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Detergent Dangers

Detergent packets pose a risk for child poisoning every year. Each month, hundreds of cases of detergent packet poisonings are reported. While convenient for busy households, these packets are so concentrated and dissolve so quickly, they can cause more severe injuries than standard laundry detergent.

“Laundry packets are commonly used in the home,” says Sherrie Pace of the Utah Poison Control Center. “While people see them as a convenient way to simplify tasks, use caution if you have young children in the home.”

Signs of Poisoning

Ingestion of a detergent packet can cause:

  • Vomiting
  • Wheezing
  • Gasping
  • Lethargy

There have also been reports of corneal abrasions (scratches to the eye) when a detergent packet gets into a child’s eye. Detergent can burn the skin around the eye as well as the eye itself.

Parents shouldn’t wait for symptoms to occur before calling for help. “Call the Poison Help line (1-800-222-1222) right away,” Pace says. “There are specialists who can help 24 hours a day.”

Poisonings Among Adults

Children aren’t the only ones at risk of poisoning. Consumer Reports recommends keeping detergent packets away from older adults who are cognitively impaired. Ingestion among this group can also have serious and life-changing consequences. Powdered or liquid soap is safer to use in these households.

Prevention Tips

The best way to protect kids from the dangers associated with detergent packets is to avoid having them in your home or to keep them somewhere that isn’t accessible to children. 

Follow these tips to keep you and your family safe.

  • Keep detergent containers closed, sealed, and stored up high, out of sight and reach of children.
  • Never allow children to handle laundry packets.
  • Follow instructions on the product label.
  • Do not touch the packets with wet hands.
  • Call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 if your child has come into contact with detergent packets. 

“Keep the product up and out of the reach of children,” Pace says. “Also, keep the packets in their original container. They are attractive to kids and look like candy, so keeping them out of sight is important.”

When to Call Poison Control

If your child bites into a detergent packet, remove it and wash the child’s mouth, face, and hands. Call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 immediately.

If the contents of a packet come into contact with a child’s eye, rinse the eye with water and call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 immediately.