Are you planning to eat your underpants? Suck your jeans? Bandage a nasty cut with your freshly washed sweater? 

No? Then you do not need Dettol® Antibacterial Laundry Cleanser. 

This is the ultimate three-card trick of the laundry world, the cleverest, most pernicious con-job I’ve seen in a long time. Talk about inventing something completely unnecessary…

I am racking my brains to think why you might need hygienic clothing. 

Are you working in a research lab under the strictest of conditions? In which case, the lab will have its own routines, procedures and special clothing that keep the lab sterile. Same with a hospital. 

Are you looking after someone ill? You still don’t need antibacterial laundry cleanser because believe me, if the patient is THAT sick that they need totally sterile conditions, they won’t be at home under your care, they’ll be in an Intensive Care Unit.

Do you work with livestock? Have you just chucked up all over a favourite blouse? In which case, soaking the soiled articles in a bucket overnight, rinsing and then washing in a modern machine with modern detergent should do the trick. Repeat the process if there’s still a whiff or a stain. 

Look, clean clothing is nice. We all enjoy putting on a crisp, freshly laundered shirt. But it’s a shirt. It’s not dinner. It’s not a bandage. It doesn’t need to be hygienic. 

And here it is, in serried ranks, waiting to be bought…
© Chloë Goodridge, special researcher to Ms. Keane

The power of three

Dettol® are really onto a winner here, because this product is being sold as a third component of your wash. Yes, they advise you to use it IN ADDITION to detergent AND fabric conditioner. (I assure you, there’ll be a piece here on fabric conditioner later, fret not.) 

Here are the ingredients. I don’t pretend to understand them individually, all I know is that they are yet more ENTIRELY unnecessary chemicals being put into the poor overloaded sewage system.

Per 100 g Liquid, contains 1.44 g Quaternary Ammonium Compounds, Di-C8- 10- Alkyldimethyl, Chlorides and 0.96 g Quaternary Ammonium Compounds, Benzyl-C12-18-Alkyldimethyl, Chlorides, Contains 5% Non-Ionic Surfactants, Disinfectant, Perfume, Butyl Phenyl Methyl Propional, Hexyl Cinnamal and Citronellol.

That’s a lot of chemicals to get out of the system to make our tap water drinkable. Even if you insist on drinking bottled water (and I most sincerely hope you don’t), it’s nice to know you have potable water to make your tea and boil your vegetables in.

Still life with biscuit tin. How many laundries has the water in my tea been through, I wonder?

New products make waves

As far as I am aware, this is a new product on the market. I haven’t yet discovered any other anti-bloody-bacterial bloody laundry bloody cleansers for sale. (Let me know if I’m wrong – I can always edit!) But I have a ghastly feeling that now this has come on sale, the suits in the other detergent/cleanser companies will be cacking themselves in fright because Dettol® have stolen a march on them.

“Say, Chuck! Have you seen this new product, Dettol® Antibacterial Laundry Cleanser?”

“OMG, Sir, I just saw the cutesie-cutesie ad on TV last night for the first time and I shat my pants, it was such a great idea!”

“Yes siree, bob, and it’s for moments like that that we NEED to be selling an Antibacterial Laundry Cleanser of our own!”

“Don’t worry, Sir, I’ve authorised the Research and Development Team to get working on our own product!”

“Good man. We’ll strike the fear of laundry-related disease into the public.”

OMG, my cupboard is full of unhygienic clothing!

Fear sells

This product is a perfect example of Steve Jobs’ theory that we, the public, don’t know what we want until we see it in all its glory.

There are various marketing strategies that companies use, but the cleverest inspire either Lust or Fear. The iPhone was such a glorious piece of technology it made us weak with lust. On the other hand, this new laundry product reminds us that we are scared rigid about bacteria and socially terrified of being smelly. 

Here’s some of the blurb from the Sainsbury’s website. 

Dettol Laundry Cleanser is an additive that kills 99.9% of bacteria giving odour-free freshness : 1. Kills 99.9% of bacteria, even below 20ºC so that you can be confident that your laundry is hygienically clean every time, whatever temperature you wash at (proven to work in rinse cycle temperatures as low as 15ºC) 2. Gives odour-free freshness for up to 12 hours. It doesn’t just cover up malodour but eliminates odour causing bacteria at source….”

“Ideal for towels, children’s clothes, underwear, socks, bedding …and more…”

To kill viruses**
Soaking: add 1 cap to 2.5L of water and leave to soak for 15 mins
**Laboratory tested on influenza H1 N1; RSV; Coronavirus; Herpes Simplex Type

Note the various fear-triggering words in there…

  • bacteria
  • odour
  • malodour
  • children
  • viruses
  • influenza
  • herpes

…all designed to make you worried about something you NEVER thought of before – the fact that your laundry might emerge from the wash like creatures from the deep… contaminated and riddled with viruses!

Clean Seasalt socks. Whoever thought they might give me flu AND herpes!!!

Listen. You get your clothes out of the washing machine and dry them – tumble drier, washing line, heated towel rail – it doesn’t matter which. During the drying process they will come into contact with the air which is full of all sorts of microscopic bugs that we can do NOTHING about and which mainly do us NO harm. 

Maybe a fly lands on your t-shirt while it’s drying. Are you going to wash it again? Don’t be daft. 

You pop your knickers on and, whoopsie doo! A wee fart escapes. Are you going to wash them again? I no nink no. 

You do your trousers up and the dog jumps up to say hello. Are you going to put them back in the machine immediately? Don’t be ridiculous.

And if you’re not completely convinced, here’s this from the product description. 

Causes serious eye damage.

Ah. That’s not so good. Here’s another.

Harmful to aquatic life with long lasting effects.

We are washing this stuff into the sewage system???

Oh, and there’s yet another empty plastic bottle at the end of it which is going to go… er… where?  Landfill, of course!!!!

Landfill. Not one of humankind’s greatest achievements.
Photo by Ayotunde Oguntoyinbo on Unsplash

Time was when Dettol® was a comforting product. Mum always had a bottle under the sink so that if a kid got sick on the bathroom floor, or the cat pooped in the kitchen, she’d clear it up, mop the floor and then go over it with a bit of Dettol®. She dabbed cuts and grazes with it too. The smell was clean and hospitally and safe. That’s not so surprising, as it started its life in hospitals where it was used in surgical procedures to clean cuts, wounds etc.

Now, it’s owned by Reckitt Benckiser, a British multinational consumer goods company, and it’s just another brand trying to make a buck in an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace. Long term responsibility towards the planet doesn’t figure in the world of retail sales, I guess. Shame on them.


Finally, a word from Miss P.

Piper knows instinctively that a comforting cuddle is far more important than hygienic laundry.


  1. Can I just say, not in a creepy way… I love you! It’s about time someone sat up straight and gave all this extraneous nonsense a stiff kicking. Well done! And no, I am not going to sterilise my knickers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Dillie, you are saying what I have been merely thinking for years! Could I please add antiseptic soap and surface cleaner to this germ-fear fest? And disposable wipes, which come in more varieties than I thought possible: antibacterial, multi-purpose, floor, bathroom, toilet, kitchen, window…

    I have a selection of cotton dishcloths which are used to wipe down whatever needs wiping down in the kitchen and then flung in the washing machine.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Anti bacterial anything has caused most of the allergies and alleged allergies in the world today. I have been known to stand in front of the detergents in Costco and mutter loudly enough for people to hear about the fear factor in advertising that makes people buy the products. One young woman actually told her partner to put back the fabric conditioner after my muttered rant. Made me feel good I can tell you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. More shit you don’t need .WASHING POWDER
    Appros 2 tbs. washing soda (£1 per bad at Tesco ) + approx 2 tbs liquid soap + essential oil if you fancy
    Works a treat!


    • Whooee! I shall be trying that for definite. Thanks for the tip. Incidentally, would grated soap do as well as liquid soap? As in soap flakes?


  5. Dillie, well spotted(wipe those spots up now ) another bit of product invention designed to fill a need(of the company)…my daughter is on a place ment with a rustic soap maker. Shes told me the difference between shower gel and hand wash and facial scrub….they are all put in different packages. Thats it…just the packaging.
    And thank you for all the wacky lyrics and soaring vocals…..Lorraine

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree completely with your piece. I can remember a time when we simply washed our clothes; now we are supposed to use products like Vanish in addition to what is already a good detergent, and then top it off with fabric conditioner. It is all designed to fulfill a need that does not exist.

    If you really want clean, fresh clothes then wash them and hang them on the line in full sunlight. Strong sunshine is one of the best anti-bacterial things around.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My favourite Dettol SYDN product was the home automatic liquid soap dispenser, It was advertised under the slogan “Because who wants to touch a germy soap dispenser?”

    What is the first thing you do after touching a soap dispenser (germy or otherwise)?

    Thanks to this marketing-led paranoia that we will all die in five minutes time unless we sterilise everything with wet-wipes, we are sinking in a carpet of the bloody things. In my rowing days, I used to walk down the banks of the Thames through good old-fashioned mud, gravel, a little bit of untreated sewage and the occasional dead cat. The banks are now an inch deep in undegraded wet wipes that inconsiderate Londoners have flushed down the bog. All because of Kim and Aggie, Joe Public’s inability to use a proper cloth and an advertising campaign playing on our fears.

    Dettol recently announced that their wet wipes are now biodegradable. About time too.

    By the way Dettol (the original) is toxic to dogs. If you value your pooch, don’t use it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Agree heartily with all of this and also wanted to add that not only is this stuff unnecessary but there is growing evidence is that microbes are essential to healthy development and function. Not only does ‘sterility’ not equal ‘healthy’, it is probably at the root of a number of diseases. We should always remember that the microbes came first, millennia before us, and human beings evolved to live with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We’re much too obsessed with ‘killing all germs dead’. Unless we have compromised immunity our bodies can cope with (a reasonable amount) of everyday dirt, indeed it does children good as expose is necessary for a developing immune system.


  10. As an extra: don’t use dettol or any antibacterial soap for that matter for washing your hands/skin (except perhaps to clean a dirty cut or graze). It’ll kill all germs on your hands/skin (well… 99%, some harmful ones will survive anyway), with the result that the bad germs grow back quicker than the good germs – the ones that you need on your skin (to keep the harmful bastards out).

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Back in the day (early ’80s) My sprog was kitted out in cotton nappies despite the trend towards disposables. I’m sure I was advised not to soak them in Dettol as washing them afterwards in the machine would eventually cause damage to the workings inside. Maybe this was a fib…… but you have to admit it’s pretty pungent stuff!


  12. Hi Dilly, more common sense from you, keep it up please. There are very few products that do not use poor animals to test. Look for the leaping bunny on the label. Eg Ecover. I say Ditch all the harmful stuff as it’s all just the big multinational companies making money. Thank you xx


  13. Respect the attempt made by your post BUT you may be confusing antibacterial and antiseptic.
    Antiseptic laundry detergent is hard to find and completely worth using. Personal hygiene, which includes all that we put on our bodies,, including clothing, is critically important for good health.
    Markets are flooded with antibacterial products. Why? Because they are relatively inexpensive to produce and they sell!
    We should be demanding antiseptics for personal hygiene and laundry products.


    • If you look at the products available on the market, they are all called “antibacterial” and not “antiseptic”. No muddle. Meanwhile, I am puzzled by what might be septic about your laundry and your personal hygiene. Here is the definition of septic.

      “Infected with microorganisms, especially harmful bacteria. Synonyms: infected, festering, suppurating, pus-filled, putrid, putrefying, putrefactive, purulent, poisoned, diseased.”

      Do you have diseased, infected sheets? A putrid, festering body? I doubt it. You sound as though you are scrupulously careful about your hygiene routine. Hurrah for that.

      Excellent personal hygiene is perfectly possible without either antibacterial (i.e., active against bacteria, hygienic, sterile) or antiseptic products. But if you want the reassurance of putting disinfectant into your laundry – which would be the nearest easily available product for ensuring an antiseptic wash – I can’t stop you. No need for you to demand antiseptics – disinfectant will do the job you require. Unnecessary, of course, and tough on the environment, but entirely your choice. These blog pieces are merely to raise awareness. If people take my recommendations, I shall be delighted, but it’s a free world.


  14. It has a place. My son washed his clothes and I couldn’t get the sweat stink out of my washing machine. It stank up my clothes. Dettol sanitizer killed the stinky bacteria where vinegar and bicarbonate failed to help. It was my last resort before buying new clothes and hand washing.


    • Thanks for that measured comment. It looks like you went to trouble to avoid using it which is great. But of course, I now want to know what your son was doing to work up such a stink!


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