We expose our hands and face the most to damaging chemicals every day we’re cleaning the house, putting on some makeup or affecting even more skin by just getting dressed in the morning. Laundry detergent can have damaging effects when exposed to your skin day after day, especially if you have a specific allergy to a chemical in the product. It’s not that you’re covering your hands in the stuff, but it’s really the effect of the laundry detergent and fabric softener left in your clothes after you’ve washed them.
Neatly folded away in your laundry baskets could be bundles of skin irritants just waiting for you to wrap your body into. Laundry detergent includes ingredients such as surfactants dissolve in water and “lift” dirt and oils from the laundry. The enzymes lurking in the detergents are designed to break down stains made up of organic proteins, such as blood and grass. Chlorine bleach removes the color from fabrics while simultaneously disinfecting and deodorizing the laundry. Oxygen bleach will bleach clothes but is less powerful and safer for fabrics than chlorine bleach. How do your clothes get so bright? The whitener chemicals could even be brushing you the wrong way. Whiteners, also known as “optical brighteners” absorb invisible forms of light and re-emits it as blue light, making clothes seem brighter. And the finishing touch of fragrance can mask the chemical smell of the detergent, but if it irritates your skin, it won’t matter how nice it smells. Switch to powder detergent or try different brands with various ingredients in order to narrow down the irritant, make a note of it and avoid it when purchasing future products.
Still stuck with itchy red patches or blisters? It may not be your laundry detergent. Check under your sink. Some of the cleaners you may have around the house that can irritate your skin: All-purpose cleaners can include ammonia, trisodium phosphate (TSP) and other hazardous chemicals are designed to break up grease and remove stains from porous surfaces. If your skin is generally sensitive, this could be the culprit. While limited skin exposure to these chemicals may not seem to affect the skin, prolonged exposure can have quite damaging rashes and red marks that dry out and break down your skin’s surface.
Window and glass cleaners typically include ammonia and isopropanol, which may not only be caustic to the skin but can also irritate your eyes and nasal passages. Make sure when using these products you’re in a ventilated area, preferably with open windows. Dishwashing detergents can leave your hands dry and flaky with significant use but usually aren’t harmful to the skin because they’re designed for daily contact. The more concentrated detergents for automatic dishwashers are more harmful and can cause your skin to burn and itch.
Move into your bathroom and toilet cleaners and mold and mildew removers have pesticides that are highly caustic. Sometimes they even include bleach, which also has dangerous fumes. Drain cleaner main ingredients include lye and sulfuric acid, which are high skin irritants and have been known to cause dangerous fumes.