Contact allergens and irritants in household washing and cleaning products

Contact Dermatitis. 2009 Dec;61(6):337-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.2009.01647.x.


Background: Household cleaning products often contain potential allergens and irritants but allergic contact dermatitis from these products in general consumers is rarely reported in the literature.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the presence of irritants and allergens as indicated on the labels or on the product information found on the website of household cleaning products marketed in Italy.

Material/methods: We examined the labels and the product information of 291 liquid household washing and cleaning products, including 43 washing-up liquids, 63 laundry detergents, 61 fabric conditioners, 47 spray detergents, and 77 hard surface cleaning products. We obtained the data from the product information found on the websites for 263 products and directly on the product packages for 28 products. For each product we specifically recorded the presence of surfactants, preservatives, and fragrances listed in Annex III of Directive 76/768/EEC.

Results: The websites of two Italian brands do not respect EU regulations as they provide product information only with bar codes of the products. Preservatives and fragrances are the main allergens declared in the label of household cleaning products with methylchloroisothiazolinone/methylisothiazolinone (MCI/MI) listed in 35.7% and limonene in 43.6% of the products. Surfactants were listed in 16.5% of the studied products.

Conclusions: Our study shows that household cleaning products in Italian market contain several allergens, particularly preservatives and fragrances. For consumers, at least in Italy, it may not be easy to retrieve product information from the website for two widely sold brands. The information had to be taken from the actual package.

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / analysis*
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / etiology*
  • Detergents / analysis
  • Disinfectants / analysis
  • Household Products / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Irritants / analysis*
  • Italy
  • Perfume / analysis
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / analysis
  • Surface-Active Agents / analysis


  • Allergens
  • Detergents
  • Disinfectants
  • Irritants
  • Perfume
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • Surface-Active Agents