/ Home & Energy

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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Pete R says:
3 January 2013

Just noticed that Morrison’s “super concentrated laundry liquid” Bio has exactly the same ingredients list as their “Coloureds” liquid save for the addition of Optical Brightener…….is this the only difference??!……

Vanessa says:
27 January 2013

I’ve suffered from eczema since I was a baby. I’m now 33 so consider myself an old hand with eczema now. I moved to the UK a few years and discovered something called non-bio detergent. I’m still trying to figure out why it causes allergies in UK people and not non UK others. It took me a while to discover what exactly is non bio.

I haven’t noticed any difference from using non-bio and bio and I’m concluding that it’s a nocebo effect. Every culture has its own medical myths that patients and doctors propagate. In Spain, rice soup is recommend for tummy problems which I’ve never had a UK GP recommend. Cold hair in Italy is blamed for colds (yep, I’ve heard docs say this as well). I’ve moved across different continents and hear all sorts of things in one country that don’t exist in another. Especially in complex issues such as allergies, eczema, fatigue etc. In France and Spain, there’s something called heavy legs and there are loads of creams to treat this. Something to do with circulation. Never heard about it in the UK.

Yes I know there are plenty of people who say that biological powder does affect them and I’m not discounting that it does affect people. After all, people can be allergic to anything. But I wonder at the numbers. like I said, I’m an eczema pro and this is the first I’ve heard of this non bio obsession. Frankly I prefer enzymes.

Things I know affect my eczema: dampness, mould, cold, dust. If I control my allergies, my eczema and itching is more controlled. I had to order anti dustmite covers with zips which protect my entire mattress (and not just the top of the mattress) from my home country as I couldn’t find any easily in the UK.
The UK is a very damp country and I’m wondering if that’s what’s happening here. Many to most people do not use dryers (I do not) and damp homes with poor insulation, wallpaper and carpets will breed mould spores. And mould spores will certainly breed in damp clothing. My British housemates seem to have no concept of cleaning washing machines and never clean it. And also leave wet clothing in there for hours.


That is very interesting, Vanessa. I think we are being excessively concerned about biological detergents. Some people may be affected by them but I wonder how many have conducted their own trials. You have and I have.


Agree with Wavechange – very interesting and, I am certain, very relevant and important points.
It’s insignificant in terms of scientific evidence but I tool never leave laundry in the machine for more than 5 or 10 minutes after it stops, I clean the machine regularly (and, as discussed extensively previously and elsewhere, I also use very hot cycles several times each week, which we all know helps to keep the machine clean). I don’t use a dryer except in dire emergency – so about 3 times a year at most – and I do dry my washing outside if at all possible and on a clothes rack in the (well ventilated) workshop otherwise.

Wavechange amd I have posted a lot about our own experiences before, and there are several similarities between us. Some of those similarities also co-incide with your thoughts. 3 people do not make a scientifically viable set of test data, but I suspect that you are on to something here.

I can hear my grandmother speaking now: “Most of it is just old-fashioned common sense”. I think perhaps there is truth in that: many of these ‘modern’ allergies and complaints probably arise form modern (i.e. impatient) ways of living.


One thing to consider is that biological detergents may not be useful at high washing temperatures because enzymes are destroyed above a certain temperature. Until the machine reaches that temperature, they will have some effect. Biological detergents used to have a single enzyme but three or more could be present in some products, and these could well have different temperature limits. I suspect that the upper limit will be around 50C, or 60C at most, but that is an educated guess.

I agree with Dave that it is important not to leave clothes damp for any length of time. Ironing will help kill off bacteria and moulds. I iron mine straight from the washing machine because it seems daft to dry them and then use a steam iron.

I don’t run a very hot wash or even run my machine empty to keep it clean. I’ve found that a 60C wash at least once a week has been enough to keep it clean and free from smells.

I’m sure that Dave would agree that the best way forward is to read what others have to say, do your own experiments and work out your own conclusions. Many have advised me on which dogs and cats are likely to cause me a problem (asthma or painful, itching eyes) but I’m the only one who really knows.

Colin Cutter says:
20 February 2015

Concerning the use of of a steam iron. It seems to me that a sufficiently powerful steam iron will kill off many more “nasties” than a combination of hot water and detergent ever could – especially the more dangerius ones, I, for one, will continue to “steam” almost everything.


The cheaper modern washing machines use plastic outer tubs and these harbour bacteria – a problem made worse with low temperature washes and not keeping the washing machine itself clean:


It can’t be doing your skin any good! Even if bio detergents can cause skin reactions, using non-bio in a dirty washing machine will not cure your allergies!


There is a very simple solution and that is to do a hot wash once a week. The tub is not the only place that bacteria and moulds can grow and I wonder if this website is trying to persuade people to spend money on expensive machines. They are certainly pushing one brand of detergent.


Is it not infact optical brighteners that cause skin allergies and not enzymes themselves? Did Ariel or Persil of the 1980’s to early 1990’s have optical brighteners as i think they just had bleach?


Have you any evidence to support your claim, Ben?

Optical brighteners have been used on new clothing since the 1940s. That’s why white shirts glow in the dark under UV light. I first saw this in a disco in the early 70s. I am fairly sure that optical brighteners were in use by the 1980s but you would have to ask Procter & Gamble and Unilever to find out for sure.

Optical brighteners are intended to stick to the fabric and not be rinsed away, so that makes them a candidate for causing skin irritation, just like skin conditioners that are put in the final rinse and cannot be washed away.

I don’t believe that optical brighteners have any value except for white fabrics and the fact that they are harmful to the environment is reason enough to get rid of them.

If you suffer from skin irritation and want to try using a detergent without optical brighteners, there are products available. Ecover is one example.

Liberatordeluxe says:
22 February 2013

Hello Wavechange,

I have only read about optical brighteners (OB) in ‘green’ magazines and on the Ecovers website so thats how i came about them. I personally just think they are unnecessary and a source of pollution that we can do without.

I did contact Method products who make laundry products and their optical brightener is called Disodium distrylbiphenyl disulfonate. This ingredient is on the http://WWW.Goodguide.com web site for cleaning products and Method say its non toxic, non irritating and non biocumulative.

Where does one find a 30 year old ‘Proper’ washing machine that actually washes and rinses in water? Were the Hotpoint 95 or Hotpoint WM51 series any good at rinsing??

Liberatordeluxe says:
22 February 2013

@ Wavechange, don’t you also think detergents are to blame as well for being difficult to rinse out? I am currently using Ariel Excel gel Colour and with half a load i use 25ml and even then the damn machine can’t rinse it out even with higher water level. I do have an artificial water softner mind you but Daz liquid seems ok for rinsing and so does Fairy non bio. I have a Bosch Classix 6 ‘Vario Perfect’ 6kg machine.


I cannot see any point in using optical brighteners other than for washing white clothing, etc. I would prefer to be without them, helped by the fact that I don’t have any white clothing. I agree that they are unnecessary and if anyone feels the need to use them, they could add them. People should be made aware that these chemicals are not good for the environment. I would not want to claim that optical brighteners are a cause of skin irritation without evidence, but any chemicals that stick to clothing are possible culprits.

Poor rinsing has often been suggested as the reason why people suffer from skin irritation, and new machines don’t generally rinse as well as the older ones. Yes we have to conserve water if we live in an area where there is a shortage, but it seems rather more important to stop flushing toilets with drinking-quality water than have washing machines that don’t do a decent job.

I don’t know much about detergents, and foaming is a very complex topic. If severe, it can cause ‘suds lock’, a condition that makes rinsing ineffective and puts extra load on the machine. You can find information on the whitegoodshelp website. All I would add is that softened water (and naturally soft water) tends to foam with a very small amount of residual detergent. Differences between detergents may be caused by the use of defoamers, which are chemicals used to help counteract the fact that detergents and agitation lead to foam formation.

If you want to find out which chemicals are present in laundry detergents or other household products, you can search for the material safety data sheet. Type in MSDS with the product name.

I don’t know much about modern washing machines. Poor rinsing and lack of hot and cold fill are common criticisms of machines sold in the UK. I’m not looking forward to the day I have to replace my 1982 Philips machine.



When you eventually have to replace your 1982 Philips washing machine, the ISE W288eco has hot and cold fill and it can do up to seven rinses.


Thanks for the suggestion Dave. It’s really impressive that it has a ten year guarantee, something that all washing machines should come with. Hot & cold fill too.

I hope my machine carries on working until I’ve worked out whether it is best to take out a repayment or endowment mortgage on the ISE. It’s not cheap.


David – ISE stopped trading last November and the following is posted on their website:
“How can I get a warranty repair on my ISE?

Sadly, this is not currently possible as ISE was forced into a position where all staff had to be made redundant.

This means that there is nobody available to process service calls, spare parts orders, pay repairers and so on. In short, there is no infrastructure to enable service.”

Some unhappy ISE owners have posted messages on websites.

Thankfully my machine soldiers on.

Liberatordeluxe says:
23 February 2013

You will have to have to what most people i know do, add water manually to the washer to get a decent wash and rinse level! Is rediculous but can you ever imagine the UK ever being without water? In my personal oppinion older machines never used water to the extreme and what i would call an acceptable level to achieve good wash and rinse results. I used to like the origional smell of Persil of the 1990’s but the latest versions are dreadful albeit the origional non bio.


I’m rather hoping that machines that rinse properly will be reinvented by the time my machine has to be replaced. Like optical brighteners, I think we could live without perfumes in our detergents.

Liberatordeluxe says:
24 February 2013

Have you tried Simply Pure non biological tabs @ Wavechange? I can thoroughly recommend them and they have no brighteners or perfume and rinse out easily. What detergent brands do you currently use and do you find much difference in performance branded and non branded liquids? Would be interested to know as the branded items i really think are over priced and are mostly water anyway. Washing powder is mostly filler so your paying for useless ingredients that do nothing. If you look on the Unilever site the first ingredient in the Bio and colour powder is Sodium Sulfate awell known bulking agent.


Liberatordeluxe – I am going to disappoint you because I don’t pay much attention to different brands of detergent. I suffer from asthma and for many years I avoided biological detergents in case I developed eczema, as many asthma sufferers do. Some years ago I found I had bought the wrong detergent and now know that biological detergents are not a problem for me.

I did switch from powders to liquids because some of the powder often remained in the detergent drawer of my machine. To prevent this happening, I had to remove and clean out the drawer before rinsing started otherwise it might get into the rinse water. At the moment I am using Tesco biological liquid capsules, which are cheap and convenient, but have the disadvantage that the amount used is fixed.

I hope that the government or EU will help make detergents better for us and the environment. One change that has happened is that (I believe) that detergents are no longer phosphate based. Phosphates are a great nuisance when they get into water courses, since they act as fertilisers.

Where detergents are causing skin problems, it is important for the individual to do their own tests, because we can be very different. Allergies can be plain crazy. For example, I’m extremely sensitive to some dogs but not affected by others.

I guess that the reason that sodium sulphate is used in washing powders to help keep them free flowing.

Liberatordeluxe says:
24 February 2013

I do use Marks and Spencers colour liquid but can’t always get to an M & S store. I do keep my eye out on a Hotpoint 95 series washer or Hoover Electron but they are often miles away.


The ISE washing machine, mentioned earlier, is expensive because it’s built so well, from what I’ve read. Which? say it washes and rinses well. If all washing machines came with a ten year guarantee, they would cost 2 – 3 times the price and most people won’t pay that for quality. It weren’t so long ago when all washing machines were more expensive and most people had to save up their money to afford one or the alternative was to rent a washing machine (or even use the laundrette!). Personally, I save up my money and buy things which last longer, rather than buying cheaper products which don’t last more than 5 years and, in some cases, don’t even do the job properly!

I do not believe the “biological” part of bio detergents cause skin allergies. It’s almost always the bad rinsing to blame or even washing powder left in the soap tray e.g. by low water pressure. Rinse it all away and don’t use fabric conditioner – then you won’t have any chemicals in your clothes making you itch. The poor rinsing could also explain why people are smelling a strong perfume on their clean clothes, but also remember that most conditioners have perfumes. The sensation of smelling these perfumes must make people think clean clothes also HAVE to smell nice?


I strongly agree that appliances should last a long time, David. It also helps if spare parts are held for a decent length of time and manufacturers do not make them difficult to repair. I do my own repairs and have more than a passing interest in good and bad design of household electrical goods.

One of the complications in trying to work out what is causing skin irritation or allergy is that chemicals bind to the fabric, some more than other. An optical brightener, for example, would be no use if it rinsed away. Familiar examples of chemicals binding to fabrics are dyes and stains such as red wine. If people want perfumes, then why don’t they add them rather than the manufacturers inflicting them on everyone.

liberatordeluxe says:
25 February 2013

@ Wavechange I don’t suppose you would be so kind and find out the ingredients in your Tesco Bio liquitabs so i could compare them to the main brands? Many Thanks

[Hi liberatordeluxe, we’ve edited your as we don’t allow users to post their contact details. Thanks, Mods]


I don’t use the Tesco product for any particular reason other than the fact that it is usually the cheapest product. Sometimes I buy other products if they are on special offer. There is a branded product that I avoid because it has a very powerful perfume.

As I have mentioned before, some information can be found from the MSDS (material safety data sheet) since any supplier of products containing substances that may contain any chemicals that could be harmful is obliged to provide information under the COSHH regulations (control of substances hazardous to health). MSDS can often be found online by typing in MSDS and the product name. I tried to look up the MSDS for the Tesco liquid capsules and found the following on the Tesco website: Tesco can provide COSHH data sheets for its own branded products. To obtain these please contact Customer Services on 0800 50 55 55. I’m not offering to make the call, but I’ve found a free number for you. 🙂

Sinders says:
26 April 2013

Why do the washing powder manufacturers have to keep changing the formulas? Either something works or it doesn’t. I used to get on well with Persil original non-bio. Suddenly it was ‘new and improved’ and still strangely ‘original’ but what a stink! Now something similar seems to have happened to Eco non-bio. Grr….. Why oh why???


There are various reasons for changing the ingredients of washing powders. One of the best ones has been to make them more environmentally friendly. Perhaps the best example is the removal of phosphates which were polluting water courses. The (European) Water Framework Directive has been a driver to clean up our rivers and canals.

Manufacturers compete to improve their market share. Having a better product – whether this is genuine or customers are convinced by advertising – is important, but since customers tend to think that new is better, making changes is a way of improving sales. Of course, not all change results in improved products, but you are not going to see any manufacturer claiming that their product is worse than the previous version.

matt says:
12 July 2013

@ Wavechange Would that be Ariel you happen to avoid? I find that makes me sneeze non stop and gives me a headache!


Definitely not Ariel, Matt. A former neighbour gave Ariel its name and I would have remembered. I suspect it was Bold, but I can’t be certain. I have various allergies including certain perfumes and these ones often smell very strongly. I always used to avoid biological detergents but my mother used them, so I discovered that they don’t to affect my asthma or irritate my skin.

Allergies vary very much between individuals.


I have recently tried a little experiment with Bio and non-Bio powders.

I saw a small box of Daz bio powder in a 99p shop and bought it.

Washing with this in a 95 degree hot whites cycle (yes, I know perfectly well that this destroys the enzymes, but that’s irrelevant for what I was hypothesising) the laundry came out perfectly clean and I had no itching or other effects from the use of the Daz.

I used the same product from the same box in a 60 degree cycle and also in a 40 degree non-fast coloureds. in the case of the 60 degree wash, no unwanted effects at all and perfectly clean laundry. In the 40 degree wash three ‘problems’ – 1) the powder did not all dissolve and in the first two rinses I could see bits of undissolved powder floating around in the rinse water. I didn’t manage to find any on even black items at the end of the program though; 2) a couple of the items in the wash didn’t come out properly clean (same items used every week and come out perfectly clean using either soap flakes or Stergene). Specifically light coloured socks which had taken on some colour from the inside of trainers still had traces of the trainer colour on them and a grey T shirt which had splashes of garden water containing Miracle Gro came out with the splashes still visible.; 3) the perfume of the Daz was still detectable in the machine at the end of the cycle – though I could not detect it on the laundry after it had been line-dried.

This was a very unscientific experiment but to me it seems to be indicative of Bio powders which are used at the low temps that they are designed for not fully dissolving and therefore not being fully removed in the rinsing. My washer is a very old one which puts rinse water into half way up the door – I would venture to suggest that if you use bio powders in a modern machine which doesn’t use enough rinse water to shift the residue properly then the problem will be greater and traces of the undissolved powder will remain on the laundry at the end of the cycle. I guess that the chances of this then affecting people with sensitive skin would be quite high. Especially as I note that the Daz box warns “Avoid direct contact with skin. If you have sensitive skin use protection when handling this product.”

As an aside from the main topic of this board, it also seems to suggest to me that Bio powders actually don’t work very well at low temps anyway.

Finally, a comment on what Matt says directly above this: the Co-op’s own Non-bio powder, which I’ve used for years, washes perfectly well and I have no skin problems with it, but it smells foul and it makes me sneeze like you’d never believe if I manage to disturb it enough for dust to rise from the pack. If I manage to inhale a little of it it burns the inside of my nostrils terribly. Clearly, therefore, sneezing and other nasal irritations are not exclusive to Bio powders. For these reasons I may actually continue to use Daz whist I can but it for 99p a pack, but only for the 60 and 95 degree cycles – with Soap Flakes and Stergene for the non-fast coloureds.


I switched to liquid capsules to avoid the undissolved powder remaining in the detergent dispenser. The only drawback is that I cannot vary the amount per wash.

I would love to know if the formulation of bio and non-bio detergents of the same brand differ only in the presence of enzymes. I would also like to know which enzymes are present in different products. I believe that they all contain an alkaline protease to break down protein stains but there are other enzymes used in bio detergents.

The warning on the Daz box is fairly standard these days. You will see the same on a bottle of Fairy Liquid. In the days when they advertised that Fairy Liquid was kind to hands, a schoolfriend’s mother developed industrial dermatitis from contact with the stuff. Detergents, perfumes and enzymes can all cause problems and hopefully our elderly washing machines will carry on working until the manufacturers work out that we need to reintroduce proper rinsing. If we need to save water, perhaps we should not be flushing toilets with drinking water.



I notice that you mention that Co-op detergent smells foul. I find that some things that affect my asthma including some ‘perfumes’ used in domestic products are unpleasant or smell very strongly. I cannot imagine that most people smell them in the same way. I often give talks in old village halls that stink of dampness, even if there is no trace of a problem. No-one else seems to notice. Prolonged exposure to these perfumes etc. affects my breathing but I have never sneezed, unlike you and Matt.

matt says:
13 July 2013

You should look at the Discuss o Matic laundry forum and there are plenty of people on there who think you don’t need plenty of water for rinsing. They don’t know what they are talking about and it makes me furious when you get someone saying you don’t need loads of water for rinsing. I agree 100% with Dave and Wavechange that machines that use lots of water solve my sensitive skin issues and I can use biological.

I think the reason why powders do not dissolve is because they are packed with Sodium Sulfate: a useless filler which just bulks out the powder and buggers up your septic tank over time and washing machine. The solution in my opinion is to use liquid or liquid-tabs as there are no fillers except maybe more water in some but you are paying for active cleaning agents not junk. Alternatively I can highly recommend Simply as these are super concentrated and rinse cleaning and usually no need to do loads of rinses.

I normally buy Ecover laundry bleach so that disinfects the machine and whitens whites plus you are paying 100% for the active ingredient. £1.80 I think in Waitrose.




Sodium sulphate is very soluble in water. See the entry on Wikipedia.

It is often referred to as a filler but I believe it is needed to keep the detergent free flowing.

I cannot be sure but suspect the detergent is more likely than sodium sulphate to mess up a septic tank.

Grob says:
14 July 2013

I have been using more “Silk and delicates” liquid, both by hand and in the machine. I’m assuming it is kinder to fabrics though clearly not as superior to bio’s for whites.

Just wondering about others’ experiences with this…

ben says:
14 July 2013

I am wondering if the delicate liquids rinse much easier than the standard ones? Thought I am currently using Ariel Bio powder and it rinses fine.


The January 2014 issue of Which? magazine has a report on liquid detergent capsules.

Liquid detergents don’t normally contain bleach and manufacturers usually recommend low washing temperatures, so there is a good chance that users will end up with a washing machine heavily contaminated with bugs unless they periodically take action to prevent this.

It’s great to know that liquid detergents are effective at cleaning but I feel that it would have been useful to mention the bug problem in the article, given the amount of discussion we have had about it.


Hi Wavechange,

I am very interested in the impact of using liquid detergents on germs in washing machines, but there wasn’t enough room in my most recent article on capsules to cover such a complex issue.

It’s an issue that I do want to cover in the magazine in future, as well as here on Which? Convo.

The recommendation from our laundry detergent testing experts is to run a service wash on a regular basis to prevent the build up of nasties if you generally wash at low temperatures. It’s what I do at home, as I generally use liquid detergent. So far, my washing machine is fairly fragrant, but it’s relatively new and the bugs might still be getting settled in.


Thanks Katie. I look forward to reading more on this subject.

As Which? reported earlier this year, a 60C wash does not mean that this temperature is attained in practice. That means that the maintenance wash should be done with a detergent containing bleach (as powders generally do) or at a higher temperature setting.

I believe that maintenance washes should be carried out weekly rather than monthly, having some knowledge of growth of bugs on surfaces (i.e. biofilms) albeit not in the context of washing machines. I would be interested to know what evidence there is for manufacturers’ recommendations. Maintenance washes are usually done without clothes etc in the machine, which seems to be a waste of detergent and electricity. I wash my bedding and towels at least once a week at 60C using liquid detergent and there is no sign of bugs in it. Other washes are done at 40C, the lowest temperature my machine will achieve. My machine is ancient (1982) and it did reach 60C when I bought it. If I had a modern machine I would either use a powder detergent weekly or use a higher temperature setting than the false 60C wash.

If washing machines posed a serious health risk we might know about it by now. Nevertheless bugs can affect those with allergies. I’m allergic to various common environmental moulds and have landed in hospital with asthma after walking through tall grass during a dry summer. Keeping washing machines free of a build-up of bugs just seems like good practice to me, to prevent possible problems.


You are quite right – it certainly doesn’t appear that we can rely on high temperature programs to actually reach and sustain those temperatures on many washing machines.

I seem fairly resilient to bugs, so my main concern is to keep my washing machine mould-free. I’d like to avoid using bleaching products where I can, but I have to balance that with not wanting a washing machine covered in those mouldy splotches that seem to love built-in models so much.

There must be a lot of people out there who don’t realise that washing machines need a bit of extra TLC to keep them bug-free.


Fading of some colours is a very good reason for avoiding detergents containing bleach, and it is good that liquid detergents are effective at cleaning without bleaching components or the need for high washing temperatures. That does not mean that the machine always has to be used at low temperatures and without a detergent containing bleach.

Information in the machine instructions can be forgotten, so a reminder to do a maintenance wash could be displayed on washing machines, in the same way that coffee makers sometimes provide a reminder about descaling.

Jasmine says:
9 January 2014

Ok listen to this. I’ve been doing a hell of a lot of research about washing machines, hot water/cold water, rinsing, bio/non bio etc etc. Pregnant with my first child who will be born in three weeks (yikes!) you see so all the info is essential to me because I know that babies have somewhat sensitive skin. Here’s what I’ve learned –

* (Washing in temperatures below 60 degrees does not kill bacteria, hospital illnesses such as e coli/ m.r.s.a etc, germs, dust mites and bed bugs) research about it if you like, but studies are now showing that the temperature below is not hot enough to kill these nasty and horrible things. Now seriously, who wants to be wearing clothes they think are clean when in reality there not. (who wants to be wearing dust mite infected clothes where the dust mites are eating your dead skin cells of your body thanks to still being alive in your clothes – not me! I think this would attribute to eczema etc)

For this reason, I wash black clothes or bright colours inside out at 60 degrees and all whites go for a 95 degree wash every time. The only time I will use cold water to wash my clothes is if I have stains. If there are stains I use cold water cycles to remove the stains before following up with a hot wash at the temp of at least 60. (washing in cold water first removes and prevents stains from setting as hot water can set stains).

*(How much detergent i.e washing powder, liquid, capsules, eco balls, soapnuts whatever you use etc etc is actually needed?)

Are you one of those people who goes by the back of the box, are you even one of those people who thinks more is better, more is cleaner? Wrong, at least in this case. First of all the recommendations on how much washing powder to use is wayyyyyyy too much.. e.g – I use surf with essential oils, pink box tropical lily and ylang ylang. The dosing instructions on the back are as follows –

(Soft water) – 50ml for lightly soiled clothes, 90ml for medium soiled clothes, 170ml for heavily soiled clothes.

(Medium water) – 90ml for lightly soiled, 130ml for medium soiled, 210ml for heavily soiled.

(Hard water) – 130ml for lightly soiled, 170ml for medium soiled, 250ml for heavily soiled.

Here’s the reality, use half the recommended amount, you could even get away with using 1/4 the recommended amount if you have the right wash routine, not only will you save money, your detergent will last longer and your clothes will still be clean. Manufacturers tell you to use more then necessary so you will run out quicker and therefore have to buy more of their product faster. Using the recommended amount of washing powder is actually bad for you because most washing machines these days are high efficient in order to “save money” and therefore don’t use the right amount of water needed to wash all the soap out of clothes. What does this mean? It means that not enough water is being used and when your using the dosing instructions stated on your detergent, which is way too much, it is not being washed out of clothes, therefore your clothes only appear clean, you are then drying these clothes and trapping the detergent into the fibres of your clothes. There are simple tests that you can do to see if you have been using too much detergent, research about it or any of this info online to back up what I am telling you. Having detergent still in your clothes, no wonder you have allergies, itchy-ness, eczema etc, the detergent is coming into contact with your still, not only is not good for every one, it is especially not good for people and babies with sensitive skin! In one respect, you could also say that you don’t actually need to use any detergent at all to still get clean clothes as its clean clothes is all in the actions that your washing machine does, agitation, washing, rinsing, spinning so a tiny bit of soap would do etc but whether you use it or not is up to you. I bet most of us have enough detergent still in our clean dry clothes to be able to wash them plenty of times without having to use any detergent.

*(What water do you have?)

The water that gets clothes the cleanest is soft water. Even if you don’t have soft water, there’s loads of very cheap additives you can use to get soft water. Here’s a list of some of them. –

Soda Crystals.
Baking Soda.
White Vinegar.
Borax Substitute if you live in the U.K, Borax if you stay in the U.S.A.

I use all of the above when washing clothes. Soda crystals are the basis of washing powder, they clean clothes, remove stains of clothes, softens hard water, using soda crystals means you have to use less detergent because they are an additive which means you save money. Soda crystals also clean out your washing machine and remove lime scale etc. The best thing is you can get 1kg of soda crystals for £1 from asda etc they have loads of cleaning properties, not just laundry benefits.

Baking soda (make sure its baking soda and not baking powder) freshens clothes, removes odours, whitens white clothes naturally, removes stains, makes clothes soft, removes/strips excess residue build up of detergent and fabric softener from clothes which results in cleaner, fresher, softer clothes. Baking soda can be used for lots of home-made recipes and also deep cleans your washing machine.

White vinegar is a natural fabric softener, it makes clothes soft without having to use fabric softener as fabric softener contains very harmful chemicals which coat the fabric to make them feel soft.. You should not use fabric softener on towels and baby clothes as it stops the towels from absorbing water which is the job of a towel and it stops baby clothes from being flame resistant. Fabric softener also does not wash out of clothes and builds up on fabric every time you use it, so great if you want your clothes to be water proof but very bad otherwise. If you use fabric softener to make your clothes, towels and linens soft, try using vinegar instead which will produce the same effect and the smell of vinegar doesn’t stay in clothes after they are dry. If you use fabric softener for the smell, you can do what I do, mix vinegar with your favourite essential oils to fragrance it, I use lemon, orange and tea tree to fragrance mine, tea tree is an anti bacterial oil which kills bacteria and lots of germs so it is perfect to use in the washing machine and on clothes. Vinegar also softens water and removes/strips detergent/fabric softener residue from clothes and towels which makes them more absorbent and last longer, as well as clean, fresh and soft. Vinegar can be used for lots of home-made cleaning recipes and also deep cleans your washing machine.

Borax substitute whitens whites, softens water, removes stains and can be used for lots of home-made cleaning recipes as well as deep cleaning your machine.

*(To use bio or non bio)

Well bio cleans clothes better and removes stains better, plus bio works in cold water, when bio is used in hot water, it becomes non bio because the enzymes in bio die in hot water. I get the best of both worlds using bio because when I use it in cold water to remove stains, and as you already know I then wash clothes at 60/95degrees, 60 degrees is too hot for a bio detergent to remain effective so it becomes non bio which means I don’t have to go out my way and buy non bio detergent. This is a good money saving tip for people who buy bio for themselves and non bio for children’s clothes/people with sensitive skin etc here is another thing, people with sensitive skin don’t need to buy non bio detergents just because of sensitivity/skin problems. Most of the time the reason you have problems with biological detergent is because (as I have said before) of using the recommended amount of detergent (which is too much, use half or less) and the fact that now a days washing machines don’t use enough water to wash the detergent out which means your clothes still have detergent in them. If you have sensitivity issues, here is what you have to do –

You have to add extra water to your washing machine to get the excess soap out, in a front loading washing machine, you can do this buy manually adding cups of water into your detergent drawer which drops the water straight into the drum. Do this while the washing machine is running through a cycle, especially the rinsing cycle as this is when you will need it most when trying to get the detergent out of clothes. Alternatively if you have stained clothes and you want to soak clothes to remove stains, instead of doing them manually in a container or something, why not try doing them inside your washing machine. If you don’t have a pre soak option, or its not long enough or you want the clothes to soak overnight etc this is a good way to do it, simply add the clothes to the drum, close the door, add your washing detergent as usual, then pour loads of water in after to let the clothes soak in there for as long as you want. (You DON’T put the washing machine on while soaking clothes this way). When you are ready to wash your clothes, go to the washing machine, turn it on, select what cycle you want to use, add your detergent, press start, the washing machine should drain the previous soak water and start the cycle that you have chosen. Even if your washing machine doesn’t drain the soak water, its fine because at some point during the cycle, it will do it. Another way to trick your washing machine into using more water is to add one or two wet towels at the beginning or even a whole load of wet clothes depending on what your washing. This will make the clothes heavier and make the washing machine think there is more clothes being washed then there really is because of the weight so it will use more water.

Putting your clothes through more then one rinse will then remove any excess soap so if you can, do a few rinses. If you have sensitive skin, as long as you thoroughly wash the clothes in enough water and thoroughly rinse the clothes in enough water, you should hopefully have no problems with bio detergents. (Just make sure you use enough water and add a few rinses to remove soap.)

Jasmine says:
9 January 2014

In order to save money, I “semi make” my own home made washing powder and fabric softener.

Here’s what I use:

Surf biological washing powder with essential oils tropical lily and ylang ylang 25 washes 2KG the price of this box varies everywhere you go so it normally costs anything from £4 – £6.50. I only buy it when its on offer for £3 at Scotmid The Co Operative. It was on offer recently for £3 so I stocked up with a few boxes happy that I was saving at least £1 or more per box.

I have soft water and the dosing instructions for soft water are 50 ml for lightly soiled clothes, 90 ml for medium soiled and 170 ml for heavily soiled. When it costs £3, it works out to £0.12p per wash, that is if you were to only do 25 washes but I don’t use the recommended amount of washing powder, I use at least half, so if I was using half my dosing amount would be 25ml/45ml/85ml. I most likely even use less then that,

If I was to use only a quarter of the recommended amount which I can do since I use additives, (see my post above this one) the amount used would be 12.5ml/22.5ml/42.5ml. Less than 50 ml to clean heavily soiled clothes is exceptional however if I didn’t use additives, then I would use 85 ml for heavily stained clothes, but I would distribute it evenly between the pre wash and wash cycle.

The amount of surf washing powder I use means that I get at least 50 washes out of one 2KG box (I defo know I’m getting more then 50, because of the additives, will have to sit down and work it all out how much each wash costs and how much I actually save). Even if I was to only get 50 washes out of a 25 washes box, 50 washes for £3 is pretty good value wouldn’t you say.

Any ways in order to save more money, I mix this surf washing powder with a cheap washing powder that I buy from Asda. Its called Asda smart price biological automatic washing powder, because it is concentrated, it says on the box that you use less washing powder to get clothes clean. It smells nice and cost £2.80 and claims to do 50 washes 3.33kg which works out to £0.06 per wash. Can’t remember what the dosing instructions are 100% just now as I’m not at home to check but the dosage is approximately 35ml for lightly soiled clothes, 50ml for medium soiled and 90ml for heavily soiled. When I go home, I’m going to do a test to see if you really can get 50 washes out of this, and see if I can push it to more washes.

Either way, that’s £5.80 for 100 washes 🙂 Then to save even more money, I add dripak soda crystals. 1kg for £1 so I buy 3kg = £3. Read my post above to see the benefit of using soda crystals in your washing machine.

Time to mix it, I take a large container and get one empty cup, I then fill the empty cup to the top with the Surf wash powder and empty it into the large container, then I take one cupful of the cheap asda washing powder and empty that into the container, then I take one cupful of soda crystals and empty that into the container. Using a spoon, I mix these three together and then repeat the process again and again until the Surf is finished (it finishes quicker then the other 2 because its only 2kg), this is the recipe for my semi home made washing powder and whatever’s left of the asda washing powder and soda crystals, I put away for another time. All I know is this recipe is saving me a lot of money and I get hundreds of washes out of it for £8.80, which really actually works out to £7.80 because I have 1kg of soda crystals left over which I didn’t use!

When I work out how many washes my large container of washing powder does, I will let you know, all I know over 200 washes for less than £8 😀

As well as using soda crystals as an additive, I also use borax substitute and baking soda in the wash when I’m washing white clothes. The above post tells you my dosing instructions if you want to know more and the uses for these additives.

My semi home made fabric softener –

I still use fabric softener as I had quite a few bottles of comfort blue skies (£2 for 42 washes £0.5 per wash), lenor spring awakening (£2 for 40 washes £0.5p per wash) since they were on offer. I also bought asda star fruit and ambar fabric softener (£2 for 57 washes £0.4 per wash). When it runs out, hopefully I will skip the fabric softener because it is not good for clothes and full of dangerous chemicals.

I use asda white vinegar (£0.48 for 568ml) I buy a few of these bottles.

For scent, and also because they are both antibacterial, I use tea tree oil and zoflora citrus fresh to kill any thing bacterial that might be lurking in the washing machine.

To mix, I add one cup of fabric softener into a large bowl, then 2 cups of vinegar or sometimes I use 2 cups of fabric softener to 1 cup of vinegar although I will add water to the second mixture to dilute the fabric softener a bit and make it less concentrated. (read above for the benefits of using vinegar) and I keep doing this until I have made enough mixture to pour it into a 2litre bottle. I then use the lid of the zoflora and add as many capfuls of this plus drops of tea tree oil until I have the desired smell. Close the bottle and shake it up. My home made solution lasts me a very very very long time. If I have some at home, I’ll add some baking soda as this also naturally softens clothes.



I assume that by ‘fabric softener’ you are referring to something added to the final rinse. Fabric softeners are not rinsed off and work because the chemicals remain on the fabric. Thus they may come in contact with skin.

You mention using a home-made fabric softener containing Zoflora – a disinfectant. Type in ‘Zoflora MSDS’ into Google and you will see descriptions including ‘harmful in contact with skin’ and ‘may produce an allergic reaction’. I would be concerned about the other components of your fabric softener too.

No-one needs to use fabric conditioners and I would think very carefully before exposing a new child to a cocktail of chemicals that could cause skin irritation or worse. Using a minimum amount of detergent and additional rinsing will certainly help to remove detergent residues. I hope all goes well with the birth of your baby.

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