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Allergies 101: Doing the Laundry

January 24, 2023
by Regan Pyle, DO

Chemicals, fragrances and dyes, oh my!

For people who live with allergies, doing the laundry is an important part of environmental control measures that you can take to reduce exposure to allergens such as dust mites and pet dander

However, certain chemicals in laundry detergent and fabric softeners can cause skin irritation and allergy so it’s important to understand the dos and don’ts of doing laundry.

Wash bedding in hot water once a week

Wash all sheets, blankets/bed covers, and pillowcases in hot water that is at least 130F to kill dust mites and remove allergens. 

If bedding can’t be washed hot, put the items in the dryer for at least 15 minutes at a temperature above 130F to kill the mites. Then wash and dry the bedding to remove allergens.

Consider using bleach to clothes/laundry

This can help denature indoor allergens (dog, cat, mouse and dust mite), it can also reduce allergen exposure to bacteria and fungi. In many cases this can lead to improvement in allergy/asthma symptoms from these allergens, but it can cause respiratory irritation and lead to increased asthma symptoms, so using this with caution is advised in highly sensitive people.

What does a skin reaction to laundry products look like?

Because reactions to products that come into contact with skin can take days to occur, it can be difficult to identify a clear cause. Some symptoms that can suggest a reaction to laundry products can include:

  • Dry, cracked, scaly skin
  • Itchy red bumps (sometimes these can blister with oozing and crusting)
A woman choosing detergent at supermarket.If you or any of your loved ones suffer from unpleasant skin rashes, eczema, or have generally sensitive skin, a fragrance-free laundry detergent is the best option.

Use “free and clear” products

Fragrances (perfumes), dyes and detergents in laundry products cause skin reactions. For some people almost any brand of free and clear (All, Tide, Arm and Hammer, etc) detergent will in most people be well tolerated

Washing your laundry on an “extra rinse” cycle can also help reduce residue from laundry detergent

Although fabric softener can make your clothes feel great, just like laundry detergent, it can contain chemicals that can lead to skin reactions. Choosing a free and clear fabric softener is a better choice for those with sensitive skin

Wash before using New items

New clothing, bedding, towels and cloth napkins should be washed before using them. These new fabrics often contains chemicals that can irritate the skin- these can include formaldehydes and dyes. Washing new textiles can reduce exposure to these chemicals and thus reduce the likelihood of causing a skin reaction


      Medically Reviewed By: Regan Pyle, DO
      Reviewed on: Dec. 29, 2022

      Our team of writers, editors, and medical experts goes over each article carefully to make sure the information is correct and that only reliable sources are used.

      We regularly check to see if the info in this article matches up with the latest scientific research and expert advice so that we can give you the most up-to-date information. See list of trusted resources here.

      Get Allergy Tested

      Since it can be difficult to pinpoint a laundry-related allergy reaction and you think you’re experiencing a reaction to your laundry detergents stop using it and contact an AllerVie Health provider who can help you understand your triggers and determine a treatment plan.  We are here to help!

      Make an Appointment