Hi, mom, I have a question about allergies. I am allergic to certain types of laundry soap, the worst of which is tide. I suspect that I am allergic to the borax that's in these soaps, as it's a common ingredient in all of the ones I'm allergic to, but do you know of any way to figure out for sure what causes the reaction. As a side note, there isn't an allergist at the practice I go to anymore, but I do have a pulmonologist, if that matters at all. Thank you so much in advance!
Oh dear, I’m so sorry to hear you’re having issues with laundry detergent @colehence, but rest assured you are not alone in being allergic to things like Tide, it’s actually super common.
You didn’t mention what your reactions were (and pulmonology is really only going to help if it’s triggering asthma) and while it’s possible you are reacting to the borax, it’s also entirely possible it’s the synthetic scents, the presence of sulfates (huge problem for a lot of us with chronic allergies or things like eczema) or any number of things in brands like Tide. The smell alone of regular Tide triggers respiratory distress in myself, the second worst thing after that being Downy fabric softener which we found out was triggering an allergic reaction which manifested as panic attacks and migraines for me from even just walking down the laundry aisle in the grocery store, so now I don’t. I will do a loop of the entire store to avoid the laundry aisle unless I have my vogmask with me. Cause fuck all that shit.
Even Tide’s “Free and Clear” range scores an F for failure and high levels of allergy and toxicity through EWG.org due to containing Ethanolamine, Benzisothiazolinone (also found in pesticides, fun!) as well as Sodium Borate (Borax) which are all known skin irritants and just generally non allergy friendly. So fuck Tide for pretending to actually make something “free and clear” when what they mean is “we didn’t add the neon blue or that weird chemical scent, enjoy your other major allergens though!”.
The only way to really test this on your own without an allergist, is to try alternative laundry detergent brands. Unfortunately actual free and clear detergents are more expensive, but well worth the investment if you can find a way to get them in bulk. Cause y’know not itching to death/having constant headaches and coughs as well as clean clothes should be an attainable goal for everyone, not just people without allergies.
I have three brands I know I can use without major issue. And because this is going to get long, I will put the full ingredient list of each one under a cut <3
- Planet 2x Ultra Laundry Detergent Free & Clear*
- Whole Foods Organic Liquid Laundry Detergent, Unscented**
- Seventh Generation Powder Detergents: aka I will die on the hill of this brand, I just wish it was more affordable.****
Another thing worth checking for along with trying to avoid borax is methylisothiazolinone which is in virtually every commercial main brand of everything cause it’s a highly effective antimicrobial and preservative.
And it’s also highly effective at making me dead cause I can’t have anything that contains it in the house, no hand soaps, no laundry, no perfumes, no candles no nothing. Even all of ETD’s things, his soaps, shampoo, lotions, sunscreen, all of it had to go because just even him using it was making my skin break out. Which is unacceptable when you smooch as much as we do.
Methylisothiazolinone is also often used hand in hand with benzisothiazolinone, which you may remember from our
good worst friend Tide. So that’s another thing to watch out for, even if one isn’t listed, they often go hand in hand together.
Other brands which are low allergen and don’t contain borax but I haven’t personally tried are:
- Biokleen Free & Clear,
- Ecover (which my mother has been using for literal decades, it’s great if you can get it but I struggle to find it over here at a reasonable price so I didn’t list it up there)
- Attitude: Little Ones Laundry Detergent (Fragrance Free),
- Fit Organic Laundry Detergent (Free and Clear),
- and Green Shield Organic, which even their scented ones test low on allergens, so I may need to check those out.
Brands to AVOID if you have skin issues or respiratory allergies include:
- Tide in all shapes and forms, (I’m sorry, I know it’s cheap but compare that to the cost of your allergy meds/asthma meds and oh boy is it suddenly not worth it.)
- Wallgreens “Nice!” brand.
- Ajax. (it burns)
- Kirkland Signature (you can hear the Costco lovers screaming)
- Arm and Hammer (yes really, even their free and clear contains sodium alylyr aryl ether sulfate which is a medium range allergy risk for skin and respiratory issues)
- J.R. Watkins ‘Natural’ Liquid Laundry Detergent, Fragrance Free (they don’t actually list what their surfactants are but based on my reaction I think it’s wheat based)
- and lastly, the insidious Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day product range which can honeslty just jump off a cliff with their synthetic fragrances and their methylisothiazolinone and all their other crap they hide behind their “we use essential oils so we’re SAFE” marketing horseshit. I’d literally rather gargle glass than touch any of their products again. It’d have roughly the same effect on my throat and lungs.
I hope some of this is helpful for you in trying to work out if it is your laundry cleaning that is causing you the issue. If you want to hit me up on IM (I will be opening it up again this weekend) to chat allergies and what have you, I am totally down with that :) Take care!