Can I use laundry detergent on my clothes?

 Will it aggravate my skin/lesions?


Generally, we don’t discourage patients from using laundry detergent on their skin. For the majority of patients, it doesn’t seem to cause a problem and is an individual thing regarding whether or not they will have a sensitivity reaction. For patients that have an issue with this, we do recommend non-allergenic laundry detergents. The one I go to all the time is ALL, but there is also Tide, Simply Clean and Sensitive, and also Dreft Stage 1 for babies. Also, I discourage the use of softeners in the washer or in the dryer, as they are full of chemicals. It may be important to note that trial and error is an important point to remember as one brand may work better than another and is individual dependent.

Another tip is putting clothes through an additional rinse cycle if patients are still having trouble with a reaction to the laundry.

Recommended laundry detergents:
All Free and Clear,
Tide Free and Gentle
Ecos Free and Clear
Seventh Generation
Simply Clean and Sensitive
Dreft, Stage 1 (for babies)


Fabric softener may be of great help to patients with sensitive skin. They work by coating fibers with a thin layer of chemicals that are lubricants and electrically conductive. Less water (sweat) absorption is an effect that we are looking for. Good alternatives to chemical fabric softeners are:
1. Vinegar (1/2 cup to 1 cup of vinegar to wash cycle) – helps to rinse out detergent;
2. Dryer Max dryer balls help to dry clothes evenly and softens the material naturally.

Answers provided by:
Oleg E. Akilov, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor
Director, Cutaneous Lymphoma Program
Department of Dermatology
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Sue A. McCann, MSN, RN, DNC
Programmatic Nurse Specialist
Department of Dermatology
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center


Some patients report their skin lesions get easily irritated by fragrances in regular laundry detergent – if that occurs, I recommend fragrance and dye free detergents (such as Tide Free or ALL Free), avoid using excess amounts of detergent, consider running the rinse cycle twice, and avoiding fabric softener or dryer sheets.

Answer provided by:
Ellen J. Kim, MD
Sandra J. Lazarus Associate Professor
Department of Dermatology
Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine
Hospital of University of Pennsylvania