I’m adding this post as a placeholder for those with sensitive skin who had the misfortune of purchasing ECOS Laundry Detergent or are thinking of trying this brand. I tend to have a reaction to fragrance-based detergents, but after a good experience with Seventh Generation’s scented detergents, I thought I would be in the clear as long as I used a product that was plant based and “natural,” so I gave ECOS a try as well, opting for the Magnolia and Lily version. I was also interested in Ecover Zero (a separate brand) but they’re not as ubiquitous as ECOS, so I wound going for the lather.
Biggest mistake of my life.
Prior to ECOS, I had never used liquid fabric softener before, and this detergent had it mixed in, so I thought, cool, getting two for the price of one. I didn’t worry because it was supposedly coconut rather than synthetic based, and I like coconuts (especially coconut pancakes).
But because I have allergic contact dermatitis, I didn’t make the connection right away that I was developing a severe reaction to ECOS, in fact thinking it was a reaction to petting a dog instead. When it continued I finally realized it was the laundry detergent, promptly ditched the bottle, and re-washed my clothes using a dye/fragrance free alternative.
And yet it still wasn’t enough. I continued to have rashes from my clothes for a period of three weeks, bewildered that even after several washes there still remained ECOS residue that was causing rashes on my skin to no end. I couldn’t understand it, because the last few times I broke out as a result of contact with fragrance-based detergent, the rashes usually went away in a couple of days after a single wash of my contaminated clothes.
This was THREE weeks now with no relief. Not even an oatmeal bath helped. I contacted ECOS to see if they could offer any suggestions on what else I could do to remove the remaining residue left from their detergent off my clothes, and they completely blew me off and my customer support inquiries.
I am now convinced they are a scam company allegedly peddling cancerous products developed from nuclear waste while funding terrorist operations on the side just for funsies. Allegedly. It has been allegedly alleged. Mostly by me. But still, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was all true.
According to one insightful review on Amazon, the following ingredients gave me some clues as to what could have caused such a severe reaction:
Directly from the bottle: Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine (coconut-based surfactant), Sodium Coco-Sulfate (coconut based surfactant), Cocamidopropylamine Oxide (coconut-based surfactant,) PHENOXYETHANOL (PRESERVATIVE) METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE (PRESERVATIVE), Equisetum Hiemale (Horsetail Plant) Extract
The first ingredient is Cocamidopropyl Betaine: EWG Skin deep database concern of 4 out of 10
“About COCAMIDOPROPYL BETAINE: Cocamidopropyl betaine is a synthetic surfactant; it has been associated with irritation and allergic contact dermatitis, reactions that could be due to the ingredient itself or to impurities present in it, such as 3-dimethylaminopropylamine.”
“Other HIGH concerns: Contamination concerns; Other LOW concerns: Ecotoxicology”
PHENOXYETHANOL (PRESERVATIVE) EWG Skin deep database concern of 4 out of 10
Other HIGH concerns: Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Occupational hazards; Other MODERATE concerns: Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive); Other LOW concerns: Data gaps
METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE (PRESERVATIVE) EWG Skin deep database concern of 5 out of 10
About METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE: Methylisothiazolinone is a widely-used preservative; has been associated with allergic reactions. Lab studies on the brain cells of mammals also suggest that methylisothiazolinone may be neurotoxic.
Other HIGH concerns: Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs); Other LOW concerns: Ecotoxicology, Neurotoxicity
I think in my case there were a combination of additional factors that exacerbated the reaction:
- I’ve been used to having soft water to wash my clothes, but after moving to a mountainous state I’ve been slowly learning how hard water can adversely impact so many things, including making it more difficult to remove excess residue from laundry detergents unless you soften it somehow.
- This was also the first time I’ve had to deal with a detergent with a liquid fabric softener component. Apparently the oils are far more difficult to remove completely and require a lot more than just a single wash cycle. When I finally wised up to the possibility that the ECOS residue was STILL embedded in my clothes even after several washes, I took a much more aggressive approach and started doing additional wash cycles using baking soda and vinegar. It took almost 10 cycles of this before my clothes finally became wearable again. If that hadn’t worked I would have had no choice but to declare most of my wardrobe ruined and forced to spend hundreds on new clothes and bed sheets.
I strongly recommend anyone with sensitive skin (and even those who don’t) avoid Earth Friendly Products like the dark plague, even their “free and clear” version. Their complete and utter disinterest in customer satisfaction and lack of customer support/assistance to those who have an adverse reaction to using their products is unacceptable and disgraceful.
Update 6/17/2018: I recently tried out a new shampoo that gave me the same skin reaction as the ECOS detergent (fortunately when I stopped using it, the symptoms went away after a day). Checking the ingredients, this one stuck out like a sore thumb: Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine.
I think I’ve gone through enough testing as an unwitting guinea pig to conclude that any product with an ingredient that starts with the letters coco- or coca- should be avoided. Specifically Cocamidopropyl Betaine or Hydroxysultaine. For some reason using products with coconut-derived ingredients seems to be equivalent to pouring acid on me, and yet ironically I have no trouble eating anything with coconut in them. That’s probably due to these chemicals not being organically coconut, but rather synthesized from them.
Cocamidopropyl Betaine (CAPB) was once named Allergen of the Year in 2004 by The Dermatologist Magazine, yet the studies suggest it’s impurities introduced into the processing that causes the reaction, not the CAPB itself.
Regardless, it’s a safe bet that you’ll spare yourself a LOT of grief by simply avoiding any “natural” products that contain some variation of these coca-/coco- based ingredients.
Hope this helps!