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If you have sensitive skin, you may use special cleansers, lotions, and other gentle skin care items to keep your flare-ups to a minimum. One product that's often overlooked when auditing our homes for irritants, though, is laundry detergent. When you toss your clothes and linens in the wash, you might think the all irritants are completely eliminated in the rinse cycle. However, sometimes what's in your detergent can upset your skin, and trace amounts can remain on the fabric, leading to itching, hot or red skin, and even blistering later on.
The common skin irritants you can find in laundry detergents include: fragrances, dyes, surfactants, and preservatives. Gentle detergents are formulated to avoid these common skin irritants, but it is also recommended by the National Eczema Association to make use of an extra rinse cycle, just to be sure that all irritants are washed and drained away. Now, when selecting a detergent, you'll need to keep in mind that some formulas are made of plant-based ingredients and very eco-friendly, and others are specially designed with newborns or little ones in mind. Some come in the form of liquid, while others are pods or powder pods. Consider how you like to do laundry, as well as the members of your household, before clicking "add to cart." In addition, know your clothes, bedding, and towels will not be any less clean, fluffy, or fresh after using most gentle formulas.
Here, the best laundry detergents for sensitive skin, backed by our testing and thorough research.
Best Overall: Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Laundry Detergent
A little goes a long way
Good at removing stains
Scent isn't overpowering
On the expensive side
Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Laundry Detergent is our top pick for those with sensitive skin. The formula is made up of plant-derived ingredients, including stain-fighting enzymes that effectively remove spots and stains from your fabrics. It's biodegradable, and features a light, lavender scent, courtesy of essential oils. (Other scent options are also available, like honeysuckle and rosemary, if you'd prefer something different.) When testing this product, our tester was particularly impressed with how this detergent was able to tackle grass stains that weren't even pre-treated.
In addition, this product is safe for use with high-efficiency washing machines and septic tanks. It's free of dyes, dermatologist-tested, and concentrated. This means a little bit of this detergent goes a long way. It's recommended to use a half capful for regularly-sized loads of laundry. Considering this laundry detergent's more expensive than others, that's a real bonus.
Best Budget: All with Stainlifters Free Clear Detergent
Not messy to use
No perfumes or dyes
Easy to find in stores
Not good at removing stains
Leaves clothes feeling stiff
If you're looking to spend less on your laundry detergent, All Free Clear contains zero perfumes or dyes, and comes at a good price. Our tester noted that it wasn't messy to use, despite being a liquid product, and was an effective option for their daughter who has eczema. However, there are certain aspects to this detergent that might make you reach for a different one.
To start, it's not great a fighting stains, since it doesn't have as many stain-fighting enzymes in its formula. It also leaves clothes feeling rather stiff and smelling rather bland. If you don't mind missing out on fluffy shirts and towels, then this pick will be suitable for you. It's also probably best used for basic laundry loads, since it can't fight an oil or grass stain well.
Best Eco-Friendly: Seventh Generation Free & Clear Natural Liquid Laundry Detergent
Can tackle common stains
Compatible with HE machines
On the expensive side
No fresh scent
You won't find any dyes, synthetic fragrances, harsh chemicals, or artificial brighteners on the ingredients list of this laundry detergent. Seventh Generation's Free & Clear Laundry Detergent is a USDA Certified Biobased Product, meaning at least 97 percent of its plant-based ingredients are biologically renewable. The formula is not only gentle on the skin but is also good for the environment, as a result. In addition, it's safe for use with a high-efficiency washing machine, so you can really double-down on your eco-friendly laundry routine.
Our tester noted that this detergent doesn't really leave your clothes with any scent, which can be both good and bad. On one hand, it means the formula is free of fragrances. On the other, you'll miss out on the scent of fresh laundry. However, our tester did find that the formula was effective at tackling most common stains like grass or tomato sauce.
Best Pods: Dropps Sensitive Skin & Baby Detergent
Convenient to use
Box isn't very durable at times
Dropps Sensitive Skin & Baby Detergent is a great option for those who prefer pods. You can get a box of 64, 160, or 240 pre-measured pods, which contain a gentle, liquid formula. Dropps doesn't use harsh chemicals, dyes, phosphates, or chlorine in their formula—just natural, eco-friendly, biodegradable ingredients. The list of ingredients includes earth-derived glycerin and other plant-based surfactants, which attract and pull out dirt and stains from fabrics, allowing them to be rinsed away.
The EPA Safer Choice program, which helps identify products and ingredients that are safer for humans and the planet, approves the formula. Plus, the packaging is recyclable and compostable. You will also enjoy how clean it is to use these pods. You don't have to worry about the detergent spilling on your laundry machine. It is just in your best interest to keep the box of pods in a place where they can't get knocked or wet. It's not as durable as a plastic container of detergent.
Best Powder: Grab Green Stoneworks Laundry Detergent Pods
Five natural scent options
No optical brighteners
Can leave a residue on clothes
Doesn't always dissolve properly
For a non-liquid option, consider the Stoneworks Laundry Detergent Pods from Grab Green. With a naturally derived ingredients list containing no chlorine, dyes, optical brighteners, or phosphates, it's ideal for anyone with sensitive skin. You can pick out the powder-filled pods in one of five natural scent options: birch branch, oak tree, olive leaf, rose, or rain. Thanks to the pod design, it's also easy to slip the detergent into your washer and start a load.
Now, there are a few "downsides" to this product. If one of the pods breaks, the powder sprinkles everywhere in both the packaging and likely your laundry room. You may also find that the powder doesn't always dissolve as it should, or will leave a bit of residue on your clothes.
Best Liquid: Tide Purclean Plant Based Honey Lavender Detergent
USDA Certified Biobased Product
Made at a zero-waste manufacturing site
Messier than a pod
When it comes to detergent, Tide is a household name. Though, the well-known brand's Purclean Plant Based Detergent is nothing like the dark blue liquid you may currently pour in your washer's dispenser. It has a light, honey lavender scent, and contains plant-based ingredients. The formula has no chlorine, dyes, brightening agents, or phosphates.
Best of all, it's easy on the skin, yet still just as powerful at cleaning your clothes as the original formula. Also, this detergent is made at a zero-waste manufacturing site that uses electricity from 100 percent renewable wind power. So, you can feel confident that your purchase is helping you, your household, and the planet. It does have fragrance in it, so buyer beware. However, it's another USDA Certified Biobased Product.
Best for Newborns: Dreft Stage 1: Newborn Liquid Laundry Detergent
Recommended by pediatricians
Can be used in a HE machine
Not ideal for cloth diapers
Dreft Stage 1: Newborn Liquid Detergent is specially designed for the little one in your household. It's not only recommended by pediatricians, but is also a hypoallergenic laundry soap with a fresh (but not overpowering) scent. The formula includes biodegradable surfactants and enzymes for removing dirt, stains, and all messes your newborn may find on a daily basis.
Now, this product does contain fragrances. It's also not suitable for cloth diapers. However, you can use it to hand wash items in your bathroom sink, and you can load it into a regular or high-efficiency washer. It's also free of dyes and the scent will leave your newborn's clothes smelling very clean.
Best for Little Ones: Noodle & Boo Ultra-Safe Laundry Detergent
Tested by pediatricians
On the expensive side
If you have kids at home, or just want to be extra careful about the products you use, we recommend Noodle & Boo Ultra-Safe Laundry Detergent. It's made without a laundry list of common irritants including like dyes, sulfates, phosphates, formaldehyde, or synthetic brighteners. What you'll get is a biodegradable solution with planted-based ingredients. This soap is hypoallergenic and tested by pediatricians and dermatologists, too.
You can count on it to remove odors and stains while preserving the integrity of your clothes and linens. The concentrated formula also allows you to use less with every load. This is an essential with this product, as it's pricier than others on shelves and online.
Best for Fighting Odors: Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Free & Clear Detergent
Other products in the line
Doesn't always ship well
Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Free & Clear is an excellent pick for those looking to fight odors and keep their skin happy. Like most of the well-known brand's products, the detergent contains baking soda, which some also use to clean surfaces around their homes (or to bake). The hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested formula doesn't have any perfumes or dyes, and rinses totally clean.
Notably, it's also a very affordable option. You can purchase it in a container that's suitable for 107 loads or for 140 loads. There are other products in the line you can also purchase that are designed for sensitive skin, like detergent pods. Your only negative review will be that the product may not have shipped well. You might want to consider buying it in stores, for that reason.
Best for Septic Systems: Persil ProClean Power-Liquid Detergent Sensitive Skin
Great at removing stubborn stains
Cap design could be better
Persil ProClean Sensitive Skin is a dermatologist-tested, hypoallergenic product made without any perfumes or dyes. While it's gentle on the skin, the formula is notably effective at removing tough stains and stubborn odors from clothes. It's also a safe option for septic systems. You can purchase it in multiple sizes and load it into a regular or high-efficiency washing machine.
You'll likely pick up on the fact that this detergent rinses clean and well. It's also another affordable option for households who want to treat their sensitive skin right and load up their laundry room with effective, reliable products. The cap may not withstand shipping and handling, but you can always find it in a store to avoid any potential leaks.
Our top pick for a laundry detergent if you or someone in your household has sensitive skin is Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Laundry Detergent (view at Target). A little of this product goes a long way, and its scent isn't too overpowering. If you want to spend a little less, All Free Clear (view at Walmart) is another great option. It's not as effective on stains, but our product tester noted that it was super gentle on their daughter's eczema.
What to Look for in a Laundry Detergent for Sensitive Skin
Laundry detergents come in several different forms. You can buy them as a liquid, pod, powder, or sheet. The type that's best for you depends on personal preference; what you consider is easy and convenient for you. If you frequently make trips to the laundromat, pods may be the best option for you because they're portable. Liquid detergent can be more tailored to your load size, but is often a messier option. Think about your laundry routine, the size of your loads and whether the size varies, and where you do your laundry before making a purchase. If you're using a high-efficiency machine, you'll need to find a detergent that's compatible with that type of washer.
It's essential to pay attention to the ingredient list of a laundry detergent if you or someone in your household has sensitive skin. The ingredient list will alert you to any irritants that might be in the formula. Common irritants include: fragrances (otherwise known as perfumes), surfactants, dyes, and preservatives. The word "hypoallergenic" in a detergent's label may mean that it contains fewer triggering ingredients. However, it's always best to read through the ingredient list yourself. Some detergents for sensitive skin are made of purely plant-based ingredients, and disregard the chemicals that may irritate your skin easily all together. These formulas are also typically much better for the environment. Optical brighteners are a common detergent ingredient that help keep clothes looking fresh and new, but can contaminate aquatic life. So, if you're looking to make your laundry room more gentle on the planet, this is also an ingredient to avoid.
Testing and Certifications
When finding the right detergent for your sensitive skin, it's always best to see what dermatologists, pediatricians, and national organizations think of the product. Some products for sensitive skin are tested by medical professionals, and will have a label telling you so. Others may be a USDA Certified Biobased Product—so at least 97 percent of its plant-based ingredients are biologically renewable—or a part of the EPA Safer Choice program. This program helps identify products and ingredients that are safer for humans and the planet, and may be an important consideration for a household that is looking to make their laundry routine more sustainable and eco-friendly.
How do you know if your laundry detergent is irritating your skin?
You'll know if your laundry detergent is irritating your skin if you are seeing signs of an allergic reaction. Red skin, hot skin, irritation, itchiness, swelling, and rashes are all common symptoms. These symptoms can appear as soon you come in contact with freshly washed laundry, or they can appear hours later. Generally, these types of skin reactions are limited to the specific area where the irritant came in contact with your skin. If you feel the reactions are all over and you've recently swapped your laundry detergent, it may be worth switching to test if the symptoms disappear.
Are all detergents good for sensitive skin?
In short, no. Many detergents are filled with artificial fragrances, which is a common culprit of contact dermatitis. Preservatives are also a common trigger. If you know you have a sensitivity to fragrance or a specific preservative, it's important to look over the ingredient list of the detergent you're choosing to make sure they're not present.
How do you pick out a detergent for sensitive skin?
Checking the ingredient list for irritants like fragrances, preservatives, dyes, etc. is always the best way to find a detergent for sensitive skin. Looking for claims like "gentle," "sensitive," "plant-based," and "hypoallergenic" are also a great way to narrow down your choices, but note that these are just a starting point, and your decision should not be solely made on these. Some detergents can also have seals from the National Eczema Association and the National Psoriasis Foundation, which can also be a great indicator that it's safe for sensitive skin.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This roundup was written by Theresa Holland, a Portland-based toddler mom and professional writer with inherently sensitive skin and substantial experience researching, reviewing, and writing about household products. When researching product picks for this roundup, she considered affordability, scent, effectiveness, and firsthand feedback from our product testers.