Laundry Detergent Rash: How to Treat and Prevent It

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Laundry Detergent Rash

Skin irritation of any kind can cause extreme discomfort, leaving the skin itchy, burning, red, inflamed, and sometimes blistered.  This can be both upsetting and unsettling, particularly if it seems that the irritation is caused simply by wearing your regular clothes or sleeping on your bedsheets. After all, these are both basic unavoidable necessities in most of our lives.

Laundry detergent is an extremely common cause of skin irritation and skin rashes, in particular. Often, store-bought laundry detergents contain a plethora of harmful, harsh ingredients which can easily irritate the skin and cause inflammation and itching; otherwise known as laundry detergent rash.

In this article, we are going to tell you how to identify this skin rash that is caused by laundry detergent ingredients, as well as how best to treat the rash and how to prevent it from reoccurring in the future. Using these tips and techniques, you should be able to quickly relieve the symptoms of laundry detergent rash and save yourself from further suffering in the future.

Related: The Best Septic Safe Laundry Detergents (Liquid, Powder, Pods, & More)

ImageProductOur RatingPrice
Top Choice
Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent
Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent
  • Powerful triple-enzyme formula fights tough stains
  • Free & clear, hypoallergenic laundry detergent made for sensitive skin
  • Safer ingredients for human health and the environment
  • EPA safer choice certified
  • USDA certified bio based product 96% made with plant-based ingredients
9.7
Check Price on Amazon
Excellent Value
Method Liquid Laundry Detergent
Method Liquid Laundry Detergent
  • Featuring plant-based stain lifting power
  • For high efficiency and standard washers
  • Biodegradable and hypoallergenic formula
  • Cruelty free. Tested by people, not on animals
9.6
Check Price on Amazon
Planet 2x HE Ultra Laundry Liquid DetergentPlanet 2x HE Ultra Laundry Liquid Detergent
  • Works in both standard and high-efficiency washers
  • Hypoallergenic - suitable for people with chemical sensitivities and babies
  • Free & Clear formula - no added fragrances, dyes or synthetic preservatives
  • Certified 100% biodegradable; ingredients from plant-based sources
  • Not tested on animals
9.5
Check Price on Amazon

How Do You Know if it is Laundry Detergent Rash?

Let’s start by thinking about how to identify a rash that is caused by laundry detergent…

If your laundry detergent is causing your skin irritation, the first thing you’re likely to notice is an itching or burning sensation which will be accompanied by a red eczema-like rash or dry, cracked, or swollen skin.

The most common areas where you’re likely to see these rashes popping up are around the underarms, torso, or behind the knees, since these are the areas where your clothes are likely to be tightest. This isn’t always the case, though. Laundry detergent rash can occur anywhere on the body, particularly if it’s caused by your bed sheets or towels.

There is really no way of knowing for sure that your skin irritation is caused by your laundry detergent without seeing a dermatologist or getting an allergen test. However, if you have recently switched out your detergent or the formula has been changed and this has coincided with the onset of your symptoms, there is a very good chance that your detergent is the root cause of your discomfort.

Why Do Some Laundry Detergents Cause a Rash?

There are a few potential reasons that your laundry detergent might be causing skin irritation. Firstly, you could be allergic to some of the ingredients in the detergent. Most commonly, these allergies are attributed to the synthetic fragrances that are present in many non-natural laundry detergents but preservatives, dyes, emulsifiers, and other chemicals are also known to be common allergens for lots of people.

Even if you are using a completely natural, non-synthetic liquid soap as your laundry detergent, any essential oils or natural extracts may also cause allergic reactions in some people.

Aside from allergens, your reaction may be a direct cause of contact dermatitis, which is a type of eczema that flares up when exposed to certain ingredients or products.

If you don’t suffer from contact dermatitis and allergen tests prove that you are not allergic to the ingredients in your laundry detergent, it could simply be that the ingredients in the detergent are a little harsh for your skin and are causing some irritation.

Some people’s skin is simply more sensitive than others and more prone to rashes. This, along with a multitude of other reasons, is why it is so important to only use products that are free from harsh, synthetic, and possibly toxic ingredients.

Puracy Natural Liquid Laundry Detergent, Hypoallergenic, Enzyme-Based, Fresh Linen, 24 Fl Oz (Pack of 1) Puracy Natural Liquid Laundry Detergent, Hypoallergenic

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Treating Laundry Detergent Rash

First and foremost, when you’re treating your laundry detergent rash, the most obvious and important thing you should do is remove the irritant. This means stopping the use of the detergent and trying to reduce contact with any clothes or linens that have been washed using it until they can be re-washed with a detergent that will not cause irritation.

Now, to reduce the discomfort that the rash is undoubtedly causing you, you have a few different options…

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is excellent for re-hydrating dry and cracked skin and has natural antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and healing properties. It is super gentle on the skin and shouldn’t cause any further irritation.

Handcraft Fractionated Coconut Oil - 100% Pure & Natural Premium Grade Coconut Carrier Oil for Essential Oils, Massage Oil, Moisturizing Hair Oil & Body Oil - 16 fl. OzHandcraft Fractionated Coconut Oil

Coconut oil can be applied directly to the rash for immediate relief. Use continuously for a few days and you should see significant improvement in the condition of your skin.

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Cold Compress

A simple cold compress is also extremely effective in reducing swelling and inflammation and alleviating the burning or itching sensation caused by laundry detergent rash.

Take an ice pack or cold compress wrapped in a thin cloth or blanket and apply it to the affected area. It is worth noting, though, that a cold compress will not help to restore moisture to the area, so if the skin is particularly dry or cracked this might not be your best option.

Anti-Histamines

If your rash is caused by an allergic reaction to the ingredients in your laundry detergent, a simple anti-histamine may be all it takes to reduce the discomfort and get rid of the rash. Topical and oral anti-histamines should work and can be found online or at most pharmacies or drugstores.

Calamine Lotion

Calamine lotion is great for skin irritation. It is cooling, calming, and hydrating, so it provides almost instant relief to the discomfort caused by rashes.

Caladryl Pink Calamine Skin Protectant Plus Itch Relief, 6 Ounce BottleCaladryl Pink Calamine Skin Protectant Plus Itch Relief

By adding moisture back into the skin and acting like a protective layer, the calamine lotion also speeds up the healing process. Other specialized anti-itching lotions will also work in the same way. If you have especially sensitive skin, anything supernatural or designed for use on babies will be your safest option.

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Oatmeal Bath

Now, this may not be the most appealing option on this list, but oatmeal baths are super effective in reducing swelling, itching, burning, and helping the skin to heal much quicker. To clarify, this method does not work if you simply toss a box of rolled oats into your bathtub with water. Colloidal Oatmeal should be used for oatmeal baths because it dissolves in water and binds to the skin to form a protective barrier, aiding the healing process and relieving inflammation and discomfort.

Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment with 100% Natural Colloidal Oatmeal for Treatment & Relief of Dry, Itchy, Irritated Skin Due to Poison Ivy, Eczema, Sunburn, Rash, Insect Bites & Hives, 8 ct. Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment with 100% Natural Colloidal Oatmeal for Treatment & Relief of Dry, Itchy, Irritated Skin

You can make your own Colloidal Oatmeal by blending regular rolled or whole oats until you have a super finely milled powder. Add this to warm bath water and the water should turn a milky white color. You can also buy Colloidal Oatmeal online and in most grocery stores.

It is recommended that you soak in the warm bath for around fifteen minutes before gently patting your skin with a soft towel so the skin is not soaking wet but still damp. Then, apply a super-gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer and allow this to soak in thoroughly.

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Preventing Laundry Detergent Rash

Once you have treated your laundry detergent rash, you’re probably fairly keen to prevent the problem from reoccurring. To do this, there are a few different precautionary measures you can take…

Use Only Natural Laundry Detergents

Most importantly, make sure that any laundry detergents you are using are completely natural and free from synthetic dyes, fragrances, preservatives, parabens, and sulfates.

These chemical ingredients are super irritating and can also be toxic if ingested. They’re terrible for the environment and particularly waterways and they are also too harsh for use on especially delicate fabrics.

9 Elements Liquid Laundry Detergent, Eucalyptus Scent, Vinegar Powered, 46 Oz, 2 Count 9 Elements Liquid Laundry Detergent

There are plenty of all-natural laundry detergents available to purchase which contain no synthetic ingredients and work extremely well at cleaning your laundry items without causing irritation or other health issues.

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Make Your Own DIY Laundry Detergent

For an even more safe and cost-effective option, you could also make your own all-natural laundry detergent. This could be as simple as mixing some white vinegar and distilled water and adding a couple of drops of your chosen essential oil.

Plant Therapy Essential Oils Fruits Set - Grapefruit, Tangerine, Lemon, Mandarin, Lime, Orange Sweet 100% Pure, Undiluted, Natural Aromatherapy, Therapeutic Grade 10 mL (1/3 oz) Plant Therapy Essential Oils Fruits Set – Grapefruit, Tangerine, Lemon, Mandarin, Lime, Orange Sweet

The white vinegar will kill bacteria and remove stains and dirt while the essential oils add a light, natural fragrance to your laundry.

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Replace Fabric Softeners with Wool Dryer Balls

If you think it may be a fabric softener causing your skin irritation, you can swap this out for some wool dryer balls.

Wool Dryer Balls by Smart Sheep 6-Pack, XL Premium Reusable Natural Fabric Softener Award-Winning Wool Dryer Balls by Smart Sheep

Dryer balls should simply be tossed into your dryer to soften your laundry in the same way that a fabric softener would. The wool dryer balls contain no synthetic ingredients so won’t cause any irritation and they also help to speed up the drying process, remove lint and reduce static. They’re also super cost-effective and long-lasting.

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Double-Rinse Your Laundry

If your skin is especially sensitive and reacts even to natural ingredients, it may be a good idea to run an extra rinse cycle once your laundry has been washed. This should remove any residual cleaning solutions and may help to reduce irritation.

ImageProductOur RatingPrice
Top Choice
Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent
Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent
  • Powerful triple-enzyme formula fights tough stains
  • Free & clear, hypoallergenic laundry detergent made for sensitive skin
  • Safer ingredients for human health and the environment
  • EPA safer choice certified
  • USDA certified bio based product 96% made with plant-based ingredients
9.7
Check Price on Amazon
Excellent Value
Method Liquid Laundry Detergent
Method Liquid Laundry Detergent
  • Featuring plant-based stain lifting power
  • For high efficiency and standard washers
  • Biodegradable and hypoallergenic formula
  • Cruelty free. Tested by people, not on animals
9.6
Check Price on Amazon
Planet 2x HE Ultra Laundry Liquid DetergentPlanet 2x HE Ultra Laundry Liquid Detergent
  • Works in both standard and high-efficiency washers
  • Hypoallergenic - suitable for people with chemical sensitivities and babies
  • Free & Clear formula - no added fragrances, dyes or synthetic preservatives
  • Certified 100% biodegradable; ingredients from plant-based sources
  • Not tested on animals
9.5
Check Price on Amazon

Final Thoughts on Laundry Detergent Rash

Laundry detergent rash is something that most people will struggle with at some stage in their lives, largely due to the many harsh synthetic ingredients that are found in so many store-bought laundry detergents.

By avoiding these harmful ingredients and identifying any potential allergens in your laundry detergent, you should be able to eliminate the causes of the skin irritation and wear your clothes comfortably once again without worrying about being left with dry, itchy, irritated skin.

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