of our favorites: Dirty Lab’s Free and Clear Bio Enzyme Laundry Detergent. Their enzyme detergent tackles stains and odors at their source, with only non-toxic, bio-based ingredients — free of sulfates, parabens, dyes, and all EU-listed fragrance allergens.
2. Choose an eczema-friendly fabric softener alternative
Finding a fabric softener for eczema can be difficult. If you want to use fabric softener, choose a non-toxic, hypoallergenic softener free of synthetic fragrances, dyes, parabens, and sulfates. And you may not even need fabric softener at all. Laundry detergent formulations have gotten smarter, and some detergents now use biochemistry that include built-in softening technologies.
If you want soft clothes without having to worry about an ingredients list, you have another option: dryer balls. Dryer balls help separate clothing in the dryer, which allows warm air to better circulate. This in turn reduces your drying time, prevents static, fights wrinkles, and, yes, softens clothes.
3. Clean your washing machine to reduce detergent residue
Because your washing machine is used to, well, clean your clothes, you may not consider that the machine itself also occasionally needs to be washed out to prevent mold, mildew, and built-up detergent residue. There are several ways you can clean your washing machine.
4. Wash your clothes before wearing them
As tempting as it can be to wear that new top as soon as it arrives in the mail, it’s best practice to wash new clothes before wearing them. Clothing manufacturers can sometimes put formaldehyde on clothes to make them look better and to prevent mildew during long shipments. Formaldehyde is known as an irritating substance and can cause contact dermatitis as a result of exposure to very low dosages. Washing new clothes before wearing them also helps get rid of excess dye left over from the manufacturing process.
5. If your body reacts to outdoor allergens, avoid line drying
Line drying your clothes outside can be an effective way to cut down on your electricity usage. However, line drying isn’t the ideal solution when you have eczema-prone skin. Airborne allergens can deposit on your clothing and exacerbate eczema symptoms. The risk of this happening is greatest in the spring and summer when pollen counts are at their peak.
6. Pre-treat baby clothes if they’re not being washed right away
Let’s face it: babies get messy! When you have a little one with eczema-prone skin, removing food stains without harsh chemicals that trigger eczema can prove difficult. In order to skip harsh stain removers altogether, try soaking your baby’s clothes immediately after they get dirty. Most food stains should be rinsed in cold water, but be sure to research the correct water temperature for the specific type of food stain.
7. Use liquid laundry detergents vs. powder detergents
When figuring out what your best laundry detergent for eczema may be, focus on liquid detergents. These dissolve easier in the water, leaving behind less residue on your clothing. Also avoiding laundry pods allows you to adjust how much detergent you want to use. Often, the recommended amount of liquid detergent is more than you actually need. If you live in an area with hard water, you can add a tablespoon or two of soda crystals to your wash in order to soften the water and reduce the amount of detergent you need as well.
When selecting a laundry detergent, keep an eye out for National Eczema Association Approved laundry detergents like Dirty Labs Free & Clear.
8. Go easy on the detergent
Adding a lot of detergent to your laundry won't make your clothes cleaner - and it could have a negative impact on your skin. Using too much detergent makes it hard for your washing machine to rinse your clothes properly, which can leave your laundry with a soapy residue that contributes to itch and irritation. Most laundry detergents are pretty concentrated, so you only have to use what your package calls for - or even less.
9. Add a rinse cycle
Leftover laundry detergent on your clothing can irritate sensitive eczema-prone skin. To avoid contact dermatitis from residual detergent, add a second rinse cycle to your laundry routine. Some machines will have an ‘extra rinse cycle’ button you can easily press.
Manage Eczema Symptoms with Gladskin Eczema Cream
Adjusting your laundry routine can be a helpful step in avoiding triggers and preventing irritation. But you may also want to consider the role of your skin microbiome. Dermatologists now know that an imbalance in the skin’s natural microbiome leads to eczema itch, redness, and discomfort.
Gladskin Eczema Cream with Micreobalance® is clinically proven to reduce eczema symptoms. It restores bacterial balance to the skin microbiome to support the skin's natural healing process. It's steroid-free, minimally formulated, and moisturizing - and its non-greasy formula is gentle on clothes. Learn more.