Allergic to washing up liquid

One week after my first judging session for the freefrom food awards and I have learnt another allergy lesson, and this thanks to the amazing care and attention from Michelle, Cressida and Katherine.

Having someone on the judging panel with real allergies, and not just one, but many, posed a few logistical, safety and process problems for the freefrom management team. They tackled and overcame all with ease. I was made to feel completely included and at no time felt that my allergies were at risk or that I was causing hassle.

Almond in washing up liquid

They even checked the washing up liquid, which contained almond essence! Since my real allergies are to nuts and dairy, and not to my knowledge to almond we figured this would be OK. I’ve eaten almonds and not had an allergic reaction, but I do still avoid them on the whole due to cross contamination. I have also heard of a case where almonds were moulded from peanuts. Why would anyone do this? Well almonds are fairly expensive whereas peanuts are fairly cheap. Some food manufacturers will do anything to make a product cheaper.

However if you have an allergy to almond, both Earth Friendly and Fairy have an almond variety so it could be something to watch out for. If you used washing up gloves and rinsed carefully you’d probably be OK, but would residue from dishes washed in this liquid contain enough allergen to set off an allergic reaction? It poses questions about everywhere you eat then, which washing up liquid do they use? Will there be traces on the dishes? Am I just being paranoid here?

Can someone be allergic to washing up liquid?

So what is in normal washing up liquid? Can someone be allergic just to the normal soap varieties? The Ecologist focuses on Fairy liquid and examines the ingredients in its mild green variety which is supposed to be kind to your hands, right? Read
“Behind the label – Fairy liquid” for a list of known allergens in this product. Reading this I wouldn’t be surprised if lots of people were allergic to many washing up liquids. I always wear my non-latex washing up gloves because my hands are sensitive and I get eczema from too much washing up, perhaps this explains all that… A good excuse to get out of the washing up I think!

Dairy in washing up liquid

I then remembered that one of Ecover’s washing up liquid’s contains dairy. I have known this for some time and always buy the variety that doesn’t, but I wonder how many people know this.

This is what Ecover say about this product on their website:

“Our Camomile and Marigold Washing Up Liquid is the only product in our range which contains a small percentage of animal ingredients, i.e. milk whey. Milk whey is a bi-product of the cheese industry and would otherwise be thrown away. All our other products are suitable for vegans.

We add milk whey to our Camomile and Marigold Washing Up Liquid to ensure that it is extra kind to the hands. People who suffer from skin allergies or eczema can use it without putting on gloves.

Lemon and Aloe Vera Washing Up Liquid is an excellent alternative for those who prefer not to use a product containing milk whey.”

What they don’t say here is whether people with allergies to dairy should use it. I use their aloe vera washing up liquid but this still irritates my hands a bit so I always wear the washing up gloves and always rinse well.

Here are the ingredients of Ecover’s Aloe Vera washing up liquid: “Aqua, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS), Lauryl Polyglucose, Sodium Chloride, Citric Acid, Parfum, Limonene, Hydrolized Wheat Gluten, Aloe Barbadensis Gel, Citral, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol.” I know I’m allergic to limonene and also worth noting is that it contains wheat gluten – though hydrolisation should render it allergen free could someone still react? Isn’t SLS also a known allergen? I have never had a problem using this washing up liquid but I do always wear gloves and rinse off soap residue thoroughly. I know that if I wash up with bare hands I get lumps on my skin.

I use this washing up liquid because I want to be kinder to the planet, but I might try some of the other options below as a comparison, especially as some don’t contain SLS.

How do you avoid washing up liquid allergy?

Here are a few options for avoiding allergies to washing up liquid.

  • Wear gloves and rinse well
  • Use the dishwasher. This has a pretty good rinse cycle so should remove all traces of allergens
  • Bicarbonate of soda with hot water
  • Soap nuts dissolved in hot water – are recommended everywhere for people with sensitive skin. Find out more about washing clothes and dishes with soap nuts on the Natural Spa supplies website. Soapnuts are actually drupes, a fruit with a few seeds in each plant, which contain saponins, a natural soap. If you’re worried that soap nuts might be a nut and might cause an allergic reaction read this article I found by Christopher Sicurella of NaturOli. He seems to know what he’s talking about and the only other possible reference I found was on a forum from someone who thought they might have an allergy to the soap nuts they were using. All other sources I have say they aren’t a nut. However, technically someone somewhere could be allergic to them. Do a skin patch test before doing a full washing load!

Which brands are better?

Surcare washing up liquid
Surcare’s website had no ingredients information but Waitrose had this: Surcare Washing Up Liquid contains amongst other ingredients:, 15-30% Anionic Surfactants, Less than 15% Non-Ionic Surfactants, Amphoteric Surfactants, Also contains: Dimethylol Glycol.

Bio-d washing up liquid
A blend of detergents derived from Coconut Oil, Aqua, Citric Acid, Sodium Chloride, Vegetable Glycerine.

Earth Friendly Free & Clear Dishmate
Aqua, 100% natural anionic coconut kernal oil based surfactant* (15-30% anionic, 5-15% amphoteric), salt. (* Does not contain SLS)

Are you allergic to your washing up liquid? As well as thinking of your safety in your own home and whether soap residue from washing up could be enough to trigger an allergy in an allergic person, think about other places where you eat. Could this pose a problem when eating out? Should we be asking which washing up liquid our friends use and also any restaurants? As well as questions about how food is prepared we now need to ask which washing up liquid they use… They really will think we’re all nuts! This is something that I’d never thought of until last week. Now am I taking all this a bit far?

When you look at my success at eating out you will realise why I have to take everything this far. I react to so many things that it’s easier for me to stay at home and cook my own food. Could this be one of the reasons I have so many problems?

I’d love to hear what you think. Special thanks to Foods Matter and the Free From food awards team for inspiring this blog post. More on the free from awards soon.

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.


  1. Great blog Ruth – but yours always are!!

    One of the great things about a blogger with multiple serious allergies is that they uncover all kinds of nooks and crannies in the management of allergy that most of us would never think of!! And then they research them….. What would everyone do without you!


    PS And it was really great having you on the FFFoodAwards judging panels – we always try to get a balance of foodies versus nutritionists, food professionals versus amateurs etc but it does alter the perspective of the judging sessions when we can include genuine allergy sufferers who have to deal with freefrom food and how good it is on a daily basis.

    • Awww thanks Michelle! My number one fan ;o) I absolutely loved the whole process. Everyone has different tastes, different experiences, different opinions etc. Putting those all aside and judging a product for its own worth, usefulness, innovativeness etc. was much harder than I thought it was going to to be. Especially with such a high standard of foods entered this year. Having such a diverse group of judges really helped us all see each food from a different angle I think. Good luck with the final judging decisions. Glad I don’t have to make that call. I’d want to choose loads of winners!

  2. im looking for gluten free wheat free washing up liquid please help

  3. We are in the process of applying for Allergy UK certification and would like information on the ingredients of Fairy Liquid. It seems to be very difficult to find out. We have Soil Association and Cruelty Free certification and are trying to add Allergy and Vegan as well. Limited information and the high costs of gaining some certification makes it very difficult for a family owned business like ours.


  4. Re fairy liquid… For about the last 7 years I have had persistent dermatitis on my hands and feet. To cut a long story short I have changed washing powder, shampoo and shower gels. I have also changed washing up liquid from fairy liquid which I have used for years. I accidentally put fairy on a sponge scrub with my bare hands and immediately rinsed it off thinking I had ruined my “experiment.” Not so – my hands erupted within the hour. Hives, skin peel and what felt like chemical burns on my little fingertips. Am now awaiting an appointment with a dermatologist. Like the author of this blog I too worry about what our family have been ingesting via the “washing up”.

  5. I break out in hives after smelling any kind of dishwashing liquid. It doesn’t even need to touch my skin. I get the same reaction to perfumes and colognes, but since I am using dishwashing liquids without any fragrance, I will guess that it isn’t the perfume or cologne itself, but something added that is also common to dishwashing liquid. What can that possibly be? So far every single dishwashing liquid gives me hives just from inhaling the vapors. The allergist did a skin patch test, and I wasn’t allergic to anything. I live in the U.S.

    • See if you can buy some soap nuts. You could use these in the same way as a tablet, if you put them into some kind of bag. I haven’t done this before but google it. I live in the UK so my suppliers might not be great.

    • Dear Lizzie & Ruth
      I am replying because Greenscents nonscents washing up liquid is probably the most natural and non-allergenic in the world. All Greenscents products are Soil Association certified organic, Allergy UK certified, Cruelty Free International & Vegan Society approved. Our nonscents range has no fragrance. We have many customers with allergies from all over the world who use our products. Do have a look at our website and if you have any questions please email me at with kind regards Christina

      • Thanks so much Christina, I haven’t come across this brand. I would love to try it. Will be doing some internet shopping, not for Christmas presents but for some of this washing up liquid :o)

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