We often hear that cleaning detergents used in washing machines and washer dryers cause people to have skin problems and, for many years, we have been telling people that this just isn't the case. A few days ago The Times reported that scientists have no proven that this is in fact the case. The suggestion was that biological powders and liquid detergents, which contain enzymes that "digest" dirt and stains, can irritate the skin or aggravate eczema.
The suspicion is thought to have arisen after workers manufacturing detergent enzymes suffered skin reactions. However, an association with eczema when the detergents are used in the home had not been clearly proven.
Scientists from Nottingham and London carried out a review of the evidence, looking at both normal and extreme exposures to the biological agents.
Dr Sarah Wakelin, a dermatologist at St Mary's Hospital, London, said: "Investigations of numerous individuals with skin complaints attributed to laundry products demonstrate convincingly that enzymes were not responsible.
"Indeed, enzyme-containing laundry products have an extensive history of safe use. Thus, the supposed adverse effects of enzymes on skin seem to be a consequence of mythology."
The researchers' findings appear today in the British Journal of Dermatology.
Several studies had also looked at the effects of product residues left on clothes, and found no evidence that these caused irritation.
Dr Wakelin said: "Substances must penetrate the outer skin barrier to reach the lower layers and do so in a sufficient quantity to activate the immune system in such a manner as to lead to an allergic response.
"By virtue of their size, enzymes are unlikely to penetrate the skin to any great degree. Also, enzymes in laundry products are encapsulated in a robust, inert barrier. This means that actual skin exposure will be extremely low."
You can find out more on this subject from this article which offers further help and advice. However we would advise that you should use your detergents correctly to get the best possible results and to save the danger of residues being left on clothing.
It is also highly advisable to regularly carry out a maintenance wash (You can find instructions on the site) or that you clean your machine internally regularly with a cleaner to avoid the build up of residues and bad smells with the likes of Afffresh washing machine and washer dryer cleaner which we recommend to ensure that your washing machine is clean internally, where you cannot see the build up of dirt and residues.