Is Human Laundry Detergent Safe for Pets?

Updated: April 21, 2023

We wash our pet’s blankets, clothing, diapers, toys, and more with human laundry detergent. While these detergents may help eliminate pet odors and pet stains, how safe are they for our pets?

pet laundry detergent

Is Human Laundry Detergent Safe for Pets?

Human laundry detergents are not safe for pets. According to The American College of Veterinary Pharmacists, laundry detergent contains corrosive agents that may cause harm to pets. Pet parent detergent is full of harsh chemicals, known irritants, and additives that cause reactions in our sensitive furbabies.

Why Are Human Laundry Detergents Dangerous to Our Pets?

Our pets have more sensitive skin and noses than we do. And they’re more likely to put things in their mouth, which puts them at a higher risk of ingesting chemicals left behind from your laundry detergent. Here are some ways human laundry detergent puts your pet at risk.

Harmful Chemicals

Veterinarian experts claim that a variety of compounds in human laundry detergents, such as surfactants, are highly toxic for pets when they are ingested. These ingredients include chlorine, ammonia, isopropyl alcohol, formaldehyde, and phenols. Some of the other allergens that are found in laundry detergents include, but are not limited to preservatives, parabens, enzymes, moisturizers, fabric softeners, thickeners and solvents, emulsifiers, colors, and dyes

These chemicals can be passed to your furbaby when they chew on their favorite toy or snuggle with their softest blankie after it has been washed. When ingested by mouth, detergents are regarded to have low toxicity (unless the amount ingested was significant). However, since pets have a more sensitive respiratory system than humans, laundry detergent can serve as an irritant.

"Chemicals in laundry detergent can be passed to your furbaby when they chew on their favorite toy or snuggle with their softest blankie after it has been washed."

Allergy Triggers

Laundry detergent can trigger allergies in pets. Your furbaby may develop recurrent skin and ear infections as a result of allergies to the chemicals in your laundry detergent. This can make their skin itchy and inflamed. Pets can develop skin allergies to laundry detergent as a result of their immune system reactions to the detergent's compounds, which manifest as a rash.

Unsafe Scents

Our pets noses are up to 100,000x better than our own. This makes them more sensitive to smells. There are actually only seven safe scents for dogs and five for cats. Common human detergents can have irritating or non-safe scents that could potentially cause lethargy, vomiting, or difficulty breathing in our furbabies.

Laundry Detergent Irritation and Poisoning

For laundry detergent irritation:

Laundry detergent irritation can aggravate the back of your pet’s throat and the inside of their mouth. Detergents can also cause harmful skin reactions and hair loss whenever the skin gets in direct contact. Cats are typically more susceptible to irritation and respiratory issues to detergent because of their grooming habits.

Symptoms of laundry detergent irritation include:

  • frequent sneezing
  • skin rashes
  • skin ulcerations
  • profuse licking
  • ear and/or eye infections
  • paw inflammation
  • paw biting

For laundry detergent poisoning:

After a pet ingests detergent, the symptoms of poisoning can appear suddenly. Although the signs of detergent poisoning can vary slightly from one pet to another, they are all quite clear, and require immediate medical intervention.

Symptoms of laundry detergent poisoning include:

  • Drooling or salivation
  • mouth-foaming or frothing
  • retching and vomiting
  • stomach pain and diarrhea
  • lack of appetite
  • swollen abdomen
  • disorientation
  • muscle weakness
  • seizures

"PetTergent® is Vet-Approved and has Pet-Safe Scents™ that have been approved by a panel of veterinarians as safe and non-toxic for cats and dogs."

Warning Signs: What to Look For

A safe laundry detergent for pets is one that is made specifically for pets and should not contain the following:

1. Dyes

Laundry detergents sometimes add dyes to make the product more visually pleasing. Because of this, a lot of liquid detergents and detergent pods come in blue, green, pink, purple, and other hues.

What to look for: The word "colorant" or a combination of letters and numbers like CI 42051, CI 50325, CI 61102, among others, may all be used to refer to detergent dyes.

2. Synthetic fragrances

Pets have a many more receptors in their noses than humans do. Your laundry products' artificial fragrances may contribute to allergic bronchitis, according to the VCA Animal Hospitals.

What to look for: Fragrances sometimes aren’t identified as an ingredient or are simply listed as "perfume." The term "unscented" just implies that there isn't any discernible scent; it does not imply that fragrance ingredients are not present.

3. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

SLS is well known for causing contact dermatitis, because it removes natural oils found in the skin. The outcome? Both you and your pet may experience dry, cracked, or itchy skin.

What to look for: They are usually listed using the term "surfactants". Also, watch out for polyethylene glycol (PEG compounds) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLES).

How to Choose a Pet-Safe Laundry Detergent

It is crucial that you pick a mild laundry detergent that is specifically made as a pet-safe detergent, like PetTergent®! This pet laundry detergent is specifically formulated with enzymes to target pet stains, soils, and odors like urine, feces, blood, vomit, and more.

Unlike human detergents, this laundry detergent is safe for pet skin, containing 90%+ bio-based and biodegradable ingredients instead of harsh chemicals that can irritate or are known toxins to pets. PetTergent® can be used on all of your pet laundry, whether it is a soiled Pawtect® Pad, drool on their favorite soft toy, or that "dog' smell" on their softest blankie, for fresh, clean laundry ready for many messes to come!

This pet detergent is Vet-Approved and has Pet-Safe Scents™ that have been approved by a panel of veterinarians as safe and non-toxic for cats and dogs. There are only 5 safe scents for cats and 7 safe scents for dogs in the world, and these scents have been formulated to meet these safety standards.

pet laundry detergent


Choosing a safe detergent for your pet will keep them healthy as you wash your pet’s toys, blankets, pads, diapers, or other forms of clothing.