Allergic to your clothes? Some helpful advice.

I have been writing this blog for one and a half years now. My most popular posts and the most comments I receive are about allergic reaction to clothes, skin irritations from laundry detergents, eczema and contact dermatitis.

This is a subject close to my heart, or should I say skin. I have had problems with textile allergies and reactions to detergents for over 10 years. I have tried all sorts of remedies suggested by doctors and other allergy suffers. A lot of things I tried didn’t work at all. Some of the “solutions”  were worse than the original problem.

Causes of textile allergies:

• Dyes, Formaldehyde and N-methylol, fire-retardant coatings, anti-cling, anti-static, moth-proof, mildew resistant, anti-shrink and waterproof finishes.
• Remains of detergent, dyes in the detergent and perfumes in clothes can cause irritation.
• Friction from clothing The areas of the body that come in the closest contact with the affected materials are: underarms, inner thighs, inner elbows, around waist and neck.
• Latex from gloves, rubber additives • Chemicals used to dye and process leather, and glue products.
• Metals, especially nickel in buckles and some jewelry.
• Dyes on inexpensive beaded costume jewelry.

 This is a summary of the best solutions I have found so far.

1. Do not buy highly colored synthetic fabric clothes that will touch your skin. Be careful of highly colored natural fabrics also, be sure to wash all clothes at least three times before wearing.

2. Do not buy any article of clothing, especially for babies and children that is: wrinkle resistant, resistant to stains or odors or has fire retardant coatings.

3. Be especially careful buying underwear. NEVER wear any clothes that touch your skin, even totally white ones, before washing several times.

4. Use special clothes washing detergents that do not have added fragrances or dyes. Nellies All Natural Laundry Soda is my favorite, there are many others available. I also rinse all my clothes twice.

5. Do not use dryer sheets or fabric softeners, I use a Nellies all natural dryer balls with pretty good success. I also use vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser on my machine, it helps to remove detergent residue and softens clothes. Even fabric softeners without fragrance are unnecessary, they just add chemicals to your clothes. Visit my Skin Allergy Comfort Store to see other products I recommend and use.

6. When relaxing at home, have special “pure and natural” clothes that you can feel completely comfortable in. Wrinkled, white on white 100% cotton, may not be a fashion statement, but I sure feel more comfortable in my special “at home clothes”. I get mine at

7. In the winter I wear white or off white long underwear under my dark or brightly colored clothes. I like silk the best, it doesn’t make me look bulky or make my clothes too tight. has some great styles. Of course, I notice my silk long johns will turn light blue after wearing them under blue jeans. This dye would normally be deposited on my skin, no wonder blue jeans make me itchy and break out in rashes.

Please add your comment. We can all help each other this way.


14 Responses

  1. i had a horrible reaction to an eddie bauer sundress (purple) i bought yesterday. i did wash it once — i’ve never had a problem with fabric dyes in 50 years — and the symptoms were incredibly fast and severe… swelling of tongue, mouth, lips, and lower jaw. a metallic taste in my mouth. no itchiness or rash. breathing difficulties. i ended up in urgent care. i’m okay but my skin does feel uncomfortable the next morning. i’m taking the dress back later today. the doctor told me now that this has happened once, i may have more problems. that really bums me out.


    • Wow, that sounds like a serious reaction! Eddie Bauer has always been one of the few places I can buy clothes that don’t bother me at all. It’s strange that you did not have any skin reaction. The only time I had a total body reaction that severe was from poorly prepared Ahi Tuna served raw. I went into anaphylactic shock, I couldn’t see or hear very well and my tongue and throat swelled up and I couldn’t breath. Luckily, I wasn’t that far away from a major hospital emergency room.

      You should be very careful and carry an Epi Pen just to be safe. Synthetic fabrics use dyes that are more apt to cause problems with people who are sensitive. If the fabric you bought was cotton, silk or linen, I am very surprised it caused such a severe reaction.

      I’m glad you are alright now.


  2. I walked a 5K last weekend and had a reaction to the paper wristband. They put on me. It had lots of colors printed on it. Did I react to the paper or the ink?


    • Hi Charity,

      It could be either or both the ink and the paper. It could also be the constant rubbing irritated your skin enough to make it super sensitive to anything. Also when you perspire and irritate the surface of your skin you can have a reaction. Wear cotton wrist bands or wrap a bandana under your paper wrist band next time.

      Good Luck, Dayne


  3. Is rayon a natural fabric? It’s made from celulose, I think that comes from trees. I love it’s soft feel, but it does come in dark and bright colors.


    • Hi Sofie,
      Yes Rayon is a natural fabric. It can be dyed with the same type of dye used on silk and cotton. I like the softness of Rayon and like to wear tops made from it. I wash it the same as I do my cottons. Be sure to wash several times before wearing. One more thing to add, it does shrink a bit so use cold water.


  4. Have you found latex/spandex free blue jeans by any chance?


    • Hi,

      I do know that Levi makes many 100% cotton jeans styles. Some of their skinny jeans do have spandex. I have also purchased jeans without spandex from Eddie Bauer and Gap. You just have to read the labels. I also find the dye in the 100% cotton jeans is not as irritating to my skin which is a plus for me.

      I also recommend wearing 100% silk long johns under your jeans in the winter. Protects from spandex and irritating dyes.

      If you are looking for designer jeans, good luck, they seems to have at least 1% spandex.


  5. Great information! I wouldn’t have thought about this! Thanks!


  6. I’ve found I have a severe reaction to tagless tags (Fruit of the Loom (who told me I’m the only person to ever report a reaction) and Reebok are the worst for me). Any helpful hints for that? I tried covering it with flexible fabric bandaids (it was all I had one day) and athletic tape. Both of those work (unless you have an adhesive allergy), but when I start to sweat badly at work or the gym, those items start to peel.


  7. Thank you, interesting about washing all clothes before wearing. Who would have thought. I think I’m allergic to the fabric finishes on clothes. The stiffer they are when purchased, the more I itch and break out. Blue jeans are the worst. I will follow your advice.


    • That’s because of the formaldehyde- a chemical they use when embalming people! I’m in textiles, so I was aware of this. My friends were joking about how gross it it to wear new clothes without washing (because of other people trying it on) and I pointed out the chemical side. That’s why some items have tags that tell you to wash before wearing. When people get keratin treatments for their hair at the salon they almost all use formaldehyde- and people wonder why they have awful reactions later on!


      • I’d rather wear clothes tried on by by someone else than wear something coated with dangerous chemicals. I always wash new clothes before wearing them, but not many people do. Thanks for your comment


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