Have You Ever Experienced an Allergic Reaction to Dawn Dish Detergent?

Today I did. Dramatically and immediately. My neck and chest are still covered in red itchy hives. I had run out of our usual Ecover detergent and grabbed an old bottle of Dawn that was shoved deep in the far recesses of the kitchen cupboard. The reason we purchase the eco friendly soap is because the smell alone of most super market dish soaps gives me a terrible headache. I only needed to wash several dusty vases and hadn’t yet gone to the store this morning. I thought, what the heck, I could stand the sickly sweet odor of Dawn for a few vases. Within three minutes of washing the vases, I felt as though millions of itchy pins and needles were piercing my chest, neck, ears, and face–all areas that had been exposed to the steamy suds.

I jumped in the shower, which only helped a bit and have been putting ice on intermittently. After googling, this is what I have learned about Proctor and Gamble’s Dawn, which is one of the most toxic household products in our homes. Dawn contains Quaternium-15, which is a formaldehyde releaser*, and may cause severe dermatitis. Quaternium-15 can break down in the bottle or on the skin to release formaldehyde and its carcinogenicity is broadly accepted.

Dawn’s antibacterial dish soap label deceptively features baby seals and ducklings and the words, “1 Bottle = $1 Dollar to Save Wildlife.” Dawn donates soap to help clean up animals after oil spills, but the product itself contains the ingredient Triclosan, which is an antibacterial agent known to be harmful to animals. Triclosan has been officially declared to be toxic to aquatic life.

Have you had an allergic reaction to Dawn, or any hand dish washing soap for that matter? Please write and share your experiences with household cleaners. Thank you!

10 Dishwashing Products to Avoid Altogether

Environmental Working Group’s Hall of Shame

*Note: A formaldehyde releaser is a chemical compound that slowly releases formaldehyde.



  • Years ago, I had a similar reaction to Irish Spring soap…. Haven’t touched the stuff since.
    I have heard that leaving some pieces of Irish Spring cut up in small trays will keep mice ‘n such away from your collector car during winter storage.


  • And what is Ecover? I get a rash from all sorts of things. We avoid polyester clothing or bedding (only cotton will do), scented laundry detergent, scented dryer sheets, scented hand soap (we use Dove unscented or the Costco equivalent), but had’t thought about Dawn (which is under the sink right now). I wonder what else we’re missing?


    • About once or twice a month I stop in at Whole Foods to purchase products like Ecover. The ingredients list is short and the smell is very mild; they actually list the fragrance ingredients (unlike many companies). I’ll check out the Trader Joe’s label–thanks for the suggestion. That’s what we use too, vinegar and water, for the kitchen, and it works great on glass too.


  • funkyfreshgloucester

    But the duck is so cute! The race for an ever more “Improved!” product has gotten out of hand, and as a result those crazy chemical ingredients make their way into our homes. Soap should be pretty basic. We get our dish soap at Trader Joe’s. It’s pretty simple ingredient wise. We just switched to a spray bottle of diluted white vinegar for cleaning the kitchen. Works surprisingly well. Seems so common sense. But, you know, advertising.


    • I agree Chris and Tom–soap should be so simple. Thinking of simple–reading about the products yesterday, Simple Green is one of the worse. I never use it because of the smell. Our noses are our best guides.
      Will definitely look into Trader Joe’s–closer than Whole Foods.


  • Years ago, trying to be grown-up and take care of my inherited furniture, I tried lemon pledge, and the other wood polishers. I could not breathe. Allergic to perfumes too. Take it easy with our air says the guilty wood stove lady.


    • I’d rather smell wood stove smoke any day. The cleaning product aisle at the supermarkets is simply the worse.

      You are probably using something that you like now but in case not:
      4 parts canola oil (or olive oil)
      2 parts fresh lemon juice
      2 parts white distilled vinegar
      Optional: a few drops of almond and/or lemon extract


  • We have just started using Branch Basics and it is awesome. I even wash my face with it. So far I have only been able to find it online but check it out…
    The intro pack is worth a shot!


  • what about seven products.. I have had a weird rash on my neck and I use Dawn.. Thanks for the post


  • yes, cancer is in all of our cabinets. we in this country have made profits the most important. its very sad but its very true.take a good look at who sits on the e.p.a. thatll make u puke.


  • No, but has anybody had a reaction to the newsprint in the Gloucester Daily Times??? I can read any paper, except this one, but the Times makes me sneeze, and if I touch my hands to my face after reading the GDT’s, my skin hurts!!!


  • That brings up a good idea. We now have a weatherman on staff. So all we need is a cartoonist and someone to make some puzzles and GMG can snag the last dozen or so people who still try to get their daily news out of GDT.


    • That definitely sounds like an allergy amynick, and they usually get worse with repeated exposure. My dad is an old newspaperman–and he is now allergic to newsprint.


  • Soaps are one of the tricky one’s on the skin – the label tricks not in plain english – (Quaternium-15, which is a formaldehyde releaser), but appears to be one of the great label tricks how it’s listed. :-O


  • After about five years of unbarable eczema I finally noticed a patter of it bein worse when I washed dishes. Switched to seventh generation hypo allergenic dish soap and my eczema is gone! It had been so bad I couldn’t bend my fingers and it hurt all the time! I am sooo thankful to finally have it under control!


  • I had developed unbearable eczema on my hands, mainly my fingers. Couldn’t sleep, couldn’t work, could barely type. It seemed to have gone away in the last 24 hours finally after I was being super careful with soaps etc. Well, I just washed the dishes with Seventh Generation dish soap and MY sponge and I noticed that my fingers started burning again! And now itching again! I smelled the sponge…the roommates had used my sponge with their Dawn simple pleasures dish soap! Sponge goes in trash!!! Uggg…I can barely even function with this eczema let alone be comfortable! I HOPE this goes away VERY quickly!


  • I’m severely allergic to Dawn dish soap. One use of it and my hands are messed up for months. I can use any other brand…I always wondered what was in Dawn that the other brands don’t have. Thanks!


  • To all responders…

    Thank you for this web page…mystery solved…I am at this moment washing dishes with Dawn…and again I am itchy all over…had this condition for over a year…never thought except for today that it could be the dish soap… then I just washed my face and neck with regular soap.. and the itching subsided… then it ” dawned” on me PUN INTENDED…that it might be the dish soap…. Mystery over…thanks for this article and many more regarding the same issue…



  • Dawn (only the blue kind strangely) will cause my nose to burn inside after about 15 minutes, then I notice I can’t get the smell off my hands no matter how much I rinse them. The smell wafting up from my hands then triggers a full blown sneezing reaction that lasts for a day then I end up with plugged sinuses. The green Dawn does not do this. Overall it’s best not to buy from any BIG NAME CORPORATION. They are evil bastards, trying to kill us and the earth.

    Lemon Pledge – same reaction
    Some markers – same reaction
    Goo Gone – same reaction
    Oily smell of lawnmowers – same reaction
    Wood smoke – same reaction (sneezing all day and constant nose blowing until it’s all red and sore

    I suspect I may have heavy metal toxicity causing allergic responses


  • Pamela Litton Rogers

    I HAVE THE WORST REACTION TO Quaternium-15 THE DERMATOLOGIST HAS EVER SEEN!!! I am also wondering about Cascade (it has Dawn) and Bounty Paper Towels – fully stocked guess I will have to throw everything away. Maybe Charmin also. I have had dermatitis since October 2014 and it is not any better – just finished allergy tests. Also I am wondering about Pledge.
    This is a real mess – I have been using these products for about 50 years.


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