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

    • Am I the only one that has ever acidentally forgot a load of towels in the washer and went to work 15 hrs to realize the next morning they are still in the washer and they smell like they are all trash?
      Can’t use bleach because the wife is allergic so usually have to use antibacterial dawn soap but it irratates the babies skin we found out so actually Im pretty happy there is a detergent I can use when I make this mistake again.
      Now if we’re tired of the overuse of antibacterial products and that is the point then Im on board 🙂 But to say no one EVER needs to sanitize their laundry is a little silly.
      I enjoy these posts a lot, 9 out of 10 times I get a good chuckle.


      • HI Dustin, thanks for posting. We’ve all done it, and yes, the smell is pretty rank. I’m very lucky as I have somewhere to hang my clothes outside so I can dry them and wash them again. The wind and sun do wonders. When it’s raining I do a rinse cycle first and then re-wash them… seems to work ok… but my MAJOR breakthrough in the kitchen for everything has been to buy myself a little kitchen timer which I set to the length of the wash and since then, I haven’t forgotten a wash. But that’s plastic and uses a battery… proving that we are compromised EVERY WHICH WAY! Glad you get a laugh out of the articles, I really do try not to be too preachy.


  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!


  15. I completely agree that the average consumer does not need anti bac detergent, but I suffer from hyperhidrosis of the underarms (excessive sweating) and a lot of my clothing becomes permanently stained and smelly due it. Before I used anti bac detergent I found that I had to wash most of my shirts twice before they stopped smelling – some even more so. The only product I’ve found that completely cleans my clothes first time is anti bac detergent, I think bc it kills the bacteria that gather in the underarms thanks to my condition. So no, the average person doesn’t need this, but I do.


    • How interesting. Yes, it does sound like difficult situation for you. I’m sure you tried soaking them? That’s not the answer with all fabrics, of course, because of shrinkage. Anyhow, thanks for posting, your point seems extremely reasonable to me.


  16. Do you remember when Sainsbury’s introduced cooking implements impregnated with an antibiotic, triclosan? That made me so angry as it traded on people’s fears about germs. It was completely unnecessary and reduced our immune systems rather than ‘protecting’ us.


  17. Probably you have never had athlete’s foot 🙂
    Sorry but you need such product. Maybe not for every wash but when you really need to kill bacteria.

    Drying your clothes under direct sunlight will help killing the bacteria. But you don’t have direct sunlight in every season/location. Washing your clothes in high temperature water will help killing bacteria but most of the washing machines don’t have hot water option in short cycles. You need to do 2 hour cycle.

    Hygiene is one of the most important reasons why Life expectancy is much higher today. Look at the corona virus case now. Such product will definitely help if you are taking care of a patient in the same living space (people do that).

    Your article seems pretty ignorant and doesn’t include any scientific facts.


    • I have had athlete’s foot and recovered without the use of antibacterial laundry cleanser. I separated off my socks and tights and didn’t put them in the washing machine, I put them in a bucket with plenty of hot water and washing powder, and let them soak for a couple of days. Voila – socks that didn’t re-infect me. Your reply seems pretty rude and I suspect you haven’t clicked on the links. I’m extremely careful to research my pieces.


    • Athlete’s Foot is caused by a fungus – not by bacteria, so an anti-bac product won’t do anything to mitigate it. Anyway, our bodies are full of bacteria – most of them good ones, which we don’t need to kill. While I agree that life expectancy is much higher due to hygiene – compared to Victorian times, this is due to better housing, proper sewage management and the availability of piped water to every home, all of which has improved hygiene. Life expectancy since the 1980s, when these anti-bacterial products started to multiply, has NOT improved – indeed, in the US, where anti-bac products are even more ubiquitous, life expectancy has gone down since the 1980s

      Yes – it IS important to include scientific and statistical facts – as above.


    • I have had athlete’s foot and cleared it up with a topical anti-fungal cream. That’s what you need, not anti-bacterial laundry cleanser. It is a little rich to say that my article is “pretty ignorant” when you yourself don’t seem to know the difference between a bacteria and a fungus.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. What would you recommend for washing kids underwear that has been soiled? Previously I would wash the underwear (after it had been soaked first in a bucket of water and an eco laundry soak) with a Canesten or Dettol antibacterial laundry rinse. Since COVID-19 you can’t buy laundry rinse as it has flown off the supermarket shelves. I moved to using an essential oil blend of eucalyptus, cinnamon, orange etc to help sterilise the washing and whilst I am enjoying the lovely smell it gives to the laundry, how do I know that it is actually sanitising it? Mums of babies and young children need to sanitise nappies and soiled underwear as the sun is not always out to help with this when hanging washing on the line.


    • What an interesting question! I’m unable to give you a definitive answer to this and it wouldn’t come well from me if I were to be too didactic – I never had children myself! I have done some nappy washing for friends and family, but not a lot, and it was long ago. My feeling – which you are very much entitled to ignore completely – is that before Canesten and Dettol, etc., the human race survived. However, we do know a great deal more about hygiene now and, indeed, the human race has done very well through the twin offices of modern medicine and modern hygiene, so I realise that we still have to be cautious. I think modern washing machines are pretty good especially if you’ve soaked the nappies first, and a hot wash should do the trick. But if you want another level of reassurance I would go back to the old fashioned boil wash, and dedicate your biggest cooking pot to the service of boiling the nappies whenever the sun goes in. Boil them after soaking and washing, I think… You’ll probably only be able to fit a few nappies in at a time so you will need tongs to drop the boiled nappies into your freshly cleaned sink before adding the next batch, and don’t forget to use an oven glove to protect your hand. Then rinse them again in the washing machine. Laborious, but that should definitely sanitise them. Well done on using real nappies – and I do like the sound of your essential oil blend…


      • I love your article. I have a bottle of this only for when we’ve had tummy bugs in the house (we are a family of 7 with one immunocompromised person), and occasionally to get rid of very sweaty smells, but other than that not at all. I also used cloth nappies for all four of my children, but never used any sanitising products in the washing machine, just pre-rinse, hot wash (60 degrees) and extra rinse to get rid of the detergent. These products have their place, but as you say, it’s not for everyday use.


      • Thanks Michelle, that all makes perfect sense. When you have an immunocompromised person in the house, any extra steps to keep things super-hygenic are absolutely allowable! Stay well and safe, all of you.


  19. I never considered the idea of boiling nappies after soaking and washing them! Thanks for the idea. Lots of interesting thoughts shared here. I’ll be keeping my eye on the discussion. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. This gave me food for thought. I myself have bought this in the past, with the idea that I may be killing off such unwanted germs when washing kids clothes and bedding. The truth is I think we can all work ourselves up in a frenzy about germs. I would only use it if I could not wash certain clothing on a very hot wash and if it was something really dirty. I think you are right just wading clothes and sun drying is great. Maybe it is best for those who do not have a chance to dry clothes in the sun


    • Thanks Jay. Another underused technique for cleaning is to soak the clothes overnight in a bucket. The dirt floats off in no time, and smells are easier to expunge.


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