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Itching for a New Detergent? Try One of These Formulated Specifically for Sensitive Skin

These may be milder, but they're certainly not any less effective.

best laundry detergent

When testing both the best-smelling detergents and detergents designed for dark clothing, one of my main considerations was whether or not those detergents were safe for skin or not. Irritants abound in most detergents: fragrances, dyes, surfactants and preservatives, to name a few. (Surprising, I know.)

Furthermore, having spent the better part of a decade negotiating acne outbreaks, I understand skin sensitivity on a personal level. With this in mind, I set out to find 10 detergents safe for those with sensitive skin. Each of these may be a milder cousin of more popular detergents, but you’ll lose none of the potency in their cleaning abilities. And, hey, not getting a rash after every load isn’t a bad thing either. It’s a win-win in my book.

What Causes Skin Sensitivity?

Sensitive skin can be the result of a multitude of dermatological factors. Acne, rosacea, and even photosensitivity brought on by antibiotics can lead to itching and rashes. The most common reason, and the hardest to treat, comes as a result of your immune system. An overactive immune system can be triggered by an artificial or foreign irritant rubbed on the skin for too long — like, say, a fragrant detergent that permeated your clothing.

Perfumes, dyes, preservatives, and surfactants (the primary component in many detergents) all cause similar immuno-responses. Which is bad news for many of us because detergent is basically only perfume, dyes, and chemicals, isn’t it? (There are plant-based detergents; you'll see.)

It can definitely be frustrating when you start feeling that prickling feeling creep up your arm, or a red ring appears after wearing a dress shirt all day. Most of us just find a detergent that’s mild and stick to it, living worried anything else will cause another outbreak. It’s that strange mix of caution and superstition that causes brand loyalty for those of us with super-sensitive skin.

The Best Detergents for Sensitive Skin

Even though these are designed to be milder, it's still recommended that you rinse and spin your laundry twice before moving it to the dryer.

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    The Best Overall Detergent for Sensitive Skin
    Concentrated Laundry Detergent
    Seventh Generation

    • Pour cap and bottle design are easy to use
    • Hypoallergenic
    • Can be used for stain remover

    • Unscented, so the scent can fade easily
    • 53 loads from 40 ounces is not as concentrated as other brands
    • Not easy to find in all areas in emergency scenarios

    Seventh Generation’s entire line of home products have a reputation for getting the job done at a price that’s reasonable for most. Their Free & Clear detergent is no different. Designed to be a complete detergent for all load types, it uses enzymes as its active cleaning agent. And, coming in at 97-percent biobased, it’s very unlikely anyone will have an outbreak using their product.

    The Best Upgrade Detergent for Sensitive Skin
    Sensitive Skin Detergent

    • Pod design for everyday use
    • A convenient subscription system with a 25% savings
    • Plant-based ingredients

    • Pods can be tricky to know load size
    • Pods can tear easily
    • Some may not like Dropps unscented formula

    When laundry is your least favorite chore, Dropps makes it easy. First, their pods take some of the hassle out of measuring and pouring your detergent. Just pop it in, add your laundry, and go back to the Netflix show you were binging. As a plant-based and sustainability forward brand, you know you’re getting a simple but effective cleaning formula for your dirty laundry. On top of all of that, they offer a subscription service so you never have to write "buy detergent" on your to-do list ever again.

    The Best Affordable Detergent for Sensitive Skin
    Liquid Laundry Detergent (2-Pack)
    Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day

    • Highly concentrated: this 64-oz bottle can do about 64 loads
    • Can also be used as a stain remover for garments
    • Hypoallergenic

    • The scent is not long lasting
    • High-concentration formula makes it hard to know how much to use for a load

    Any fragrance from Mrs. Meyer’s line will do, but I’m partial to Rain Water and Honeysuckle, which both give a very subtle fresh smell. Mrs. Meyer’s has been leading the household cleaning industry since 2001, and now has a bit of a cult status amongst its fans. And there’s a reason for this: the products are gentle and effective without harsh chemicals to ballast the work that plant-derivatives can do just as well.

    Ultra-Concentrated Liquid Laundry Detergent
    Grove Collaborative

    • Good price for 33 loads
    • Unique and rich scent
    • Pouch packaging can be recycled

    • Dosage is hard to figure out for smaller loads
    • Can only be ordered online
    • Pouch packaging hard to handle and pour when more than half-empty

    Grove Collaborative is an online retail site dedicated to, in their own words, “Transforming household products into a force for good.” Curating brands that support this mission is one part of the business, but they also have their own proprietary line of goods. Their ultra-concentrated detergent is a safe and skin-friendly formula that gets the job done without compromising on performance.

    ProClean Liquid Laundry Detergent

    • Easy to find
    • Great for all load types
    • Perfume and dye free

    • Not chemical-free, so not for all sensitivities
    • Dosage cap does not indicate for smaller load
    • Not hypoallergenic

    Did you know that many detergents have artificial whitening agents? These synthetic chemicals are added to liquid detergents to make clothing appear whiter and brighter, and thus cleaner. This is also an active irritant for many and Persil’s formula, while still chemically-based, abstains from irritating additives. It’s a great all-around detergent while still giving many the peace of mind when it comes to their skin.

    Liquid Laundry Detergent

    • Good for stains and any load type
    • Easy to find in stores
    • Dosage cap and bottle are well designed and easy to use

    • Not chemical-free, so not safe for all sensitivities
    • Not hypoallergenic

    All Free Clear boasts being the #1 recommended liquid detergent by dermatologists and pediatricians for sensitive skin. Well, who am I to argue with doctors? Like Persil, it isn’t naturally derived but it does have an all-around great formula for everyday use and for shared households who can’t afford a separate load of laundry for one member.

    Fragrance-Free Signature Detergent
    The Laundress

    • Good for stain-fighting as well
    • A highly concentrated formula: this 33 oz bottle can do up to 64 loads
    • Bottle is 100% recyclable

    • Can really only be ordered online
    • High-concentration formula can make it hard to know how much to use for a load
    • Not plant-derived like some competitors’ products

    I was first attracted to The Laundress' minimal brand and interesting bottle to its great branding. (What can I say, I do judge a book by its cover.) All of that aside, their fragrance-free signature formula is a great all-around detergent, especially for sensitive skin.

    Plant-based Laundry Detergent
    Botanical Origin

    • Pleasant floral smell
    • Easy to use bottle and dosage cap
    • Hypoallergenic

    • Scent fades fairly easily
    • Not as tough on heavy stains or scents as other detergents

    It’s a good gamble to make that plant-based detergents are less likely to cause serious skin flare-ups. Because of the organic nature of these formulas, our immune system doesn’t see them as big of a threat as a foreign or synthetic additive. Botanical Origin’s line of products are a safe bet for any skin type, and their orange blossom and citrus leaves scent is a great alternative to the sometimes overpowering (or underwhelming) fragrances of its competitors.

    Sensitive Skin Fresh Scent Liquid Laundry Detergent
    Arm & Hammer

    • Very economical
    • Dosage cap easy to follow
    • Uses baking soda versus some chemical agents for stain fighting

    • Not concentrated, so bottle can be bulkier compared to other brands
    • Not plant-derived
    • Smell can linger, according to reviewers

    That baking soda in the back of your pantry can do a lot of things: give some leavening to cookies, reduce smells in the vegetable crisper, and even make a killer volcano for a third-grade science project. But its stain-fighting abilities make it one of the best detergent alternatives out there. As such, it's no surprise that Arm & Hammer would go enter the laundry industry with non-traditional active ingredients, while still providing a great all-around cleaning option for any load of laundry.

    Laundry Liquid (2-Pack)
    Charlie's Soap

    • Comes in a variety of sizes for any household/use
    • Specifically designed for users with users with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis
    • Hypoallergenic

    • Scent can fade away easily
    • Not as tough on stains as others, according to reviewers
    • Not easily found in all stores

    While not as well-known as others, Charlie’s Soap has been a cult favorite for many households. Their natural liquid laundry detergent isn’t specifically made for those with sensitive skin, but because of its all-natural formula, it’s the right balance for those with sensitivities and not alike.

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