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Laundry detergents – does bio make your skin crawl?

Bio versus non-bio is a sensitive subject. Yet, despite studies using thousands of volunteers, it’s still not clear whether bio-washing detergent irritates skin conditions. So why keep our washing machines bio-free?

As soon as someone says ‘biological detergents do no harm’, you’ll likely be subject to sharp intakes of breath, sinister looks and an argument or two.

But in spite of the large number of studies done by a range of scientists, they still haven’t found the missing link between biological detergent causing – or exacerbating – skin conditions like eczema. At least the ones we’re aware of.

It’s not for lack of trying. One study reviewed in the British Journal of Dermatology not only used thousands of test subjects, but 360 of them were infants. The test toddlers had their nappies washed with both bio and non-bio detergents – and the result? ‘No difference in the incidence or severity of nappy rash’ was the official verdict.

We still want bio in Britain

There has actually been a slight increase in the amount of money spent on biological detergent here in the UK, but more people still say they look for a non-biological detergent than a bio one. However, ‘the power to remove tough stains’ is actually the number one concern for shoppers choosing detergents. And our tests show that stain removal tends to be better with bio than non-bio detergents.

The thing is, in some other European markets, non-bio isn’t even sold. The UK is showing itself to be an anomaly among our peers and possibly a little thin-skinned…

But which type of detergent do you tend to go for? Do you think you’ve ever had a reaction to bio-detergent? Or are we just too cautious in the UK?

What type of laundry detergent do you prefer?

I prefer non-bio (47%, 99 Votes)

I’m happy to buy either (28%, 59 Votes)

I prefer bio (25%, 53 Votes)

Total Voters: 212

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Jason says:
16 February 2014

Does anyone know if detergents containing oxygen based bleaching agents sanitise underwear or do you need a sanitizer such as the Dettol Anti-bacterial?

Every time I have used biological washing detergent patches on my arms and to a lesser extent on my legs break out. These start as small rise lumps and develop into a large raised rash which is sore and itchy. Steroid creams help but the only way to get rid of the rash is to find the offending item such as a bed sheet and replace with one that has been washed differently. I know its biological washing liquids/power because I lived in a shared house where despite my requests my friend would buy whatever was on offer without checking. whenever it was bio the rash came and went when I through out the bio and replaced. I have lived with my girlfriend for the past 3 years. and have been using non-bio. Recently she bought a bio liquid without me knowing yet again burning itching rashes I threw it away but every now and then a ‘contaminated item will surface and the rashes return. Last two weeks I have had these rashes and I thought it was a hoody I had been wearing but after washing it and treating the sores would not heal. turned on an old bed sheet had been used! I’m sure i’m in a minority but bio really does cause a reaction in my skin.

Allergic reactions can be highly specific to the individual, and you seem to have good evidence that you have a problem with biological detergents – or at least those you have tested. I have an allergy to some dogs and not others. People trying to be helpful often say that I won’t be affected by their dog but even I cannot predict which ones will affect me until I’m in the same room.

Biological detergents are effective at low washing temperatures so they are widely used. You may have to take your own bedding when you are away from home.

Thanks for this , I have just had this happen to me and figured out it was Persia colour protect . Mass washing to begin now . How long do the rashes take to go away ?

Liam Jones says:
25 February 2015

I believe in Unicorns

Just search for Unicorn Baby Laundry Detergent. It’s non biological.

alan offord says:
30 November 2016

I convinced myself 25 odd years ago that bio washing powder made my itch , I stopped buying it this week I started to complain I was itching and would say that if I didn’t know better it was to do with the washing powder as it was shirt and bedding related , my wife confessed that after all these years she thought I was talking b******s and had for the first time accidently bought a Bio powder and used it