What Is Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent?

Posted by Stephen Steinberg on Jan 25, 2015

What Is Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent?

Stephen Steinberg, Founder of Raw Athletics and Vapor Fresh Stephen Steinberg | January 25, 2015

Take one quick stroll down the laundry detergent aisle at your local grocery store or one quick browse through Amazon.com’s laundry detergent section and you’ll realize that you’re definitely not short on choices of laundry detergent-- free & clear, concentrated, high efficiency, liquid, powder, fabric softeners, hypoallergenic and every possible combination of each.

If you take a closer look at the health-conscious and environmentally-friendly options, you’ll notice a pattern-- most of them are Free & Clear and also make some sort of claim towards hypoallergenic or being safe for sensitive skin. What do these terms actually mean? And why are Free & Clear laundry detergents a better choice for your skin and your sports workout apparel?

Understanding dyes, fragrances, softeners and brighteners

When a laundry detergent claims to be Free & Clear, it’s usually referring to being free of artificial dyes and any sort of fragrance, natural or artificial. In special cases, it can also mean completely free of fabric softeners and optical brighteners as well.

To understand why being Free & Clear of these chemicals is important for both your skin and your precious workout clothing, we first need to understand what these chemicals do and how they are designed to perform.

Artificial dyes

Dyes are added to laundry detergents for various reasons, from making the actual detergent look more commercially-appealing or warning you when there’s detergent residue on your clothing, to adding the ever-slightest blue tint to your clothing to provide the illusion of a whiter, brighter result after washing. Unlike the key cleaning components of laundry detergents such as the surfactants and enzymes, dyes are specifically meant to remain on your clothing even after the rinse cycle in order to provide the visual benefits of an artificial clean. If you have sensitive skin, avoiding laundry detergents with dyes is a good choice, since they will build up on your clothing and come in contact with your skin constantly. If you use a laundry detergent to wash your performance workout clothing, it gets worse-- those dyes that are meant to remain on your clothing end up clogging the tiny pores in the fabric, trapping bacteria and body oils from your sweat and cause a nasty lingering odor. Personally, we’d rather have our laundry detergent actually clean our clothes as thoroughly as possible, not pretend to clean our clothes with the use of dyes, but that’s just us!


Fragrances are used in laundry detergents to add a pleasant scent to your clothes. Similar to dyes, fragrances are specifically formulated to remain on the clothing even through the rinse cycle, which means similarly to dyes, fragrances also clog the pores of your performance clothing, trapping bacteria and body oil from your sweat, and add to the lingering odor problem inherent with almost all workout clothing. Because they also remain on your clothing and therefore are in constant contact with your skin, they can also contribute to allergy or skin sensitivity issues. Again, we’d prefer our clothing smell clean because they actually are clean and not because we are being tricked into thinking they are clean by the way they smell, but hey, whatever floats your boat!

Fabric Softeners

Many everyday laundry detergents contain fabric softeners. You can even purchase fabric softener additives to add to your wash. These softeners are lubricant-based chemicals designed to remain on the fabric through the rinse cycle and coat the fabric while you’re wearing it, making the fabric feel smoother. They perform their job well on cotton, for which they were originally designed for. However, despite the addition of innovative athletic fabrics to our wardrobes, fabric softeners have remained a key component in many detergent formulations. And since they are designed to coat the fabric more thoroughly than even fragrances and dyes, they can wreck havoc on sports performance wear by reducing their wicking properties, causing lingering odors by trapping bacteria and body oils in the pores of the fabric, and causing an overall uncomfortable feel to the clothing, they should be avoided at all costs when washing your performance workout clothing.

Optical Brighteners

Optical brighteners might be the sneakiest, nastiest chemical additives to laundry detergents of them all. Optical brighteners, also known as fluorescent whitening agents, work by glowing blue when exposed to ultraviolet rays, giving yellowish or not completely clean clothes the appearance of being whiter and brighter. Similar to the three laundry chemical additives above, optical brighteners are specifically designed to remain on clothing even after the rinse cycle, where they come in constant contact with your skin and also diminish the usefulness of wicking fabrics by clogging the pores, diminishing the wicking properties and causing a lingering odor in your favorite workout gear. We will say it again-- we prefer laundry detergents that actually clean clothes and leave them feeling, smelling and looking clean without the optical illusions!

Hopefully you saw the pattern here-- unlike the actual cleaning agents in laundry detergent, all of the chemicals above are specifically meant to remain on your clothing even after the rinse cycle and while you wear them, causing numerous adverse reactions to both your skin and your clothes. By choosing a laundry detergent Free & Clear of dyes, fragrances, softeners and brighteners, you’ll be taking better care of your body and your clothes.

In case you were wondering...Vapor Fresh® Sports Laundry Detergent is Free & Clear, Hypoallergenic and Safe for Sensitive Skin!

Now that you understand why Free & Clear laundry detergent are your best choice of hypoallergenic laundry detergents, especially if you have sensitive skin or you have a lot of workout clothing, you should know that Vapor Fresh® Laundry Detergent is hypoallergenic, safe for sensitive skin and meets all of these requirements--

  • Free of fragrances
  • Free of dyes
  • Free of brighteners
  • Free of softeners
  • Free of preservatives

Next time you train hard, work up a good sweat, and need to do laundry, remember to choose a Free & Clear laundry detergent like Vapor Fresh® Laundry Detergent!

Play Hard. Finish Fresh.