Soaps and Detergents

Housework is responsible for 10 to 15 percent of the skin problems that send people to their doctors. Many scrubbing powders contain abrasive – pumice, talc, sand, borax, cornmeal or wood powder – that are dynamite against ground in oil, grease, tar and other stubborn dirt also very rough on allergic skin.

70 to 75 percent of laundry detergents in United States contain enzymes, proteins with allergic potential. And practically all laundry soaps contain additives such as sodium carbonate, sodium phosphate, ash, borax or sodium silicate – which may irritate even if they don’t trigger allergy directly.

And of course, soaps and detergents contain fragrances, which are just as liable to cause allergy as the scents in cosmetics. Besides causing allergy directly, soaps and detergents enhance other allergies. These cleansers break down keratin, the tough protein component of skin, and the protective surface oils, therefore speeding up the absorption of allergic chemicals through the skin.

One woman, who has been highly allergic to such substances as pollen, molds and foods from early childhood, told us that she had been spared the miseries of skin allergies until around 1970, when enzymes became the ”in” laundry additives. She remain free of the problem, however, as long as she uses only enzyme free detergents like Ivory Snow.

You, too, can spare yourself the agonies of allergy to soaps and detergents by following a few simple guidelines.

  • Buy only white, unscented soap that’s free of antiseptics, lanolin, enzymes and so forth. Baby soaps and soaps for washable woolens and fine fabrics are the safest.
  • In general, simple, basic formulas are less prone to cause reactions than complex ones. Read labels.
  • Even the mildest laundry soaps and detergents must be thoroughly rinsed form clothing and bed sheets.
  • Pour or measure detergents or bleaches carefully so that they don’t splash onto your hands and arms. Or buy bleach sold in tablet form or packaged in premeasured envelopes.
  • During the winter, when dry air makes skin more easily irritated by clothing, presoak laundry and use about half the amount of detergent the manufacturers recommended.
  • Remove your rings when washing or using soaps, waxes and polishes to avoid trapping soap next to skin.
  • Better yet, use protective gloves to do any kind of housework. For wet job, use rubber gloves over powdered cotton gloves to prevent excessive perspiration. To reduce irritation, wear the gloves for 30 minutes at a time rather than pulling them on and off several times in the course of a day. Even with protective gloves, don’t make the scrub water to hoot; the heat will penetrate and irritate your hands.
  • For dusting or other dry, dirty housework, wear cotton gloves to keep your hands from getting too dirty. That way you don’t have to scrub your hands with soaps to get then clean again.
  • Use long handled brushes as much as possible to keep sensitive skin on arms from being slashed with hot, soapy water or paints, varnishes and lacquers.

Incidentally, the tips suggested above will be helpful whether your skin is allergic or just easily irritated. And they’ll help you tolerate contact with other sources of chemicals besides soaps and detergents.